Hey Look! That’s Me! – A Test For Client Confidentiality and Social Media

I spotted a twitter exchange yesterday that caused me some concern.

A case was being discussed on Twitter that referred to identifying features. No names were mentioned and in that sense, at least, the clients were anonymous.  However, the details being discussed, such as appointments, some figures and issues would have been enough for the clients concerned to identify themselves in a flash.

I cannot recall where I learnt this “Hey look, that’s me!” test for confidentiality.  I do not know if it is enshrined in protocol or case law – perhaps a reader might care to tell us – but it makes perfect sense.

If a client can recognise themselves then that is perhaps the lowest cognitive bar we can set.

That is no reason to disregard that low bar, or dismiss it with an argument that “No-one else would know who it was.”  After all, if the client complains to us or relevant supervising bodies, then that will be more than enough to land us in hot water.

This incident also highlighted another issue.  We need to be diligent ourselves in testing confidentiality, but also in pointing out possible problems to one another.

By doing so we can self police effectively.  The alternative is likely to be a blanket ban or some other hysterical over-reaction.

I hope that if I have such a lapse in future that someone would quickly send me a direct message discretely to point out a possible problem.

I also hope that I would receive it with the same good grace and politeness that my Twitter friend did.

In the words of High School Musical “We’re all in this together…”

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When Law Firm Social Media Goes Bad.

I was reading through my LinkedIn updates a few moments ago and read the following;

  • Craig Holt
    Craig Holt Unexpected events such as the shootings in Cumbria can leave loved ones in unexpected legal and financial… http://fb.me/By6ukJw9 via Twitter
  • My poor taste alarm bells were ringing in a flash.

    The link did go through to a Facebook page which looked like this;

    Now, I do not know what is going on here.  I have tweeted what appears to be the Quality Solicitors twitter account to ask whether they are being attacked by mischievous sorts and will let you know if I receive a response.

    But given that there appears to be a concerted effort to spread this rather surprising selling message across LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, I would be surprised if that were the case.  It’s on their website as well, so I have to presume this is sanctioned.

    At the moment it looks as though Quality Solicitors are genuinely putting out this message.  I hope they prove me wrong.

    What lessons are there to be learnt from this?

    Think very carefully about putting edgy stuff “Out there”.

    Is it going to offend anyone?  If it is, that in itself is not automatically a reason not to do it, but how is that potential offence going to impact your law firm?

    Secondly, think about who you are teaming up with.

    The Quality Solicitors brand is a national service that has high street firms sign up to benefit from the collective name, brand and profile that Quality Solicitors can offer.  Bearing that in mind, how many of those firms will approve of this message and how does it reflect back on the component firms?

    I suspect this story has some way to go, but let me have your thoughts below, especially if you are one of the subscribing firms.

    As Johnny Ball from “Think of a Number” might have said, social media can be a lawyer’s best friend.  It could also be their worst enemy.

    UPDATE

    Having just revisited the Quality Solicitors website I see that the comments seem to have been deleted from the Twitter feed.  Hopefully this might indicate that this was not a sincere attempt to sell but was a malicious event.

    I am aware that I had previously blogged favourably on Quality Solicitors’ initiative.  I want to see them succeed for the sake of the profession and all their subscriber firms. Here’s hoping they haven’t dropped the baton.

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    This Blogpost Has Nothing To Do With The World Cup… At All

    The World Cup has sent PR, marketing agents and bloggers into a frenzy.

    BBC’s Radio 5 has become unlistenable.  It was already saturated with football coverage and this latest deluge has resulted in a horrific flood.

    The tabloids are obsessed and the broad(er) sheets are becoming increasingly indulgent.

    Every news story, article and (already) too many blog posts, are geared to some World Cup angle.

    The World Cup increases TV sales, barbecue equipment, Pringles sales, cold beers, fridges to put your cold beers into and cold beer holders to take your cold beer out of your World Cup Sponsor liveried “Personal” cold beer fridge.

    We will be led to believe that the World Cup increases divorce enquiries but decreases new house sales, drives business but threatens productivity and challenges employment law, incurs copyright and IP infringments and so on and so on and, incessantly, so on.

    The reality is very different.  People who were doing jobs and selling products and services are still doing so.  The World Cup has little to do with divorce enquiries, enquiries of estate agents, therapists or professional dog walkers, other than self serving press copy by one company, body, pressure group or other.

    Keep your eyes open, therefore, for attention seeking, irrelevant blog articles ostensibly about the World Cup but which in reality have nothing to do with it.

    I’ll kick off our search with this one.

    Rant over.

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    Just Look at Where Your Social Media Got You!

    If you were to look back at my very first naive entry on this blog, you will see this aspiration;

    “One day I would love to be presenting on this stuff.”

    In September, I will be presenting on this stuff at not one, but two events.

    The first is the international Mediation Business Summit. I will be joining a stunning line up of speakers to explore how my colleagues within the alternative dispute resolution (ADR), mediation and collaborative law industry can develop our businesses.

    If you are interested in finding out more, registering your interest for one of the strictly limited 250 tickets or seeing my mugshot, then go and have a look here.

    I will be speaking as part of a panel to close the event on Saturday 18th September.

    In the following week I am presenting a workshop for Resolution, being the leading family law association in UK, at their national ADR Conference to be held in Oxford.  The topic? Again, growing your business.

    In both cases I will be speaking very clearly about the way that I have used social media to define, communicate and build trust, and new business, with referrers of some excellent work, and direct with new clients.

    I will also be showing how social media enables us to demonstrate expertise and also break out of our silos and bring in practices and attitudes from other industries – often with startling results.

    The last 15 months have been awesome.  A key part of that progress and business development has been, without a doubt, the social media I have engaged with.

    I hope that, in September, I can encourage others to get started and stick with it.

    I still remember the sage advice my good friend and mentor @dmje told me;

    “Sign up for Twitter and give it a fortnight.”

    I did and haven’t looked back since.

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    How Lawyers Could Use the iPad

    alternative Blog title post: “Tell You What I want, What I Really Really Really Want…”

    Okay, imagine this.

    You are sat around the board room table in a commercial meeting, or at a desk with your client.

    Perhaps you are running a collaborative law meeting.

    Imagine if you each had an iPad in front of you. On my iPad is an illustration or graph that I want to share with the other people in the meeting.

    I open the file on my screen and flick it in the direction of those I want to share it with. It then transfers by bluetooth or some similar magic onto their iPad.

    Someone else wants to refer to an earlier letter, so they open up their document and we can all see what is being referred to.

    We have a successful session and want to draw up heads of agreement there and then so we work collaboratively on the document right there.

    Or the meeting is not quite that successful and so we need to go away and reconvene later.

    What are our agreed progress points? What about action points? Who is going to do what? That can all be recorded, right there and then and diarised to all our synchronised diaires, with reminders, in a stroke.

    What is more, all of this is recorded real time. What documents were referred to, which were shared with whom? Attendance notes can be created as we go through the session with no need for time consuming dictation afterwards.

    The potential is vast. If someone comes up with this – synchronised iPad as a conference tool – I will find it very hard to resist the iPad. What is more law firms might see merit in providing iPads for clients – either at reduced rate or as a law firm branded merchandise.

    I can’t wait to see what might happen…

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    Is Social Media Engagement a Myth?

    To what extent is social media’s promise of engagement a myth?

    Earlier today I read this comment on Twitter from the recognised and highly regarded, including by myself, Twitter expert, @markshaw.

    Mark believes strongly in the power of Twitter.  I join him in that.  But his apparent belief that he should expect a response from @nickclegg is misplaced and I think inappropriate.

    Social Media Etiquette

    Mark’s cajoling, even challenge, to Nick Clegg to communicate with him, to reply, is inappropriate.  If Nick and Mark (forgive the familiarity of first names) were present in the same room, at a networking event, then such a demand for a response would be wildly out of place.

    You would wait your turn, probably wait for an opportunity to feed into an existing conversation or wait for a quiet discrete moment.

    The Force Response – Is an answer required?

    I replied to Mark that the “force response”, to me, is the domain of the email.  People expect responses to email, and quickly too.

    One of the joys of Twiter, to me, is that I choose to go to my twitter stream and dip in and out of the conversation as I choose.  Sometimes I broadcast, sometimes I respond, sometimes I engage in a conversation.

    I opt in, or out.  Twitter puts me in control.

    The only time I feel I am expected to respond is if addresed by direct or an @ message.

    The Illusion of Engagement

    But, for the individual reading any given tweet, the perception that they are engaged in a conversation or relationship is nothing but a powerful illusion.

    This has bearings for us as all as we continue to use this medium personally and commercially.

    Expectation

    I myself became frustrated last year when I tweeted about some truly awful customer service from Tescos.  I live tweeted about the service and expected some response from Tescos. Nothing and I had to go through email and telephone instead.

    Is it right that we expect to be heard and acknowledged within social media?

    Perhaps we should expect organisations to be responsive.  Would I expect the Lib/Dem machine to get in touch with Mark?  I think I would.

    Should it be a personalised answer from Nick Clegg.  No, surely not.  If he gets it then that’s very nice.  It will give Mark a great anecdote to share in his excellent Twitter training sessions and might boost Nick’s credibility within Mark’s contact spheres, but it is not necessary.

    Aggression Detering Engagement

    Finally I cannot resist pulling on my conflict communications hat.  There is something quite aggressive about Mark’s challenge to Nick. (I really wish I hadn’t gone with first names).  I’m sure Mark didn’t mean it to.

    I think the problem is in the opening “If…”

    It almost reads as if to say, “Oh yeah Nick? If you are so prepared to listen and engage, come on out here…” 

    So again, note to self, be aware of how we might be coming across…

    What Do You Think?

    What are your thoughts?

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    How Microsoft Used Community to Manage Reputation and Drive New Business

    Live tweeted from Hit Me Social Media Event re Mel Carson from Microsoft Advertising Live at Hit Me Social Media Event

    So Microsoft invest in social media and advertising… are we surprised?

    What surprises me and many is how far Microsoft have come in turning around their previous incarnation.  They are increasingly acceptable and, crucially, responsive.

    Mel Carson works for the Microsoft Advertising Community.  He enabled the TV program “The Monastery” to recruit their potential monks by positioning the program within search enquiries.

    Try Bing ing Social Media White paper for a bit more on their approach which he calls “Learn and earn”.  He seems to suggest that Microsoft have an interdependent relationship with their advertising and search clients – we learn from them as we work with them

    A brave question from Mel – “What is the first thing that comes into your head when someone mentions Microsoft?”, alluding to my opening point I suspect.  But the point he is making is that Microsoft Advertising is a specific part of Microsoft.  It evolved out of a negative reaction to earlier advertising efforts on the part of Microsoft.

    That reaction was to establish a community and forum – a responsive approach which steps into, faces up to that conflict and criticism. That was back in 2006, and the feedback they invited (and received) was then distributed to other departments.  This feedback has enabled Microsoft to identify changes and possible improvements.

    Now, of course, that means more response, more profit for Microsoft and, says Mel, for their advertising clients.

    But, the community saves cost as well.  On the forum, Microsoft can rely on contributing experts, not paid by Microsoft, to help other users.

    People get recognition if they answer questions and contribute and so they raise their own social capital or profile.

    So, an interesting example of an organisation using community to turn its profile around and respond to users.

    Is there a role for forums on law firm websites?  We’ll fret about regulation and negligence but I suspect that is not insurmountable.

    The biggest worry might be the demonstration that we, as the lawyers, are not the exclusive domain of knowledge any longer, but it really is time that we came to terms with that…

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    From Tesco Estate Agency To Tesco Law

    Thanks to @paulhajek for flagging up this article;

    “NEWS FLASH: Tesco bounces back into property market

    Thursday 4th March 2010

    Tesco is back in the estate agency market with the launch of Spicerhaart’s brand new offering, called iSold.

    The new brand, whose slogan is ‘We simply sell homes’, has chosen Bristol for its national launch. Actual launch day has not been announced but is expected this weekend with local newspaper advertising apparently booked.”

    Only recently I was being reassured by someone that Tesco had failed in Estate Agency and their forays into law would be similarly doomed.  I thought that was complacent at the time.  This form of complacency is ofen repeated and I have blogged on it once or twice already.

    The Complacency Of Failure

    There is a phenomenom that runs like this this.

    A new initiative in providing professional services fails.  The failure of that particular initiative is then seized upon as demonstration that intiative as a whole is not required, will never succeed and that “The way we have always done it” will be the way we always will.

    That, dear readers, may enbale the conservative (small c) wings of our professions to sleep at night, in complete denial of massive impending change, but it does not hold water.

    Tescos have had previous forays into estate agency.  They failed. So what.  Fail quickly and move on.

    I still think the brand name iSold is awful.  The bandwagon jumping lower case I prefixing an adjective or verb is so hackneyed already.

    And that logo “We simply sell homes” is like something out of branding kindergarten.

    Reader’s Comments

    The comments on the post are interesting also.

    Try this from Harry Shitemove, probably not his real name.

    “you get what you pay for when it comes to personal service”

    or this

    “This is like the dotcom bubble all over again. I give them 18 months max. The only time you should be worried about a competitor is when they charge more than you. Tesco’s management are well respected, but this is a massive error on their part. They should stick to what they know, flogging me donuts and tasty sandwiches”

    but perhaps, most odiously, as in a really rancid stench, is this very proud and handsomely paid estate agent who loudly proclaims;

    “Ha Ha Ha Every Little Helps… If I got a 1k fee for selling a house then i wouldn’t get out of bed. VERY TRUE. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR ! ! !”

    What do I pay an estate agent for? To sell my house, not for a relationship.

    Now, if the model gives me full online access to records of all enquiries, written comments on viewings, records on all follow-up calls and feedback from viewers, then I do not need to be kept holding on an estate agent’s phone line or waiting for calls to be returned.

    The future is coming.  Please try to stay awake while it happens.

    46 Comments

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    Give A Man A Tweet And He’ll Tweet For A Day…

    NeilDenny

    Talking to a firm who have “someone in” to do their Twitter account. Result? 8 followers. Where’s the ROI on that?

    @NeilDenny depends .. how much have they invested in taking part in twitter. getting someone IN is like admitting , we dont care enough.

    NeilDenny

    …or “We’d like to but aren’t confident in our skills.” We shouldn’t be TOO dismissive. We should reassure, inform and encourage

    Such was my recent Twitter exchange.

    I need to be careful as I have been invited IN to assist with a company’s Twitter on their behalf.  However, what is crucial in doing that is that I let go off the Twitter account as soon as possible.

    If I give them a few tweets, that is completely meaningless and has close to zero value.

    Scratch that.  It has NO value.

    However, if I can establish presence and momentum, then it seems to me that the company can see the point in tweeting and will want to maintain that conversation within their field.  This is about more than followers of course. How many people are we communicating with?  Is this bilateral or simply broadcasting.  Are tweets being picked up and re-tweeted?

    So, give a man a tweet and he’ll tweet for day, show him how to tweet and he’ll tweet for ever.*

    We can reassure, inform and encourage, that is after all, how many of us got tweeting in the first place.  Many companies and individuals will simply not get past those first breakers as they embark on their first tweeting expeditions.  They have no context, no momentum and no presence and so simply abandon their newly launched Twitter accounts and head back for shore.

    *Or woman, of course.

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