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Date Archives: March 2010

Foursquare as Promotional Tool for Law Business

Foursquare may, indeed, be the next Twitter internet-phenom, with users creeping into seven figures and the number of check-ins getting over 20 million, well, ridiculous  (we broke ground on Foursquare in this February 2010 post).  Still a doubter?  Well, expect more articles and coverage about Foursquare, like this New York Times article.  Tech-heads, meanwhile, exclaim that its going to change the world.  So its good to keep an eye on it for use in legal cases, marketing or even a little fun.

While Yelp appears to have greater business functionality, Yelp has the edge on the “fun” aspect although the community-feel isn’t as solid as Yelp (we’re viewing the perky Gowalla as a third alternative, dwindling into a falling third place).

Foursquare is maneuvering and should be watched as a viable dominate force in this location-based trend.  Business Insider put together this piece on “How to Use Foursquare to Boost Retail Sales.”  Admittedly, the article and app is still directed at retail and consumer business but services, like law firms, are clearly around the corner.  To wit, check out BI’s thirteen step recommendations as to how business owners can use Foursquare.

Websites which integrate Foursquare are popping up.  Checkout 4SquareOffers.com, which allows you to see what businesses are offering deals for Foursquare users based upon your location.  Bing Maps is reportedly going to start sprinkling its maps with 4SQ commentary.

Are you a Foursquare fan?  Check out “Christopher H” in West Palm Beach and do a friend request.  If you are curious how to unlock the remaining badges, look no further than…. here.

Woes of Legal Blogs

Former legal blogger, Mark Herrmann, may be the smartest law blogger.  Because he’s a former law blogger.  Obviously, I do this voluntarily so there’s not too much complaining which would be well received.  I liken the feeling to people who own boats and exclaim that the best days for a boat owner are only the day you buy the boat and the day you sell it.  If you are thinking about blogging, give thought to the following.

Herrmann wrote an article, “Memoirs of a Blogger,” where he puts the postscript on his involvement in a fairly large legal blog.  In the piece, he discusses the various blind spots which existed and plagued him as a law blogger.

What resoundingly comes across is the fact that blogging turns casual law reading into a hunt.  As he puts it, you no longer “gently” keep abreast of your area of practice.  You hunt down material.  What he does not mention is the “so what” factor — how do I know that I am not simply wasting time and having this go out into the ether?  Does it really matter if I only do one post this week?

Herrmann also did not face any backlash in his firm for writing a blog.  I think a lot of lawyers do.  First, he co-wrote his blog with a lawyer… from another firm.  He did not mention that anyone in his firm had a problem with that — but firms are jealous things.  In a lot of firms, co-working with another law firm beyond “co-counsel” on a case can easily launch whispered questions of disloyalty.

Consider this second scenario: the blogger writes something that a client doesn’t like, another lawyer in the firm doesn’t like or something that gets used against the firm in a case.  Stack a blogger’s interest in a silly little blog against any of those situations… and the blog loses.  In a split second, years of hunting material and designing a site goes down the drain.

Third scenario: no one in your own firm even knows your blog exists.  For that, you have to simply love the hunting and writing.  Over time, that should solve itself.

Fourth scenario: lawyers in the firm don’t get it and don’t like the individuality.  Herrmann refers to this as the cult of personality but, realistically, I don’t see blogs in that kind of hipster light.  This can be the most pernicious of all of the foregoing scenarios since it undermines your actual, human working relationships.  A blogger may knowingly or unknowingly pick the wrong choice.

The Case of the Yellow Hat: Judge Can Use Google to Take Judicial Notice

It is difficult to determine if there is some precedent in the Second District’s U.S. v. Anthony Bari case relative to whether a judge can take judicial notice of a fact by Googling the issue. But, at least according to the federal court, we should “expect to see more judges doing just that.”

The defendant had been on supervised release after serving time for bank robbery when, alas, he allegedly robbed another bank. At the hearing on the revocation of supervised release, the court heard evidence tending to prove that the defendant robbed the second bank. The most damning evidence was that the bank’s surveillance video showed the robber wearing a yellow rain hat which looked a lot like the one which the defendant had at home. The judge noted that there are lots of different types of rain hats and it was “too much of a coincidence” that the defendant had the same type. To underscore that point, the judge acknowledged that he had Googled yellow rain hats and confirmed that “there are lots of different rain hats.”

The defendant’s release was revoked and he appealed, claiming that the court violated Federal Rule of Evidence 605, namely that the judge cannot “testify” about a fact. The government responded that the court was merely taking judicial notice of a commonly known fact under Rule of Evidence 201.

There is an interesting footnote as to whether a strict interpretation of FRE 605 might devour judicial notice under FRE 201, but without taking evidence rules to extremes, the court concluded that the judge’s use of Google to establish that “there are lots of different rain hats” was proper. Indeed, the court approved Google-confirming because, “as broadband speeds increase and Internet search engines improve, the cost of confirming one’s intuition decreases” (an odd statement, since even a Yahoo search in 1995 on dial-up would likely give you more or less the same results – connectivity and search engine optimization are really not the driving forces here). In short, at least in these types of hearings, judges may perform Google searches to confirm matters of common knowledge.

Is There Really a “Free” Credit Report?

Yes, believe it or not.creditreportgraphic

You’ve probably seen the commercials for LifeLock, the company where the president was publishing his own social security number to show how safe their $100/year identity theft program could be.  Sounded great until they had to settle with the FTC for $12 million for alleged deceptive advertising.

Then there’s FreeCreditReport.com.  Great commercials on tv.  Ah, but there’s a fee to sign up and then you need to cancel to avoid paying $15.  If I’m handing over personal information to confirm there has not been any funny business with my credit, this sign-up-and-then-cancel routine is not the way I want to begin.

You can obtain a free “credit disclosure” (or credit report) once a year from the three major credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the FACT Act.

So, yes, it is true, federal law allows you to obtain your credit report every year.  The FTC’s website explains the situation here and here.

So can you get your report… online… instantly?  Yes.  Go to AnnualCreditReport.com and start the process.  You can run all three credit reports at once or, if you are suspicious about monthly activity, you can run one at a time and stagger it out over the period of a year.  If you are concerned about using a website for this, you can mail or call it in — note, the FTC’s website references using this AnnualCreditReport.com, if that increases your confidence.

I pulled all three reports in about 5 minutes.  Anecdotally, it looks like Equifax is the most comprehensive.

Note: you have to pay to get your “credit score.”  That’s not free.