Ethics & Social Media – Bozeman, Montana – 2016

I was honored and humbled to be included by the Federal Defenders of Montana & the Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers at their annual seminar at Chico Hot Springs outside of Bozeman Montana, titled “Revealing the Real Story: Truth May Not Set You Free but it Helps”

This impressive group of lawyers was exceptionally warm and welcoming.

Below are some excerpted slides from March 11, 2016.

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The digital age has introduced incredible efficiencies and opportunities for our law practices. In the realm of advertising, attorneys can now reach out and directly communicate with potential clients through the internet in ways we would never have dreamed possible even just 10 years ago. Accompanying these incredible technological advancements are challenges that we similarly could not have anticipated before now.

The digital age has introduced incredible efficiencies and opportunities for our law practices. In the realm of advertising, attorneys can now reach out and directly communicate with potential clients through the internet in ways we would never have dreamed possible even just 10 years ago. Accompanying these incredible technological advancements are challenges that we similarly could not have anticipated before now.

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Online reviews have become critical to maintaining a competitive practice. According to the 2014 ABA Tech Report, over 43% of prospective clients look to review sites when selecting an attorney. This behavior is most prevalent amongst 25 to 34 year olds. For the criminal defense solo practitioner, online reviews are critical to our ability to draw in new clients and maintain a thriving practice.

Although the availability of online reviews can be a blessing in some instances, for the criminal defense attorney, we live in constant fear of a disgruntled and prolific client who decides to take out his or her frustrations about the case online. In many instances, a negative online review may be warranted. But often, given the nature of a criminal defense practice, we are more likely than not to take on a client with unreasonable expectations who will never be happy with any possible outcome, short of an outright dismissal.

These negative online reviews are extremely potent and can have an inordinate impact on our livelihood. They are also often very cutting, and feel like a personal attack in a very public forum. As criminal defense attorneys, we are very comfortable responding to conflicts in the courtroom, but generally speaking we are wholly ill-equipped to responsibly respond to these, often vicious and unwarranted online attacks.

As a result, when we receive a negative online review, our initial “gut” response is often misguided and can make the situation dramatically worse, before it gets better.

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One common practice amongst attorneys is to outsource blogging and social media management to web consultants. This is not surprising given the seemingly endless demands of an online presence in today’s competitive legal markets. Most attorneys do not have time to regularly be monitoring and posting to a myriad of social media websites let alone keep up with weekly blog posts.

However, Rule 8.4 seemingly prohibits this increasingly popular practice in the legal community, in particular, solo practitioners. Attorneys should consider using services like Buffer to manage their own social media accounts, and find time to set aside to contribute their own authentic blog posts, as opposed to outsourcing it to outside agencies.

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Attorney Erin H. Gerstenzang
Attorney Gerstenzang is a criminal defense lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia who frequently lectures on legal topics relating to DUI and traffic law. Erin has also co-chaired many DUI Seminars working closely with nationally recognized experts in her field of practice. To speak with Erin, call
404-771-6675 or click here to schedule a consultation.