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August 5, 2009

Online is Forever: Managing Your Web Rep

When a panel of experts knowledgeable in the various forms of online communication discussed social media at the 2009 ABA Annual Meeting, they made two main points:  the first, that individuals need to manage their online reputations; the second was online is forever.

Sponsored by the Section of Litigation, the session – Social Networks, “Blawgs,” and Podcasts: Business Development Tools for the Internet Age – featured panelists Ross Fishman, who owns a marketing company based in Highland Part, Ill.; Mazyar Hedayat, a bankruptcy lawyer from Bolingbrook, Ill., and Peter Glowacki, former director of the ABA Center for CLE and now in-house training director for a major law firm in Chicago. Kim R. Jessum of Philadelphia served as panel moderator.

Fishman got right to the point, asking how many in the audience Googled themselves.  “You should,” he said.  “What you’ve done and written speaks about you. Google yourself, see what’s out there and learn to raise your profile,” he said.

Peter Glowacki suggested adding podcasts to a professional Web site, saying “It’s another way to extend ourselves to our clients.  Podcasts, which give clients an opportunity to hear lawyers present, add credibility to a lawyer’s professional reputation.”

Mazyar Hedayat said that today people turn to the Web when they want to find out about the best schools in a community, how to do household repairs and how to find a plumber or a lawyer. He said he uses his blog for client development.

“Search engines like blogs,” he said.  Blogs are Web postings that provide information or commentary on specific topics.  Some people when researching a topic will use an RSS feeder that delivers blogs on specific topics to an inbox.

When it comes to online communication, all three panelists cautioned that online is forever. “Whatever you put online becomes your digital DNA,” said Hedayat.  “Even if you have changed a document, you cannot know if someone saw and saved the original version.  There is even a site – Archive.org – that contains old versions of virtually every site.”

Glowacki reminded the audience that all the rules of communicating with colleagues and clients still apply.

Fishman said the casual nature of the Web gives people a false sense of security.  “On the Web, there is no first draft.  There is nothing to slow us down.  It’s a new world. 

“Be careful out there.”

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