Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. is now the new legal contributor to Banker and Tradesman’s Law of the Land column. His first article, New Trends Emerging In Short Sale Legal Transactions, was published on Feb. 6, 2012.

New Trends Emerging In Mass. Short Sale Transactions, Richard D. Vetstein Feature Article in Banker & Trade…

Client, Facebook friend – or both?
by Sylvia Hsieh
Dolan Media Newswiresfacebook_logo

BOSTON, MA — As more lawyers create personal Facebook pages, the decision about whether to include clients as “friends” is just a click away.

Many younger, social media-loving lawyers advocate friending as many people as possible to grow your online presence. They see nothing wrong with including clients on a personal Facebook page.

Richard Vetstein, a real estate lawyer in Framingham, Mass., counts up to 30 of his clients as Facebook friends.

“Most of my clients I consider my friends. I don’t see a big issue with it,” said Vetstein.

But pre-GenX attorneys, some of whom may still be wondering when “friend” became a verb, are more cautious about mixing their professional and personal lives.

Traci Capistrant, a family law attorney at Capistrant & Wong in Minneapolis, Minn., declines friend requests from clients on her personal page.

“The reality is I don’t necessarily want them to see all my personal information, nor do I want to see theirs,” she said.

For lawyers like Capistrant, the networking benefits are outweighed by various ethical issues, including security and overly-personal interaction with others, such as opposing counsel.

A Florida ethics opinion recently advised judges to “de-friend” attorneys who appeared before them because it gave the appearance of bias.

Getting friendly…

Showing clients a glimpse of your personal life can make them more comfortable with you and expand your network to draw in potential new clients.

David Barrett, a practicing litigator in Boston who also coaches lawyers on using social media, encourages lawyers to use Facebook strictly as a networking tool.

Solos and small firms with few marketing dollars have used Facebook to level the playing field against larger competitors.

Vetstein, for example, has generated business from Facebook “friends”: one whose sister had a dispute over a purchase and sale agreement and another who became a client after striking up a conversation about the Boston Celtics.

However, just as you may cement your rapport with clients on Facebook by finding common interests, you may just as easily turn them off.

“On Facebook you are more likely to reveal your personal ideologies because of information-sharing, discussions or joining certain groups. It can ruffle a client’s feathers,” said Barrett.

Even if your clients overlook your political associations, they are less likely to forgive fraternizing with opposing counsel if they can see that you are “friends” with the other side’s attorney.

“If my client can see that I’m chummy with the other side, he or she may think, ‘Can you really be tough when you’re clearly buddies with the other attorney?'” said Capistrant.

One option is to categorize friends into those who can see your personal information and those who can’t.

Capistrant chose to use another method. She built a page for her firm in addition to her personal Facebook page so that she could keep clients separate from her family and friends.

“When a client tries to friend me on my personal page, I decline and then invite them to my firm page,” she said.

However, there are some downsides to creating a Facebook page for your firm.

Because Facebook prohibits duplicate pages for the same person, a lawyer who wants to have a business presence must create a separate entity page, which arguably defeats the purpose of showing your personal side.

You are also not able to connect with new people whom you do not already know, because you cannot invite friends to visit your business page through the Facebook platform; instead you must send an e-mail to invite someone to become a “fan.”

An advantage to having clients as Facebook friends is monitoring how they are using the site.

Barrett once noticed on Facebook that a client he was representing in a custody case was a member of a Bob Marley fan club that had a marijuana leaf as its logo.

“I’m like, ‘You [have to] take those off your Facebook page.’ It could have been used as evidence at least by giving the appearance of drug use. So clients can benefit [from friending their lawyers,] too,” said Barrett.

…But not too friendly

Even Facebook enthusiasts who friend their clients say they would never, ever communicate with clients through Facebook.

When Vetstein gets a message on Facebook from a client, he tells him or her to contact him through e-mail or by phone.

“I just don’t trust the security,” said Vetstein.

Weak security is just one risk. In addition, Facebook communications are not your property and arguably no longer privileged.

“You don’t own the platform. Facebook owns the content that’s on there. Do you want Facebook to own your attorney-client communications?” asked Gina Rubel, a former trial attorney and owner of Furia Rubel Communications, which advises lawyers on public relations.

Lawyers should also be careful about the content they post to their Facebook page.

For example, publishing a big win in a case violates some state ethics rules, because clients who see the posting can be misled into thinking that a win implies future performance, Rubel noted.

Another thing that could mislead a client straight to the ethics board is if he sees his lawyer spending more time on Facebook than on his case.

“You can see when other friends are on Facebook, so if you have clients who feel you’re not attending to their matters quickly enough … it would hurt your argument that you don’t have time for their legal case,” said Barrett.

Although there is an option to appear “offline,” many lawyers are not paying attention to their settings, said Barrett, who should know, as his 3,500 Facebook friends include about 3,200 lawyers.

Lawyers may also not be aware that certain games on Facebook, like the popular Mafia Wars and Farmville, make automatic postings on your wall and in your news feed.

For a lawyer trying to maintain a professional image, it can look ridiculous to ask friends to join your Mafia group or to announce that you’ve completed some advanced level on Farmville, said Barrett.

From Powersiteblog.com:

FRAMINGHAM, Mass., Nov. 27 (PRNewswire) — Only four months old, the Massachusetts Real Estate Law Blog created by Metrowest Massachusetts real estate attorney Richard D. Vetstein has quickly become the highest ranking legal blog in Massachusetts according to Avvo.com and Alexa.com rankings. The blog has proven very popular to home buyers, sellers, consumers, realtors and lenders due to its easy to read articles on timely topics affecting Massachusetts and national real estate law.

MA Real Estate Law Blog

Attorney Richard D. Vetstein, a Framingham, Massachusetts based real estate lawyer and founder of the Vetstein Law Group, P.C., set out to launch the first ever legal blog dedicated solely to Massachusetts real estate law. Through the blog, Attorney Vetstein offers timely legal commentary, updates and checklists to help consumers navigate the intricacies of Massachusetts real estate law. Recent popular posts include:

  • The Catch-22 Impact Of New Fannie Mae Condominium Lending Regulations
  • There’s Nothing “Standard” About The Massachusetts Standard Purchase And Sales Agreement
  • New Stricter FHA Condominium Lending Regulations and Guidelines Sure To Slow Financing And Chill Sales
  • Massachusetts Land Court’s Ibanez Decision Invalidates Thousands Of Foreclosures
  • Richard D. Vetstein

    Richard D. Vetstein

    Attorney Richard Vetstein’s blogging follows a greater trend of attorneys using blogs as a key component to their business development and marketing efforts. “I truly enjoy blogging. It helps me become a thought leader and expert on the latest trends in real estate law. Plus, as the founder partner of a small law firm, blogging is an incredibly cost-efficient tool for business development and marketing,” said Vetstein. “In the legal services industry, blogging is a win-win for the attorney and the consumer. People get access to basic legal information without charge, and good lawyers further enhance their reputations and hone their writing and analytical skills,” Vetstein adds.About Richard D. Vetstein and the Vetstein Law Group, P.C.

    The Vetstein Law Group, P.C. is a law firm based in Framingham, MA, servicing clients in real estate, real estate and business litigation, construction, condominium, and zoning law. Richard D. Vetstein, Esq., the Firm’s Founding Partner, is an avid blogger and proponent of Web 2.0 technology for business development and marketing. Richard Vetstein is also a contributing blogger on the Real Estate Now Blog of Boston.com. Mr. Vetstein can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

    Lawyers USA recently quoted Richard Vetstein in an article on social media for lawyers:

    Various social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, have attracted a dedicated following among small firm and solo lawyers trying to market themselves.

    Many jumped on the bandwagon out of curiosity, peer pressure or love of technology.

    But others are wasting their time without even knowing it.

    The reason: most lawyers have not developed a coherent strategy for using social media.

    Here are five questions lawyers should ask themselves about their social media strategy:

    Are you ready for it?

    Some law firms are not ready to engage in social media. And not every social media tool is for every lawyer.

    If you hate to write, don’t start a blog. If you think communicating in 140 characters or less is inane, don’t tweet.

    Other social media tools, like LinkedIn, Avvo or YouTube, may be more your style.

    Only after you have an overall marketing plan in place will social media be effective.

    “Social media should not be #1 on your marketing plan. Social media has its place – keep it in its place,” said Stephen Fairley of the Rainmaker Institute in Gilbert, Ariz.

    Ranking above social media are referrals from clients and other professionals, speaking at seminars and optimizing your website, he said.

    “For our clients who say they’ve already gotten all that in place, social media can add a whole new dimension,” Fairley said.

    Who are you talking to?

    If you haven’t identified your target audience, namely referral sources and potential clients, you are probably spending valuable time with the wrong crowd.

    “I know law firms that are putting out great stuff, but the problem is the people who follow them are not the people they want. … Having 5,000 followers if 4,999 are the wrong people is pretty pointless,” said Cordell Parvin, a law firm consultant in Dallas.

    Also, your target audience may be narrower than your practice.

    For example, Richard Vetstein, a recently gone-solo real estate attorney in Framingham, Mass., created the Massachusetts Real Estate Law Blog to fill a void he saw, even though his practice is more general.

    “You can’t be all things to all people. I only let people into my network that fit within my target audience,” said Vetstein, who said he had a concerted marketing plan that included various social media when he went solo less than six months ago.

    What are you saying?

    Once you establish who you’re talking to, your content should be tailored to your target audience and focus on giving value to them by answering questions, sharing a news article or making a referral.

    A mistake is using soft- marketing social media for the hard-sell.

    Because social media are all about building relationships, users will be turned off and tune out on those who use it “as a selling tool and not a helping tool,” said Parvin.

    Is everything integrated?

    Even if you are using every social media tool, if they’re not working together then you’re not getting the most out of them.

    One of the simplest ways of doing this is to include a link to all of your web tools on your business card and in the signature line of your e-mail.

    Richard Vetstein, the real estate attorney, has garnered one of the largest fan followings on Facebook (over 600) in part by integrating his blog posts with his Facebook page and giving his blog subscribers an e-mail newsletter that also includes his Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages in the signature.

    His marketing plan also integrates new media tools with traditional marketing, such as Chamber of Commerce events where he passes out his business card with his blog address on it.

    He says he receives five to 10 inquiries per week and one to two new matters per week from his blog and website.

    Are you succeeding?

    Although social media tools have great tracking data on exactly how many people clicked on your link in Twitter or video on YouTube, it can be difficult to correlate that data directly to new business.

    “The whole [idea] is to build a bigger herd, a bigger following, a bigger platform,” said Fairley.

    But he added that a concrete goal of social media is to drive people to your website or blog where they then sign up for a newsletter or free special report, and provide their contact information with permission to market to them further.

    Vetstein says that as long as he does not sink too much time (he spends an hour per blog post) into social media, it’s worth the low cost.

    “The big question is whether this is really going to drive us business. The jury is still out,” he said.

    Richard D. Vetstein, Esq.

    FRAMINGHAM, Mass., Aug. 3 /PRNewswire/ — Joining the growing number of attorneys successfully blogging on the Internet, Attorney Richard D. Vetstein of the Vetstein Law Group, P.C. was recently selected as a contributing blogger for Boston.com’s Real Estate Now Blog (http://www.boston.com/realestate/news/blogs/renow/).

    Richard D. Vetstein, the creator of the Massachusetts Real Estate Law Blog (http://massrealestatelawblog.com), will be blogging weekly for Boston.com about hot topics in Massachusetts real estate law, including landlord-tenant, home improvement contracts, buying and selling real estate, and condominiums. Mr. Vetstein’s selection as a legal blogger reflects a greater trend of attorneys using blogs as a key component to their business development and marketing efforts.

    “I’m very excited to join the discussion on Boston.com and provide knowledgeable legal commentary about Boston’s other spectator sport-real estate,” said Richard Vetstein, Founding Partner of the Vetstein Law Group, P.C. “For attorneys, blogging is a win-win for businesses and the public. People get access to legal information (for free) and good lawyers further enhance their reputations and hone their writing and analytical skills. As an attorney, blogging is a natural extension of what most lawyers do very well–write, analyze, and explain complicated legal problems in plain English.”

    The Real Estate Now Blog of Boston.com, the internet arm of the Boston Globe newspaper, provides daily commentary about the Massachusetts and Greater Boston real estate market. Popular categories include brokers, building and repairing, city living, investment and development, suburbs, legal issues, mortgages and rentals. The principal authors of the blog are Scott Van Voorhis, a free lance writer specializing in real estate and business, and Rona Fischman, a real estate buyer’s broker. The blog attracts frequent and lively comments from Boston.com readers on the real estate issue of the day.bostonRealEstate

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