Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

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If you arthird_circuite a Judge or attorney fascinated (or at least feeling like you need to know this stuff) by the world of social media, consider attending the 2017 Third Circuit Judicial Conference on April 19, 2017 at the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

I will be participating in “Twitter in the Court:  Social Media Issues for Judges, Lawyers” from 4 pm to 5:30 pm along with fellow panelists Cynthia L. Dahl, Director of Detkin Intellectual Property and        Technology Legal Clinic and a Practice Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania Law School; and  Kathryn E. Deal, Partner, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. Our program is moderated by the Honorable Lawrence F. Stengel, United States District Judge, Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The panel will cover a wide range of topics in the vast realm of social media, from a brief history and introduction to the major social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat) to the boatload of ethical issues that arise and the many ways social media has impacted matters in the courtroom.

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PBIIn the 15+ years where I’ve taught the marketing & advertising ethics CLE hour of Ethics Potpourri, this years’ program has elicited some of the most fascinating exchanges from the audience. I teach this hour live in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh every April, August and December. The coming weeks include the live presentation in Pittsburgh on August 25th and Philadelphia on August 30th. For directions and registration information, visit PBI. If you missed the program in April and can’t make August, the December dates will be here before you know it.

The deadly Amtrak train crash in Pennsylvania last May (2015) serves as the backdrop for a program that examines whether today’s ethics rules regarding solicitation and advertising are still effective in protecting victims and their families?  For an attorney who believes in the reasoning and philosophy of the Rules of Professional Conduct, does waiting out a 30 day moratorium on contact mean you’ve lost out on the lucrative race for clients? The program examines related court cases, ethics opinions and the RPC as they tie into various forms of business development for plaintiff’s attorneys that are seeking clients in a highly competitive marketplace. Some of the concepts might disgust you—but they are kosher. Some might remind you that today’s society, spurred on by a different news cycle, social media and a more cutthroat landscape means changing the way you do business, and get business.

The program flows from a column I wrote for the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine in late 2015, Content Marketing is Outpacing the Ethics Rules. That column also elicited many e-mails from colleagues on the somewhat controversial subject matter. As I witnessed the aftermath of the deadly crash at home in Philadelphia, I watched the way attorneys used newspaper articles, press conferences, e-mail, social media, press releases and other semi- or non-“advertising” means to promote themselves and position their law firms for prospective clients. It reminded me that so many of the ethics rule in place today to protect the client are simply outdated or ineffective. Judge for yourself.

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LPcover_JanFeb2016.jpgIn the January/February 2016 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine, I was asked to put on my ethics attorney hat in authoring Struggling with Ethics Issues Surrounding Branded Networks. Issue Editor Nick Gaffney asked me to write this sidebar in a magazine dedicated to the theme of branded legal networks–a huge topic of discussion in law practice management.

There is not a more controversial area of lawyer marketing when it comes to interpretation and enforcement of the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) than the issues that arise from the ever-growing legion of branded networks in the legal profession. From Avvo and Justia to Best Lawyers and a slew of entities that may or may not be “lead generation,” the issues, rules and opinions vary from state to state. They remain…consistently inconsistent. One thing is for sure, these companies are not going anywhere. The question is where they end up fitting in the long term approach to business development among attorneys.

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LPcover_novdec2015.jpgIt was watching and reading news coverage from the aftermath of the deadly Amtrak crash in Philadelphia earlier this year that my marketing column topic came to light. Usually the theme finds me, and in this case, with each press conference, e-mail, press release and newspaper article–it occurred to me that Content Marketing is Outpacing the Ethics Rules (ABA’s Law Practice magazine, November/December 2015).

You can put this column under “Marketing” or “Ethics.” It works out well for my areas of focus. I spend the bulk of my time working with law firms on business development efforts. But I also maintain a niche ethics practice that only looks at marketing and advertising issues. Perhaps you will read this column and think of it as an ethics primer. Or you might read it and gain ideas and insight into marketing for a plaintiff’s practice. Before submitting my final draft to the Law Practice editors, I decided that I needed some differing perspectives beyond my own. The result was some hefty editing based on those thoughts. You’ll read some comments from the ethics attorney I myself turn to for advice, Tom Spahn of McGuireWoods. Some differing views came from my fellow LP columnist, Greg Siskind, who was focused on the value of content. A few unnamed ethics friends gave me some additional feedback and direction.

A number of pieces from The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s law firm beat writer Chris Mondics touched on many aspects of what I reference in his coverage of the Amtrak disaster–and the issues surrounding “the race for clients.” The simple speed of selecting counsel in today’s society–ramped up through social media and related technology tools–means that an attorney seeking a piece of this very lucrative pie needs to get moving fast. You might argue that your marketing needs to arrive before the actual matter at hand. The most successful lawyers in this space have figured out how to generate promotional opportunities without violating the Rules of Professional Conduct. If you are waiting for the dust to settle–as the 30-day moratorium was built to provide–you will find yourself a day late to the game.

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advisor-lawyer-relationship-res0915-mi600-resize-600x338.jpgIn the September 2015 issue of Research Magazine, contributing editor Jane Wollman Rusoff writes about building advisor-attorney networks that will generate referrals and benefit clients. In being interviewed for her feature, it was interesting to discuss the relationship from the financial services side of the business rather than starting with my usual legal-side perspective.

While the cross-referral route is often at the heart of many of these relationships–typically between business lawyers and those advising on the numbers side of a matter–the article points out the need for both to work together. At a time when investors’ financial needs have become more complex, private attorneys — such as specialists in estates and trusts, especially, as well as in family/divorce, taxes and elder care — are an important component of many FAs’ networks and in some instances, even considered part of their team.

While I warn about just how close those relationships can get (no fee sharing with non-lawyers in almost every jurisdiction and potential conflicts of interest), there is no question that there is an obvious fit between the two professions. In numerous practices, attorneys I work with on business development strategies will tell me that various finance professionals–from CPAs to planners and investors–are their #1 source of referrals. With that in mind, we often plan social and educational events targeting those relationships. In addition, we often team and partner on marketing efforts aimed directly at the prospective client for both the legal and finance sides.

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PBI.pngIf it is August (another Pennsylvania bar CLE compliance month), then it must be time for another round of ethics CLEs for the PA Bar Institute (PBI). This month, besides my usual PBI ethics potpourri program hour (presented every April, August and December), you can catch me at the Jersey shore too, reprising “Linkedout and Mistweeted – Ethical Uses of Social Networking in Marketing Your Law Practice,” a hit program from 2014 (updated!).

Law Marketing and Ethics 2015 Update: Balancing Smart Business Development, Adhering to the Rules,” will be presented in Mechanicsburg on August 20th, Pittsburgh on August 25th and Philadelphia on August 27th. In the 38 years since Bates v. Arizona, law firm marketing has grown from whether or not to advertise to committing significant resources toward business development. The trick is to do so in an effective, dignified and ethical fashion. In this newly updated one-hour ethics program, learn about the rules, regulations and ethics opinions that require the greatest attention, how to improve your marketing efforts without missteps, and discuss real-life examples and intriguing hypotheticals in this fast-paced, entertaining course.

When PBI asked if I could reprise Linkedout and Mistweeted as part of the CLE Down the Shore program in Atlantic City on August 14th, I said sure. After all, how much could I really lose at the blackjack and craps tables before and after my session at the Golden Nugget Hotel? The answer, of course, is plenty. At least my room and meal are comped. However, “reprise” is a bit misleading–as my slide deck from December 2014 is already quite outdated. Social media issues continue to be prevalent. The program has been updated through July 2015 to include recent ethics opinions and rule changes impacted by the use of social media for lawyer marketing purposes. What are the implications of LinkedIn’s recommendations, endorsements and specialization components? How have state bars addressed these issues? You’ll learn the how-to, how-not-to and the latest lessons in social networking participation.

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podcasts.jpgIf you would like to hear a short podcast discussing how legal advertising has changed due to the internet and social media, how to launch a successful marketing campaign without getting into trouble with state bars, and some advice to small and big firms about advertising in certain practices and geographic regions, LISTEN HERE to the podcast on the Legal Talk Network. Thanks to interviewer Jason Marsh, Adriana Linares and the LTN team for the opportunity to chat during the ABA Midyear Meeting in Houston, Texas.

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Sangary-Article-201409171849.jpgCall her the Zelig or Forrest Gump of California attorneys, but you can also call her “suspended.”

I’ve seen a lot of fun and strange law firm web site ethics issues come up since the mid-90s, but it is refreshing to see that there are still new takes on the concept of “deceptive and misleading” lawyer advertising online in 2014.

A State Bar Court judge in Sacramento, California has recommended a six month suspension for a Los Angeles attorney who put Photoshop to use in manipulating a photo gallery on her website filled with fake pictures of her with various politicians, celebrities and star athletes. The court found that this photo gallery amounted to deceptive advertising. Read the highly entertaining opinion here.

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PBI.pngIt is hard to believe that I’ve been teaching the “advertising/marketing” ethics hour for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute for more than a decade now. But what makes it particularly interesting is that my space (pun intended, if you get it) keeps changing with such rapid fire imprecision that it really never gets old. This year I return to the theme of social networking ethics. I could say I’m repeating my program from 2010, but very little is the same. I looked back into my PowerPoint slides to find my first discussion of advertising and social media taking place in 2003. This makes me sound and feel ancient.

As usual, I will be presenting this PBI program live in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in April, August and December of 2014. My April programs take place on the 24th in Pittsburgh and 29th in Philadelphia–from 11:30 am-12:30 pm. For more information and registration, visit PBI.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for fb-lpt-sm.pngIn advance of the fourth edition of the ABA’s New Partner Conference, Law Practice Today highlights the topic with an issue dedicated to the theme of new partners. With the New Year upon us, many new partners are taking their places at the management tables of law firms throughout the country. Yet many find themselves wondering what the new role brings with it. Many of the New Partner Conference speakers and planning board members have authored the articles that coincide with their respective program topics.

LPT issue editor and conference speaker Amy Drushal of Trenam Kemker in Tampa, Florida, authors Transitioning from Associate to Partner: What now? Yours truly, also a conference presenter, writes about the new partner’s role in marketing and business development. Kerri-Ann Bent and Vanessa Cotto write on the effects of mentoring on the duty to supervise.

Avvo honcho Mark Britton discusses the New Partner Cheese–taking lessons from “who moved my cheese” to the law firm board room. Justia’s Tim Stanley, with co-authors Ken Min Chan and David Kemp, writes about building great relationships online, focusing on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.