Category Archives: Media

EDISCOVERY CALIFORNIA: FORMAL OPINION NO. 2016-196 – ATTORNEY BLOGGING

Disclaimer:  This is a State Bar of California Opinion, and I’m Vice-Chair of the Council of California State Bar Sections (CSBS).  I want to remind you, “This blog site is published by and reflects the personal views of Perry L. Segal, in his individual capacity.  Any views expressed herein have not been adopted by the State Bar of California’s Board of Trustees or overall membership, nor are they to be construed as representing the position of the State Bar of California.”

To put it simply, the premise of CAL 2016-196 is to address when:  1) A blog post becomes a “communication”, as defined under the RPC and the State Bar Act, and 2) If it is deemed a communication, is it “attorney advertising”?

First of all, what constitutes a blog (or, as I prefer to call legal blogs, a “blawg”)?  Hmmm.  Well, if you call it a blawg, that’s probably a big hint that it’ll be legal in nature, but that’s not really what I’m getting at here.  Are your scribbles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram “blogging”, for the purposes of this opinion?

You bet (if those scribbles are legal in nature and/or purport to advertise your services).  You may not be aware of it, but products like Twitter are referred to as “micro-blogs”.

I think the continuing problem with a lot of these opinions is that they cause people to lose their minds worrying about them as if they’re something new.  The reality is, technically, a blog post is no different than if it were an article in a magazine that had a little blurb at the end that includes your contact information.  You’ll be subject to regulation for attorney advertising (California’s Rule of Professional Conduct, rule 1-400 – Advertising & Solicitation).

The real differences?

  • Someone has to subscribe to the magazine, receive it for free or pick it up in the dentist’s office office or a friend’s home.  However, if your blog is public, you need to understand, that means public; available to anyone, anywhere in the world at any time who has access to the internet.
  • The jurisdiction in which someone reads it may not authorize attorney blogging.

I bet many of you see where I’m going with the second point.  Could this trigger an accusation of improper advertising?  What about an in-depth article including opinion on a particular law?  Could that be unauthorized practice of law?

Yes and yes.  So what do you do?  For starters, click on the link above and read the opinion.  It’s only eight pages, and you’ll quickly see that a lot of it triggers opinions you’ve seen before, such as CAL 2012-186.  Two, disclaim, Disclaim, DISCLAIM.  Many a problem is eliminated if you simply inform your readers of your audience.

Of course, you can’t do that on Twitter.  So you might link to your disclaimer, or state briefly, “All opinions are my own.”

Oh, and there’s this last bugaboo:  You must be able to reproduce each and every post you’ve made for the past two years (while you’re gasping, keep in mind, it’s three years in New York).

Calbar CYLA Symposium – May 22, 2015 in L.A.

CYLA Skills 2015So…I'm a little out of order (not a great thing for a lawyer to say, is it?).  It means that I've already posted presentations in June but the CYLA Annual Practical Skills Training Symposium is held in the State Bar offices May 21st in San Francisco and May 22nd in Los Angeles.

Two important thing to know:  1) The programs are different each day, and 2) I'm presenting from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. Friday, May 22nd on:

 

New Attorney Skills (Attorney Advertising) 

Ethical Attorney Advertisement and Marketing

"This course will discuss how to advertise your legal services on the Internet. Learn how to design and operate your website, correspond with clients or prospective clients online, and use social media to maximize your business objectives."

I'll also be sticking around from 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. for:

Networking Speed Mentoring

"Meet and greet seasoned legal practitioners."

I'm pretty sure "seasoned" is a euphemism for "old"…I'll pretend it means, "experienced".

I hope you can join us.

Calbar Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 12-0006 (Attorney Blogging)

Emergency Humorous

 

The State Bar of California Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 12-0006 (Attorney Blogging) has been posted for public comment.  The comment period expires March 23rd, 2015 at 5pm.

PLEASE NOTE: Publication for public comment is not, and shall not be, construed as a recommendation or approval by the Board of Trustees of the materials published.

This P.R. Disaster? It’s a Sony!

SPE SHEFolks; it pains me to write about the nightmare going on at Sony Pictures Entertainment (aka SPE) right now.  Yours truly ran their email system in 1995/96.  I've often said how lucky I am that I managed huge corporate email systems before the advent of serious quantities of SPAM and when hacking didn't look at all like it does today.

I've been saying the same thing for years; "Assume that nothing you write is private".  This is just another example.  I also feel bad for Amy Pascal.  She was a prominent exec at Turner Broadcasting; my job prior to moving to SPE.  Are her words innappropriate?  Sure.  But if we're honest with ourselves, we know that we've all written the same snarky things – or thought about writing them!

What made me laugh most was seeing an on-air personality state that Sony was essentially a pariah due to these disclosed statements and that talent would flee to other studios.  Ri-i-i-ight!  Because execs aren't making the same 'private' comments at those other studios (insert rolling eyes here).  At least they were prior to this fiasco becoming public.

Methinks the right offers for the right amount of money will smooth over those hurt feelings.

Love in an Elevator: Jay Z, TMZ & the Death of Privacy

 

Do Not Use

If you've been anywhere near the media recently, you won't have avoided hearing about a certain confrontation in an elevator.

Now, true, an elevator isn't exactly private – and there were security cameras.  Still, I'm pretty sure we'd all agree that having our antics recorded and sold to TMZ violates a bright line.

I'm sticking to my earlier assessment; assume you're being recorded wherever – and whenever – you are…

The Mobile Lawyer & Professional Responsibility: Friday in Long Beach



MP900442484
Just a quick reminder that I'm presenting Program #19 at the Calbar Solo and Small Firm Summit in Long Beach, California:

The Mobile
Lawyer & Professional Responsibility: Confidentiality in the Digital Age

Friday, June 21, 2013 
1:15 p.m.-2:15 p.m.

Lawyers
are open for business 24-hours a day. 
They communicate via Twitter & Facebook, on smartphones, tablets
& notebooks – in coffee shops, taxicabs, airports and on airplanes.  This program reviews recent COPRAC opinions
addressing technology
and provides tools to protect confidences and privacy for
both attorney and client.

It's not too late to register and join us!

Upcoming Presentation: Calbar Solo & Small Firm Summit: “The Mobile Lawyer & Professional Responsibility: Confidentiality in the Digital Age”

00443095

I didn't intend for this blog to be a billboard for all of my 'stuff', but lacking much time these days, that's what it's been lately.  Since I'm already on a roll, I might as well tell you about a new program I'm presenting at the Calbar Solo and Small Firm Summit in Long Beach, California.  The Summit runs from June 20 – 22, 2013 and my program (#19) is entitled: 

The Mobile
Lawyer & Professional Responsibility: Confidentiality in the Digital Age

Friday, June 21, 2013 
1:15 p.m.-2:15 p.m.

Lawyers
are open for business 24-hours a day. 
They communicate via Twitter & Facebook, on smartphones, tablets
& notebooks – in coffee shops, taxicabs, airports and on airplanes.  This program reviews recent COPRAC opinions
addressing technology
and provides tools to protect confidences and privacy for
both attorney and client.

Hope to see you there!

Yahoo! and the Robot (not Remote) Employee

MP900427654

Wouldn't the world be a perfect place if we simply followed every talking head who pontificates on a subject (yours truly excluded…)?  Of course, the goal doesn't usually involve the content of the story, but to create a bait headline that'll compel a reader to click-through (the shortest way to accomplish this: make them angry).  And what a perfect subject to select for this purpose; Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer rescinds remote privileges!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Then, the experts swoop in to tell us what she's really doing:

  1. Implementing a stealth layoff by pissing-off employees, who will then quit on their own,
  2. Discriminating against working moms (what about dads?),
  3. Taking us back to draconian times!

You get the idea…and you know what?  Every one of these claims might be true!  But, perhaps she is:

  1. Putting her arms around a human resources issue that's grown out of control,
  2. Fostering improved inter-company relations,
  3. Trying to better-assess a situation she can't see.

Mix & match as you like.  Does that mean I support the decision?  It's not about that.  I, like you, can easily cite detriments as well:

  1. More hours/dollars wasted on fuel, time and wear & tear sitting in traffic (I've been wondering whether the increase in traffic would actually be noticeable to outsiders),
  2. Less quality/leisure time with family, friends or hobbies,
  3. More pressure on significant other/spouse/parent to 'pick up the slack' of the Yahoo! employee (i.e. What I'm getting at is, suppose this particular employee is also a caregiver to an elderly parent; it ain't only about children, is it?)
  4. More pressure on single, unattached employee for similar reasons (there are only so many hours in the day for grocery shopping, errands and of course, appointments).
  5. Don't even get me started on morale…at least in the short term.
  6. Higher costs for Yahoo! as well; supporting all of these additional bodies on-site will have a marked effect on resources, such as electricity, maintenance, space allocation, furniture & supplies, etc.

I hate to quote Facebook, but:  It's complicated.

This is why it's extremely difficult to be a manager; too many cooks and Monday-morning quarterbacks.  My favorite is the propensity to quote studies about the benefits/detriments of working remotely.  You know what?  It's irrelevant except as it pertains to Yahoo!! (So, when I want to add a 'bang' to a sentence ending in the word "Yahoo!", is that how I do it?).

Of course, there is a place for statistics and studies as a general guide.  But what matters most is, how do these statistics and studies relate to the specific situation at Yahoo!?  There are a lot of factors involved, and I don't see too many of these articles wading very far into the weeds.

Last point; substitute any other name for Yahoo!  Same rules apply.

P.S.  I've included articles from people who do know the subject well – a lot better than I do, anyway (e.g. Richard Branson) but I think his particular comments answer his own concerns:

"To successfully work with other people, you have to trust each other. A
big part of this is trusting people to get their work done wherever they
are, without supervision
." [Italics added].

Two questions:

  1. Is it possible that Yahoo! harbors irrational mistrust of their employees?
  2. Is it possible that some employees have abused Yahoo!'s trust?

It could be one, both or neither.  I wonder how this will play out in the months leading up to implementation?  I wonder what things will look like six months after implementation?

Calbar Formal Opinion Interim No. 10-0001 (Social Media/Attorney Advertising) is Now Formal Opinion CAL 2012-186

MP900423020Happy New Year!  Some of you may recall when I wrote about this proposed opinion back in early June.  It addresses when a social media post by an attorney might cross the line from a statement to an advertisement, thereby triggering additional state bar rules.  In late December, apparently with little fanfare, the opinion was formalized as CAL 2012-186.