Blogs and Facebook Posts as Evidence in Lawsuits


The New York Daily News reports that Richmond County Supreme Court Judge Catherine DiDomenico (no relation) terminated a woman’s $850 per month alimony payment after she posted evidence of ability to work on a blog and on Facebook.

Three years ago, Dorothy McGurk won the settlement from her husband when she claimed that a 1997 car accident left her unable to work.  When her ex-husband, Brian McGurk, saw her blog posts in which she wrote about belly dancing every day, he brought the matter back before the court.  McGurk’s lawyer, Thomas Kyle, “said the blog posts convinced [the judge that] the dancer was fit enough to fend for herself.”  Kyle continued, “If she could blog for hours, if she could dance the day away in Manhattan, then how is it she couldn’t hold down a job?”

Dorothy McGurk also helped dig her own grave with a Facebook post. When a Facebook friend asked why she hadn’t posted pictures of her belly dancing on the social network, McGurk reportedly replied, “Gotta be careful what goes on line pookies, …The ex would love to fry me with that.”  Ironic.

Judge DiDomenico terminated the monthly payments from the ex-husband and awarded him $5,000, plus interest for lawyer’s fees.  The judge also ordered the ex-wife to move out of the couples’ house and awarded the ex-husband 60% of it’s value.

This story is a good example of some of the social media lessons that I constantly teach:

  1. Assume that whatever you post online is public and that anyone can find it.  Indeed, the ability for people to find your stuff is the purpose of a blog, or other website.  If you want to keep something private, keep it offline.
  2. Don’t assume that your social networking is private — even if you restrict your posts to a small number of Facebook (or other social network) friends; you never know how what you write may surface.  McGurk certainly didn’t expect her Facebook comment to be read by her ex husband.
  3. If you’re a lawyer, use social media as a tool to help win your case.

Leverage Your Other Work For Blog Posts

During some recent speaking engagements, I mentioned how lawyers can benefit from using social media, among them, blogs. Countering one common reason for resistance to blogging–“I don’t have the time”–I pointed out how to use leverage to your advantage.

The idea is simple: turn the work you already do into a blog post. Lawyers do lots of work.  They draft briefs, contracts, opinion letters, etc.  Some even try to develop business by drafting newsletters, presenting pitches, and speaking at bar association functions, trade shows, and the like.

Of course, you can’t just copy and paste a client pitch, opinion letter, or brief into a blog post.  I hope it goes without saying that you shouldn’t disclose confidential or proprietary information in a blog post. You also need to edit the content for your audience.  The bad news is that it will require a little work.  The good news is that unlike the newsletter that just goes out to the people on your mailing list, your blog audience is potentially limited only to those with web access.

You’ll also need to convert your content so that it works for the web.  This means, among other things, that you’ll need to “tighten it up.”  Make your posts short and to the point.  The web is giving us all A.D.D.  If you can’t hook your readers quickly, you’ll lose them fast.  But that is also good news.  It forces you to chop up your otherwise lengthy materials into bite-sized pieces, which in turn, means more blog posts.

You work hard.  Recycle some of that work into blog posts.  I just did.  And I intend to do it more in the near future.

Knowledge Management, Technology & Social Media for Lawyers and Law Firms

Web 2.0: Driving Innovation in the Law Firm Library

dc_speaking Steven Lastres, Don MacLeod, and I will be speaking at 9 a.m. on Tuesaday, July 28, 2009 at the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting in Washington DC.

Here is some information on the program from AALL:

Target Audience: Law firm librarians who need to understand how new web technologies can foster collaboration and deliver library services.

Learning Outcomes:

1) Participants will be able to assess the benefits and pitfalls of emerging Web 2.0 technologies from three perspectives: library management, knowledge management and lawyer training.

2) Participants will be able to build a convincing business case for Web 2.0 technologies to firm management and other decision-makers.

The presentation begins with an overview of the benefits of Web 2.0 as part of an overall Knowledge Management strategy. The program will explain what the benefits are to lawyers and clients, how to calculate ROI and demonstrate why law librarians should lead the process.

After a discussion of the underlying theory driving the adoption of Web 2.0 technology, the nuts and bolts of building and deploying Web 2.0 technologies will be reviewed, including showing which technologies pay off the best (comparison of tools) and how to get buy-in from management and adoption by end users. Part of this program will look at how to integrate new technologies with existing infrastructure.

The third perspective of Web 2.0 concerns teaching lawyers how to work in a knowledge-sharing environment. This part of the program will provide guidance on how to set up a training program in the law library to help lawyers master the tools they need for sharing information in their daily practice. The program addresses how librarians can encourage lawyers to rely on them for expertise in identifying and using the right resources.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

Is Blogging Dead? | Knowledge Management

Last I checked, blogging is alive and well. But in this month’s Wired Magazine, Paul Boutin advises you to Kill Your Blog. Boutin says blogging is no longer worth the time. The glory days are over. You’d be better off using Twitter, Facebook, or Flickr. He says that even well-known bloggers are calling it quits because, essentially, blogging–as a medium–has sold out. “Professional” bloggers have cornered the market on blog search engine rankings and the little blogger has been left out in the cold. The other factors killing blogs are brevity and speed. Twitter gives you just that. And I must agree (about the speed and brevity). I have little tolerance for long blog posts [I’ll keep this short] unless they are very compelling. However, for some topics, you need more than 140 characters. I don’t think blogging is dead yet, but I’m a blogger. For the sake of brevity, I’ll leave it at that and just ask you what you think, with this poll:

[polldaddy poll=1032182]

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

More ILTA Coverage | Knowledge Management

Today is the last day of ILTA.  I’ll be covering a couple of sessions later. 

There are so many great programs here that it’s impossible to attend all of the ones that you’d like.  That’s why I am very happy to see that several people are sharing their notes and thoughts about the sessions.  Many people have expressed appreciation for this, so I want to make sure that everyone knows of some of the other live bloggers:

I’ve mentioned coverage by David Hobbie of Caselines and Doug Cornelius of KM Space.  I noticed that Amy Witt of Nina Platt Consulting is ILTA blogging at The Law Firm Intranet

If you know of others, please drop me a line and I’ll revise and / or repost a new list. 


LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms 

Legal Aspects of Collaboration Tools (Blogs, Wikis, etc.) (from ILTA)

ILTA – August 27, 2008 9:00 am

These are my notes from the program. [Since I am taking paper-free notes and because there is free Wi-Fi here, I thought that I’d add the notes to the blog. Disclaimer: my notes are rough, so forgive the typos.]

From ILTA:

Title: Legal Aspects of Collaboration Tools (Blogs, Wikis, MashUps, IM, Text Messages, Social Networks and More)
Description: Collaboration technologies help promote information sharing, efficiency, cost reduction and can provide competitive advantages. How does the legal environment deal with the information overload and the security of confidential information escaping the realm of the organization? What aspects of legal information need to be considered to help determine how collaboration tools should be utilized in the legal world (and when they should not)? What policies must be in place to protect the shared information?

Speaker(s): Tom Mighell – Cowles & Thompson, P.C.
Dennis Kennedy – MasterCard Worldwide

LawyerKM’s notes:

  • See my notes from yesterday’s presentation
  • Collaboration is no longer an option.
  • Web tools are moving beyond email.
  • News and communication:
    Blogs –
    IM –
    Twitter –
  • Working together:
    Documents – drafts & revisions: the old way was redlining.
    Conferencing – scheduling is a major difficulty and very time consuming.
    Wikis –
  • Web 2.0
    1.0 – focus was getting all the info online – no interaction
    2.0 – making the info available to people in more interesting, interactive ways (e.g. Google Maps, Mashups); moving to user-generated content (e.g., wikis and blogs); software as a service (SAAS); cloud computing.
    e.g., Yelp, Delicious, social networking tools, Facebook and LinkedIn are the main players.
    Martindale-Hubbell is testing their own social network (should be coming out in the next couple of months.
    Mashups – SharePoint can be used to mashup information
    Google Sites – allows you to make a mini portal platform on the web
  • The benefits of collaboration:
    1. taking an active role
    2. enhancing the workflow
    3. getting better results
  • Potential Problems of collaboration:
    1. Loss of control – lawyers are tought that they should control the draft and the drafting proscess. Collaborative drafting (like with Google Docs) can take away this feeling of control, blog comments and wikis also may contribute to the feeling of loss of control. Internal vs. external storage (many lawyers are not comfortable with their data on external servers) there is also the issue of down time of third-party systems.
    2. Security – because you are going outside the firewall, there is a concern. You are potentialll opening up multiple points of compromise.
    3. Ethics – need to be a lawyer’s ethical responsibilities. There have not been many ethics decisions about technology. None were cited about collaboration. Is encryption mandatory? Metadata – one state has found that lawyers should have knowledge that metadata exists in their documents.
  • The Balance between riks and benefits:
    1. Cultural – what is the tolerance for risk at your firm? Balanced scorecard, risk-reward framework.
    2. Costs – many of these tools are free – so lawyers might be inclined to try it out. But, some of those tools may be risky. Hidden costs – free tools have implimentation issues [and what about ads in Gmail].
    3. Portfolio approach – is an economic portfolio approach right (i.e., having a diversified portfolio)? Check out some of the collaboration tools.
  • Defining and Implementing Appropriate Policies:
    1. channel appropriate behaviors – lawyers are good at finding work-arounds when they can’t get what they need.
    2. keeping control – policies, procedures, processes – need some sort of formality to it. Very few people in the audience have any sort of policies or procedures that cover collaboration tools.
    3. security and ethical concers – #1 is confidentiality; different levels of access, authority are key to this.
  • Looking into the Future
    1. recent devlopments – since the cost of travel is high, there is/will be an increase in online collaboration.
    2. trends – web2.0 is becoming more common and people are willing to explore
    3. predicions – clients will drive this (if they want it, lawyers will provide it) video will be bigger in the future
  • Conclusions:
    1. keep current – read blogs [like LawyerKM!]
    2. action steps – find your firms policies; look at the tools that you use; think about the issues that arise with the tools that you use.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

Collaboration Tools and Technologies for Lawyers (at ILTA) Knowledge Management

ILTA – August 26, 2008 3:30 pm


These are my notes from the program.  [Since I am taking paper-free notes and because there is free Wi-Fi here, I thought that I’d add the notes to the blog.  Disclaimer: my notes are rough, so forgive the typos.]


From ILTA:

Title:   Collaboration Tools and Technologies for Lawyers


Description:     Collaboration technologies and tools are the most important current developments in legal technology and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. During this session, the speakers discuss collaboration technologies for law firms, review tools and explore alternative platforms.



Tom Mighell – Cowles & Thompson, P.C.

Dennis Kennedy – MasterCard Worldwide


Learning Objectives:  

Identify collaboration tools and technologies for law firms.

Analyze their utilization and explore alternative methods.

LawyerKM’s Notes:

  • Do you know how your lawyers are collaborating?
    • email
    • wikis
    • meetings
    • SharePoint
    • etc.
  • Collaboration is not new
    • history of collaborating
    • telegraph is the first form of IM (sort of)
    • telephone
  • Collaboration today
    • mainly email 
    • document collaboration (redlining, track revisions, etc.)
    • conference calls
  • Internal & external collaboration
    • geography and the parties are factors
    • audience is important – e.g. metadata stripping is important when collaborating with third parties, but not necessarily with internal parties
    • Internal: everyone on the same team, see metadata above; brainstorming, etc. openness about the documents
    • External: the collaborators might be on the same side, but might be adversaries.
  • Basics: Documents and Projects
    • Documents – take advantage of the fact that documents are in a digital format.
    • Project Management – lawyers are very much project managers
      • they need to manage the cases and / or deals that they are working on
  • Basic Collaboration Toolbox
    • choice depends on how you work
    • determining what you’re trying to do helps you match tools to the problem
    • calendaring, conferencing, document collaboration
  • Collaboration Platforms
    • SharePoint
    • Google Apps (Dennis is surprised at the interest in this from a large law firm perspective – so am I see Web 2.0 in Law Firms)
  • Web 2.0 Tools
    • key definition – using the internet as a software tool or application platform  (web 3.0 is the semantic web, see here)
    • Blogs, Wikis, Cloud computing
    • they are platform agnostic (PC or Mac – all the same – you just need a web browser)
    • Calendaring on the web allows easy collaboration
    • web-based large file sharing (e.g. Drop IO, usendit)
  • Next Generation Concepts
    • user-generated content publishing (see, e.g., Wikipedia, YouTube, SlideShare, Mash-ups)
    • social networking (LinkedIn, Facebook) becomes an expertise locator.  [what about Twitter?]
    • Legal OnRamp, JD Supra
  • How to learn about collaboration options
    • lots of collaboration blogs: Dennis and Tom’s blog
    • RSS feeds (subscribe to collaboration tag in technorati)
  • Approaches to develop a collaboration strategy
    • is your approach active or passive?
    • collaboration audit – don’t assume that you know how your attorneys are collaborating – check it out. 
    • what is your firm’s collaborative culture?  – look at the way people actually work (even from a non-technological way)
  • Defining and Implementing your collaboration approach
    • try to guide people to accepted products and approaches
  • What is your collaboration culture?
    • the audit will help
    • what are people doing now
    • strengthen collaboration culture – establish a collaboration coordinator [sounds like a KM position; an evangelist]
    • let people know about successes
    • learn from your failures
  • Conclusions
    • no longer an option
    • impact on day to day practice can be huge
  • What to do next?
    • observe how you are collaborating (notice what tools you use)
    • pick one tool and investigate it

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

Blogs: Empowering Employees | Knowledge Management

Blogging is not easy. It takes thought, time, and effort.

What does blogging say about bloggers? At the very least, it says that they are interested in the blog subject. Interested enough to spend time thinking, researching, writing, and editing. This is time that could otherwise be spent doing any number of things (relaxing, exercising, socializing, etc.). One might argue that blogging demonstrates more than just interest – it demonstrates a passion for the blog topic. If one’s blog is related to what they do for a living, that means passion for one’s profession. And a passionate employee is a good employee.

Should employers encourage employees to blog? Should they prohibit blogging? Should they pretend that it’s not happening? I’m not talking about whether employees should be permitted to blog on company time. While most employers would say no, Michel Anteby, in his Harvard Business Review article, Working in the Gray Zone, suggests that it may be OK, and even beneficial. Anteby says that this has to do with employees’ need to “enact their ‘occupational identities,'” (i.e. “the self-image that a person trained in a specific vocation develops as a member of that profession.”). Much the way blogging indicates a passion for the subject, “gray zones signal a higher aspiration among employees that immediate supervisors deem worthy of pursuit.”

Blogging (on your own time) is good. I know that I personally–and professionally–benefit from blogging. It makes me a better KM guy. I learn from my blog buddies, some of whom are listed in my blog roll (and on the LawyerKM Netvibes Universe). But a blog, like any medium, should not be abused. A good blogger’s guide is The Golden Rule. Another word to the wise is “don’t [write] anything you wouldn’t want published on the front page of the New York Times” (aka The New York Times Rule). (I know, I know, some bloggers would love to have their stuff published in the New York Times – anywhere in the New York Times.)

In my opinion [see opinion disclaimer], a reasonable approach is best. Lawyers love the word “reasonable.”  What does this mean? Todd Alan Ewan and Carolyn M. Plump put forth some pretty reasonable blog policy ideas in their article, To Blog or Not to Blog: An Employer’s Dilemma (although I think that they may have borrowed the title from another blog post. I’m kidding.). Perhaps another piece of guidance comes from our friends at Thomson Reuters, which recently released its Code of Business Conduct and Ethics.

Part of that code states:

It’s OK to mention Thomson Reuters in a personal blog. However, if you maintain a personal blog, it should not contain or discuss any confidential or nonpublic information about Thomson Reuters, our customers or other people or companies that we do business with. You should not cite or reference customers, employees or business associates without their approval. If your blog mentions Thomson Reuters, it should be clear that any opinions that you express are your own, and not those of Thomson Reuters. Even then, you should be mindful of the Trust Principles in discussing Thomson Reuters or any of its competitors. Further, personal blogs should never be used for internal communications among fellow employees and you should not use a personal blog to air any differences with co-workers, Thomson Reuters or people or companies that we do business with. Some Thomson Reuters businesses may have their own supplemental policies and guidelines on blogging.

That seems reasonable. And it seems that some law firms subscribe to such reasonable ideas. David Hobbie (Caselines) and Doug Cornelius (KM Space), of Goodwin Procter, write about KM topics and are pretty open about things they do at the firm. Tom Baldwin, of Reed Smith, also shares some of his KM experiences with the world via his blog, Knowledgeline. The KM community benefits from their ideas and experiences.

In the end, whether employers love it, hate it, allow it, prohibit it, or tolerate it; they shouldn’t ignore it. They need to be aware that people blog. And some of those people may be their employees. Reasonableness may be / probably is / definitely is–in my opinion–better than ignorance.

And for you bloggers out there, The Golden Rule and The New York Times Rule are good guidance, but perhaps the best way to put it is: Don’t Be Stupid.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

Legal Blogs Create Buzz | Knowledge Management

I’ve written before about legal blogging.  But being a KM guy, I usually focus on the benefits of using blogs inside the law firm, for KM purposes. 

Kevin O’Keefe (Real Lawyers Have Blogs) writes a lot about using blogs as marketing tools.  And he should know – he’s helped a lot of firms dramatically increase traffic to their websites.  Check out his recent post, Lawyer blogs driving traffic to law firm websites

Just as most firms got on the website band wagon in the 1990s (some reluctantly, remember?), most firms–the ones that haven’t already–will have one or more blogs in the next few years.  I know, I know: this is not such a ground-breaking prediction given the recent report that “53 of the Am Law 200 firms in 2007 were blogging a total of 110 blogs.”  And it’s not just small firms that are on the band wagon: check out Kevin’s post that has a long list of firms that blog.  There’s some big names there. My favorite take away from Kevin’s “Lawyer blogs driving traffic…” post (above):

Blogs are turning out to be a very cost effective means to drive traffic through the law firm website and particular, practice areas and lawyer bio’s.


  • Law blogs focus on substantive legal information, as opposed to promotional copy. Google can tell the difference and is obviously more interested in pushing information, as opposed to marketing copy, to the top of search results.
  • Blogs have more frequent updates. More updates, the more keywords and key phrases people will be searching for that you’ll have in your blog site.
  • Viral marketing. Blogs routinely get cited by other blogs and reporters. You’re seen when your target audience is doing research on your niche in the law.
  • Subscribers by RSS and email. Websites don’t have subscribers.
  • Blog RSS feeds being aggregated by Google Blog Search and Technorati so blog posts are picked up by reporters and bloggers subscribed to keywords and key phrases at those places.
  • Links. The holy grail of search optimization. Incoming links from other relevant sites (law in this case) establish the importance of a site in Google’s mind. The more links, the more important, and the higher you’ll be in search results.

 LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms