Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Social Media in 2010 – No Surprises, Just Evolution

The Scoop, JD Supra's legal marketing blog, has today published its annual year-end summation, What Surprised You In 2010? Perspectives from Legal Professionals.

Today's Scoop post contains excerpts from many, varied contributors to this annual legal thought-fest. The complete, extended commentaries can be downloaded here, in PDF and MS-Word formats.

Canada's representatives this year include Steve Matthews, Jordan Furlong, and myself. Thanks to Adrian Lurssen and the good folks at JD Supra for including my thoughts once again in 2010.

My contribution to the mix, 2010 – No Surprises, Just Evolution, is reproduced below.

2010 – No Surprises, Just Evolution

There were no great surprises in 2010 for lawyers who’ve had their fingers on the pulse of the social media world - just a natural progression.

The once-radical thought that there is a bona fide professional use for social media in the legal profession has been mainstreamed and normalized. Lawyers’ participation online has exploded into an ever-increasing offering of blawgs, tweets, and social media updates.

In fact, as I suggested in an October 2010 post, Social Media and the Legal Profession: Where are We Today?, the primary challenge ahead is no longer about participation; rather, it’s about integrating our multi-platformed online presentations:
Once you have a website and blog, are on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Digg, etc., how do you tie it all together - with the least amount of extra hands-on effort - into a cohesive, seamless and consistent presence that establishes a brand or identity that is both authentic and digestible for readers?
In a natural, logical evolution, the modern world continues to pull lawyers and our courts into this tech-centric 21st century.

Within the last year or so, courts in Canada, the UK, Australia and the USA have permitted journalists to live blog, text-message and tweet from the courtrooms. Canada’s Supreme Court has recognized that bloggers are afforded “responsible journalism” free-speech protections; similarly, bloggers have been held accountable for defamatory publications that have crossed the line.

In some cases, courts have authorized service of legal documents via Facebook. Facebook, itself, has responded to document-retention and electronic discovery requirements by introducing a Download Your Information feature, enabling retrieval and local storage of each user’s Facebook content. Privacy advocates won a series of public battles over the protection of private information on social media sites. Courts have ordered “virtual child visitation” via Skype. And, in Ohio, judges received a green light to “friend” lawyers on social media sites. In South Carolina, Florida and other jurisdictions, it is not so clear.

Looking ahead, this evolution will no doubt continue in 2011.

In the legal profession, greater attention will be focused on the ethical do’s and don’ts of lawyers’ social media participation. We will consider whether blawging should count toward lawyers’ mandated CLE requirements. And our courts and governments will struggle with (and attempt to draw defined lines in the sand) in this brave new world of instant communications, democratized access to publication tools, and blurred distinctions between the public and the private.

Finally. the emerging WikiLeaks debate – is it journalism or espionage? - is likely to be the spark at the center of a crucial, dramatic discussion ahead that will do much to define where we, as a society are heading, online and offline.

It will continue to be fascinating to watch the developments unravel in real time.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
Visit our Toronto Law Firm website: www.wiselaw.net

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