Lawyers: There’s an App for That

Both law students and practicing attorneys will tell you the best way to get employment or clients is either networking or referrals. This week, they may have to add a third option: an app.

Jammed Up is currently a website that will be launching soon for IPhone, Android and Blackberry.  Its slogan is “When trouble finds you, you find us!” The site positions itself as a way to easily find a lawyer if you are arrested, merely scroll through the app or website and select one. There are currently 200,000 lawyer listings nationwide, and the site also includes listings for bail bondsmen and private investigators.


The website and future app was co-founded by a bail bondsman and a cement flooring contractor from the Bronx. Michael Falzono, one of the founders, stated they are trying to “be an urban legal website for the everyday person.”


Lawyers are bound by ethical rules of professional responsibility. One of the major rules concerns solicitation. The American Bar Associations’ Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.3 states, in relevant part:


“(a)  A lawyer shall not by in‑person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact solicit professional employment when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain, unless the person contacted:

(1)  is a lawyer; or

(2)  has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer.”


As stated above, referrals from previous clients or friends and family have been the norm for lawyers. Jammed Up, however, seeks to change that. It seems the app and its legal listings come into direct conflict with Rule 7.3, which serves as a model rule to most of the 50 states ethical rules. I would argue being listed on the app could equate to electronic contact for solicitation e.g. Facebook messaging . Why else would you be listed on Jammed Up? However, there is an argument that since it would be prospective clients that would be reaching out to the attorneys, there is no solicitation.

Social media and mobile apps are a continuing trend that the ethical rules have not caught up with. While old laws may be adequate to prosecute new  crimes, the old ethical rules do not address emerging technology in a way that they should.

Source: New York Daily News

California Law Mandates Allowing Minors to Delete Social Media Posts

California has recently become the first state to enact a law requiring social media companies to give young users (under-18) the chance to delete regretful posts. Federal law lacks such a provision due mainly to the opposing argument that this would be too burdensome on social media companies. Many young social media users do not think before posting irresponsible, reputation-damaging words and pictures to the Internet. The “erase bill” was signed Monday by Governor Jerry Brown and comes into effect in January 2015.

The erase bill is lauded by many such as the founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, who stated, “[t]his puts privacy in the hands of kids, teenagers and the parents, not under the control of an anonymous tech company.” Senate leader Darrell Steinberg noted, “This is a groundbreaking protection for our kids who often act impetuously…before they think through the consequences. They deserve the right to remove this material that could haunt them for years to come.” The law also mandates that social media companies inform minors about their right to erase posts.

One blatant flaw in the legislation is that the law does not force the companies to remove the content completely from the servers. The posts thus survive in the vast cyber-sphere. However, allowing minors to retract ignorant statements and posts from the Internet seems to be a good start in the direction of future federal protection.

The article discussing this new legislation notes that pictures and posts discoverable online could ruin a young person’s ability to land a prestigious summer internship or even admittance into college. After all, employers and recruiters certainly Google young applicants, probably even before reading their applications.

The aim of this legislation is to get other states on board, and eventually to persuade Washington to construct binding law. As a graduate student without any social media, I never had to worry about the potential issues arising from regrettable social media posts. However, as we all make mistakes, especially in our teenage years, it seems appropriate to me that lawmakers would want to give minors the ability to right their wrongs in the days following such posts. I often regret words that come out of my mouth, let alone statements and/or photos that are memorialized on the Internet.

Do you think a young person’s future should be jeopardized for posting substance on the Internet that reflects a moment of their stupidity? We all undoubtedly must be held accountable for what we say, but shouldn’t minors get some leeway? Or, should schools and companies seeking to hire these minors be privy to the potential for such misconduct? I for one support this type of legislation. What do you think?


“Erase Law” News Article

Facebook and Envy

As one of the few people my age (twenty-four) without Facebook (or any social media), I found an article published in The Economist in August 2013 to be pretty stimulating. The article, entitled “Facebook is Bad for You: Get a Life” summarizes several studies indicating that those who use Facebook are more miserable in life. According to a study recently published by the Public Library of Science, “the more someone uses Facebook, the less satisfied he is with life.”

According to the article, past studies have found that using Facebook causes jealousy, social tension, isolation, and even depression. Dr. Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan and Dr. Philippe Verduyn of Leuven University in Belgium conducted a study where they tracked eighty-two ‘Facebookers’ for two weeks and evaluated their changes in emotion. The guinea pigs were all in their late teens or early twenties and agreed to have their Facebook activity and real life encounters monitored for two weeks, reporting five times a day on their state of mind via a short questionnaire. When researchers analyzed the results, it was determined that “the more a volunteer used Facebook in the period between two questionnaires, the worse he reported feeling the next time he filled in a questionnaire.” While those who used Facebook more frequently reported a decline in satisfaction, those who had more direct contact with others, via personal encounters or phone calls, were more positive. “In other words, the more volunteers socialized in the real world, the more positive they reported feeling the next time they filled in the questionnaire.” The results led the doctors to conclude that Facebook actually undermines one’s well-being.

The article also cites a past study conducted by social scientists in Germany who surveyed 584 Facebook users in their twenties. “They found that the most common emotion aroused by using Facebook is envy. Endlessly comparing themselves with peers who have doctored their photographs, amplified their achievements and plagiarized their bons mots can leave Facebook’s users more than a little green-eyed.” The study concluded that encountering people in real life is much more realistic and thus more rewarding.

When I first read this article, I was skeptical of the results of the studies. However, upon more reflection, I recalled numerous people I know who have been ‘brought down’ after seeing something on Facebook. This is not why I do not have Facebook. I choose not to have Facebook because I believe in privacy– I do not think it is anyone’s business to know what I am doing, but even more so, I do not think that anyone would care. That being said, I can appreciate the connections people maintain through social media and would never criticize users. To each his own.

This article does, however, make a lot of sense. Why would anyone want to expose themselves to potentially being less satisfied with life because of nonsense read on social media? On the other hand, are these studies merely blowing Facebook’s effects out of proportion? I would be interested to hear responses from Facebook users. I would assume (admittedly ignorantly) that if you are confident enough in yourself, Facebook cannot negatively impact your life. Thoughts?


The Economist

Social Media Privacy v. Regulation

How much access should employers and schools have over their employees and students? Bill L.D. 1194, currently pending in the Maine legislature, would restrict employers access to employees social media accounts, as well as the accounts of elementary, high school, and college students. The bill was originally introduced in March 2013 but was carried over into 2014.


One potential problem with this bill lies in the financial industry. The Financial Industry Regulation Authority (FINRA), an oversight group that licenses brokers and regulates the securities industry, requires securities firms to oversee their employees business communications, specifically including social media accounts. If, for instance, a securities broker messaged a client on Twitter or solicited clients via LinkedIN, the securities firm would be obligated under FINRA’s directives to record that communication. The goal of this is to maintain a regulated financial industry where no “secret” communications or deals are being commenced.


A securities industry trade group, the Securities Industry Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), has filed a letter with the Maine legislature asking them to write an exception into the law for securities companies to comply with FINRA and other regulatory directives. They believe that many employees use a personal social media account for both personal AND business related goals and that the employers must have access to those accounts. Illinois enacted a similar law this past summer, with exceptions for the broker-dealer employers


This shows FINRA and the securities brokers take social media accounts seriously and showcase how they play a role in the securities trade. It is a thin line between privacy and 1st amendment rights on one side, and the need to regulate an important industry in American economics. It is also interesting to note that without the exception,  the law in Maine may create an unbalanced securities industry and force brokers to choose between following FINRA directives and state law.

In this case, I believe the employee’s privacy is not something that should be expected. If using social media, it makes sense to create a personal account and a business account. The employer, however, must trust the employee is not using their personal account for business purposes.

Source: Bloomberg Law: Securities 

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