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D. Todd Smith's presentation at the 2014 TexasBarCLE program entitled Success Strategies and Key Lessons for Young Lawyers

D. Todd Smith's presentation at the 2014 TexasBarCLE program entitled Success Strategies and Key Lessons for Young Lawyers

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  • 1. Attorney Advertising Issues: Websites, Social Media, and Blogs D. Todd Smith February 28, 2014
  • 2. Overview • Newer lawyers tend to be part of the “Facebook generation” • More natural for them (you?) to share information online • Tend to see work and personal lives as more integrated
  • 3. Overview • Focus is on social media in context of advertising rules • Can lawyers use social media to promote their practices? • How can it be done ethically?
  • 4. Am I Likely to Benefit? • Solo/small firm practitioners: Does your law firm have an internet presence? How else do clients find you? • Practitioners in a firm of any size: Would you like to establish a niche or a “personal brand”?
  • 5. Advertising Rules: Part VII of the TDRPC • Purpose is to protect the public from false, misleading, and deceptive communications • Rules specify conduct for attorneys who promote services to public • Violations subject lawyers to discipline
  • 6. Advertising Rules: Part VII of the TDRPC • As of 2011, violations expose attorneys to liability under civil barratry statute
  • 7. Why Market Via the Internet? • The lawyer/resident ratio in Texas is about 1/280 • We have more than 90,000 active lawyers and add 3,000 new lawyers per year • Lawyering is becoming more of a commodity
  • 8. Why Market Via the Internet? • More competition for less work requires more creative and effective marketing • The Internet is a cheap and effective way to reach large numbers of potential clients
  • 9. • Establish personal/firm brand and market reach • Share expertise and news • Increase firm visibility and traffic • Create goodwill by pointing to helpful resources • Can show a little of yourself and help potential clients get to “know” you Why Use Social Media?
  • 10. Social Media Platforms for Lawyers • Blogs • Twitter • Facebook • LinkedIn • Google+ • YouTube/Vimeo • Avvo • JD Supra • Texas Bar Circle • Lawyers.com • Legal OnRamp • Martindale-Hubbell • LawLink • Justia • Yelp • Foursquare • Pinterest A few examples…
  • 11. Examples of Social Media’s Reach
  • 12. Examples of Social Media’s Reach Thanks, Jessie Tilton!
  • 13. • Close to 1 billion active Facebook users – over half log on to FB on any given day. • 20% of all internet users use Twitter or another service to share or view updates • Business use: Twitter up 250%, Facebook up 192% since Spring 2009 • No fad—a fundamental shift in communication The Power of Social Media
  • 14. • Find your niche and focus on that area • Don’t sell • Don’t over-post • The more positive you are, the more people will want to do business with you • Be careful who you add as your friend • Use common sense Social Media Etiquette
  • 15. What You Post May Hurt You Source: Forbes
  • 16. What You Post May Hurt You Source: Forbes
  • 17. • Rule 7.02 prohibits false, misleading, or deceptive communications – Material misrepresentations or omissions – Guaranteeing results or creating unjustified expectations • Rules 7.03 & 7.05 govern prohibited solicitations (including digital) and payments • Rule 7.04 & 7.07 cover advertisements and filing requirements And Then There Are the Advertising Rules
  • 18. • Filing requirement applies when: – electronic communication addresses the qualifications or the services of lawyer or firm – not exempt under DR 7.07(e) – generally available to the public • Communicating attorney must file the communication with the ARC before or concurrently with first dissemination Advertising Rules and Social Media
  • 19. • In 2005, SCOTX expressly applied the Advertising Rules to electronic or digital communications • Blogging took root shortly thereafter, followed by Facebook, Twitter, and others • No one knew for sure how the ARs would apply to social media • Issue has reached new importance, since new statute treats violation of ARs as barratry Evolution of Ethical Concerns
  • 20. • In 2010, the Advertising Review Committee released revised Interpretive Comment 17 • Purpose was to address issues with different kinds of Internet-based advertisements, including blogs, social media, and web-based display ads The ARC’s Take: New Comment 17
  • 21. • Focus is whether they are advertisements subject to filing requirements, but helps guide behavior on social media for all purposes The ARC’s Take: New Comment 17
  • 22. “Blogs or status updates considered to be educational or informational in nature are not required to be filed with the Advertising Review Department. However, attorneys should be careful to ensure that such postings to not meet the definition of an advertisement subject to the filing requirements.” IC 17 on Blogs and Status Updates
  • 23. “Landing pages such as those on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. where the landing page is generally available to the public are advertisements. Where access is limited to existing clients and personal friends, filing with the Advertising Review Department is not required.” IC 17 on Landing Pages
  • 24. • Electronic communications like social media posts are advertisements in the public media subject to the filing requirements of DR 7.07 unless exempt • Relatively New Pitfall: Tex. Gov’t Code § 82.0651 provides that solicitation conduct violating disciplinary rules constitutes barratry What Does This Mean?
  • 25. • Violate the DRs in social media = exposing oneself to barratry under new statute • Fee forfeiture, damages, and monetary penalty are among remedies available— and they are not limited to actual clients What Does This Mean?
  • 26. • Exercise caution about providing information beyond what is exempt under DR 7.07(e) – “Tombstone” information – Areas of practice – Dates of admission – Technical and professional licenses – Foreign language ability – Prepaid group legal service plans – Acceptance of credit cards – Initial consultation fee or fee schedule – Sponsorship of charitable, civic, or community program or event or PSA • None of this needs to go before Ad Review Where Is the Line?
  • 27. • But the ARC says filing is not required for blogs or status updates that are merely educational or informative in nature • The most common types of legal-related blog and social-media posts do not trigger filing requirements or related rules, as long as the content would not otherwise be considered an advertisement and is not false or misleading • Again, exercising good judgment is key Where Is the Line?
  • 28. • “Just published an article on wage and hour breaks. Let me know if you would like a copy” Merely states information about an article the author published. This is OK. • “Case finally over. Unanimous verdict! Celebrating tonight.” Factual, so probably OK. What’s Wrong with These Updates?
  • 29. • “Another great victory in court today! My client is delighted. Who wants to be next?” “My client is delighted” could be a client testimonial. “Who wants to be next” is not exempt and arguably solicits the lawyer’s services. What’s Wrong with These Updates?
  • 30. • “Won a million dollar verdict. Tell your friends to check out my website.” Construed together, this could be read as soliciting employment. • “Won another personal injury case. Call me for a free consultation.” Offer for free consultation may be read as soliciting employment. What’s Wrong with These Updates?
  • 31. • DR 7.03(a) violations?
  • 32. Not unethical. Good marketing, until she says “hire me.” Could be breaching confidentiality?
  • 33. Attorney Advertising Issues: Websites, Social Media, and Blogs D. Todd Smith February 28, 2014

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