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How can the use of social media affect attorneys and their law firms?

By Arely Ramirez Diaz

How can the use of social media affect attorneys and their law firms? By Arely Ramirez

Okantyka. (2016, January 27). Lawyers take notice [Digital image]. Retrieved March 1, 2017

Introduction

With the advancement of technology our generation can obtain information in a click. Today many small law firm owners can benefit from advertising through social media platforms like Facebook. The use of social media in law firms can create growth in business, provide engagement, and promote quick client service. Social networks could also provide credibility for litigation attorneys since the users tend to be more honest on their postings, pictures or pin their location. In page four we will discuss example on how a couple’s racial posts influenced district attorney’s disposition. Even though the use of social media can be beneficial attorneys must keep in mind that the use of social media can impact their jobs if they do not keep in mind the model rules and professional ethics.

How can the use of social media affect attorneys and their law firms?

Grow business

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There is no surprise that most thriving attorneys use some sort of social media platform to reach to their prospective clients in a way that it has not been done before. Block states, “[T]hese tools have direct impact on consumer attitudes and decision making. Social media, which has shown dramatic growth over the past few years, is especially important for small businesses because it can be utilized to break through the clutter, and connect with customers” (As cited in Jones, Borgman, Ulusoy, 2015). With the use of social media, websites such as Facebook and Instagram make it easier to advertise and connect with new clients through their likes. These websites provide the users suggestions on who to follow based on their likes. Websites use an algorithm simplifies the process for attorneys to target their specific audience to increase their clientele.

In 2015, the American Bar Association collected a report from 966 lawyers from the United States who have adopted social media (Shields) in figure 1 illustrates law firm social media presence taken from that

How can the use of social media affect attorneys and their law firms? Grow business 2

figure 1 Shields, A. (2015). Blogging and Social Media [Digital image]

The ABA does state that the higher percentage of the LinkedIn usage tend to be from the larger firms involved with professional clients and in the other hand, “solos gravitate more toward Facebook because more solos practice in consumer-oriented practice areas, and their audience is

more likely to participate on Facebook than on more “corporate” platforms like LinkedIn.”

(Shields, 2015) Law firm owners should be mindful of their clients and involve themselves in the social media platform that will increase their clientele. For law firms to successfully expand their business it is important for them to adapt to their client’s choice of marketing. If law firms are involved with corporate clients they should consider being involved with the professional social networking site LinkedIn. However, small firm owners who are involved with the general public should consider sites such as Facebook where the audience can engage and promote their firm.

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How can the use of social media affect attorneys and their law firms?

Engagement

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With a high percentage of “solo” attorneys gearing towards Facebook due to participation of their

clients, attorneys should keep in mind that the engagement should be mutual. Mentkowski states, “attorneys who were more personally engaged and active with their social media tool reported being successful in growing their business with social media” (2016) with the updates that

Facebook has provided its users it allows attorneys to create events to increase their client

involvement. Furthermore, attorneys can interact with current clients and reach more audiences through the

Facebook live feature. Facebook describes its live broadcasting as, “the best way to interact with

viewers in real time. Field their burning questions, hear what's on their mind and check out their

Live Reactions to gauge how your broadcast is going.” (2016) the live feature is created so that its users can live-stream their activities. This feature would be perfect for attorneys to create seminars for their current and potential clients without having to meet at a physical location. Figure 2 shows how Facebook live allows attorneys to broadcast in real time and answer clientsquestions and feedback asked in the comment section. Features as such not only provide with an increase of principle-agent relationships, but it also lowers the cost of advertisement.

How can the use of social media affect attorneys and their law firms? Engagement 3 With

Figure 2 Facebook. (2016). Facebook Live.

Social Media and Court findings

Additionally, attorneys are turning to social media for case investigation. Figure 3 illustrates the American Bar association’s finding of reasons for social media use. Laura Diss states, “[M]any individuals are unusually honest on social media sites, and often post pictures and comments about illegal or provocative activities that can be used to undermine their credibility in litigation. Parties

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How can the use of social media affect attorneys and their law firms?

may post information or pictures that contradict their claims.” (2013, p. 1844) The social media networks essentially can aid attorneys create evidence for desirable outcome in litigation cases. In their CNN article about a recent trial of a Georgia Couple who were sentenced to several years in prison due to their racists threats made at a child’s birthday party, Mayra Cuevas and Ralph Ellis state,

After the arrests, investigators looked through the defendants' Facebook accounts, the statement said.

"Law enforcement was able to locate numerous posts and messages indicating that members of the group were white supremacists who discussed attending KKK rallies, joining Skinheads Nation, and making numerous derogatory remarks about African Americans as a whole," the DA's statement said.

The users’ postings provide a perfect example on how social media has been used to influence a District Attorney’s jurisdiction.

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Figure 3 Shields, A. (2015). Blogging and Social Media [Digital image]

Risks of using social media

Growing a business, engaging with clients, and using social media for court findings are all the positive effects of social media interaction between attorneys and their clients, but lawyers must keep in mind that there are Model Rules of Professional Conduct that they must abide by when finding and using information. Brielyenne Neumann provided an example of Kristine Peshek, an assistant public defender who got fired for posting information about her clients and judges on her legal blog saying,

Peshek referenced her clients by their first names or by their crimes and trials. Peshek wrote “this stupid kid is taking the rap for his drug-dealing dirt bag of a brother because ‘he’s no snitch… My client is in college. Just goes to show you that higher education does not imply

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How can the use of social media affect attorneys and their law firms?

that you have any sense.Peshek also criticized judges on her blog, calling one an “a…hole” and another judge “clueless.” (2014)

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In addition to being fired, if attorney’s misuses their social media networks they will cause a negative impact on the those affected.

In Facebook is now friends with the court, Megan Uncel talks about how there could also be possible breaches of professional ethics that attorneys could break in some courts by searching social media posts. She speaks of the challenges of using social media as evidence if judge is from an older generation. Additionally, Uncel states that there is “legitimate risk ‘that the witness will erase all the comments from his [social media profile] upon receiving’ the request” (2011, p.53) which can create obstacles for attorneys and clients. Attorneys should keep in mind that social media cannot always be a reliable source to obtain evidence and may be doubted by those from different generations.

Conclusion

The use of social media can help grow your business, provide client engagement, and make court findings. Websites such as Facebook allow attorneys to advertise, connect with new clients through the websites algorithm, and provide advertising without having to spend money. The newest features from websites like Facebook also allow attorneys to connect with a larger audience, thus helping their business grow. These websites can also create evidence that can be used during trials. Attorneys also must keep in mind the risks of using social media to prevent any model rules or ethics to be broken.

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How can the use of social media affect attorneys and their law firms?

Works Cited

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Cuevas, M., & Ellis, R. (2017, February). Georgia couple sentenced for racist threats at child's birthday party. Retrieved March 01, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/27/us/georgia- couple-confederate-flags-threats/

Demers, J. (2016, April 26). Facebook Live: Everything You Need To Know. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2016/04/26/facebook-live-

everything-you-need-to-know/#1b6d98e47a82

Diss, L. E. (2013). WHETHER YOU "LIKE" IT OR NOT: THE INCLUSION OF SOCIAL MEDIA EVIDENCE IN SEXUAL HARASSMENT CASES AND HOW COURTS CAN EFFECTIVELY CONTROL IT. Boston College.Law School.Boston College Law Review, 54(4), 1841-1880. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-

Facebook. (2016). Facebook Live. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from https://live.fb.com/about/

Jones, N., Borgman, R., & Ulusoy, E. (2015). Impact of social media on small businesses. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 22(4), 611-632. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.liblink.uncw.edu/docview/1732337162?Accountid=14606

Neumann, B. (2014). The 21st Century Online Carnival Atmosphere: Ethical Issues Raised by Attorneys' Usage of Social Media. Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics 27(3), 747-764.

Uncel, M. (2011). "FACEBOOK IS NOW FRIENDS WITH THE COURT": CURRENT FEDERAL RULES AND SOCIAL MEDIA EVIDENCE. Jurimetrics,52(1), 43-69. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.liblink.uncw.edu/stable/23239803

Okantyka. (2016, January 27). Lawyers take notice [Digital image]. Retrieved March 1, 2017, fromhttps://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact

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tyka.com%2F2016%2F01%2F27%2Flawyers-take-notice-legal-ethics-in-social-media-is-a-real-

thing%2F&psig=AFQjCNHeNnV5NnQIzopC0eKq0XqjmXxZ8g&ust=1488681953217872

Shields, A. (2015). Blogging and Social Media [Digital image]. Retrieved March 1, 2017, from

http://www.americanbar.org/publications/techreport/2015/SocialMedia.html

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