There are good reasons why LinkedIn has become the overwhelming favorite social media tool for lawyers. Nobody understands this better than Dennis Kennedy and Allison C. Shields. The first edition of their LinkedIn book by was one of the better legal technology books I’ve read in years.
Does knowing how to use encryption and digital signatures when necessary give an advantage in the marketplace? Even 15 years ago some lawyers found this to be the case. With revelations of security breaches and systematic NSA monitoring, lawyers who know how to use encryption and its cousin, digital signatures, even more of a marketing advantage.
In an attempt to adjust to this new reality, the U.S. Postal Service has trademarked multiple encryption-related trade names:
One brand name filed Sept. 6, “United States Postal Service Digital Services,” would consist of, among other things, “tamper-detection capabilities” for safeguarding electronic documents, audio and videos.
A more generic “United States Digital Services” trademark, submitted for consideration on Aug. 16, would include fax transmissions “featuring encryption and decryption.”
The name also would cover “electronic mail services in the field of financial transactions,” which presumably could generate Wall Street sales for an agency that has lost $3.9 billion so far this fiscal year.
The filing proposes verifying the identities of people transmitting information — and, vice versa, confirming intended recipients have received unadulterated information — through a practice called “security printing.” The technique codes identification information on valuable documents and products.
Much more on this important issue later.
User friendliness: An overlooked security enhancement. A study shows that frustrated users who circumvent security measures create half of all security breaches:
As security measures become less user friendly, they also become less effective. Cyber security professionals estimate that almost half (49 percent) of all agency security breaches are caused by a lack of user compliance. …
Not only do end users experience challenges with the applications they use daily, many of the activities they must perform as part of their daily work also cause frustration. The activities that cyber security professionals say are the most likely to cause a security breach are the same activities where end users run into the most frustrating security measures. The top areas for cyber security professionals’ concern and end users’ frustration are surfing the internet, downloading files, accessing networks, and transferring files.
End users say cyber security measures hinder their productivity and as a result admit to breaking protocol. Sixty-six percent of end users believe the security protocols at their agency are burdensome and time-consuming. Sixty-nine percent say at least some portion of their work takes longer than it should due to security measures. Nearly one in five end users can recall an instance where they were unable to complete a work assignment on time because of a security measure. As a result, 31% of end users say they use some kind of security work around at least once a week.
The Lawyerist article Astroturfing to Technethics, the New Vocabulary of Ethics explains several phrases gaining prominence as lawyers increasingly use technology. For example, “astroturfing” refers to phony positive user reviews.
In a comment, Carolyn Elefant takes exception to one of the terms, “technethics.” It arguably implies that technology creates a new standard for judging ethics conduct:
[T]he ethics of social media are no different from ethics in the real world – the same rules apply in the ethics sphere. Once we start creating categories for special use rules, we make it more difficult for lawyers to use their discretion to evaluate the rules and determine how they apply – and instead, will have them wait for the bars to issue guidance, which as I’ve blogged at MyShingle is foolhardy.
A June 2013 study by BrightLocal found that almost 80 percent of consumers trusted online reviews as much as personal recommendations. With those numbers trending up each year, and the understanding that Google alone could be 10 times the size of the entire yellow pages industry, it is clear that online reviews have become the new word-of-mouth marketing. It is more important than ever to have clients spreading good news about you on review sites. If they aren’t, the haters will be.
Michael Downey’s article in the most recent issue of the ABA Law Practice Management’s Law Practice magazine raises an issue concerning the effects of social media on client confidentiality:
[T]he constant push for lawyers to post Internet content—blogging, tweeting and the like—substantially increases the risks to client information.
A great illustration of a lawyer generating Internet content to attract clients is Hunter v. Virginia State Bar, No. 121472 (Va. Feb. 28, 2013). In Hunter, a lawyer blogged about criminal cases he handled for clients without the clients’ permission.
A hearing panel found this unethical, but the Virginia Supreme Court reversed, concluding that a lawyer could report on publicly disclosed information at a client’s criminal proceeding without client consent. “To the extent [this] information is aired in a public forum,” the Hunter court explained, “privacy considerations must yield to First Amendment protections.”
Sign of the future? Hunter’s holding may be rejected as unpersuasive by other courts. Yet Hunter serves as a powerful reminder that lawyers and law firms may be inclined to promote their firms by revealing client confidences.
No doubt, social media create new ways in which lawyers can commit ethics violations, and new opportunities for them to do so. However, these pressures are not qualitatively different from those of years past. Unethical lawyers could always breach client confidences in articles, speeches, or even informal marketing pitches. Ethical lawyers didn’t then and won’t now.
Awareness of any intensified risks is great, and I commend Mr. Downey, but let’s be careful to avoid letting welcome conscience-raising descend into what Kevin O’Keefe has correctly described as “lawyers scaring lawyers from using social media.”
The Lawyerist has a good look at the ins and outs of computer displays in The Best Computer Monitor Setup for Lawyers. The idea of using multiple monitors to improve productivity is not news, but this article takes it to another level. Ideas particularly worthy of note:
- Pixel size (as opposed to screen resolution) makes a giant difference in screen legibility. The smaller the pixels (i.e., the more that can be jammed into a square inch), the better. The author contents that at very small pixel sizes, it’s as easy to ready material on a computer monitor as in a well-printed book.
- A good really large monitor (27 inches may be better than two 22 inch screens. One good 27 inch monitor is more expensive than two smaller ones, but it may be worth it.
Great quote from a Washington Post article about modernizing office floor plans and increasing us of telework:
“Anytime you have a lot of lawyers in an agency, there’s resistance.”
Dennis Kennedy highlights a blog post by Chris Hoffman entitled “How Attackers Actually ‘Hack Accounts’ Online and How to Protect Yourself.” Hoffman explains five key vulnerabilities and how to avoid them:
- Reusing Passwords, Especially Leaked Ones.
- Social Engineering.
- Answering Security Questions.
- Email Account and Password Resets.
Lots of good advice here, with the tip on security questions particularly welcome. More on this later.