Technology sessions about social media and smartphone apps at this year’s State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting were so popular they drew standing room-only crowds to the June 23-24 event in San Antonio.
On June 23, Houston solo Thomas Fox told lawyers his social media presence has led people worldwide to contact him as an authority in his area of law. And Fort Worth solo Dick Price said authoring two blogs has been the best marketing tool for his family law firm. The two presented a session called “Ethically Using Social Media: Real Live Lawyer Success Stories!”
Fox said he started by building a healthy following on Twitter. Now, he also writes a blog about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and uses LinkedIn to promote his content. Fox publishes articles on JD Supra, a law-related website that permits attorneys to create profiles and publish articles, and he allows other sites to republish his content freely.
Fox said his social media presence attracted Smith & Wesson to hire him for an FCPA case. A U.S. Justice Department employee who works to enforce the FCPA also contacted Fox with a question, he said.
“That’s who is listening. That’s who is out there,” Fox told attendees. He advised other lawyers to try social media and to use multiple online tools.
|Video: Social media|
Price authors one blog about family law and another about collaborative law, and he said he promotes his content on social media sites by, for example, sending out links on Twitter to his blog posts.
“I do a variety of things, but by far, blogging is the very best thing I’ve ever done,” Price told lawyers during the session. He said an estimated 80 percent of his new clients tell him the Internet referred them to his practice; many of those people found his blogs, he said.
But while using social media, lawyers still must follow professional conduct rules on advertising, according to presenters of two different sessions.
Randy Johnston of Johnston Tobey in Dallas told attendees at his June 23 session, “Attorney Advertising: How to Stay Compliant Using Today’s Media Tools,” that the lawyer-advertising rules apply not only to television ads but also to websites and lawyers’ activity on social media sites.
He explained a lawyer should only mention past successes or case results in an advertisement if he or she was the lead counsel on the case, and the ad must disclose enough facts about the case to avoid creating an unreasonable expectation. Ads should not compare a lawyer to other attorneys unless the comparison can be verified objectively, and lawyers must exercise caution about listing themselves as experts or specialists, Johnston said.
Gene Major, director of the State Bar Advertising Review Department, told attendees at the June 24 session, “Advertising Issues With Websites, Blogs, and Social Media,” that his office does not need to review lawyers’ blogs, as long as they only include educational or editorial content.
Regardless of the publication method, Major said “tombstone information” always is exempt from his office’s prior review. For example, a lawyer does not need approval to publish factual, business-card information. Lawyers also may list admissions to state bars and other jurisdictions such as federal courts, and additional professional licenses they’ve earned.
“That sort of factual type of information you can put on these pages without worrying about filing them,” Major said.
Three technology-minded lawyers did not exaggerate when naming their June 23 presentation “60 Apps in 60 Minutes.” In rapid-fire succession, they went through five dozen smartphone apps useful in legal practice. Houston solo Ron Chichester, San Antonio solo Mark Unger, and Grant Scheiner of the Scheiner Law Group in Houston compiled the list of apps.
A handful of apps highlighted, including JotNot Pro, PS Express and Zosh, would allow lawyers to scan documents with their smartphones, sign or have judges or clients sign the documents, and send them for filing.
Fastcase allows lawyers to conduct legal research, including searching case law and statutes by jurisdiction and date range. Some similar apps are “Texas Bar Legal” and an app by the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association; both put a virtual library of state and federal procedural rules, codes and statutes, and case law in lawyers’ pockets.
TrialPad and Evidence help lawyers present evidence during trial, storing electronic documents so lawyers can present them in court. iJuror and JuryTracker permit lawyers to make observations about jury members during jury selection and during trial, respectively.
Other apps they discussed include: ShareMyApps, Pulse, QR Droid, MotionX-GPS, foursquare, GoodReader, OI File Manager, iAnnotate, Google Docs, PDF Expert, Save2PDF, FBI Handbook, Save MMS, “Exhibit A,” The Deponent, Mobile Transcript, Note Taker HD, Instapaper, SpringPad, iThoughts, MobileMe, Find My iPhone, DropBox, Vlingo, OmniFocus, Thinking Space, Keynote, Prezi Viewer, Google Voice, Google Apps, Dragon Dictation, Vtok and Planetary.
Bar spokeswoman Kim Davey writes in an e-mail that this year’s overall attendance figures are not yet available but that the numbers are about the same as in past years. The average annual attendance from the previous five State Bar meetings is 2,332.
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The two general session luncheons this year each attracted about 1,200 people, Davey writes, and about 600 people attended a bench-bar breakfast.
“In addition, the Legislative Update Track, Adaptable Lawyer/Legal Innovation Track, and Law Practice Management Track all had 200-250 people in the room throughout the entire day,” Davey writes.
She notes that some of the most popular sessions — with more than 250 attendees each — featured journalist and author James Stewart, author and historian Douglas Brinkley, and author and biographer Edmund Morris.
The State Bar honored lawyers with a variety of awards this year, and Bob Black became the Bar’s 131st president, taking over for outgoing President Terry Tottenham.