22 Tweets – Twitterviews of and for Attorneys

August 25, 2009

I am finally climbing out of several weeks of non-stop trial preparation; unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), Twitter’s mantra of “140 characters or less” has not found its place in pretrial exchanges, jury instructions, motions in limine, or any other legal filing.  But enough excuses…

This is a quick spotlight to tide you over while I finish up some more substantive posts.  If you are a lawyer or a Twitterer (and especially if you are a lawyer and a Twitterer), you need to check out Lance Godard’s 22 Tweets (http://22tweets.com and @22twts).  For the uninitiated, 22 Tweets styles itself as a source of “real-time Twitter interviews with practicing lawyers who tweet.”  Or, if Lance is able to popularize the site and get it added to Black’s Law Dictionary, the description would be more along the lines of:

twen·ty-two tweets

\twən-tē tü twētz\ (noun)

  1. live Twitter interviews with practicing lawyers who tweet
  2. a forum where lawyers tell their stories, one tweet at a time
  3. the hottest new mash-up on Twitter

Archives of all of Lance’s 22 Tweets twitterviews can be found at the site.  I would encourage you to check them out, particularly my twitterview, which was conducted on July 9, 2009.

22 Tweets is an excellent complement to Lance’s other projects.  The appropriately named Godard Group is a marketing a development group that uses traditional and cutting-edge approaches to helping law firms and lawyers grow and prosper.  Lance’s social media endeavors serve as a great example of how lawyers and legal profession can capitalize on social media in order to gain exposure, credibility, expertise, and acknowledgment.

Be sure to follow @lancegodard and @22Twts on Twitter.  As with any “good” professional these days, you can also keep track of Lance on LinkedIn.  And for you Facebook users, you can become a Facebook Fan of 22 Tweets.

Finally, if you are a practicing attorney who is using social media in unique and innovative ways, I would love to profile your efforts.  Feel free to get in touch with me at any of the following:

Tyson Snow | tysonsnow@gmail.com
LinkedinFacebookWordpressTwitter

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Employees v. Employers on LinkedIn

July 23, 2009

Current Employment recently ran an interesting article: “Employers: The LinkedIn Recommendation is Not for You.”  The premise of the post is that the reviews that both prior and current employers are leaving for employees on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.  For employment lawyers, the problem (or the benefit — depending on whose side you are on) immediately jumps out:

Employees get terminated. A lot. And a lot of those terminations are based on performance.  As a plaintiffs’ attorney, the best evidence you have of a wrongful or discriminatory termination is documentation establishing that the “pretext” for the termination (the performance problem) is false.  Suddenly LinkedIn is in play.  Since the vast majority of reviews on LinkedIn are positive, any and all employment lawyers with plaintiff clients should be scouring the site for positive reviews from the same managers that term’ed the employee for “performance” problems.

Tim Eavenson, the author of the Current Employment article sums it up quite well:

This is just the Web 2.0 version of advice that management lawyers have been giving forever – be very careful about praising your exiting employees.  I know it sounds harsh, but glowing praise (particularly where it is undeserved) can really be a problem.  If an employment case goes to trial, you will be in the uncomfortable position of having to explain to a jury what happened in the hours or days between the writing the amazing recommendation and the time you canned the employee for poor performance.

Tim then poses the question of whether the recommendation feature on LinkedIn is worth anything.  He offers several suggestions and I agree: since anyone can make a recommendation, you can get recommendations from co-workers, friends, buddies, company insiders, or anyone else who might have a foot-in-the-door.  You can also get recommendations from prominent people you may have not worked but have interacted with: committees, boards, groups, clubs, etc.

The take-away: Employers – be careful; be very careful. Employees – a good-word or a thumbs-up from a respected colleague or member of the community can be the difference between an interview and a resume sent straight to the paper shredder.

As with all social media, the feature works better when more people use it.  And I encourage you to do that. When you have a reason to leave a recommendation or describe an experience or if someone requests your assistance, take that request seriously and give some thought into what you write.  As more and more employers turn to social media sites for background information on potential employees, this accurate data becomes invaluable.


Social Media, Competitive Intelligence, and the Practice of Law

July 16, 2009

As we all learned during my epic interview with 22tweets, in addition to being a super-cool bmx-riding employment and intellectual property lawyer, I am a self styled tech geek.  I blame my mom; she is the one with the M.S. in Computer Science.  But I digress.

I don’t know which RSS feed, linking service, twitterer, or other source pointed my in the direction of the Texas Bar Journal, but I suddenly found myself reading a wonderful article entitled: Social Media Tools for Law Firm Competitive Intelligence (pdf) written by none other than Emily Rushing (@emily_rushing), someone I happen to frequently follow on Twitter.

The article covers everything: Competitive Intelligence (Wikipedia); Communications (LinkedIn, Facebook, Ning, and Twitter); and Delivery Tools (PDFtoWord and FeedMyInbox).  While most recent law school grads are familiar with some or all of these tools, Emily’s article is a must read for all attorneys (and paralegals and staff).  Seriously.  I can’t emphasize this any stronger: This is stuff that you need to know.

So, after congratulating Emily on such a great article, I, naturally, pawned some of my work off on her and asked her to guest blog for the site.  We bantered a little about possible topics but I wanted her to take the blog post in whatever direction she felt it should go; the result is fantastic.  Here it is, in its entirety:

Tyson has kindly invited me to contribute a post on social media for law firm and legal competitive intelligence (CI) and I would like to briefly discuss some of the tools and techniques that I use in my capacity as CI Specialist for Haynes and Boone LLP.

CI may be defined generally as “the action of gathering, analyzing, and applying information about products, domain constituents, customers, and competitors for the short term and long term planning needs of an organization. Competitive intelligence (CI) is both a process and a product.” (wikipedia). Increasingly, social media is an integral part of both the CI process and product, and provides an invaluable resource in the identification of business opportunities in the legal industry.

This blog provides great discussion of the many social media tools available to legal professionals, so I won’t rehash the basics but will provide the following resource guide to selected, no-cost intelligence delivery tools.

Tools (Collecting and Delivering Intelligence)

  • Tabbloid – Tabbloid is a service presented by HP (presumably in an effort to encourage increased printer cartridge use) that will turn any RSS feed into a periodic PDF document with almost no effort at all.
  • PDFtoWord – This site will convert any PDF to a Word document. It does a pretty good job and is a great service to use if you have bulk conversions to do, especially if you’re away from your copy of Acrobat.
  • Readability – This browser applet removes all ads or frames from a busy social media website, allowing the user to focus instead on the content. Using a tool like this reduces clutter on the page and frees up the reader to concentrate on the article or post.
  • Dapp Factory (“RSSification”) – Dapp Factory provides an indispensable tool to “RSSify” any HTML website. Using patented technology, the site identifies the “posts” or portion of the page to track for changes or updates. It will then create either an RSS feed or a widget for use, at absolutely no cost.
  • FeedMyInbox – FeedMyInbox is for users who are not quite comfortable with RSS feeds and still prefer to have content delivered to their email inbox.
  • Google Reader Group Feeds – Where raw research or data is needed, it is sometimes useful to create grouped feeds and public pages of carefully selected content for your CI users (other attorneys, your clients, etc.) allowing them the ability to subscribe, review and share the feed posts in real time.

Real-Time Search

Real-time search, and real-time identification of potential clients, is a hot topic in social media right now. Twitter search is conducted in real time and many twitter applications and related sites allow for real-time trend analysis. (i.e. Monitter) Additionally, FriendFeed recently expanded its real-time updates to its search functionality, allowing for real-time search results in one continuous stream. “FriendFeed is a service which, instead of layering a meta-network on top of all your other social networks, will create a news feed incorporating them all much like the Facebook news feed.” (via CrunchBase). Researchers are just beginning to explore the value of real-time search to CI and business development activities, but my hopes are high that these new tools will continue to increase our efficiency and effectiveness in using social media.

Many thanks to Tyson for the opportunity to contribute to this outstanding blog. For more information, please see my July article, “Social Media Tools for Law Firm Competitive Intelligence” in the technology issue of the Texas Bar Journal and connect with me on twitter or LinkedIn.

Wow. Now that is what I call one fine guest post. Now, let’s be clear from the outset; I hate the “Web 2.0” moniker.  But I do recognize the organization of information and the means of communication are rapidly changing.  More significantly, access to information, including legal information, gets better and better every day.  As I posited in my 22tweets interview, I believe that while access to law and legal materials increases, the law itself and its processes become more complex.  In layman’s terms: lawyers aren’t going anywhere.  The real question is what role will lawyers play in a world where knowledge and information is so readily available, particularly in real-time?  That is one of the questions that I hope we can continue to address on this blog.


Legitimate LinkedIn Reviews

July 7, 2009

Corporate attorneys are advising supervisors and managers to be careful when posting overly-positive or potentially misleading employee endorsements on LinkedIn. The big concern is that crafty employee plaintiffs’ counsel will use LinkedIn reviews much in the same way that they currently use positive reviews found in the employee’s written file: to establish that their client was wrongfully discharged or fired as a result of discrimination.

Counsel who represent employers have all come across glowing employee reviews that discuss, at length, the superior qualities and work ethic of an employee who, within weeks of the review, is fired for poor performance or insubordination.

As described in the National Law Journal’s article:

Plaintiffs’ lawyers, they fear, are scouring these sites, looking for evidence to dispute firings, as most LinkedIn recommendations are positive. So if a supervisor claims that an employee was let go due to performance problems but gave a rave review about him or her on LinkedIn — that, the lawyers stress, won’t look so good.

It is a valid point.  Employment lawyers and H.R. personnel are constantly instructing management and supervisors to conduct regular, accurate, performance reviews.  Reviews posted on LinkedIn need to be equally accurate.  A good practice employers might implement is to tell their supervisors and managers not to post reviews, positive or negative; according to Carolyn Plump, a partner at Philadelphia’s Mitts Milavec, as quoted in the National Law Journal:

Generally, my advice is that I think employers are often better served by merely stating dates of employment, positions with the company and salary, and staying away from much more because there are so many potential ramifications if they say something.

Of course, like most stories, this one has both sides.  The example cited by the National Law Journal is that of a supervisor who is constantly leaving negative reviews.  While a single negative review might be offered as evidence of discrimination, counsel for the management could offer evidence of all the other negative reviews to establish that the supervisor was not singling out a particular gender, race, or nationality.

So what is the conclusion?  It is the always the same conclusion.  Conduct regular, accurate, performance appraisals and enforce your existing policies indiscriminately.

Related Post:
The LinkedIn Bible: If Your Profession is Your Religion, This May Be for You


Review: Social Networking for the Legal Profession

June 27, 2009

The Internet is a great resource.  It allows people with what would otherwise be unheard-voices express their opinions, thoughts, and contributions to the collective discussion that is currently taking place throughout the United States and the World at large (look no further than the controversy over the Iranian Elections to see proof of that).

One drawback is, of course, that certain people proclaim to be authoritative on subjects they may not be authoritative on (disclaimer: I claim to be authoritative on nothing).  A possible example of this is the publication of Social Networking for the Legal Profession (“Social Networking”).  The title certainly is catchy.  And, hey, show me a lawyer who isn’t looking for ways to develop business and I’ll show you a lawyer who has retired (or who has been elected or appointed as a judge).

The problem with Social Networking (the book, not the concept) is that it does not really seem to offer any novel information or approaches.  The official spiel reports (as nearly all of us already know):

Now, we are proud to announce the release what is a major new report, published in association with Ark Group, entitled Social Networking for the Legal Profession, In the report, Lee Bryant and I look at ways in which legal professionals are exploiting social networking for business, both internally for operations and communication, and externally as part of their marketing and business development efforts.

Plenty of buzzwords: exploiting social networking, increasing operations and communications, and marketing as well as business developments.  Certainly, each of these goals is worthy of any attorney.  But I’m not sure that Social Networking for the Legal Profession is any better at assisting people in these pursuits than much of the freely available information online.  A quick Google or Bing search should give you a lot of information that you might be looking for.

As with all publications such as  Social Networking, I have significant questions, especially when I am asked to pay for them.  Here are some of the claims the authors will attempt to discuss: (#) what social networking means; (#) using online social networks; (#) policy and governance issues around social networking adoption; and; (#) future social networking trends and their impact on the legal profession.  I’m fairly certain that I can find good answers to all of these questions for free among friends, colleagues, and Twitter-buddies.

Don’t get me wrong; it is great to see these discussions taking place and, more particularly, to see big firms such as Allen & Overy and Latham Watkins becoming involved.  Clients deserve more information and involvement and we should all be seeking to facilitate it.  We are in teh business, after all, of representing clients.  However, as we all know, this universe is shifting on a weekly, if not daily basis.

The resident expert for Social Networking, Penny Edwards, is described as follows: “Penny is an enterprise social computing consultant at Headshift, where she leads the user analysis, engagement, adoption and community building elements of projects with legal and professional services firms.”  Not exactly a resume that I would look for if I were trying to hire a law firm marketing manager. But hey, I’m just a young associate; what do I know.

As social media in the law develops and, as we all play a part in it, I hope that no one book or convention will control how it is implemented and used.  We have already posted the following three articles (free access I might add):

We also recently posted a detailed story about JDSupra and how that website is changing the way biglaw is down, how the legal landscape is viewed, and who has access to the information necessary to make legal decisions in their lives.  We hope you have time to check it out: Social Media Legal Spotlight: JDSupra / JDScoop.

It is through constantly developing and revising articles and websites such as these, as well as judicial opinions defining the parameters of how social media can be used in litigation and the investigation processes that will determine how social media will affectually affect all of us in law. Personally, I would not invest heavily in “books” or “treaties” on the subject matter. If it isn’t readily available online, contact me, and I will find it for you.  Trust me, it is out there.

In the meantime, check out some of these legal heavyweights on Twitter; they should be able to help:

http://twitter.com/tysonsnow
http://twitter.com/LeeRosen
http://twitter.com/constructionlaw
http://twitter.com/AdvertisingLaw
http://twitter.com/SmallFirm
http://twitter.com/justia
http://twitter.com/StephKimbro
http://twitter.com/tweetlaw

A complete review can be found over at JDScoop, but that previous list should keep you busy!  And don’t forget to add me: @tysonsnow

Now, we are proud to announce the release what is a major new report, published in association with Ark Group, entitled Social Networking for the Legal Profession,


The LinkedIn Bible: If Your Profession is Your Religion, This May Be for You

June 17, 2009

Today’s entry comes from our friends at CIO.com (http://www.cio.com) and, in a summary fashion, claims to include everything that you need to know to market yourself on LinkedIn, to build a massive network of professionals, to manage connections and recommendations, and much, much more.

Why a LinkedIn article in the middle of Twitter’s massive impact on the Iranian elections (check out #IranElection) and the mass scramble to participate in the Facebook landgrab?  Well, it is always good to be focusing on resources that are presently being underutilized by significant numbers of people.  Right now, LinkedIn fits that category.  It is one of the original and probably the best known social network for working professionals.  I my self have ignored my LinkedIn account often enough.  But I’m learning from my mistakes and reasserting myself in the LinkedIn community.  And I’m experiencing a lot of success from the results.

I’ll leave it to the experts at CIO.com and C.G. Lynch (the author of the article) the delve into the details.  Highlights include:

  1. Five dos and don’ts of LinkedIn etiquette;
  2. Building strong network profiles;
  3. Managing LinkedIn connections;
  4. Utilizing LinkedIn company profiles;
  5. Getting the most from LinkedIn recommendations;
  6. Using free LinkedIn applications; and
  7. The ins and outs of open networking on LinkedIn.

This list is a good overview and, while the additional information is not “in-depth” by any stretch of the imagination, it serves as an excellent starting point for those learning how to use LinkedIn and how to use it successfully.

I’m going to add an eighth category to the list.  It is: “Using questions and answers to establish yourself as an expert in any given field or on any given issue.”  Here are the steps that LinkedIn suggests for establishing yourself as an expert in a particular field:

When you see a green box with a white star on a Profile, you know that person has proven their expertise by answering questions posed in the Answers forum. They have had answers selected as the ‘Best’ answer and are given expert status. Answer experts can be found at the bottom of the Answer home page. To earn expertise:

  1. Find questions in the areas you know.
  2. Browse questions to find categories familiar to you and answer those questions.
  3. Every time the questioner picks your answer as the ‘Best’ answer, you gain a point of expertise in the category of the question. The more points of expertise, the higher you appear on lists of experts. Private answers don’t count toward expertise

See [Earning Expertise in Answers]. And suddenly, you are an expert.  Well, maybe not suddenly but, if you have valuable information to contribute, your opinions will soon be respected and you will find yourself fielding and answering more and more questions.  My success in this regard has only recently begun but I have been amazed to see the amount of interest it has resulted in.  I get several phone calls and emails a day from people with employment law concerns.  As a management side attorney, I can’t take a lot of these cases, but I can help people out and, at the end of the day, if your number one goal as a lawyer is to help out each and every person you can, you will either find success or it will find you.

One additional quick tip.  I’ve added some of LinkedIn’s Q&A RSS feeds to my Google Reader (and other RSS Agregators).  This way, I get an alert anytime a question is asked in a category or field in which I am interested in promoting myself, my experience, and my knowledge.  The prime example of this is the Employment Law Group.  I subscribe to all the questions and therefore can quickly determine whether I can answer and whether I have time to provide an answer that is actually substantive and helpful.

Always remember, if your answer doesn’t take long to compose or if you are simply cutting and pasting from Google, Bing, Wolfram, or any other search engine, the answer probably isn’t too valuable.  Most people know how to find basic information on the Internet.  But as a working professional, LinkedIn allows you to utilize your expertise to help others and build your network.  You should do it.

Make sure you promote your LinkedIn profile in additon to all your other social media endeavors.  It takes time to become involved and it takes even more time to start seeing results.  But if you sew the seeds now, the harvest will eventually come.

View Tyson Snow's profile on LinkedIn
http://www.linkedin.com/in/tysonsnow

If you are not in my network, you should be.  Feel free to add me or you can always catch me on Twitter if you have additional questions: @tysonsnowhttp://twitter.com/tysonsnow