Nailing social media: Advice on how to do it well.

Byline: Erika Strebel,

The partners in charge of Urban & Taylor S.C. decided about seven years ago to call it quits on updates of the Milwaukee firm's Facebook and Twitter pages.

Jay Urban, a partner at the personal-injury firm, found in the end that maintaining a Facebook page for the office was of very little benefit.

"You could do light-hearted things," he said, "but it just didn't resonate with the Facebook crowd."

But that doesn't mean Urban has ceased turning to social media in his attempts to bring in clients.

Now, though, he tends to use his personal Facebook account, which can only be viewed by friends. Urban said he tries to avoid directly promoting the firm or himself as a lawyer.

He instead turns to the social-networking site as a way to drum up referrals. Helping him toward that end are his more than 1,000 friends, who include judges, other lawyers and clients.

Urban said he has found that social media is best used as a means of showing others one's ethical values and of establishing personal connections. Such connections can be made simply by showing a genuine interest in the lives of his Facebook friends. Some clients come to him after seeing a witty comment he had put up or after reading a post written to take a stance on a particular issue, he said.

"It's more like sending out information about what belief system you have as a professional, whether you are (for) victim's right or taking care of the elderly," Urban said. New platforms, old rules But social media can also prove treacherous in various ways, from creating liability where none had existed before to providing an easy opportunity to break advertising rules set by the Supreme Court.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has yet to sanction a lawyer over the improper use of social medial. Other states' high courts have done so, though, said Dean Dietrich, an ethics expert at the Ruder Ware law firm who frequently represents attorneys in disciplinary cases.

Large law firms and companies usually have guidelines that help lawyers and their colleagues avoid improper uses of social media. Attorneys at smaller places, though, can find that they are on their own when trying to make sure their conduct on social media doesn't result in a call from the Office of Lawyer Regulation. Two rules to rule them all The American Bar Association has no formal guidelines for conduct on social media. And the Supreme Court's Rules of Professional Conduct make no...

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