Social Media for LitigationWhite Paper
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A vast majority of Americans use social media. As a legal professional, its critical to know how to leverage social data for litigation and client work. In the past decade, social media has moved from novel to normal. Today, having a Facebook account is nearly as standard as having a phone number, and the amount of popular networking platforms (e.g. Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn) continues to rise. Many individuals share information freely and have an online existence that directly represents their physical existence.
Savvy legal firms use social media to monitor their cases, clients and employees. In fact, social media is considered so useful that its now considered irresponsible to overlook social media in a case.
Despite social medias popularity, accessing and organizing meaningful social data isnt always as easy as it seems. This paper provides tips, insights and tools that will help you better understand social media and how it can transform your legal practice.
Source: The Pew Internet and American Life Project
Who Uses Social Media?
94% of 18 to 34-year-olds
88% of 30 to 49-year-olds
79% of 56 to 64-year-olds
50% of 65+
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Social media investigations are an essential part of many legal cases.
Recently, smiAware examined 406 legal investigations from 2012 in which social media was crucial to the case. Of those 406 cases, 197 used evidence from Facebook, 89 used MySpace, 31 used Twitter, 39 used LinkedIn, and 50 cases used other social media networks.
Facebook MySpace Twitter LinkedIn Other
People everywhere openly embrace a lifestyle that enables social networks track their location, relationships, daily activities, emotions and more. With a few simple tools and processes, accessing, managing and leveraging this powerful data is easy.
Uncover instant evidence and monitor long-term cases.
Immediate applications: Information found on social media often provides the golden ticket immediately applicable evidence. From fraud and threat management to workers compensation and civil cases, social media gives you a valuable edge.
Ongoing investigations: Social media is an excellent tool for continual monitoring and evaluation. It enables you to keep tabs on everything from common whereabouts to interests and relationships.
Cases that Used Evidence from Social Networks
Leading Fields of Law for Application of Social Media and Web Information Civil Rights Class Action Criminal eDiscovery Family Labor & Employment Personal Injury Tax
Total Cases: 406
Current and future locations
Lifestyle and interests
Music and movie tastes
Frame of mind
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Discover location, relationships and more.
Social media is home to a wealth of personal, community-oriented and corporate information. For individuals, this includes:
Case Study: Successful Fraud Investigation
Case Study: Social Media Reveals the Truth
Case Study: Witness Identification
Know what youre getting into: investigate potential and current clients.
smiAware recently helped investigate a man receiving workers compensation. He claimed to have a severely injured back that kept him from working. Very quickly, we were able able to locate the subjects YouTube account, which contained three videos of him snowboarding unimpaired during the time he claimed he was injured.
In Cajamarca v. Regal Entertainment Group, the prosecution in a sexual harassment case failed to research his clients Facebook page, which revealed clear evidence that her claims were a fabrication. The client claimed she was in a vegetative state due to PTSD directly resulting from the sexual harassment of her boss; however, they were in fact having many online conversations at the time, some of sexual nature. Social media also revealed that the client was traveling and engaging in an extraordinarily active social life during the time that she claimed to be bedridden. A brief examination of the clients social networks would have saved the prosecution of lot of time and embarrassment.
One of our law firm clients used social media to identify people surrounding a person under investigation. Social media provided them with the information they needed to generate a report with a list of contacts. From there, they identified people who were in a position to give valuable testimony, ultimately leading to a subpoena.
Mary Dunnewold, a legal writing instructor at Hamline University School of law, argues that law firms have an ethical responsibility to use the Internet especially social media to inform all aspects of their work:
Lawyers should consider using social media such as Facebook and basic Google searching to screen clients before agreeing to representation. Screening clients this way may be especially important in domestic cases, some criminal cases, and other cases that potentially involve personal information about clients.*
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Tap into your competitors marketing tactics.
Gain the insight you need for witness evaluation and discovery.
Be confident in pre- and post-employment investigations.
For law firms, attracting new clients is key. More and more firms are using online marketing tactics to successfully attract customers. As a competitive intelligence and analysis weapon, social media can help you understand what your competitors are doing to attract business.
With the right tools, trends in marketing, geographic reach and more are easy to unveil and understand. You need more than just a listening platform. Our automated system scours social media, the open Internet and the deep web for the exact information youre looking for. Custom algorithms and user settings enable you to tailor each search to your requirements.
Social media can provide great insight into witness character and credibility. For instance, many online conversations are unknowingly public or assumed to be anonymous because the witness uses a screen name instead of real name. However, tracing this information and pinning it to the associated party is actually quite simple.
In todays highly competitive market, a law firms reputation is everything. Pre-employment screening is essential, and you cant overlook social media in the process. Ongoing monitoring of employees accounts, as well as post-employment monitoring to protect against unjust statements, is key to ensuring compliance. Kevin OKeefe, Lawyer, CEO and Publisher of LexBlog, Inc., stresses the importance of a simple social media policy for any firm, equating social media activity with public activities.
Case Study: Facebook Provides Proof
In Michael Paul Bradley vs. the State of Texas, Facebook evidence was used to identify assailants and other witnesses. One witness actually recognized Bradley on the street, located him on Facebook, and identified Bradley as the man he saw commit an act of robbery. This witness then sought out the detective on the case, emailing him the Facebook page and a picture of Bradley holding two pistols.
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Streamline the process of jury selection and monitoring.
Monitor the court of public opinion.
As explained in the book Social Media as Evidence: Cases, Practice Pointers and Techniques (LPM Publishing), there is precedent for attorneys investigating the social media profiles of potential jurors in the courtroom. It is suggested that:
Social media can help identify an entire geographic regions prevailing attitudes on certain issues that pertain to a case (especially prior to a high-profile case). Its also beneficial to follow public trials on social media for insights and public opinions.
Case Study: Social Listening Pays Off
Case Study: Getting Involved for New Insight
The Casey Anthony trial used social listening, a tactic that involves screening tens of thousands of social media posts to construct daily reports. Investigators were hired by Casey Anthonys defense to monitor the publics opinion during the trial. As a result, the defense was able to assess the reaction of the public to their witnesses and arguments as the trial went on. Additionally, they were able to indirectly monitor the opinion of the jury and identify issues that they had to address with the jury. The case went well for the defense.
The State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman trial monitored social media closely. Stakeholders actually created their own Facebook pages and blogs to participate with the public and evaluate public opinion.
All members of jury should have their social media monitored during trial to see if they mention the case, show bias, resent jury duty, etc.
Social media helps to identify jury members character with greater insight than an interview (e.g., determine if they harbor strong opinions concerning a culture or occupation, or if they have a history of abuse, emotional instability, political bias, etc.)
Saves time and frustration
How can SMI help?
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Finds, analyzes and aggregates information:
Social media is an incredibly powerful tool for law firms, but it requires discretion and up-to-date knowledge. To help firms get more from social media, smiAware:
smiAwares proprietary technology automates the search process. After inputting desired information, our software scrapes thousands of sites, deter-mines relevant results and delivers information to you in a coherent, easy-to-read format that you can export as a branded report to your clients.
Dont waste time being a professional Googler smiAware uses a unique hybrid model where human research capabilities complement technological advancements, expediting the legal research process.
Our proprietary software saves 60-70% of the time youd spend manually searching for information, as well as 80-90% of the time youd spend screen capturing, date-time stamping and creating reports
No cyber investigation expertise required you dont need to train staff on constantly changing open-Internet and social media search methods
Reputable open Internet courses cost as much as $400 for only 2 days of training; smiAware offers much deeper capabilities and insights
Create and download reports quickly and easily
Less time researching internally translates to client savings.
Example: Using paralegals at $150/hr to spend 1-3 hours per day searching social media and the web for workers compensation cases can amount to $1,350 per case, per day; SMI is much more cost effective.
Saves you money
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2014, Social Media Information. All Rights Reserved.
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