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How Attorneys Can Use Social Media in Due Diligence

How Attorneys Can Use Social Media in Due Diligence on bossreporting.com

In today’s world, a lot of living is done online

People share everything from their breakfast to their love life on social media, and the collection and curation of that data can result in a fairly accurate profile regarding who a person is, what they like, where they go, when they went, and even provide insight into the lives and involvement of their friends and family.

Almost everyone these days has some sort of electronic footprint, and this trail of willingly offered and easily available information is a valuable research tool, particularly for those in the legal industry.

When it comes to proving guilt or innocence, social media can corroborate alibis, verify evidence, cross reference testimony, and vet potential jurors, witnesses, and clients.

A new use for the search bar

According to the American Bar Association’s 2017 Legal Technology Survey, 21 percent of lawyers sift through social media for evidence during case investigations. This number is expected to grow exponentially as court rulings establish precedents around the authentication and admissibility of online interactions.

The evolution of technology is assisting attorneys in the endeavor of accessing online activity, with industry-targeted software that mines social media data and makes analyses and predictions based on its findings. The resulting information can streamline the jury selection process by identifying potential bias or help to assess the veracity of evidence or testimony.

A legal proceeding’s successful outcome often comes down to who has the right information at the right time, and social media can be your best source for finding it.

Online activity as evidence

Social media accounts reflect who we are and can provide a better understanding of a person or a situation when used in legal proceedings.

Online activity had an impact on the following cases:

  • Personal Injury Claim: Opposing counsel checked the Myspace and Facebook pages of a plaintiff who was suing Weis Markets for damages over a leg injury that was allegedly impairing his health and ability to enjoy life. Photographs posted on social media proved that the employee rode and performed stunts on his motorcycle, activity that was at odds with his claims of injury. The pictures also showed the employee wearing shorts, which was significant because he had claimed in his deposition that he was too embarrassed to do so after the accident. Visible scarring in the photographs confirmed that they were taken after the injury. Ultimately, the plaintiff’s posts disproved his personal injury claim.
  • Proof of Alibi: After spending two weeks in jail for a mugging in Brooklyn, the father of a teenage defendant discovered a Facebook status update his son had made one minute before the crime. The post was written from their Harlem apartment, which was 12 miles away from the scene of the mugging. The boy’s father contacted the district attorney with the evidence, who then submitted a subpoena to Facebook to verify the location the status was posted. The time stamp and location absolved the teenager and charges were dropped.
  • Alimony Evidence: A man sought alimony payments from his ex-wife, claiming unemployment. However, his Facebook page told another story – with posts bragging about owning his own business and albums showing off trips to Las Vegas, South America, and Sea World with his new girlfriend. The ex-wife’s attorney used the posts as evidence to discredit him, and he was denied support.
  • Custody Dispute: Facebook posts damaged the credibility of a father seeking guardianship during a custody case. Crude status updates and photos demonstrated a disregard for the best interest of the child and a lack of consideration for the mother, who was eventually granted guardianship.

Send and submit

According to Jennifer Ellis of Lowenthal & Abrams PC, and Michael Maschke of Sensei Enterprises, Inc., consider the following when introducing social media as evidence: “Is it relevant? Is it more probative than prejudicial? Is there a hearsay problem or exception? And, is it authentic?” Those questions reference Federal Rules 401-402, 403, and 901-902 and are an appropriate starting point when determining admissibility.

A savvy attorney knows the value of utilizing technology to maximize productivity and recognizes the importance of being fully prepared before trial. Social media is an effective tool for performing due diligence and might end up acting as the missing piece of your client’s puzzle.

Looking for more technology tips and tricks to make your job easier? Check the Boss Reporting Blog and upgrade your practice.

Click Here to Like this Litigation: Social Media for Law Firms

Click Here to Like this Litigation: Social Media for Law Firms on http://bossreporting.com

7 tips for creating a more effective social media strategy

Nearly every profession has adopted social media as a way to brand companies, attract clients, and generate more income. The legal field is adapting to and using these platforms, though at times it is a struggle to pair the deeply conservative nature of law firms with the very open (sometimes too open) nature of the social media universe.

Done correctly, however, social media can become an effective marketing tool for law firms and other legal services.

We’ve put together these 7 tips to adopting or improving your firm’s social media strategy:

1. Determine your purpose for using social media.

You won’t be able to adopt an effective strategy – or improve what you’ve already started – unless you know what you want to accomplish with social media. Are you looking to attract more clients? Perhaps you want to establish your firm as an authority in a certain area of law, such as real estate, intellectual property, civil rights, workers compensation, or corporate law? Once you have established goals, you will be better able to come up with a plan to meet them.

2. Decide which social media channels you want to develop or grow.

There are many different platforms available today so you will need to decide which channels you want to use. Facebook is still a top choice. With 2.07 billion users (as of the third quarter of 2017), it provides an almost unlimited pool of potential clients. Along with a page for your firm, you can also take advantage of paid advertising through boosted posts and targeted ads. Choose to target by areas of specialty, geographic region, profession, business owners and top executives, gender, income, marital status, and a wide variety of hobbies and interests.

Another channel you should cultivate is LinkedIn. It is the world’s largest social media network for working professionals, with 467 million users. It has individual and company profiles as well as Groups formed around many different interests. Create a firm profile and use it to connect with others in your field as well as businesses in your area. Your profile should have complete descriptions of services, areas of expertise, and a method of contact. You can also list individual attorneys within the firm and include personal profiles for them. With a premium LinkedIn account, you will have the ability to contact other users directly.

Other social media channels to consider include Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, as well as other mediums. Pick a few channels and develop them well, rather than try to incorporate all of them.

3. Always stay active and engaged.

The first word in social media is “social.” Once you have established accounts, you must keep up with them with regular updates and posts. A page that looks active will help attract new followers and keep them engaged. On Twitter, make good use of hashtags, which are basically search terms that other users type in when they want to view tweets about a particular subject. For example, you might use the hashtags #insolvency, #CorporateLaw, or #LegalNews.

You will also need to monitor your social media pages to ensure that other users don’t post anything inappropriate, controversial, or illegal.

4. Be a trusted resource, not a sales center.

The purpose of social media is not to “sell” something, at least not all the time. If the majority of your posts do nothing but try to market legal services, you will turn people off. Your posts should establish your firm as an authority and resource where people can go to find answers to their legal questions. You want to engage with followers by posting original, relevant content. You can also share content from trusted sources such as news organizations, newspapers, trade magazines, and legal publications which will be of interest to your target market. For example, if your firm specializes in real estate law, you’ll want to post content about the state of the real estate market, both nationally and in your local community. Another good idea is to post questions that encourage followers to answer and engage with you. If a follower posts a question or makes a comment, always answer, if possible. If the matter needs to be handled more discreetly, find a way to contact that person privately.

If you want a good idea of how to balance “selling” versus “engaging, follow the 80/20 rule. According to WiseStamp, “80% of the content that you share should be about your customers; answering their questions, retweeting links and sharing articles that they will find valuable. The remaining 20% can be sales oriented shares.”

5. Have a clear call to action on all your pages.

It’s all well and good to post and share great content, but remember your purpose of using social media is ultimately to attract clients. Make sure that you have clear “contact” tools on each page or ad that you have, including a website, email and phone number. Facebook pages have “contact” buttons which can be formatted to take a user directly to a website, landing page or email. Always include a direct link to your website in every post that you make or share as well.

6. Blog regularly.

Blogging is an inexpensive, easy way to speak to potential clients and establish your firm as an expert. Like Tip #3, you will need to ensure that the blog is maintained on a regular basis. You should post at least once a week. They should be educational and engaging, but never “salesy”. If you aren’t going to have a dedicated person responsible for creating posts (or if you don’t want to outsource the task) it might be a good idea to have attorneys or other legal professionals take turns writing original posts. Each person could have a designated day so the burden doesn’t always fall on one individual. Blog posts can then be used as content on all your social media channels. Followers can also share the posts on their channels.

7. Incorporate pictures and video.

We’ve all seen pictures or videos that have gone viral. Visual content tends to create higher engagement, as images are often faster and easier to absorb than written words. Channels like Facebook also tend to give more weight to visual content, meaning it is more likely to show up in people’s news feeds. You also create opportunities for your content to be shared by your followers. Video content can include interviews with attorneys, staff introductions, weekly Q&A’s, stories about the firm, community events and more. Consider starting a YouTube channel to create and collect a video library.

Social media is one of the best ways to attract and engage potential clients. Develop your policy to ensure you aren’t missing out on this important marketing tool.

At Boss Certified Realtime Reporting, we’ve been providing nationwide court reporting services for trials, depositions, mediations and more since 1995. If you’d like help or more information, you can call us at 954 467 6867 or complete our contact form to let us know how we can assist you.

Facebook Etiquette for Lawyers: How to Engage Online Without Damaging Your Reputation

Facebook Etiquette for Lawyers How to Engage Online Without Damaging Your Reputation

Tips on joining the conversation—carefully.

Everybody seems to use Facebook. Even those who hate to admit it still find themselves scrolling through the status updates, watching the cute dog videos, and catching up with long-lost friends. But as an attorney, it’s important to maintain a certain amount of professionalism, even on your personal social media pages—if not, there could be repercussions that affect your career and your firm. With that in mind, take a look at this guide to engaging on Facebook:

Keep your cool

Your job as an attorney often includes debate, so it’s probably difficult to keep your mouth shut when someone posts an opposing point of view on Facebook. But in order to maintain your good standing and protect your reputation, it’s best to refrain from venting your disagreement with others (even during this wacky election) or attacking them personally. Instead, use your skills to state your point of view diplomatically, or simply refrain from online debate.

Proof before you post

There’s no reason to misspell words or use improper grammar, especially if you’re a lawyer! Those who do look careless and you don’t want it to reflect on your professional skills. Always check over your posts before clicking that button. Facebook offers spellcheck, so be sure and use it.

Use your lawyering skills for good

Before posting your argument on anything, make sure it’s reasonable and to the point. Just like in the courtroom, constructing an argument logically that makes sense is key on social media. Using caps and tons of explanation points doesn’t usually win people over to your point of view, and on Facebook, it can just look like shouting, which is the last thing you want.

Stay away from posting case or client information

This one’s a no-brainer for anyone in the legal profession. Millions of people engage on Facebook every day and no matter how well you may think you’ve masked who your client is or any identifying information about the case, it’s likely someone, somewhere will recognize who or what you’re talking about. So even if you are dying to share something that you may think is interesting or relevant to others, resist the temptation to do it on Facebook. The consequences of someone figuring it out could be detrimental to your reputation.

Always verify before you post

There’s no doubt that there is a lot of information floating around that is outdated, erroneous, or just plain wrong. We’ve all seen those posts with crazy stats or news stories that turn out to be rumors or pranks. So it’s always a good idea to take the extra few minutes to make sure that the information you’re going to share is accurate. Remember that it’s your goal to be a trusted and reliable source, not the attorney who jumps to any conclusions.

Express your thoughts—thoughtfully

As an attorney with years of experience, it’s tempting to just spout off your thoughts regarding certain cases, crimes, or trending legal happenings. It’s perfectly fine for you to get involved and give your perspective—just make sure that you impart your wisdom in a professional way. Joining the conversation is a great way to show your expertise as long as you do it with the proper etiquette.

Social media is one of the most powerful ways to communicate today, but it can also be deadly to your reputation if you’re not careful. Remember to follow these rules, use common sense, and keep your online conversations professional.

Stay tuned for more useful ways to improve your law practice on our blog and remember, if you’re looking for real time reporting services, Boss leads the industry with a team of highly-skilled and experienced reporters. Fill out our online form to request a quote or give us a call at 954-467-6867 for more information.