Social Networking and Judicial Ethics: Another Restriction on the Books

December 13, 2009

In Florida a recent Ethics opinion limits social networking site communication and interaction with judges and attorneys.

It seems that the law is starting to catch up with the possibilities of social media.  This latest development offers up some debate about whether or not it went to far.

In the age of enhancing and maintaining and even renewing friendships online do the ethical obligations of officers of the law preclude their ability to use social networking in a manner similar to the general population?

Perhaps, perhaps not but certainly the interactions will be subject to intense scrutiny if even the hint of favoritism or inappropriateness existed.  So while courtrooms work to ban jurors from electronic communication an ethics opinion relating to the interaction of judges and attorneys doesn’t seem out of line.  The rules and regulations will not be perfect in these early days but action does seem appropriate.

Constance Ard December 13, 2009


A Halloween Horror Story: Social Media Research Ethics for Lawyers

October 31, 2009

Over the past two months I have been presenting at the Kentucky Bar Association’s Kentucky Law Update on the topic of social media and how to use it for marketing and investigation in legal practice.  Followed by my presentation comes the Ethics course related to ethical use of Social Networking Sites.

During those sessions I’ve learned a lot about how tempting social networking sites are for unethical use and am relieved to hear bright presenters talk about good ways to participate in social networking sites appropriately.

I’m impressed by Kentucky’s “Common Sense” approach to  ethics.  “If it feels wrong, it probably is.”  However, not everyone can operate under those broad types of guidelines and thus the official rules are evolving and ethics sanctions related to social media are becoming more prevalent.  The dangers are many.  Mistrials are occurring and  even judges are crossing lines they shouldn’t.

This article on LLRX.com provides a good collection of the consequences of Pretexting for investigative purposes and the impact in the social media landscape.   Law firms are beginning to establish Social Media Policies and so are corporations.   This Law Librarian post provides a great overview of recent survey results from the Society for Corporate Compliance and Ethics.  The conclusion I draw from a quick review is that corporate employees and legal staff will soon see that expectations related to their off-the-clock online activities will be subject to corporate policies.  As companies try to protect themselves from the consequences of intentional or unintentional inappropriate activities their policies will address personal time activities related to the corporation.  The overall message, be careful what you post online, it can be found and consequences exist.

Constance Ard October 30, 2009


Social Media: The Buzz in the Hive

June 8, 2009

Last week on the train from DC to BWI, I overheard a conversation about social media.  It made me realize that the general public truly is adopting technology that techs and geeks and librarians have been using for years.

With this mass adoption there is potential for greatness:  both good and bad.  Guttenberg was the first self-publisher and today the trend continues.  This blog is self-publishing.  Further applications like Facebook and Twitter offer status updates… what a person is doing and/or feeling.  The sharing of information through these sites can offer up to much minutia.  Used strategically these tools can allow individuals and businesses to publish powerful data that attracts clients and solves problems.

Solving a business problem in 140 characters is really good bait.  Fishing for the prize catch takes perseverance.  The self-published data, the connections and the shared links that are posted offer a sea of rich data.

Self-published status updates mixed with connections and links that are shared and you start to get a full 180 profile of an individual.  You know what causes they are interested in, what they like to do for fun and what networking groups they are using to benefit themselves and their business.

The investigative potential within these tools is tremendous.  Learning about product recommendations and company complaints through Twitter can provide businesses with a method of pre-empting problems and gathering primary market research.  Investigating the people connections provide through the networks can be used in litigation to unseat a key witness.

There are as many ways to use this information as there are to gather it.  If you are not thinking about this in your due diligence and business practices, why not?  Do you think this is a fad that will pass while you sleep?  It may, but chances are that there’s something even more data rich pushing social networks out of the way.  As fast as technology changes, information will fill the bits and bytes.  Are you ready?


Just Good Business

April 10, 2009

The other evening, after a very long day, I went out for dinner. The place I went had received a favorable review in the local alternative newspaper, LEO Weekly.  With the beginnings of a headache due to a lack of food, walking in to bad music wasn’t a good start.

A trip to the restroom raised the need for a raised voice to gain passage.  Two strikes.  So how did the business owner make me walk away  a fan?  He noticed that I sat in the booth at the most distant part away from the entertainment and came to say hello and chat with me.  (Easy to do during a slow time.)

He asked about me and my guest, he discussed the LEO review and generally engaged us in a positive upbeat manner.   After having checked on us at least one more time, he asked if we cooked and gifted us with a bottle of the marinade used in the signature dish.

We went on to discuss how he’s getting the word out about his business and I exposed him to some ideas beyond the Facebook fan page that another guest discussed creating for him (not located at time of this writing).  Twitter and some on-line restaurant guides won’t be amiss as we continue those discussions.

Social networking in today’s business world is a powerful marketing medium.   Many business owners concentrate on traditional marketing and miss the new “word of mouth” tool that is truly a key to success.  This may be due to lack of understanding or even awareness of the tools or it may be just that the personally handed out flyer is preferable.

In the end, my desire to see this restaurant succeed wouldn’t matter if the owner hadn’t conducted good business through his interaction with me and my guest.  Sometimes good business is just recognizing a potential problem and addressing it proactively.  When you go to Johnny V’s I highly recommend the S&P500.

Are you using the on-line social networking and small business tools available to your full potential?  There are so many ways to take a presence on the web and make it broader.


Twitter, I thee Wed

December 16, 2008

Finally, Robert Ambrogi has sold me on Twitter.  I’ve been on the fence for many moons.  This post offers 16 tips that finally pushed me into the field rather than leaving me riding the rail.

Now this does not mean that I will Twitter my days away but it does mean that I will start using Twitter as a tool in my research, marketing and networking arsenals.

If you are sitting on the fence, perhaps knowing what sold me can help you too.

  • Promotion Value:  Yourself, Your Writing, Your Events
  • Quick Messaging without Email Clutter

Several of Ambrogi’s tips seem to me to be duplicates but I guess they have their distinctions for others.  I think if you are “driving traffic” and “molding your image” you are “promoting” sure the specifics are different but the purpose is the same.

As a librarian, often in conflict with those around me, I embrace the “simple is better” philosophy.  Why have 10 subheadings if your average user is going to enter one or two keywords?

However, that’s a post for a different day.


More on the Social Web

July 10, 2008

I seem to be following a theme today.  Sometimes that’s because my research projects direct me into a specific area and as I gather the data, I continue to pay attention to new developments for an indefinite period of time.  I never know when I might find that perfect gem of a report that will provide the needed answer.

So today I read a Knowledge@Wharton release related to Social Networking.  Apparently the recent Supernova conference in San Fransicso provided a great overview of the structure of web users, the new applications for social software and a not so surprising prediction about web evolvement.

One interesting note captured my attention.

Conference presenter Eszter Hargittai, Northwestern University professor of sociology and communication studies, studied a diverse group of students attending the University of Illinois at Chicago and found that 43% failed on a search task, based largely on their misunderstanding of Internet terminology and on their inability to navigate links.

Hargittai reviewed research showing that people differ significantly in their understanding of various Internet-related terms and activities. For example, when asked to assess their own Internet know-how, women, African Americans, Hispanics and those with poorly educated parents report lower levels of knowledge than men or Asian Americans.”

Librarians have been discussing the user’s inability to properly use the Internet for locating and evaluating information for quite some time.  Now analysts are commenting upon the reality and bringing a hierarchy to the users of the net.

Academic librarians focus on Information Literacy, law librarians continually train on legal research methods and sources.  While Google exec, Joe Kraus predicts the ongoing evolution of the web to become entirely social, I predict that training will continue to be important when trying to find the usable, verifiable information necessary for quality research whether the data is a part of the static or social web.


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