The Facebook Chronicles: Crossing the Threshold

by Barb Cashman on May 21, 2012

On your mark, get set … WHAT you’re not going to venture onward with the rest of us?  It’s not like Colorado lawyers are at the forefront of the social media adoption wave, because we’re not.  Other states and state bars are way ahead of us – like Florida lawyers, and the Florida and Texas  bars (which regulate attorneys’ websites).

I recently took a poll on the Colorado Bar Association’s Solo and Small Firm listserv. I asked three simple questions:

1. Are you on Facebook?

  • Six who responded were not (well, one  “no” was imputed and a couple of these responses could be characterized as “hell nos.”).

2. If yes, do you have a business page?

  • Eight who were on Facebook did not have a business page, and some commented that they only use Facebook for personal use.
  • Twelve are on Facebook and have a business page, but a couple people shared experience that their biz page was neglected or under-performing.
  • A couple Facebook users  did share Twitter info – one uses it and another “has” it.

3. If you’re not on Facebook, would you be interested in it for business purposes?

  • No one responded yes to this one!

As you can see, of the 26 persons who responded, six were “no” to Facebook and 20 were “yes.”  Several people offered comments and one person gave a phone interview (thanks, Cathy!).

What I’d like to do is address some of the concerns that came up.  This is timely because a couple respondents referred to the Consumer Reports articles on Facebook in the June issue.  Here’s a list that is an amalgamation of Consumer Reports (8 pages long and quite thorough) and a couple other sources:

  1. Many people use poor judgment about what to post and who may see it is rampant.  Facebook posts are used as evidence by most divorce lawyers now, and insurers, college admissions officers, potential employers, bar examiners in Florida, and a boatload of other folks use Facebook for “intelligence gathering.”
  2. If you don’t want to share, you don’t have to. You don’t have to join, and if you do join you can restrict your account and take other precautionary steps. The fact is that the vast majority of people fail to do this.
  3. Consumer Reports featured the plight of Kevin Jolly, a California attorney whose bogus Facebook “page” was created by someone with a gripe against him. It featured pornographic language and was distributed to Jolly’s friends, family, and business colleagues. According to the article, it took several emails (he wasn’t able to speak with anyone at Facebook) and nearly a month to get the abusive page taken down.
  4. Facebook doesn’t invite your friends; you do. Social media are not going to replace websites because they serve different purposes. Websites have evolved from static to hybrid (see this video with me and Matt Willson). Websites and social media have completely different purposes and applications, but that is not to imply I have any idea about how they will evolve in the future.
  5. In order to have a business page on Facebook, you must first have a personal profile, and in Facebook-land, “friend” and “like” are verbs that have their own unique contextual meaning.  As those of you who use another social medium known as LinkedIn already know, the terminology for how you know or “know of” someone is frequently evolving.  “Like” on Facebook is not an endorsement! It is a “thumbs up.”
  6. Set your Facebook passwords and privacy controls to your liking! This includes any other online concern you have going.  (Remember President Skroob’s password in the 1987 spoof classic Spaceballs?  Turns out it was the same “12345” as some foreign government officials and probably more than a few Americans using Facebook!)
  7. Social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. – are all intended and designed as a complement to and not a replacement for actual human contact (unless, perhaps, you are a teenager).
  8. Keep track of your online presence – Google yourself from time to time, or if you want to go “filterless” (and I don’t mean a Gauloise) go to Duck Duck Go and see what comes up.

Social media are not going away. In a recent post by Patrick Lamb under the ABA Journal’s “New Normal,” Lamb declares “A Trusted Adviser in the New Normal Must Be Like a Symphony Conductor.” Hmm …  I may have heard something like this before – oh, yes – a chapter from Dan Pink’s “A Whole New Mind” is “symphony” and is about seeing relationships, improvising, and making new metaphors, but is essentially about “big picture” thinking.

Bottom line from Lamb’s post is that a good grounding in substantive legal knowledge is a good start, but you have to grow into the business acumen, efficiency, and predictability, and consistent delivery stages in order to blossom as a “trusted adviser.”  In another “new normal” blog post – this one by Steve Bell on his blog The New Legal Normal, Bell urges lawyers to “get real” about the fact that social media have been with us for more than a decade (LinkedIn and MySpace launched in 2003, Facebook in 2004). His urgings sound like some familiar themes – remember the Future Foretold post about TECHSHOW 2012?

Am I saying that Facebook and other social media can help you maintain relationships? Why yes, indeed I am.  How? Well I’ll save that for another post.  Patience, grasshopper! (Oops, I’m showing my age again.)  Call me old fashioned, but I think lawyers ought to be able to distinguish between “fear” and “caution.”  We see accidents on the roadways but that doesn’t stop us from driving, right?  What do we have to be afraid of?  Well, ourselves mostly – and I think one of the best articles about what to watch out for is still “Seduced: For Lawyers, the Appeal of Social Media is Obvious. It’s Also Dangerous.”  Don’t worry, in my next post  – covering the “tests, allies, and enemies” portion of the Hero’s Journey, I’ll discuss some of the particular applications of ethics rules to social media applications.

Read more about Barb’s Facebook Chronicles here.

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