Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

August 2009 Archives

So your firm has a website, but now you're thinking about how to get the site noticed. Maybe you're even thinking about your web presence beyond your site. If you're thinking it's time to find an online marketing partner to help you handle all this, there are a few things you'll want to consider. Here are four questions you might want to ask as you consider your online marketing strategy.

1. How will you develop content on your firm's site?
Search engine algorithms usually put a lot of weight on whether a website contains new and original content. The more new content that goes up, the better your site's ranking in search results is likely to be. So you will want to have a plan to add new and relevant content -- blog posts, articles on legal topics, videos, or the like. Think about the kind of content-production plan you can put in place.

2. Are you considering your overall web presence?
Your firm's web presence will inevitably extend beyond your firm's website: to various directories, consumer review sites, and of course social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. How will you use these sites to brand your firm? How will you address the things, both positive and negative, that other people have to say about you on the web?
Consider yourself deterred.

Two former lawyers were handed hefty federal prison sentences on Monday for stealing settlement funds from their clients. William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham had represented over 400 clients in a drug-injury lawsuit against pharmaceutical company American Home Products (now Wyeth) over fen-phen diet drugs.

Gallion and Cunningham were sentenced to 25 and 20 years, respectively, after their convictions for fraud and conspiracy.

When the attorneys agreed to a $200 million settlement with AHP, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, they would have been entitled to a fee in the neighborhood of $60 million. Instead, they kept the settlement amount secret and managed to set aside over $100 million for themselves and others.
Internet-based materials are more and more commonly cited in all kinds of legal documents, including judicial opinions. One problem raised by this practice is the ephemeral nature of web pages, which often change URLs or simply disappear with little or no notice. At the same time, there is obvious value in seeking out and citing relevant information on the web.

To help judges resolve this tension, the Judicial Conference of the United States has released recommendations to the federal courts on how to handle internet-based materials.

After a six-month pilot project conducted by the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM), during which court librarians collected and examined citations to web-based resources in opinions, the conference developed its guidelines.

The CACM broadly recommends that judges at least consider some form of preservation for all internet-based materials cited in their opinions. Among the recommendations for handling internet case citations:

  • Download a copy of a cited web page and include it as an attachment in the Case Management/Electronic Case Files System. From here, the page could be made retrievable via PACER
  • Keep in mind that not all litigants have computer access
  • Try to avoid linking directly to commercial databases, to avoid the appearance of an endorsement; and provide an appropriate disclaimer where such links are necessary

Additional resources:

Here's a way to work around recession-ravaged travel budgets, and actually get in front of your clients, or go to a trade show or bar association meeting. JetBlue will be offering a sort of frequent-flier buffet next month, launching the "All-You-Can-Jet Pass." So badly does JetBlue want you in the air that they are offering the equivalent of a bus pass for air travel: $599 allows you to fly anywhere JetBlue goes, anytime from September 8 to October 8.

You'll just have to book a flight at least 3 days in advance, and off you go. Cancellation fees and penalties apply in pretty much the standard fashion, with one addition: no-showing for a flight will get your pass suspended until you pony up a $100 penalty. (We're pretty sure that never happens with bus passes.)
Louisiana firm the Wolfe Law Group won a victory in federal court this week in its challenge to Louisiana's new regulations on online advertising.

Judge Martin Feldman of the Eastern District of Louisiana granted in part Wolfe's summary-judgment motion, agreeing that the state's efforts to pre-screen ads that attorneys intended to post online ran afoul of the First Amendment.

The Louisiana Supreme Court had revised its attorney-advertising rules at the direction of the state legislature in an apparent effort to "clean up" lawyer advertising in Louisiana and make it more consumer-friendly. Part of this cleanup involved changing the rules for online ads. A firm that wanted to run an ad online would be required to submit the proposed ad to a committee of the Louisiana State Bar Association for review to ensure its compliance with advertising rules, at a fee of $175 per ad.
A Colorado lawyer is facing discipline from the state bar -- and he may have made things worse for himself by his conduct at his disciplinary hearing.

According to State Bill Colorado, the attorney, Mark Brennan, represented William Cadorna, a former Denver firefighter, in a federal age-discrimination suit against the city. At the 2006 trial, Brennan's courtroom tactics were allegedly "abusive" and "disruptive," according to the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel, which brought the disciplinary action. Repeatedly butting heads with Judge Robert Blackburn and even drawing a contempt citation, Brennan nevertheless won a verdict in favor of Cadorna.

That verdict was later thrown out upon the city's motion because, according to Judge Blackburn, Brennan's conduct had been so outrageous as to prejudice the jury. Given a chance to try the case over again, the city agreed to a settlement with Cadorna.