Does Your Firm Embrace the Social Network?

12 10 2010

It surprised me on my second day at my new job, when I walked by my secretary’s desk and saw her updating her Facebook status. At my old firm, the executive committee issued the verdict years ago to block all social networking sites, even LinkedIn. Not surprisingly, very few people at the old firm use social media sites and applications as a tool to promote the firm. Beginning during the interview process, I noticed a different perception of social media from the new firm. They expressed great interest in my blog and tweeting habits; I learned that several attorneys in the firm blogged as well and almost everyone had a LinkedIn profile. In the last few weeks, a couple of other attorneys have announced their intent to start a blog and several others have joined Twitter.

Simply put, my new firm, a young, prestigious boutique firm, handling highly complex commercial litigation matters, embraces the social network. My old firm, an aging asbestos defense firm, rejects the social network. Two firms moving in opposite directions who share a very different outlook on the fusion of technology and law.

My last post promoted my sister’s new book dealing with social networking and legal professionals, specifically attorneys using social media tools to market themselves in a job search. However, I firmly believe that the value of these tools extend far beyond landing the perfect job. Indeed, the perfect job involves utilizing¬† these tools to promote, market, inform and engage clients, co-workers and the general public.

As part of her book promoting tour, my sister travels around the country speaking at law schools and law firms on how to best utilize these social media tools. She reports that while many seem receptive to her presentation, many of the “old guard” still express reservations. Others may seem hesitant to change, but simply need to have the new tools explained in order to understand their importance.

Where does your firm stand? Do they encourage you to actively engage in the use of social media tools or do they block Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, leaving you to believe they see these tools as toys? Going forward can a firm remain relevant without embracing these tools? Share your thoughts and I may use your feedback in an upcoming piece on this issue.

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The Beauty of Electronic Service

30 09 2010

Allow me to start by apologizing for taking so much time off from blogging. On July 23, 2010, I left my firm home of 5 1/2 years for a new job. I know I wrote as recently as June that I loved my old job, and I did, but simply put I received an offer I could not refuse.

My new firm specializes in complex commercial litigation matters and each day presents a new set of unique problems to solve. After working in toxic torts for so long, it has taken some time to adjust to such a diverse practice. On my first day, I learned that I would be working for eight attorneys–four partners (including the managing partner) and four associates). Each met with me to briefly to go over their active case load and I soon learned that my new position would require my complete focus to ensure a smooth transition.

In a little over two months, I have managed several different cases, including branching out into areas of law completely foreign to me (i.e. bankruptcy and IP litigation).¬† Though challenging , I’ve learned that these “new” areas of practice require the same basic fundamentals I have employed throughout my career. As legal professionals, we seek to form logical arguments based on the evaluation of facts and details. Likewise, we seek to identify the weaknesses of an opposing argument, either through the misrepresentation of facts or logical fallacies.

However, on the administrative side, I have noticed one glaring difference–the service list.

Asbestos litigation spoiled me! In Texas, all pretrial activity goes through a central, MDL court, before being remanded back to its original court for trial. The Texas Asbestos MDL Court requires all parties to electronically serve all documents, whether it be pleadings, discovery, notices, etc. This keeps things extremely simple and makes service extremely efficient. Instead of searching for a docket sheet, you simply log in, post and submit. You receive instant electronic confirmation that your document has been served on all parties and there are no confirmation sheets or green cards to clutter your files or office.

While all of the cases I work on now feature electronic filing, signing up for electronic service is left to the discretion of each individual party. Furthermore, this only applies to pleadings. Almost all of the discovery requests we receive or responses that we serve are through the archaic method of “traditional service.” This eats up valuable billable time that must be sacrificed to prepare the documents to be served and wastes firm money on the expenses related to the delivery of the documents.

As more and more offices move towards becoming “paper-less,” all courts will eventually move towards mandatory electronic service. I just hope that days is sooner, rather than later. Until then, I’ll let you go. I need to go check the fax machine for my confirmation sheet.