The Law of Facebook

Facebook, Inc.
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Or, more aptly titled, the Law ON Facebook. Sparked by a lively discussion on Twitter regarding Facebook fan pages for service providers like law firms generated by attorney / writter / blogger Nicole Black yesterday and fueled by stories in my RSS reader this morning, I thought I would share with you some of the breadth and depth of legal infiltration of this virtual cocktail party, ne college fraternity party, social site, as well as a few parting thoughts on the topic.

First, Bob Ambrogi at LawSites has compiled a list of State Bar Associations on Facebook here. Mr. Ambrogi is careful to qualify that the list includes State Bar Associations only, and does not reference either national or local associations, of which there certainly must be a few lurking. Hit the jump for his list of more than fifty such associations clamoring for friends and virtual fans.

Next, Aviva Cuyler at JD Scoop is compiling a list of lawyers and law firms on Facebook (as a follow-up to JD Scoop’s wildly popular Lawyers to Follow on Twitter list). I am very happy to report that Advantage Advocates is included, number ten on the quite-lengthy list. It is pretty impressive to see the range of practice and scope represented by this list, which most likely is not exhaustive (yet).

I am sensitive to the debate raised in the Twitter discussion, which addresses whether starting a business page and imploring your “friends” to become “fans” is overstepping the implied social mores of the FB platform. However, I fail to see a meaningful difference between promoting your work on FB and promoting your work on any other social network, even those targeted at professionals, or even promoting your work in the real world. Perhaps it comes down to how the individual views his or her personal and professional lives and how he or she approaches the various social sites. Promotion always runs the risk of offending someone. The recipient can always filter, block, engage, disengage, follow, unfollow, friend, unfriend or click any manner of button to tailor, limit or expand their engagement in response. I would imagine, though, that for every “friend” put off by a post from a law firm, there is another that might be interested in learning something new about the work of a friend, colleague or peer in another part of the country or even the world or willing to support the work of another. And it doesn’t hurt to remind our friends what we do professionally, in case the odd legal question should pop up in their lives.

And for us “older” folk, perhaps it comes down to squaring the established “in-real-life” definitions of the words “friends”, “fans” and “followers” with the unique meanings that these terms hold in our brave new on-line world. While it seems strange to be “friends” with someone you have never met, be a “fan” of a business as staid and stuffy as a law firm or to “follow” a taco truck in southern California, our new social hangouts have pushed the limits of the words to include such strange relationships.

Besides, I think it is really cool to have “fans.” I have my Sharpie handy in case anyone needs an autograph.

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“Harry-Potterize” The IRS

Seal of the United States Internal Revenue Ser...
Image via Wikipedia

Admit it, don’t you wish you could pull a Dudley on the IRS sometimes? Well, now you can, with the IRS Wizard. CPA Brian Dooley created this wizard to search the IRS web site, comprised of more than 400,000 documents equaling over 4,000,000 pages. Dooley applies his own knowledge of tax jargon to overlay the documents and organize results. The search function is based on keywords, allowing you to include or exclude words from your results, which include both Dooley’s results and IRS documents.

I haven’t yet tried the site, but I am intrigued at Mr. Dooley’s attempts to magically bring order to the chaosed world of the IRS. If you have tried it or do try it, please come back and let us know how you fare.

Hat tip to Research Buzz.

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"Harry-Potterize" The IRS

Seal of the United States Internal Revenue Ser...
Image via Wikipedia

Admit it, don’t you wish you could pull a Dudley on the IRS sometimes? Well, now you can, with the IRS Wizard. CPA Brian Dooley created this wizard to search the IRS web site, comprised of more than 400,000 documents equaling over 4,000,000 pages. Dooley applies his own knowledge of tax jargon to overlay the documents and organize results. The search function is based on keywords, allowing you to include or exclude words from your results, which include both Dooley’s results and IRS documents.

I haven’t yet tried the site, but I am intrigued at Mr. Dooley’s attempts to magically bring order to the chaosed world of the IRS. If you have tried it or do try it, please come back and let us know how you fare.

Hat tip to Research Buzz.

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You Want Dockets? I Got Yer Dockets Right Here

Washington DC: United States Supreme Court
Image by wallyg via Flickr

Thanks entirely to Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites, a perpetual wealth of legal information of the free and on-line variety, I learned today of a new site called FreeCourtDockets. This site offers federal civil, criminal and bankruptcy court dockets, and material from the Supreme Court, Court of Claims and Court of International Trade.

Remembering fondly, here, those frantic calls to Iowa looking for a court docket on a dusty old case, then writing a check, then sending the check, and then patiently waiting for the pound of paper to return via U.S. Postal Service. Ain’t technology grand?

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Webinars: Not Designed To Instruct On Web-Spinning

Image representing GoToMeeting as depicted in ...
Image via CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Webinars provide professionals with yet another means of communicating their expertise and offering information – the life-blood of the on-line world –  to an internet audience. LLRX has a good overview of the webinar experience penned by Wells Anderson called Marketing Yourself with Webinars. For those unfamiliar, a webinar is a hybrid concoction: one part teleconference and one part on-screen slide presentations via Powerpoint or another slidesharing service. Attendees sign up, access through a webinar conference number and can simultaneously hear the conference via phone and view the slides via the computer.

There are many good reasons for using webinars to promote your brand and business and Mr. Anderson highlights them well in the article. For me, a webinar reminds your webinar audience, as well as those who view promotion of the webinar, of your professional web presence, setting you in the role of educator and expert and offering proof of your web-savvy nature.

Anderson advises using subscription service GoToMeeting from Citrix Online for webinar hosting, promising a straight-forward and easy-to-use experience. I found their product GoToWebinar.  Creating your webinar should be no different than the process of creating a live seminar presentation.

But the key to a successful webinar is proper promotion. Use existing contacts, your blog and services like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other venues offering a broader audience for your presentation promotion.

If you are committed to marketing your practice using modern on-line methods, webinars are a great addition to your Web 2.0 strategy and branding. Use them at regular intervals to sharpen your own presentation technique and remind the Web why you are the go-to guy or gal in your particular field.

Check out a video review of GoToWebinar above for more information about webinars in general and this product in particular.

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Get What You Pay For And Keep Those Expectations In Line

Let the sales begin...
Image by alancleaver_2000 via Flickr

Overseas outsourcing. For me, the jury is out and deliberating and has been that way for quite some time. Today, Ken Adams at Adams Drafting took the words out of my mouth (or my typing fingers): as long as the outsourcer has realistic expectations about the limitations on what may be returned from the outsourcee, then the practice has worth.

For Ken, there should be an inverse relationship between the complexity of the task and outcome in a given matter and the desire to outsource to a general-practice offshore vendor or captive firm.  In the case of contract drafting, real contract “drafting” (as compared to contract “tweaking”) requires a specific set of skills and experience, particularly with the peculiarities of the jurisdiction’s laws and treatment. Any vendor with insufficient experience in the task at hand can fall prey to pitfalls in creating a tight, effective product.

For me, the decision to turn over any research or writing project to a generalist rather than a specialist should not be a cavalier endeavor. The downside of investing in a case of discount soda at the bulk warehouse?  A nasty taste in one’s mouth. The downside of submitting a complex legal question for discount treatment? A  far more bitter taste and potentially longer-lasting consequence.

For those considering outsourcing to a foreign jurisdiction, consider all the alternatives. One of those alternatives might be turning the work over to a contract lawyer with a particular specialty or, in the case of a complex contract drafting matter, the drafting expert in the relevant jurisdiction. We might be a better bargain in the long-run than you think.

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How To Stay Connected In A Disconnected Work Place

Everyone wants to work from home. I know I fully appreciate the opportunity to do so. But working from home or working across the country from your co-workers and collaborators raises novel challenges. Humans are social animals with a strong need to connect, both professionally and socially. How can these connections be maintained, nurtured and expanded when the only other being sharing your office is the pet hamster?

Gina Trapani has some suggestions at the Harvard Business blog in her article entitled Master The Art of Working Remotely. The article does not focus on how to set up your office, how to get your work done or how to print and fax documents. Her focus is THE focus: how to maintain the human connections necessary for getting the job done. Trapani provides advice on how to make the most of the lines of communication available to the remote worker: email; messaging and text-based chat; on-line collaboration tools; and, voice and video chat. The idea is not simply to remind others of your existence, but to fully leverage the benefits of the various media and preserve the record in ways that are unavailable in the traditional Office Space set-up.

I would add a few additional tools to her list. Social media can bridge connections between co-workers and collaborators provided its use is targeted to a professional connection. Microblogging offers a means for one-way updates regarding status, results  and whereabouts, while social sites offer fora for communicating in more general, professional terms with other, similarly-situated workers.

It all boils down to keeping the “human” in the “human interaction” with gentle reminders to others of your existence and value to the task at hand.

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Hey Mr. IT Guy, Where's My iPhone?

Spreading the writing wealth of the Studio across the internet, Huliq News has posted a guest post of mine entitled “Hey Mr. IT Guy, Where’s My iPhone?” in its Technology News section. Check it out over there, and feel free to leave comments or feedback right here. Happy Reading!

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Hey Mr. IT Guy, Where’s My iPhone?

Spreading the writing wealth of the Studio across the internet, Huliq News has posted a guest post of mine entitled “Hey Mr. IT Guy, Where’s My iPhone?” in its Technology News section. Check it out over there, and feel free to leave comments or feedback right here. Happy Reading!

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Proud Owner of First And Second Place

Interesting results in the smartphone sales arena for first quarter 2009: the Blackberry Curve 8300 series holds the top spot, ousting prior champ iPhone 3G. Two other BB models, the Storm and Pearl, were third and fourth place, respectively, while the G1 took fifth. Engadget reports on the stats here.

I am the proud owner of two of the championship model (one for corporate, one for biz) and one of the runner-up (everything else). I have given my thoughts on both of these phones in prior entries. There is no denying that the BB Curve is a workhorse of a phone. It rarely hiccups and handles my e-mail with aplomb, if not panache. But, when I reach for a phone, I instinctively pick up the iPhone, even with its keyboard flaws. The “face to face” or “finger to screen” experience is just that much more enjoyable and the ease of use is hard to beat. I still get stuck on some of the functions and menus on my BB.

I see the two phones as appealing to different market spheres. There is no denying that the enterprise loves the BB best. The fact that the Curve is available on so many different carriers may have affected this result as well.

Nice, though, to know that I am in good company in the top two!

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