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Archive for May 9th, 2011

EYES ONLY

To: The Partners

From: Dr Erasmus Strangelove, Partner, Director of Psyops, Strategy and Education

RE: MONTHLY PSYOPS REPORT

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1. “Many reasons for solicitors to start using social media”

There are many reasons why we would encourage other solicitors to use social media.  I select but two:

(a) Tie up of competitor human capital on Twitter. It is now proven that lawyers can (and do) waste industrial amounts of time on Twitter.  Some, obsessed with ‘engaging’, are now forming breakaway groups to share their broadcasts and knowledge with other solicitors on Linked-In and sundry other ‘networking’ sites. It would appear, from the reports of our ‘operatives’ on the ground, that these lawyers appear to be talking to each other, rather than fee-paying clients. This is a remarkable phenomenon.

An article in the Law Society Gazette dated 6 May by David Laud noted, inter alia: “But a word of caution – not all who speak with marketing tongue can walk the social media walk.”

David Laud notes, and I quote verbatim:

‘I just don’t get it, everyone talks about it, but no one has the time to do it. Even when I do spend time on it, I’m not really sure what I’m doing.’

Views that may well resonate; but what is the answer?

Put simply, law firms have five main options. First, if they have not started to use social media, they could opt to just not bother.

Second, if they have made an attempt by, say, opening a Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn account, they could stop right now and do no more.

Third, they could hire someone to do their donkey work and outsource the firm’s social media activity.

The fourth option is for senior management to instruct all fee-earners to embrace social media and open a variety of accounts, throwing the firm headlong into all things ‘social’.

And fifth, firms could introduce a workable approach to using the most appropriate platforms for the firm by setting a plan and working to it.

I particularly enjoyed this statement from the article: “The statistics are impressive: with millions of ‘friends’, ‘followers’ and contacts to ‘link to’, we ignore social media at our peril and risk being left far behind.”

And this comment raised a smile at my meeting with my BlackOpsDEVGRU as we put together our latest free “Social Media for Law Firms in 2011” newswire – under a different ident;  which we know is being widely read by our competitors:

What makes social media so appealing, but also introduces the element of risk, is that you can genuinely enter into a dialogue with your stakeholders.

(b) Needless to say, we are encouraging competitor lawyers to *engage* – a word for our times –  on twitter et al and, using the #FF hashtag our operatives have suggested quite a few serial tin foil hat wearers for our competitors to follow – with remarkable take up. The danger, of course, with engaging with ‘Followers’, is that one runs the risk of (a) wasting even more time and (b) being ridiculed for trying to uphold the system of justice we have in our country and the ‘Rule of Law’ by the aforementioned tin foil hat wearers.

This latter is, of course, not a problem Muttley Dastardly LLP will experience directly as we do not have a ‘direct’ presence on twitter.  For security reasons, I have not provided The Partners with the tin foil hat wearer account details we have established on this medium to ‘engage’ with competitor law firms.

Mr Laud encourages readers of his article in The Law Society Gazette:  “Please don’t worry about how you become a trusted, entertaining broadcaster. “ and then goes on to observe: “The vast majority of Twitter accounts are run by ordinary people, who have simply spent time understanding the language, tone and appropriateness of the medium. “

I suspect this latter observation will not sit well with the many on twitter who take a great deal of time to enjoy tweeting, do not like ‘broadcasters’  and would not consider themselves to be ‘ordinary people… blah blah..blah.” I do however, agree with his advice that competitor solicitors contemplating a twitter presence should not  worry about becoming a trusted, entertaining broadcaster… they should just become a serial broadcaster and I shall be recommending an *App* to enable them to pump out tweets overnight as they sleep, which will go down well with their ‘followers’. As to the ‘Entertaining’ element of tweeting:  It can, as the old saying goes, “be difficult to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”.

We are encouraged by Mr Laud’s Suggestion Three (supra) that law firms ‘hire someone to do their donkey work and outsource the firm’s social media activity’.  This advice presents us with a number of commercial opportunities to ‘assist’ our competitors ‘understand’ social media and get paid for it. My team is setting up an agency as I write.   Using the vernacular of a young trainee operating one of of our document shredders the other morning as he successfully disposed of some unprofitable client files… “Result!”

2. Competitor news

RollonFriday.com reports:

Taylor Wessing has introduced a new policy of disseminating details of its associates’ recorded hours internally.

With effect from March, associates have been told the hours recorded by each colleague in their team for the last month and for the year-to-date. So those at the top of the scale can smugly strut along the corridors and sneer at their humiliated, under-achieving friends as they desperately beg partners for work and the chance to put in an all-nighter.

Dr Erasmus Strangelove
Partner and Director of Education, Strategy and Psyops, Muttley Dastardly LLP

Strength & Profits

***

With thanks to the following for sponsoring the free materials for students on Insite Law magazine: Inksters Solicitors, Cellmark, OnlineWill.co.uk, BPP University College, David Phillips & Partners Solicitors, Wildy & Sons, Camps Solicitors accident claims Latimer Lee LLP Solicitors Manchester solicitors

 

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What now for contemptuous tweeting and media innuendo in the privacy injunction saga? – Judith Townend

In a precise and incisive blog post, Judith Townend writing on the Informm blog writes:

The BBC Radio 4 Today programme’s legal correspondent, Clive Coleman, reported:

“The posts on Twitter point up what for some time has been a concern that there’s one rule for the mainstream media and little or no rule for individuals publishing in breach of injunctions online.”

But is that a valid concern? The mainstream media has also got away with some heavy innuendo about the identities of the claimants – so far.

Those breaching the orders may well face serious penalties. One leading media law lawyer told me that the view is that people are testing how far they can go with the injunctions.

Sooner or later someone will take committal proceedings or sequestration proceedings, he suggested.

“Once someone loses a lot of money people will think twice about giving information that helps to identify the claimant.”


Reading tabloids recently  – and even some broadsheets – it may seem to the jaundiced eye that celebrities have ‘suddenly’ been featuring in articles even when they have no film, book or other product to punt. There has been a fair bit of innuendo in the press.  In practical terms, the writ of the High Court of England & Wales can only constrain those who publish within the jurisdiction of England & Wales.  Judith Townend makes the important point that mainstream media is advised of superinjunctions.  The rest of us are not.

She states: “A social media user who is aware of the injunction posts the name of someone whose anonymity is covered by the order commits a criminal contempt of court, he explained. Unless they have taken serious steps to conceal their online identity then their identity can be found out by means of a Norwich Pharmacal order.”

Joshua Rozenberg makes the point that if a tweeter is unaware of the injunction, the tweeter cannot be in contempt.  If the tweeter is aware of the injunction – through twitter, for example –  then liability for contempt will arise.  The Spartacus phenomenon… or safety in numbers – where thousands tweet the same information may cause a headache, but, theoretically at least, contempt proceedings could be brought.

It was noticeable on twitter yesterday – when a twitter account revealed information (obtaining countless thousands of followers in a very short time) that a number of regular lawyer tweeters made no reference to the twitter account, nor did they re-tweet.  Indeed, Adam Wagner of The UK Human Rights blog took time to remind his followers about the laws of contempt.  A re-tweet is, of course, a further publication? I repeat again, my cynicism, shared by David Allen Green who takes a ‘skeptical’ stance, that the mainstream media are well aware that the Mosley judgment is being handed down tomorrow – and that judgment may well be most inconvenient for their freedom of speech… or, more accurately, their freedom to increase revenues by ‘dishing the dirt on the shaggers’.  Public interest?  I rather suspect that many who clamour for freedom of speech would be less enthusiastic if their private lives were subject to public scrutiny. I could be wrong, of course.  And, of course, what of the rights of the innocent party – the wife and children of ‘the superinjuncting shagger’?

Injunctions, Twitter and the law

The Guardian’s Organ Grinder blog runs with the story…..So, can the courts stop all this injunction-busting chat on Twitter? And can tweeters be made liable?

Meanwhile.. Lord McNally, a Minister of State for Justice, digs up an old favourite to amuse himself….

The judiciary is becoming more diverse, but too slowly

The Guardian: Judges should be drawn from across our communities. We are trying hard to achieve that, but could do better….

Yes… the judiciary could be more representative of the community… but judges are not politicians, they are not ‘elected’, they are drawn from the legal profession.  the profession is ‘doing diversity’ or, at least doing their best to appear to be so doing, and it will take time.  It is astonishing that we still only have one female judge in the Supreme Court.  That will change in time. 60% of the profession is now made up of women.  Some women may well leave the profession for family and other reasons before being eligible for judicial office. The same’principle’ holds true for ethnic minorities in terms of access to a career in the profession.  The demographics are changing.

The irony is, of course, that with the rising costs of legal education – it is going to become ever more difficult for students from less privileged backgrounds to consider a career in law without taking on fantastic debt – so we may well be ‘sleep walking’ back to the days of a largely middle class, white, legal profession and future judiciary?

What we don’t need is positive discrimination and fast tracking – where we end up with judges who would not have been selected strictly on merit.  That merely serves to undermine the justice  system and patronises those selected. It may well take time before our judiciary is truly representative of the population at large?

And..finally… a retrograde step?

Theresa May hands power to prosecute back to police

The Guardian: Home secretary wants police, rather than crown prosecutors, to make decision in more than 80% of cases

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I was distracted yesterday so was not able to do my usual postcard.    First up is an important announcement from the excellent  Inner Temple Current Awareness news service…

A recent change of web host has provided us with the opportunity to redesign and re-launch our Current Awareness blog. A temporary redirect is in place so the old URL will still lead you to the blog, but our new address is as follows: www.innertemplelibrary.com Please update your bookmarks and links where appropriate.

It is always a pleasure to read Adam Wagner in The UK Human Rights blog… particularly as he is developing a taste for tabloid ‘stylee’ headlines for his blog posts!

Unelected, underqualified and frankly bonkers

Wagner writes…“A near-hysterical reaction has greeted some recent European court rulings. If you believed the coverage, you would think that unelected, underqualified and frankly bonkers judges are dictating our laws and making our Prime Minister physically ill. With this week potentially heralding another hang-the-judges media storm over Max Mosley’s Strasbourg privacy case, it is a relief to read three sensible and balanced pieces on European courts this week, all of which highlights the courts’ shortcomings, but also the risks of a UK withdrawal.

I join David Allen Green (in my case a cynical rather than ‘skeptical’ eye) in marvelling at the mainstream media hysteria on the possibility that judges and parliamentarians may bring sense to the whole privacy issue.  Expect more ‘stories’ about unelected judges when the Mosley judgment is handed down from Europe. This could be most inconvenient for their parallel universe view of ‘rights’ – the right to increase revenue through salacious revelations about people behaving badly. Unfortunately for their cause – it would appear that the revelations about superinjunctions, widely available on the net, seem to be about matters of shagging and other private misbehaviour – rather than more important ‘public interest’ issues.

Twitter has been ablaze with talk of ‘Thousands of people’ possibly committing contempt of court by publishing details of apparent superinjunctions.  Jemima Khan denied that she took out a superinjunction – and stated that the fact newspapers published her name (but not others) without fear of being sued, proved her point. She doesn’t have a superinjunction.

Joshua Rozenberg asks if a person unaware of the existence of a superinjunction commits an offence if he / she comes into possession of information, the subject of a superinjunction, and publishes.  Kafka’s Trial may well prove to be a useful reference work in that connection? The Guardian reports: “Hugh Tomlinson QC weighed in on Guardian Law via the Inforrm blog with the first of two pieces on how a privacy law might work….”

Unfortunately… I have to go and do something vaguely sensible now… but I’ll be back later.  In the meantime… if you missed it and would like to listen to our latest Without Prejudice podcast: Bin Laden assassination – Ian Tomlinson – City Law practice and BRIBERY ….. please scroll down or click here.

Best, as always

Charon

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