Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

Legal Careers Rx for non-attorneys

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Mariana Fradman, MBA Senior Real Estate Paralegal at Kaye Scholer LLP and NYCPA Treasurer, Mentor Program & CLE Chairperson (NYCPA is an exemplar of what paralegal associations can be. An excellent set of officers! Check it out even if you are not a New York City paralegal.) announced through the NYCPA LinkedIn discussion board a new LinkedIn Group:Legal Careers Rx for non-attorneys.

The announcement is brief, so I’ve included it all here:

In less than two weeks, over 900 paralegals joined the group. The group is about career strategies, job search techniques, resumes, workplace situations, stress/burnout, virtual paralegals, promotions & more.

I looked up your LinkedIn profile and Facebook page

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

The title of this post is stolen from the first line of reason number two for not hiring an interviewee for a job published by The Estrin Report. Much of what she has to say also applies to persons who already have a job as a paralegal, but can’t understand why they are not advancing, not more respected, etc., so I’ve copied below the entire reason number two. The rest of the article, “10 Reasons Why I Won’t Hire You” which is well worth reading in its entirety.

2. I looked up your LinkedIn profile and Facebook page before I invited you to interview.

You may think employers are checking Facebook to see if you’re that 20-year-old posting pictures of you and your buddies wildly drunk at a party. Or, they say they avoid Facebook because it is a “social” situation and not relevant. Not quite. They peek anyway. How you behave in some social settings can spill over into your social skills in the office. How about where you got into a public argument on your FB page with Sally over some petty little thing? Remember how it escalated into the War of Words? It was all about your criticism of typos in her posts.

Was that your attempt at leadership? Hmmm. It probably wasn’t the wisest thing to publicly tear someone down, and I wasn’t particularly fond of the fact you encouraged your FB friends to jump in and defend you. Not my idea of a leader. Here’s an indication of what situations may show up on the job. Red alert! No thanks.

Oh, and by the way, LinkedIn showed different dates and firms than what’s on your resume. It didn’t seem to be updated, either. No thanks, once again.

F

A Goddess in Disguise

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

When Odysseus went off to fight in the Trojan War, he placed his friend Mentor in charge of his son Telemachus. Odysseus was gone twenty years, ten to fight the war and ten on his Odyssey traveling back home. During this time, the goddess Athena visited Telemachaus often. She guided him in his search for his father and his efforts to stave off the many suitors seeking to marry his mother on the assumption that Odysseus was dead. She offered encouragement and practical advice during Telemachus’ quest. In order to hide her involvement, Athena disguised herself as Mentor. Today we use the term “mentor” to refer to an experienced and trusted person who advises and guides aspiring new members of a profession.

This was all brought to mind by a post by Philip Haebig on the Paralegal Group LinkedIn discussion board, describing the difficulty he had finding a mentor and encouraging the use of LinkedIn and similar media for mentoring purposes. He states in part, “In closing, it took forever to get someone to be brave enough to say yes to mentoring a young starter. It took respect and dedication in heeding that mentor’s advice. And most of all it cost me very little for the growth it has facilitated, which is why I make the most of my connections in my network. After all, one’s network can truly be their net worth. Seeing as LinkedIn and the Internet are the exact place(s) to do this with very little hassle to both potential Mentor and Mentee, I am happy to share my knowledge, resources, and encouragements. And I suggest that you do too!”

I join Philip in encouraging experienced paralegals to become goddesses/gods in disguise as mentors of new paralegals. The comments to his post reinforce the notion that paralegals associations can and do play a role in connecting mentors and mentees:

Connie Johnson
Paralegal at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP

Hi Philip – I am the President of the Inland Counties Association of Paralegals in California. My association is actually working on getting a mentoring program together something like what you have discussed. I am sharing your link with my other board members. Would you mind if we include it in a future newsletter? We have a lot of student members, we are all on advisory boards of local educational facilities, and are hopeful we can get some people to step up and be mentors such as you detailed above.

Mariana Fradman, MBA
Senior Legal Assistant, Chadbourne & Parke LLP

Dear Philip – can I please share your post with my mentees? You said exactly what I was trying to deliver during my presentation about the benefits of LinkedIn at the NYCPA Mentor Program Workshop last Thursday.

Tweet, Tweet

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

A bit over a year I ago I did a post in which I states, “Be that as it may, I’m giving in. It’ll probably take some time, but I’ve resolved to learn to Tweet. Maybe over the winter break. The only problem will be the embarrassment that could arise if on next year’s list, I’m still losing points because while I’m tweeting, no one is following!” It has taken some time, but now that Twitter itself has become so old that it may be going out of fashion in favor of SnapChat and other programs, I’ve joined the Twitter universe. You can follow me @REMongue, although I don’t know how long it’ll be before I think of something to say in just 140 characters. If there’s someone you think I should be following, please let me know. It’s time for me to be part of the tweeting public that the bad old pussy cat, I’ve been.

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It Can Happen to You

Monday, November 19th, 2012

I recently posted about my needing to learn to tweet. I fully intend to do so over the winter break at Ole Miss. However, more important than simply learning what to tweet is knowing what and when to tweet! Consider this from  ABAJournal.com:

A research lawyer for a Kansas appeals court has been suspended pending an investigation into her critical tweets about the state’s former anti-abortion attorney general during a supreme court ethics hearing.

The lawyer, Sarah Peterson Herr, posted tweets calling former Attorney General Phill Kline a “naughty, naughty boy” and criticizing his facial expression, report the Associated Press, the Topeka Capital-Journal and WND. “Why is Phil Klein [sic] smiling?” she wrote. “There is nothing to smile about, douchebag.”

Herr predicted Kline would be disbarred for seven years as a result of charges claiming he or his subordinates misled others during an investigation of abortion providers. WND describes Herr’s tweets as “snarky” and “self-satisfied.”

True this is about a lawyer, not a paralegal, but paralegals are often in the same position and the same seemingly irresistible temptation. There was a time when yielding to such temptations was limited in scope, at least, to those time when one was off-guard, perhaps having had a cocktail too many at a social gathering, so the damage was also limited to a degree. But with today’s social media there is almost literally no end to the ripples that are set in place when one drops a pebble – or in this case a number of rocks – into the water. This is just one of the many perils of social media. (Leading me to create the new “Social Media” category.)
As many of you may have noticed though there is an even larger issue here as illustrated by one of the comments on the original ABAJournal.com post:

Herr should have keep her thoughts to herself at the least until after the matter was concluded.  The fact that her remarks became public is not what makes her conduct wrong.

I Guess I Should Learn to Tweet!

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

From time to time I get emails informing me this blog has been chosen as a “top blog” by an organization or website, usually offering a badge to post on the site that links back to their site. Having grown up with a certain disdain for badges. I usually ignore them. But today Chere Estrin paid attention to one, so I figured I should also.

This one is from a website called “Paralegal411.” It does have some useful information, although I have grounds to quibble since the University of Mississippi paralegal program is not on its list of top paralegal programs. Of course even the Princeton Review, Forbes, and U.S. News and World Report‘s rankings of colleges are often challenged based on the criteria used by those organizations. I did not locate “Paralegal411’s” criteria for ranking programs. It does mention the ABA Approval list, but not the AAfPE Institutional Member list. (I’ve posted elsewhere on the advisability of relying solely on the ABA list.) Yet, the site itself cannot rely solely on the ABA list because (1) it names only a few schools and the ABA list has a lot of schools, and (2) the list includes George Washington University which is not on the list, noting that “The Georgetown paralegal program is approved by the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE), the International Paralegal Manager’s Association (IPMA), and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).”

In any case, I could find the criteria for including blogs. Basically it’s a matter of popularity based on the number of pages linking to the blog and – here is my downfall – the number of Twitter followers. I don’t Tweet, so I lose points. So I guess I should learn to tweet. (And I should learn whether “tweet” is capitalized or not.) I haven’t basically because I haven’t figured out how to say anything really meaningful in 140 characters. As you can see from this post and the others on the blog, I can be pretty long-winded. It may be my age (61). But also I’ve never figured out what I would tweet that anyone would want to “follow” or why people “follow” tweets like “Why am I awake?” today’s tweet from the #4 blog on the list.

Despite this “Paralegal411” basically gets it right. The top three blogs are from Lynne DeVenny, who has recently ridden paralegal fashion to the top (I’m not much of a fashion buff. At the moment I’m just happy I get to stop wearing the outfit in the picture even though I had to become a cyborg to do it,) Chere Estrin, and Vicki Voison, blogs on my own RSS feed and the subject of frequent mention here. Number 4 is Haley Lobs Law Bomb, a blog I had never read before but will be adding to my Paralegal/Legal blogroll along with Paralegal Illuminati today so you can.

If there is a problem with the list, it’s that it contains some blogs on which there been no activity for several months. For example, I recently removed “Paralegal Hell” from my blogroll because there have been no posts since last December. Melissa H. (now Melissa K.) of “Paralegalese” not only stopped posting in May, has quite regrettably for the profession left the paralegal profession. I’ve kept the link to her blog anyway because much of what is there is quite helpful.

Be that as it may, I’m giving in. It’ll probably take some time, but I’ve resolved to learn to Tweet. Maybe over the winter break. The only problem will be the embarrassment that could arise if on next year’s list, I’m still losing points because while I’m tweeting, no one is following!

Oh, and here’s my badge: paralegal schools

Cleaning Up Facebook Leads to Sanctions

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

In a previous post I noted this admonition from an analysis by H. Christopher Boehning and Daniel J. Toal of  a recent article published in the Delaware Law Review, in which attorney Margaret DiBianca ” identified a number of these novel ethical issues:

Upon learning that a client’s social networking site contains information that is potentially harmful to a claim or defense, a lawyer may be tempted to advise the client to remove the harmful content. To do so, however, would risk running afoul of Rule 3.4 (a), and incurring sanctions for spoliation of evidence.

Failure to heed that warning (although the events recounted here likely occurred before the warning appeared in the article) has indeed lead to significant sanctions for an attorney (and the attorney’s client) who directed his paralegal to direct his client to “clean up” his Facebook page. The sanctions? Well, they totaled $722,000 (to be paid presumably out of a $5,000,000 judgment the client had obtain against the defendant in the proceeding in which the sanctions were issued. Here’s more:

”According to a September 1 order from Judge Hogshire, the spoliation began in March 25, 2009, when Murray received a discovery request for the contents of Lester’s Facebook account. Attached was a photo of Lester wearing a ‘I [heart] hot moms” t-shirt, and holding a beer can with other young adults.
Murray instructed a paralegal to tell Lester to ”clean up” his Facebook page because, ”we don’t want blowups of this stuff at trial,” the assistant, Marlina Smith, said in a disposition. She emailed that message to Lester the next day.
On March 26, 2009, according to the judge’s order, Murray came up with a scheme to take down or deactivate Lester’s Facebook account so that he could respond that he has no Facebook page on the date the discovery request was signed.
When defense attorneys filed a motion to compel, Murray instructed Lester to reactivate the account. But in a December 16 2009, deposition, Lester denied deactivating the account.
Murray is also accused of withholding the email from Smith instructing Lester to clean up his Facebook page when he was ordered to produce it shortly before the trial began. Murray falsely claimed after the trial that the omission was the paralegal’s mistake, according to the court order.”

The rest is here from JDJournal.com, but this is enough to bring me to the second point of this story that is worthy of comment:

 “Murray [the attorney] falsely claimed after the trial that the omission was the paralegal’s mistake, according to the court order.”

On second thought, it is probably not in need of comment as it seems to speak volumes all by itself.

So what if he’s a “a tyrant, an idiot, a weasel and a dump truck?”

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

We have all worked with, and often for, persons who meet this description (or something close to it.) Do not write it or even say it, except to the most intimate of your friends and relations. If those friends are fellow employees, don’t even say it to them. Do not post it on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. As a story in ABAJournal.com illustrates, it can become grounds for termination of your employment or – at the very least – ground for a defense against an a claim for wrongful termination.

One can certainly sympathize with the person who wrote these emails both because of the culture of the office at the time and because it is very, very hard to work with or for a tyrant, idiot, weasel or a dump truck, much less someone is embodies them all. But, office email and social networks (online or in person) are not the places to vent the frustration that goes with working with or for them. (As noted in The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional the same goes for comments about clients.)

The problems is not all about the possible consequences, which go beyond lost of a job to the perception persons have of you as a professional. Even those who agree with you will think less of you for having lowered yourself to this form of name-calling. Worse, yet you will be (and therefore feel) less professional. This will cause you to lose some of the respect most necessary for empowerment – respect for yourself.

“Friending” Your Attorney

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

I’m doing some catch up on LinkedIn discussion. Know: The Magazine for Paralegals group discussions include this question from Amy:

What do you do when your attorney sends you a Facebook friend request?

One of the new attorneys I work with has sent me a Facebook friend request. What do you guys think? I feel like I can’t turn him down, but then again…not sure that I want one of my bosses on my FB page either. Not that I’m doing anything that is scandalous…just makes me uncomfortable. Any advice??

Most of the advice, quite rightly, is not to friend the attorney. Elona Jouben responded:

I prefer to keep my personal and professional lives separate as much as possible. I don’t even have current non-lawyer co-workers as FB friends. I would tell him in person that you are not comfortable mixing the office w/your personal social media accounts. Telling him in person exemplifies your professionalism, and he has to respect your decision. It’s entirely up to you whether you want to add him to your LinkedIn network. I don’t know if LinkedIn allows you to filter which connections see what activity you have on LI.

(Elona, who usually has good advice on these listserv discussions, is also a contributor to The Empowered Paralegal Professionalism Anthology, schedule for release in the next few weeks. Her contribution is a slightly edited version of her Master Thesis for George Washington University, arguing against paralegal regulation.)

Coincidentally, the “Paralegal Jobs and Continuing Education” LinkedIn group discussion board contains a post by Jolene entitled, “How Facebook can ruin your career.”  There are several posts on this blog on this theme already.  Jolene’s post includes a link to an article shared through “Smartbook” originating in the International Business Times,  entitled, “Why Co-workers Don’t Make Good Facebook Friends.” That the SmartBrief intro notes:

If you’re going to “friend” work colleagues on Facebook, then you need to carefully monitor your content to make sure it’s always upbeat and professional — and not something that could hurt your career, writes Jessica Simko. If you do post comments about how you hate your job, for example, the boss could find out. “Many employees talk and gossip on a regular basis. They can’t help themselves,” she writes.

It should be self-evident that the problem is even worse when the “co-worker” is also a supervising attorney.

One possible solution is to have two separate Facebook presences – one personal and one for business. I have an “Empowered Paralegal” presence and a personal presence on Facebook (although I actually seldom do much on either – probably a sign of my age.) Overall though, I recommend simply declining to intertwine the two at all.  Also, please note that, even without the personal/business mixture, a Facebook presence can be detrimental to your career.

More Social Media Dangers

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

From time to time I’ve posted here on the dangers facing paralegals using social media, although I usually leave social media to Lynne Devenney at Practical Paralegalism because she covers it so well. However, the coincidence of a discussion on the Paralegal Today listserv and an article in the ABA Journal lead me to the topic for today’s post.

The listserv discussion began with a “venting” post by a paralegal. The vent itself was not bad and seemed to cover a legitimate gripe. However, one commenter soon noted, “Should you get a really vengeful supervisor — it would not be a good idea for you to have in writing this stuff with the firm name attached. You guys all know this – email has become as common place as talking now days…. and you don’t know who else is reading…… just a word to the wise – THANSK! deb”  This, in turn, prompted another post, “What a world when we have to live in fear of “what if my supervisor is lurking here to see what I say about my job?” Do you really think they have the time to be concerned with this?”  Most recently, Linda Whipple posted another of her insightful comments:

Nastynady the advice about venting about your boss in this particular vent is very smart advice. If you go back to her initial “vent” on this list serve she used her firm’s signature which is a dead giveaway if anyone in her firm or from a firm in her town decided to forward it to her boss directly. She would have been better served venting under an email “handle” such as nastynady rather than her own name with her firm’s name anywhere in that email. That is a dangerous game in today’s job market and the Venting came dangerously close to libel which could cost her more than her job. If members want to vent on this list serve by all means do so but don’t make it obvious as to who you are or who you are venting about. I just read in the news of a very similar situation that occurred locally here and the employee then sued the firm for wrongful termination. The jury wasn’t impressed and found for the employer. The article pointed out the employee in the end of the day also ruined her name as well as having dragged the firm thru a cmpletely avoidable termnation and lawsuit just by using “good judgment”. In our member’s situation I hope we don’t get a follow up venting over the loss of her job . . . . Just my 2 cents.

The advice from Linda and deb is good advice, a point emphasized by the ABA Journal article I referenced in the beginning entitled, “Seduced: For Lawyers, the Appeal of Social Media is Obvious. It is also Dangerous.” While the danger is depicted through lawyer examples, the basic point applies to paralegals. Examples include:

Sean W. Conway  who thought he was writing an ordinary blog post never suspecting he would wind up facing ethics charges.

“I felt completely within my rights as a citizen, exposing what I thought was an injustice,” he says. It seemed to the then-35-year-old defense attorney that a Florida circuit court judge was methodically depriving criminal defendants of their right to a speedy trial. Instead of allowing them four or five weeks to prepare for trial, as was routine, Judge Cheryl Alemán was asking defendants whether they were ready for trial only about a week after their arraignment, according to Conway.

His post, according to the Florida,  violated five ethics rules and  the Florida Supreme Court rejected the argument his statements were protected by the First Amendment. this. The result: a public reprimand and a fine of $1,250.

B. Carlton Terry Jr.,  North Carolina judge was publicly reprimanded by the state’s Judicial Standards Commission for becoming  a Facebook friend of an attorney appearing in a case before the him, and the two men exchanged a few brief online comments regarding the proceeding.

Kristine A. Peshek, an assistant public defender, blogged about the cases she worked on. ABA Journal reports, “Because she allegedly revealed confidential client information, Peshek was fired and then charged with violating legal ethics.”

The examples are not limited to attorneys. The article goes on to note:

Linda Lea Viken, a family law specialist who heads the Viken Law Firm in Rapid City, S.D., offers examples from her practice and that of her colleagues:

• A wife discovered her spouse was philandering when she went to his Facebook page, found a picture of him with another woman, then clicked on the picture and was taken to the other woman’s page. That displayed a picture of the pair drinking and embracing in a more-than-friendly fashion.

• A spouse is supposed to be watching the kids but is partying instead. Then a video of the spouse at the party is posted on YouTube.

• A mother, fighting for child custody, claimed the father had a terrible temper. The father denied it on the stand, then was confronted with a self-description he had posted on his Facebook page: “If you have the balls to get in my face, I’ll kick your ass into submission.”

But apparently a paralegal could cause problems not just by dissing their attorneys, but by praising them too highly:

Consider, for instance, an attorney who has a listing on LinkedIn. All the information she posts about herself must be correct or she will violate Rule 7.1. But what about information posted by others? LinkedIn (and some other social media) allows users to “recommend” others and praise their work. If a client posts a wonderful recommendation, must that praise comply with Rule 7.1?

Yes, according to the Ethics Advisory Committee of the South Carolina Bar, which stated in Ethics Advisory Opinion 09-10 (2009) that any such recommendation must not “create unjustified expectations or otherwise mislead a prospective client.” The Ohio Board of Com missioners on Grievances and Discipline also issued an opinion to the same effect, No. 2000-6 (2000).

Ethics rules might require even more from attorneys. The South Carolina Bar stated, in Advisory Opinion 99-09 (1999), that a lawyer must act against too-favorable comments posted by a client on the client’s own online site. Once a lawyer learns of these comments, the lawyer must tell the client to conform its statements to the ethics rules. If the client refuses, the lawyer must stop representing the client, or the lawyer will be deemed to have authorized or adopted the comments.

I assume the same would apply to comments made by a paralegal on a listserv or on their own Facebook page!

Bottom line is that the dangers of social media use are many and often not obvious. The ABA Journal article is long and I’ve only included brief excerpts here. I do suggest taking the time to read the whole piece.