Category Archives: FTC

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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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.

    Law Firm Websites: Still A Long Way To Go

    As Director of Legal Education with Attorney Credits I spend quite a bit of time cruising through cyberspace.  Whether it’s looking up attorney information on the Cal Bar website or researching a new potential topic, I have become something of an ‘Internet rat’ in the respect that I have gotten quite good at finding very useful, credible legal information online about continuing legal education and other pertinent legal topics.

    I am also amazed at the amount of pure crap that’s out there – especially from lawyers and legal sites (I even ran into an Asshat lawyers blog, no kidding!).  I guess at the top of the list would be PI websites and blogs.  This is something that social media guru Kevin O’Keefe at LexBlog rails on quite frequently because many PI blogs aren’t blogs at all – they are thinly veiled direct solicitations to accident victims and their families.

    While attorneys have finally begun to foray into social media and Cyberspace, and legal websites have improved dramatically over the last few years, there are still a few times a week where I think out loud to myself, “What was this guy thinking?” Like this week for example when I came across this attorney website when I was looking for some information.  This Florida attorney has a billboard size picture of himself on his website, why would you ever post a picture of yourself anywhere, let alone on your business website?  A small headshot to personalize your site is great – but that is just taking it to the extreme.

    Spend about an hour looking at law firm and lawyer websites and you will soon realize that it runs the gamut out there – from finely crafted websites to the “billboard” websites of the solo practitioners with everything in between.  And just because you are a large mega-firm doesn’t mean you are going to have a great website, I have seen plenty of websites from big law firms who simply got ripped off for the money they paid.

    It’s also very important to remain ethical when crafting your website.  From the pictures that you choose to including links and online submission forms for potential clients online, there are a number of ethical landmines that can take you from simply being tasteless to being downright unethical.  This also poses a number of problems for state regulators as well. Florida and New York updated their state ethics codes to address online advertising – much to the chagrin of the FTC and many lawyers who practice in those jurisdictions. Texas lawyers beware – you are next!  The Texas Bar has got into the act and they will be the next State Bar to over-regulate causing confusion and headache amongst attorneys who want to advertise online.

    One of the main problems recently addressed by New York and Florida was the content of legal websites and the use of testimonials, nicknames and monikers.  Many attorneys in these states called the new regulations draconian and felt that they went way to far in regulating online legal speech and trampled on their First Amendment rights.  However, legal advertising must be truthful and regulators in these states felt that nicknames, monikers, and guarantees posted on some legal websites were somehow untruthful and false.  In some states you aren’t even allowed to post your past results from previous cases because this ‘misleading’ tactic creates an unjustified exception in the mind of the potential legal consumer.

    Aside from the content that you post on your site there are also two other main issues. First, maintaining a legal website can get you an unauthorized practice of law claim. If you are a licensed attorney in New York, you can’t stop legal consumers from California, Texas, Illinois or any other state from accessing your website and think that you are offering them legal service.  I even read a few months ago that the Virginia Bar was sending letters to California attorneys informing them to change their website or risk fines and sanctions.  Here, it is key to include the appropriate language on your website that geographically limits your practice and the clients that you wish to serve.  Listing where you are licensed to practice and that you only wish to serve clients in these jurisdictions.

    Second, a legal website could possible get you disqualified from representing clients.  Many firms include email submission forms for potential clients to submit information about their possible claim.  One could imagine a scenario where a firm was already retained to represent one part and the adverse party could easily submit information about the same claim through the law firm website.  Just about all law firm websites try to disclaim the confidential nature of the information – but this just doesn’t fly with courts and regulators.

    Especially with the recent advent of Twitter, Facebook and social media, attorneys may forget about the importance of their websites – but you cannot because it is the bedrock of your online reputation.  Even if it is just a ‘billboard’ site, this is how clients, colleagues, and peers are going to get their first impression of you – and it’s also how you can run into trouble with your state regulatory regime.

    If you need a little help revamping your website, Attorney Credits has some great resources for you. First, we worked with Jose Rosa of WebJuris in November to put a great course together on selecting the right web development firm that fits with you and your firm.  We also have a really great 3-hour course on law, ethics, and technology that focuses on advertising and legal websites.  And if you just don’t have the time to sit through a one hour or three hour course, then you might want to check out one of our most popular MicroSeminars on the legal ethics of attorney websites.

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    Facebook Slapped With FTC Complaint

    It seems like all the buzz over the changes made to Facebook’s privacy policy just won’t die down. Unfortunately for Facbeook, a group of ten privacy and consumer groups announced today that they have filed a complaint with the FTC, alleging that the changes to the privacy policy violates federal law. The groups are “urging the FTC ‘to open an investigation into the recent changes made by Facebook … and to require Facebook to restore privacy safeguards.’”

    The complaint centers around Facebook’s new transition tool which the groups claim encourage users to open up their profile so that more data is publicly available. “Facebook is transforming the world’s ability to control its information online by empowering more than 350 million people to personalize the audience for each piece of content they share,” said Facebook communications VP Elliot Schrage, in a statement. Last week the social network site began informing its millions of users that it would be supplying better control of their privacy settings – but would also provide default settings that could allow anyone on the Internet to see their personal information.

    However, Marc Rotenberg executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) feels differently, “The company should not be allowed to turn down the privacy dial on so many American consumers.” Rotenberg said the changes will allow too much user information to be made available to the public and to third-party application developers – that then go on to create games, contests, and other programs for Facebook. Some say the move to allow users to share more information to a broader audience mirrors the structure of Twitter, the increasingly popular microblogging service. The changes in the privacy and increased sharing of customer information could also theoretically could create more opportunities for online marketers.

    However, Facebook’s privacy changes have elicited widespread criticism. EPIC is joined in its complaint by groups including the American Library Association, the Center for Digital Democracy and the U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation. Facebook provided this statement to the website Allfacebook.com:

    “We’ve had productive discussions with dozens of organizations around the world about the recent changes and we’re disappointed that EPIC has chosen to share their concerns with the FTC while refusing to talk to us about them.

    Facebook’s plan to provide users control over their privacy and how they share content is unprecedented in the Internet age. We have gone to great lengths to inform users about our platform changes, beginning with our July announcement; founder Mark Zuckerberg’s open letter to our 350 million users; our robust press and analyst outreach; the notice-and-comment framework for our new privacy policy; and simple customization tools for users.

    We’re pleased that so many users have already gone through the process of reviewing and updating their privacy settings and are impressed that so many have chosen to customize their settings, demonstrating the effectiveness of Facebook’s user empowerment and transparency efforts. Of course, the new tools offer users the opportunity to decide on privacy with every photo, link or status update they wish to post, so the process of personalizing privacy on Facebook will continue.

    We discussed the privacy program with many regulators, including the FTC, prior to launch and expect to continue to work with them in the future.”

    Earlier this year Facebook was valued by its investors at over $10 billion. The closely held company’s backers include Russian investment firm Digital Sky Technologies, Microsoft and hedge-fund manager Peter Thiel.

    A copy of the complaint can be found here.