By Jessica Shambaugh |Daily Reporter Staff Writer
Columbus attorneys are being followed.
With the social networking website Twitter reporting to have hundreds of millions of registered users, it may not be surprising that members of the Columbus legal community have joined the masses in trying to accumulate followers and continually reaching out to the world in 140 characters or less.
“Like it or not, social media is here to stay,” said Jerry Kaltenbach, a Columbus litigation, real estate and business attorney. “Twitter is only getting bigger.” Kaltenbach opened his own firm, Kaltenbach Law LLC, in November and said his personal experience with social networking immediately transitioned to a business benefit.
The attorney has more than 80 followers and tweets several times a day about “[content] that comes out of the attorney general’s office, Ohio Supreme Court opinions, 6th Circuit, things like that,” he said. While he noted that most of his interactions are with other attorneys and that the potential for getting clients through Twitter is questionable, Kaltenbach said he can see possibilities.
“To date I can’t say that I’ve ever gotten a client strictly from using Facebook or Twitter, but I also know that you’re more likely to show up in Google search results if you’re out there using these social media products,” said Kaltenbach who uses Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and Google Plus.
Joanne Peters, a partner of Isaac, Brant, Ledman and Teetor, said her company started using social networking for similar reasons. “Before (people) might have gone to the Yellow Pages to look for things…now (they) may go to social media,” Peters said.
She said her firm tweets generally every day and posts on Facebook a little less frequently and that the websites are mostly beneficial for class actions suits. “We are lead counsel in a couple of class action lawsuits, so we’ve used that as a way to communicate to potential class members about our involvement in those cases, “ she said. “In terms of direct clients that found us on Facebook and then contacted us, I don’t know that we’ve experienced that as much. I think it’s starting but it’s not there yet.” However, there is another aspect to consider. In the past, Peters said, she has given presentations about the dangers of sites such as Twitter. In those presentations she discusses the importance of remaining professional even in the relaxed world of social media. She also covers the possibilities of employees posting trade secrets of violating attorney-client confidentiality rules.
“Our handbook does address posting on social media sites, in particular ethically, we would be bound not to be communicating client privileged information.” Peters also warned that social media including Twitter can create some complications that more traditional ways of communicating did not. She said attorneys’ discussions with potential clients should be closely monitored.
“I think social media being a little more loose, could make it more difficult to determine whether an attorney-client relationship had been established and if so, when, and if it was, what our obligations as attorneys were to the client,” Peters said. The need to self monitor on Twitter and Facebook is particularly important for students hoping to enter the legal field. In her presentation, Peters notes that bar examiners in Florida already have started looking at applicants social media accounts.
Amy Koorn chair for the Columbus Bar Association’s Board of Admissions, said “Columbus does not regularly review applicants’ web pages, but that it’s not off limits.” “Nobody is out to unearth a complete biography on this individual but if there are red flags along the way and reasons to think that Facebook would give some answers, yeah, we’d go there,” Koorn said. She also said the admissions processes is thorough, so it wouldn’t always be a web page profile that causes someone’s application to be accepted or rejected. “Your character is your character whether you put it out there or not. “