Category Archives: Attorney Websites

CLE Course: Ethics of Cloud Computing

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Welcome to the digital age! The use of cloud computing technologies offers lawyers and law firms alike distinct advantages in terms of cost savings, flexibility & mobility, ease of use and more efficient client service. However, because cloud computing places data – namely confidential client information – on remote servers outside of the lawyer’s direct control, it has given rise to some serious concerns regarding its acceptability under applicable ethics rules. For these reasons, attorneys must be cognizant of their ethical duties when selecting an appropriate vendor and deploying cloud technologies in their practice.

Your law firm would like to take advantage of new technologies like “The Cloud” … but is it safe? How can you be sure you are fulfilling your ethical duties to your client to protect their confidential information?

If you have questions about utilizing cloud technologies in your practice while still maintaining ethical standards of practice then join intellectual property attorney Robert Cogan as he describes what the Cloud is and how you can use this new technology without running afoul of the ethics rules. By taking this course you will reach a basic level of familiarity with what the Cloud is in the context of law practice, be able to identify the ethical obligations that must be met in use of the Cloud, learn the actions the attorney must take in exercising due care when selecting a vendor, recognize significant security vulnerabilities that are not a function of Cloud use and take steps to address these security vulnerabilities. To access the course please click here: Ethics of Cloud Computing.

Additional topics addressed include:

  • Pertinent terms
  • Rules of professional conduct
  • Services
  • SAS
  • Advantages of using the Cloud
  • State ethics opinions
  • ABA opinions & Model Rules
  • Client confidentiality
  • Competence
  • Questions to consider
  • Knowledge requirements for non-technical attorneys
  • Terms of service
  • Practical care
  • Non-technical considerations
  • Social engineering
  • Phishing
  • Trojan horses
  • General guidance

Robert P. Cogan is a business and intellectual property lawyer with over 35 years of experience in both corporate and private practice as well as experience in operating management. His previous experience includes fourteen years as chief patent counsel of a Fortune 200 Company, where he managed the development and enforcement of worldwide patent and trademark portfolios. He has negotiated multimillion dollar agreements, including software licenses, distributorships and joint research projects. Mr. Cogan also has extensive experience in contracting with government agencies including Department of Defense, NASA, and NIH, as well as state agencies.

This CLE course on elder law is currently accredited in the following states:

  • Alaska (AK)
  • Arizona (AZ)
  • California (CA)
  • Connecticut (CT)
  • District of Columbia (DC)
  • Illinois (IL)
  • Maryland (MD)
  • Massachusetts (MA)
  • Michigan (MI)
  • New Jersey (NJ)
  • New York (NY)
  • Pennsylvania (PA)
  • South Dakota (SD)

Attorney Credits offers continuing legal education (CLE) for attorneys in New York and around the country. For more information about CLE in New York please click the following link: NY CLE.

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CLE Course: Online Security & Risk Basics for Attorneys

We now live in the digital era – an era of social media, mobile phones & devices and being connected and online 24/7. There are many benefits for attorneys and law firms that adopt and utilize online technology to enhance their practice and provide more cost-effective and efficient service to their clients. Unfortunately, there are numerous risks that are involved with utilizing online technologies as well.

“Which risks are relevant?  Those that impact business goals.  Which risks impact business goals?  They all do.” – Deborah Gonzalez

In this new CLE course, Deborah Gonzales of Law2SM presents the tools and resources that you need to better understand the security and reputational risks of online and digital activity for attorneys and how to mitigate those risks to minimize potential losses. The focus of Online Security & Risk Basics for Attorneys is to present security and risk management best practices that address major concerns for attorneys in our new online environment.

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There is a wealth of practical information presented in this course and Ms. Gonzalez provides numerous practice points for attorneys to adopt in their everyday practice to minimize online risks.  The main topics addressed include setting the context of our new digital world, mobile devices, apps & BYOD, reputational risk, big data, content management/marketing, compliance and what you can do to mitigate your risk.

Further issues addressed in this CLE course include:

  • The relevant risks
  • Digital threats
  • Social media/online risk
  • Online security
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Sources of risk
  • Why risks happen
  • Crafting a social media policy
  • The NLRB’s (National Labor Relations Board) role in regulation
  • The 5 C’s
  • Monitoring risks
  • Suggested alerts
  • Metadata/geo-tagging
  • Protecting your online identity
  • Compliance with rules & regulations
  • The SEC regulations
  • FTC & compliance
  • Disclaimers
  • The FCC & net neutrality
  • COPPA (Children’s’ Online Privacy Protection Act)
  • The compliance toolkit
  • Audits & assessment
  • SLA™ Risk Assessment
  • Protecting yourself and your firm through insurance coverage

The founder of Law2SM, Deborah Gonzalez is an attorney whose legal practice focuses on music, art, entertainment, digital, social media and online law. She obtained her JD from New York Law School and is licensed to practice in both New York and in Georgia. Her clients include galleries, museums, artists & art professionals, animators, filmmakers, musicians & music professionals, authors, and various other creative professionals. Ms. Gonzalez is a member of the Georgia Production Partnership, Georgia Entertainment Association, Women in Animation, and the Entertainment Law sections of the Georgia and New York Sate Bar Associations. She speaks at various industry conferences around the world, such as SEIGE CON and SIAF, on legal issues and concerns for artists of all genres.  Attorney Credits offers continuing legal education (CLE) for attorneys in Illinois and around the country. To access more information about Illinois CLE please click the following link: IL CLE:

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To Sue the Online Reviewer?

“It created a story where there was none: Now it will show up in search, now it will attract attention. … It’s snowballing now, and it didn’t have to.”[1] – Jay Pinkert

Here’s the question of today: what do you do when your law firm gets a negative online review?

  • a. Ignore it.
  • b. Sue the anonymous blogger.
  • c. Comment on the negative post
  • d. Never use a computer again.

After thinking about the question and asking for feedback from my peers, we have decided that (c) is the best answer. The problem with suing the anonymous blogger is that you make a story where there would otherwise be none.

A Dallas law firm recently faced the same dilemma. An anonymous blogger had left negative comments about the firm. Here is what ‘Ben’ wrote:

After doing a little investigation the firm found out that the comments originated from Oregon. Since the Texas firm had never represented anyone from Oregon they deduced that the anonymous blogger was not a former client.

The firm then turned to Google to remove the comment … but by then it was too late. Google is like Hotel California – your comments can never leave. Once Google’s search engine ‘picks you up’ those negative results will still continue to turn up in searches – just ask Rick Santorum.  Since the Texas law firm relied on Internet traffic for a large portion of its business, it decided it had no alternative but to sue the anonymous blogger.

However, I read about this story on the law technology news – an outlet for law/technology geeks like myself. By filing a lawsuit, this firm had taken an issue would have gone relatively unnoticed and greatly magnified it.

Here, instead of turning to litigation, the better course of action might have been to write a follow up post to the review and then let the situation die down.  Once your firm picks up some more positive reviews, the one negative comment will be overshadowed.  You could also seek further facts about why the consumer left the negative review or you could even get creative – offer ‘Ben’ further legal representation at no cost since he was not previously satisfied.  That might make the situation better.

I think we’ve come to the point now when most of us know about online reviews – and the people that write them.[2]  And if a person doesn’t know the difference between an online rant and an intelligible review, then maybe you don’t want to represent that person anyway.

In the age of Avvo.com some attorneys and firms have become obsessed with managing and defending their online reputation. And there’s nothing wrong with that – you should actively monitor what’s being said about you online (Google alerts are a good start).

But when you or your firm get attacked online and it’s time to respond, try to use common sense instead of turning into a lawyer and suing the reviewer. Is the $50,000 really going to make you whole again? The damage has already been done – and it’s probably worse than $50K … and only getting worse the more people hear about the story.

For a link to the complaint, click here.


[1] Dallas Firm Sues ‘Doe’ Defendant Over Online Review

http://bit.ly/y8Ntro

[2] Slightly unrelated to the law, but an online of a local hiking trail comes to mind. The online reviewer gave the local San Diego trail one star because it didn’t compare to Yosemite. Well, very few trails do and I can’t get in my car and drive 8 hours to the Sierra Nevada Mountains!

Blogging: Advertisement or Journalism?

Advertising has been a vexing problem for the legal profession for years now.  Before legal advertising was deemed legal with the 1977 Supreme Court decision in Bates v. Arizona, the fear was that advertising would erode notions of professionalism. And since advertising become legal for attorneys, we have had to suffer though the late night ‘Larry Parker got me $2.1 million’ commercials.

This tension between professionalism and advertising has followed into the online realms as well.  Chat rooms, websites and Internet Referral Services have all been fertile ground for attorney advertising – and unethical conduct.

Now blogs are at issue … once again.  The questions becomes, how big is the threat?

Attorney Horace Hunter, who maintains the Richmond Criminal Defense News blog has been charged with misconduct by the Virginia State Bar (PDF here). The Washington Post‘s Capital Business blog recently stirred the pot when it cautioned that the action against Hunter could have a chilling effect on blogging in the legal industry.[1]

However, the Washington Post‘s Capitol Business blog could be way off base here. The main issue in the case is whether a blog should be treated as advertising or as news & commentary.

Hunter asserts that the blog is not an advertisement, but rather consists of news and commentary. Since his blog falls into a ‘news and commentary’ category, no disclaimer is required and the blog is protected by the First Amendment.  The Virginia State Bar contends that Hunter’s blog is advertising and as such, under Virginia Ethics Rule 7.2 Hunter must ethically post a disclaimer on his website.  Since Hunter didn’t have the disclaimer in his blog posts noting his firm’s wins, the Bar claims this is unethical.

However, this Rule 7.2 Disclaimer Rule is only to apply, “when listing previous wins in advertising.”  The disclaimer must state that prior results don’t guarantee future success. The issue will be will be whether Hunter’s blog posts are written in a truly journalistic fashion, or are they simply disguised advertising taking the form of blog posts.[2]

The Viriginia State Bar claims may ultimately hold merit. Carolyn Elefant seems to think that Hunter’s blog is a thinly veiled newsfeed of his firm’s triumphs and successes. You can see for yourself by visiting the blog here.

We will have to see what the Virginia Bar decides, the hearing is set for October 18th.  Even if the Bar succeeds, attorneys will merely have to place some small text reading “Attorney Advertising” on the footer of the main blog page – not even at the bottom of each post. This is not a major issue.  Further, as Kevin O’keefe of RLHB points out there is no record of disciplinary action against Virginia attorneys regarding blogging dating back to 1999.

Brief summary of Advertising rules & issues:

  • Lawyers cannot state anything false or misleading
  • Lawyers cannot state they are a specialists, unless so certified by their respective State Bar
  • Lawyers cannot use testimonials in some states with the implication that past performance will dictate future results
  • It’s smart to include a disclaimer on your website that you practice in a certain geographic region to avoid unauthorized practice of law claims
  • Use common sense – if you can’t do it on the T.V. or the radio, you can’t state it in your website, blog, Twitter, or Facebook (remember Rakofsky!)

Further Resources:


[1] Washington Posts’s Catherine Ho (@WapoCat on Twitter) warns that Virginia lawyers who blog about their cases may suffer  the consequences from their state bar.  Ms. Ho also state that the Hunter case could set precedent fo other states bar’s limiting legal blogs.

[2] One thing that I have found in years of tracking these ethics and technologies issues is that each case must be decided on a case-by-case basis. Because each case involves specific electronic conduct by the attorney or firm at issue, it’s tough to make blanket statements on the merits of one case. There are numerous firms – especially P.I. firms – whose blogs are thinly veiled advertisements or direct solicitations. And that may be the case here.

Calling All Bloggers

I wanted to personally introduce a new feature that is now available to our presenters. The ability to add blog posts on our Attorney Credits Blog. While we have spent a good part of our efforts making the best website on the Internet for attorneys to get CLEs, we have recently been re-branding our Content Partner pages. With the launch of our newly redesigned site (with all it’s cool new features) in two months, our speakers will now be featured on our Featured Faculty pages. This section of the website has received a total makeover and will be a vast improvement over our current pages.

We try to make speaking on attorneycredits.com easy. We give speakers free CLEs for life and great SEO juice with our new Featured Faculty pages. On top of that we blog, twitter, facebook and all the other social media voodoo we can.

Attorney at Work

Since I have written about Fastcase, LinkedIn, and LawPivot the last few weeks, I thought I would mention one more resource – Attorney at Work.

The premise behind the website is pretty simple – put a collection of experts together and deliver one good idea a day.[1] Not surprisingly, Robert Ambrogi is part of the project – along with a number of other noted professionals. For a full list of people taking part in the collaborative project click here.

According to the website, the ‘minds at work’ provide ideas on everything from coping with burnout to cloud computing. The majority of posts seemed to be centered on productivity, marketing and technology in the legal workplace.

Here is a small sampling of some of the posts:

It seems like Attorney at Work has assembled a nice collection of professionals.  Let’s hope they can continue to expand in the future.


[1] According to the website, “Attorney at Work was created by a small team of practice management experts and communicators who, in concert with experts from around the globe, seek to offer you the help you’ve been looking for to create a law practice — and life — you can love.”

Social Media at a Crossroads?

What more can be written about Weinergate?

I wonder if this whole thing would have died down a lot sooner if the person in question wasn’t named Weiner? It’s just too easy when a guy named Wiener sends pictures of his junk on Twitter.

However, there are a few lessons to be learned from this scandal.[1] Namely, there are risks involved with social media – for companies, law firms, and lawyers. All too often I have seen a number of social media ‘gurus’ and marketers selling social media to lawyers and law firms with the fervor of a snake oil salesman.[2] However, look no further than Representative Anthony Weiner how damaging social media can be to your career.[3] There are still ethics and ethics rules that attorneys must consider in cyberspace.

Social media is at a crossroads right now in the legal community. Many attorneys and firms have yet to catch on yet. Some have even begun to advocate quitting Twitter altogether because it has no real value.[4]

However, I think that social media can be a valuable tool for any professional if used properly. Social Media can be a great tool for connecting with colleagues, clients, and other experts in your field. I personally use Twitter to listen to what others have to say and to see what others find interesting and valuable.

Again, I don’t think that Twitter and Facebook are going to have the clients beating down your door. But they do have value – even if it can’t all be measured by ROI. I will be attending my first tweetup this Wednesday which is being sponsored by the San Diego Law Library. There are people I would never have met if I didn’t use social media.

And maybe that’s the most valuable lesson of all. There’s still no substitute for a handshake and a face-to-face conversation with a person … but sometimes that’s not possible without social media.

What do you think?  Do the benefits of social media outweigh the risks?

Here are some more resources:

What Lawyers Can Learn From Large Firms About Using Social Media

Social & Mobile Media: Discovery Practices & Considerations

Social Media Crisis Management, Weinergate, Politics, Football, and the Law

Ethics of Social Media for Lawyers

Why I’m quitting Twitter (and you should too)

Inside Straight: Empirical Proof That Twitter Doesn’t Work!

Should You Quit Twitter?


[1] Mainly, make sure to direct message those lewd pictures of yourself –  don’t send them out to your entire Twitter feed as Representative Wiener did. First, social media is not all fun and games. One small tweet can ruin professional careers and the hard-earned reputations of law firms. Second, there can be serious risks involved with social media. Third, don’t be a dumbass when using social media.

[2] There are a number of these individuals that lurk on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets. I see posts all the time like this ‘How can you grow your business with social media? …. You can view your FREE ebook on how to “Pump UP Your Profits with Social Marketing.’

[3] IN January an Akin Gump Chair criticized the delivery of an Native American prayer at a memorial for Tucson, Ariz., shooting victims on the Power Line blog. The firm did quite a bit of business with some local tribes – who didn’t take kindly to his scathing criticism of the Native American prayer. Akin Gump Chair Hits Partner’s Personal Blog Post on ‘Ugly’ Indian Prayer

[4] See Why I’m quitting Twitter (and you should too) by Tracy Coenen.

[5] Recorded June 8, 2011 at Luce Forward in San Diego, California. “Social media, an easily accessible, low-cost marketing vehicle for lawyers to market their practices, can be overwhelming. Learn how to put together a social media strategy to reach the right audience with the right message. Join the San Diego Law Library and learn from large law firm marketing experts about best practices, as well as traps to avoid.”

Social Media: Positive or negative affect on the law?

I recently posed this question in the Legal Blogging group on LinkedIn along with the following commentary:[1]

Have Twitter, Facebook, and blogs helped or hurt the practice of law? While social media has jeopardized some defendant’s right to a fair trial, it also allows attorneys to connect with existing and potential clients and allows the public to easily find information about the legal profession. At any rate, social media will only continue to impact society and the law — and can be a vital asset to attorneys and the practice of law.

To date, there have been over 20 incredibly insightful comments from some very bright legal minds from across the country. To me, this is the most amazing part of social media – getting to connect with leading professionals around the country and gaining their insight and perspective on current legal trends and topics.[2]

While I initially wanted to get the group’s thoughts about social media endangering the right to a fair trial, the LinkedIn discussion ultimately shifted in another direction – the use of social media in marketing. Whether an attorney is thinking about claiming their profile’ on AVVO or staring a Facebook page, attorneys have increasingly begun to use Social Media in an attempt to reach clients and build a positive online reputation. There are many concerns here, from maintaining ethical compliance to social media credential fraud.

A local bar association recently featured a CLE event that was essentially about law in a Web 2.0 world. The two chief concerns amongst attorneys:

1. Attorney awareness of how much Web 2.0 is shifting clients’ experience and expectations

2.  The legal ethics surrounding these changes

Here are a few more thoughts from the discussion:

  • Social media is only going to grow, so the sooner all of us identify its strengths and assets, the better.
  • Some attorneys … aren’t comfortable with the fact that Avvo’s system is not fully within their control.
  • It seems that lawyers could avoid all social media ethics risks completely if they’d simply stop talking about themselves.
  • I really don’t think the law profession is ready for “raw” social media.

Personally, after writing the initial blog post I think that social media has only had a positive impact on the law. At the end of the day, the reason I think it is a positive is because it puts more legal information into the hands of legal consumers and the general public – whether chatting with potential attorneys online or sharing their legal experience, more information can only be a good thing.

    How are you using social media in your practice?


    [1] This was based on a Marcch 25th blog post that I wrote entitled Law in a Web 2.0 World

    [2] I initially posed the question whether the law has had a benefical or detreimental affect on the law in a recent blog post Law in a Web 2.0 World. Interestingly in the blog, I was more concerned about getting people’s thoughts on ‘Voir Google’ and social media and smartphones invading the sanctity of the American jury system. With jurors Googling outside information during trial, sharing social media posts in deliberations, and tweeting about their case from the jury box it’s getting much harder to get a ‘fair’ trial. Since jury instructions just don’t seem to go far enough, some have even suggested digital sequestration in certain high profile trials.

    What’s Your Smartphone?

    About two weeks ago I was taking my trash cans to the curb when I got a call.  I reached down into my pocket, pulled out my phone – and like a football on a wet December day the phone just slipped out of my hand and my Blackberry splatted against the cement.  Not unlike it had a number of times before, but this time is just happened to break into about 4 pieces, never to work again.

    At first I was a little perturbed about having to get a new phone – and then I got my Droid X.[1] I cannot believe that a little machine could make my life so much easier. In fact, I think they should change the name from ‘Smartphone’ because they are essentially little computers – that every now and then you use to make a phone call.

    Never again do I have to worry about being near a computer. My phone is now my computer. I can handle a number of tasks – from checking client accounts to updating the Attorney Credits Facebook page – all with my Droid.

    Interestingly enough, about three days after I bought my Droid I came across this great Facebook post from Jennifer Ellis.[2]

    For the fifth time running, Apple has topped J.D. Power’s smartphone customer satisfaction survey. The iPhone earned a score of 795 out of a possible 1,000 points. In line with the last survey published in September 2010, Motorola and HTC followed Apple with scores of 763 and 762, respectively.

    And after switching to the Droid X I can see why Blackberry and RIM are now last in customer satisfaction.

    Here’s how J.D. Power weighs the various categories for smartphones:[3]

    • Ease of operation – 26%
    • Operating system – 24%
    • Physical design – 23%
    • Features – 19%
    • Battery function – 8%

    The one complaint that I have about my Droid is that you constantly have to plug it in to recharge the battery.  However, since I spend hours on it everyday talking on the phone or using the Internet I can see why the battery fades so fast. Luckily, I downloaded a great app called ‘JuiceDefender’ that helps you to get more juice out of your battery by reducing non-essential functions and there is also a USB cable so you can charge it through your laptop or desktop computer.

    So how do you know which phone is right for you? Again, I will turn to the expert Jennifer Ellis:

    What I suggest you do is try out your colleague’s phones.  Think about what you need your phone to do, and find out whether there are applications that will help you do it.  Also see what phone is comfortable in your hands since it will no doubt spend a lot of time there.

    Here are a few more articles to consider:

    Switching Carriers or Phones? Sell the Old One

    iPhone v Android – So What’s the Big Deal?


    [1] Android is essentially an operating system used in a number of different phone models – from the Droid X to the EVO. According to Wikipedia, android is a software stack for mobile devices that includes an operating system, middleware and key applications. Google purchased the initial developer of the software, Android Inc., in 2005.

    [2] The main article that she used for her post was ‘Apple’s iPhone gets highest rating in J.D. Power survey, RIM falls to last.’ http://bit.ly/htpLwC

    [3] See http://bit.ly/htpLwC

    Kentucky Proposes Social Media Restrictions

    The Kentucky Bar Association appears to be the latest regulatory body to examine attorney’s uses of social media – this on the recent release of the ABA’s release of an Issues Paper seeking comments on the use of social media by attorneys.

    The amendment to the Ethics Rules proposed this week by the Kentucky Bar would extend traditional restrictions on client solicitations to online communications posted by an attorney on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. In fact, the bar has gone as far as proposing a regulation that would bar solicitations through social media – unless lawyers pay a $75 filing fee and allow their comments to be regulated by the bar’s Advertising Commission.[1]

    On one hand, the proposal is a predictable response to the growing use of social media sites as ‘client development’ tools by lawyers. Further, the rule is not supposed to affect postings that are ‘non-legal’ in nature, according to the proposal.

    However, these types of restrictions often face First Amendment challenges and are often struck down as being overbroad because they over restrict legitimate speech. The Kentucky regulation may fall into this category because “advertisement” is too vague to provide adequate notice of the specific type of communications that are prohibited:

    ‘Advertise’ means to furnish any information or communication containing a lawyer’s name or other identifying information and an ‘advertisement’ is any information containing a lawyer’s name or other identifying information. Except the following … Information and communication by a lawyer to members of the public in the format of web log journals on the internet that permit real time communication and exchanges on topics of general interest in legal issues provided there is no reference to an offer by the lawyer to render legal services.

    The public has until Dec. 15 to submit written comments on the proposed rule to the Executive Director of the Kentucky Bar. Again, it’s best to let common sense be your guide when blogging, tweeting, or posting to Facebook. I have seen some blatant solicitations out there. But regulators must not be quick to limit the technology simply because of a few bad actors.


    [1] The proposed Kentucky regulation is in response to Louisville attorney Christian Mascagni’s Facebook advertising during Breeders’ Cup weekend. Instead of using traditional adversiting mediums, Mr. Mascagni posted to his more than 2,000 friends, that he wanted the Breeder’s Cup and weekend partiers to call if they got into trouble or needed to get out of jail before Monday.

    Kentucky Bar Association seeks to regulate attorneys’ Facebook comments offering services. http://bit.ly/dbhpid