Legal assistance for online video marketing and other professionals is becoming increasingly important in our litigious society. So why are most attorneys and law firms still resistant to publicly sharing legal information with online video? Entertainment law and new media attorney Gordon P. Firemark addresses these concerns, and explains why there are more forward-thinking lawyers like him that are bucking the trend.
My Interview with Gordon P. Firemark, Entertainment and New Media Attorney
DISCLAIMER: The following information is for the purposes of general information only, and is not to be construed as, or substituted for, legal advice. For that we strongly recommend you contact an attorney!
Gordon was generous enough to provide me with this custom introduction video on how he got started with doing online video and how it's now a regular part of educating the public at-large on legal issues with new media and entertainment law.
Attorney Gordon P. Firemark is one of the most active lawyers I've come across online for sharing legal information while maintaining a private practice. Here's some of the ways he's doing just that:
- Author of the digital book, The Podcast, Blog, & New Media Producer's Legal Survival Guide.
- Hosts the Entertainment Law Update Podcast, a free monthly audio roundup of legal news in the entertainment field. (Formerly he was the host of "The Law and Video" podcast which ran from 2007 – 2009, and is still available for free listening on iTunes)
- A weekly e-Newsletter on Entertainment Law, which provides news legal updates and events for professionals in new media, film, television, and theatre
- His own Entertainment Law Information YouTube channel, featuring questions he answers from his audience, on video
- His own Vimeo channel featuring free copies of his past presentations on video
- His own educational courses and "legal bootcamp" (a one-time fee), and;
- His own Facebook page and Twitter feed. (Twitter feeds are a great way for lawyers to provide legal updates with links.)
Other attorneys can get Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits just for listening to his free podcasts anywhere they like; and non-legal professionals like myself can really get an easy-to-follow basic legal education on the things that can affect their online video business.
So why is he so willing to give such good help for free, especially when most lawyers are still very reluctant to share information publicly? Gordon explained the legal industry's concerns coming down to 5 main excuses…
5 Excuses Why Most Lawyers Still Don't Share Legal Information Publicly (and Avoid Educating The Public with Online Video)
1. Malpractice concerns: Gordon says that lawyers (and their insurance companies) are concerned that offering "advice" online could lead to a claim by a casual reader that the lawyer 'represented' or 'advised' him, and that after relying on that advice, the reader lost a case, sustained damages, or whatever. "So, to err on the side of caution, many lawyers choose not to engage in anything that might remotely be construed as advice." he says.
2. Attorney advertising rules: Gordon explained that each state regulates this differently, and that some have suggested that a blog is a form of attorney advertising; and that content containing advice might even constitute 'unauthorized practice of law', by an attorney not licensed in that State, and therefore subject to prosecution.
3. Dignity concerns: "Many attorneys feel that blogs, video and other forms of 'advertising' are undignified." says Gordon.
4. Size: Big law firms are slow to adopt new technologies and marketing media. "They've got concerns about consistency of message, multi-state regulations, etcetera,…" says Gordon.
5. Fear: Most attorneys are still afraid that if they give away their knowledge, "many potential customers/clients will not be willing to pay them for advise, counsel, and representation." Says Gordon.
5 Good Reasons For How Lawyers Can Share Legal Information Publicly (with Video)
Gordon shared more with me on his own reasons for helping out the public and client prospects with legal information, and using online video to do it:
1. SEO value. "Lots of new, relevant content using likely search terms brings consumer attention to my site." he says.
2. There's no real malpractice issue: "I don't provide specific legal advice, and I'm careful to disclaim any attorney-client relationship." says Gordon. "Whether this will work or not is a bit of a gray area, but I think common-sense will prevail. My approach is to answer questions in generalities, and to write articles as I would for any publication… speaking in general terms, and being cautious to remind readers that custom-tailored legal advice is required, and they shouldn't rely on my posts as definitive. Also, I believe that publishing content is a form of First-Amendment protected expression, (Free Speech/Press).”
3. The dignity concerns are bunk. "If you're not visible and providing useful content, you can't attract the attention of potential clients, or referral sources." he says. "It's possible to do Internet stuff without being sleazy. What's undignified is struggling to market a law practice using only 'old' media, and failing, going broke, or whatever.”
4. Gain trust with your audience. Gordon says video is an important medium in building trust, and provides the feeling of a one-on-one connection. "By providing lots of information, and speaking in my authentic voice, I allow my readers/viewers to get to know, like and trust me. People hire professionals whom they know, like and trust. Coincidence? I think not.”
5. Smaller size allows for pushing media out more quickly. "Smaller firms (like mine) are more easily able to adopt new technologies, and take advantage of new opportunities." says Gordon.
"Finally, I'm a geek. I come from a TV production background, and work in the entertainment/media field, so I'm predisposed to using media myself, and my clients tend to be interested in that kind of thing. Some types of practice might not do so well using the same methods." says Gordon.
Gordon is one of the reasons I've been committed to working with attorneys who actually participate with online video and digital media, and are passionate about educating others in the space. Isn't it time you gave yourself a legal video education?
About Gordon P. Firemark, Entertainment Law and New Media Attorney
Attorney Gordon P. Firemark represents artists, authors, producers and others in the fields of theatre, film, television, music and new media. He is very committed to helping entertainment industry professionals and entrepreneurs achieve their goals with a better understanding of the legal issues that may affect them.
In addition to his practice, Mr. Firemark is a professor of business law at Loyola Marymount University and Theatre Law at Southwestern University School of Law. He is the host and producer of the Entertainment Law Update Podcast. A theatrical producer himself, he is also the author of the soon-to-be-published Theatre Producer's Legal Survival Manual.
Gordon's upcoming workshop, "Legal Perils, Pitfalls and Traps” will be taking place July 19th in Hollywod, CA as part of The Academy for New Musical Theatre's "Boot Camp.”