They don’t call it the windy city for nothing. Legal Current blew into the ABA Techshow 2014 on Wednesday evening, but the festivities didn’t officially begin until this morning.

To kick things off, I attended a session titled “Ethics of Social Media Marketing,” presented by Bob Ambrogi, Jennifer Ellis and Jeff Lantz. I thought this was a very interesting and timely session, since ethics rules that have been around long before the advent of social media are now being made to fit into various social mediums like Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Ambrogi showed a few examples of real tweets from the same attorney, and had attendees guess which were ethical and which weren’t. For example: “Won a million dollar verdict. Tell your friends and check out my website?” would be a no-no. “Won another personal injury case. Call me for a free consultation.” This would be okay since it shows what this attorney can do for you – that is, there is a promise of future performance. Other tidbits from this session included:

-“Don’t ever violate terms of service on the different tools you use.” -Jennifer Ellis

-Are there ethical concerns with using Twitter? “I get asked this very frequently and I am surprised that I do,” said Ambrogi. “Maybe there is an ethical issue with you NOT being on it!”

-Potential website ethics violations include: using misleading images of people perceived to be attorneys at a firm, not including required disclosure language, inadvertently publishing confidential information about settlements (see here for a good example), and not maintaining copies of your website.

The bottom line? Avoid giving fact-specific legal advice, or any advice in which you would be seen as establishing an attorney-client relationship with someone, according to the presenters. And always disclaim, disclaim, disclaim!

I also attended a session titled “How Crowdsourcing Can Power a Lawyer’s Research,” presented again by Ambrogi and Lantz, along with Carole Levitt. In between the plugs for crowdsourcing websites (Wikipedia, Google Scholar, Mootus, etc.). Ambrogi brought up some interesting points when he mentioned ways to follow active cases through crowdsourcing. For example, Tweeting and blogging from the courtroom are becoming more prevalent, he said (the Whitey Bulger case in Boston is a good example). Matt Connolly’s Views on Boston provided live coverage of the Bulger case via Twitter and the blog, and received a ton of attention. Ambrogi also mentioned that one blogger essentially created a transcript of a trial from how much she was blogging. It will be interesting to see how trials continue to be covered with all the citizen journalists out there.

Finally, I attended a session called “Advising Clients on Creating Social Media Policies,” presented by Brian Wassom. Wearing his Google Glass, Wassom reviewed a range of social media tools, then explored the big picture warnings and instructions we should convey to employees and people governed by social media policies. This session could benefit anyone preparing a social media policy for their company, not just legal practitioners.

Wassom said there are different rules and considerations when creating a social media policy, for example different rules for those who are actually working on social media for their company versus other employees. Those creating the policies need to explain to employees the power and permanence of social media and the need to be both vigilant and self-aware, according to Wassom.

He then went through several cases where employees’ actions on social media may have tarnished the reputation of the companies that they were employed by. He used the example of a man who was fired over this tweet: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity yet no one here knows how to f#*@ing drive. No big deal, right? Well, the tweeter worked for a PR firm where Chrysler was a client and he accidentally posted under the Chrysler autos account that he was managing. Sadly, the Tweeter was soon unemployed. Wassom also mentioned a woman who dressed as a Boston marathon runner covered in blood and tweeted a picture of herself at her workplace. Keen eyes were able to identify her workplace and she was fired shortly thereafter.

Wassom went on to tell the audience that we might different hats and have different social media accounts (work vs. personal), but we still need to be careful for our own reputation as well as that of our employers. It’s important to explain this to employees and establish procedures for avoiding accidental posts.

Between the sessions and the many meetings, Day One turned out to be productive, informative and a lot of fun. Stay tuned for more coverage tomorrow, including a recap of the keynote address given by Rick Klau of Google Ventures.

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