Articles Posted in Internet Marketing

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publicity.jpgIn this month’s Web Marketing Today column, Pros and Cons of Online Publicity for Lawyers, I write about the issues that struck me coming out of Perez v. Factory Direct of Secaucus, LLC. There is a significant difference in determining the impact of media attention on a case in the “traditional media” days versus the “blog/social media” era. That is the lesson defendants’ counsel for Ashley Furniture learned when filing suit against the plaintiffs’ law firm for defamation–stemming from online publicity.

My article breaks down the impact and pros/cons that all parties involved–plaintiff, defendant, and counsel for both sides–in measuring how the World Wide Web might affect not only the outcome of a case, but the long-term consequences that can be far more detrimental than whether you won, lost or settled.

As I note, I would never have heard about what I’d suggest is a relatively common “employee lawsuit against an employer for wrongful termination”-type filing if not for the third party action taken by one law firm against the other for what amounts to unwanted publicity on the case.

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Last night, my five year old son asked me what the “f” word was. While dancing around the answer, my nine year old daughter suggested she knew it and was pretty sure she had heard it from me. I won’t lie to you. I’ve used it from time to time. I’m sure while sitting in Lincoln Financial Field for the last nine Philadelphia Eagles home losses in a row, I’ve used it 10-10,000 times. But never online.

Screen-shot-2.pngHowever, when Reed Smith real estate partner Steven Regan cursed at SCOTUS on Twitter, the story became a Reed Smith partner cursing on Twitter. It was not really about Steve. He quickly deleted his Twitter account, and if the firm functions like most big law firms I work with on these issues, he was probably met with a much more private profanity from some of his partners in management. If they were one of my clients for social media compliance, I might have actually said, “Steve, WTF!”

Unlike much of the work I do in making sure a law firm’s marketing efforts are compliant with the rules of professional conduct and the states in which they practice/market, this is not an ethics violation (although I did find one here, which I’ll point out in a moment). This is just bad publicity. Public relations crisis management. You simply don’t want people thinking your law firm does not know how to properly use social media. Especially a firm like Reed Smith, which has a significant media and advertising practice.

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After taking a one month “sabbatical” from my monthly Web Marketing Today article, I address a topic that is becoming increasingly important for the legal professional–how to respond to online criticism.

How Lawyers Should Respond to Online Criticism addresses dos and don’ts as they relate to the growing slate of websites that allow for posting of “reviews”, whether you are a plumber, doctor or lawyer. As I often teach, this is not an area where you have the option to participate. If I’m a client and want to post a positive or negative review of your professional product for the world to see–I can.

I’ve often used the power of Internet-based reviews myself. When my realtor pissed me off a few years back, I let a number of websites know what I thought of her. It did not go unnoticed. I’m a huge review contributor to Open Table–posting at least one a week after every dining experience. I often hear back from restaurants for the good and the bad.

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If it appears this month’s Web Marketing Today article on law firm apps is courtesy of the Department of Redundancy Department, I apologize. In the time I was writing it, I was also interviewed on the subject by two law publication journalists reacting to what must have seemed like an onslaught on law firm press releases touting the latest & greatest app. But I certainly saved some of my tips and examples for the loyal WMT audience.

In Corporate Secretary magazine, Abigail Caplovitz Field writes on “Law firms offer mobile apps to attract new clients.” Her article revolves around two US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) apps developed by Latham & Watkins and O’Melveny & Myers. In developing apps, the type of law firm and the related content runs the gamut from global mega firms to mom & pop shops.

Almost every attorney involved in the development of an app at a law firm will (accurately) tell you that the expectation is not that it will generate new clients, but more likely offer a branding or awareness tool that (hopefully) will be seen as an added-value item by clients, colleagues and the media.

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specialties.jpgIf you’ve attended any of my Internet marketing ethics CLEs since I started teaching them in the late 90s, you know I said this was coming. Remember when my prime example of social media was a MySpace profile? Yeah, things have changed a bit. But concern about the content in unforeseen online content has always been something I examine in writing and reviewing law firm marketing efforts.

On June 26, 2013, the New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics issued Opinion 972, which in a nutshell says that “a Law firm may not list its services under heading of “Specialties” on a social media site, and lawyer may not do so unless certified as a specialist by an appropriate organization or governmental authority.” The opinion cites adherence to RPC rule 7.4.

In most cases and most states, I’ve discouraged attorneys from utilizing the “specialties” category for some time. In some cases, I suggest doing so with an added disclaimer pointing to the RPC. However, this is the first ethics opinion I’m aware of that really addresses the particular issue head on.

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apps_image.jpgIn the July 23rd issue of The Legal Intelligencer, an American Lawyer Media publication, reporter Gina Passarella writes on the topic of “Deciding whether law firms should have an app for that.” Ms. Passarella quotes me extensively on the use and development of apps in the law firm marketplace.

The article discusses a recent app launched by Fox Rothschild family law attorneys Eric Solotoff and Eliana Baer, where they compare the launch of the iPhone-enabled app versus blogging and social media–as marketing tools. Another app example highlighted is that of West Virginia-based Spilman Thomas & Battle for labor & employment, and Cleveland-based Benesch Friedlander‘s recruiting app.

Some of the “original” law firm-launched apps include those from Delaware’s Potter Anderson and multiple apps from Morrison & Foerster. I will discuss the use and development of law firm apps in my August 2013 Web Marketing Today column. Every firm wants one now…it is a matter of whether it makes sense. But most importantly, do you have an app concept that truly benefits your target audience? Most think it is just cool. And it is. But it needs to make sense for the firm and the practice. Otherwise, use the money for a fancy lunch–and get something in return for the expenditure.

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hunter_lipton_image.jpgIt seems like I’ve been writing and speaking on Hunter v. Virginia State Bar for years! And that is because I have. But, alas, now it has come to a close with the United States Supreme Court once again deciding not to hear a case regarding attorney advertising regulation. One of these days, though!

With “cert. denied” just last month, I thought it was a good time to review the case in my monthly Web Marketing Today piece. I found the case fascinating on a number of fronts. There were components in which I found myself agreeing in part with both sides. While I did not always agree with Horace Hunter, I found his no-holds-barred desire to stand on principle–despite enormous time and cost–valiant. He believed that he had a right to free speech, and he also felt that the Bar was picking on the little guy. As I note in the piece, most attorneys and law firms would have simply capitulated to the original correspondence from the state bar. Not here. Hunter never backed down and openly spoke about the matter through years of litigation. You can argue that both sides won something.

On the flip side, I did agree with the Virginia Bar in viewing the blog through the lens of advertising regulations, simply because I did not think this particular state’s rules really hampered Hunter’s blog and content. In some states, I might not feel as strongly toward that point of view. But the reality is that state bars are simply not equipped to start parsing the gray areas that exist in today’s world of Internet communication–changing rapidly. Way too rapidly for the Rules of Professional Conduct to keep pace with the nuances.

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law-book.jpgTo start the second year of my monthly contributions as the voice of the legal profession on internet marketing issues for Web Marketing Today, the publishing team asked me to take off the marketing hat and hang my lawyer shingle for their significant small business readership and tackle legal issues that many of them face online.

There are so many legal precautions and potential issues that small businesses face on the World Wide Web, whether the business is purely virtual and online only or is the online marketing voice of a traditional store front.

Ironically, these issues have come into play during my many year studying Internet law, as I often discussed with my law firm business development clients that they needed to show clients and prospective clients (whether it was a consumer, mom and pop shop, small business or Fortune 500 corporation) that they knew how the web and technology worked–since they were often advising businesses on Internet-related issues–which often were new and uncharted legal waters for most.

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Facebook.jpgAs part of my monthly contributions to Web Marketing Today, I’m slowly working my way through the major social media sites. I started with LinkedIn, which has the most relevance to the most attorneys. In future months, I’ll tackle Twitter. But this month, I address what is arguably the most powerful website on the planet–Facebook. Search Engines aside (i.e. Google), there is simply no website with more users and higher traffic. And, let’s be honest, how can you do serious internet marketing and not be on the biggest site?

So, is Facebook right for you and your law practice? READ ON…

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red_flag.jpgRecently, a California State Bar committee discussed a controversial proposal that would put a red warning label on attorney profiles for those facing disciplinary charges. This would take the concept of a website disclaimer to new heights. Only in California. Actually, I’d say only in Florida. But, indeed, this comes out of the left coast.

The proposal came from State Bar prosecutor Jayne Kim. It prompted an outcry from defense attorneys that felt accusations that had not been fully litigated and proven in court would lead to a serious hit on a law firms’ business.

The state delayed voting on the proposal until after a 60-day public comment period. Kim had argued that it was unnecessary, claiming it was simply an extension of a 2011 policy that required consumer alerts on profiles of attorneys formally charged with misappropriation of client funds or improper loan modification activities.