We have written previously about how law firms approach social media, but one voice that has been missing from the conversation is that of the client. How do general counsels view the use of social tools like blogging? To find out, I spoke with Dan Goldman of Mayo Clinic. Goldman has been actively involved in the development of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, where he has written about the intersection of healthcare law and social media. Today, Goldman is joining Sarah Feingold of Etsy at the Hildebrandt Institute’s June 20th Social & Digital Media for Law Firms conference in San Francisco, where they will share their thoughts on law firm social media, including best practices and how to grab clients’ attention. Our interview with Sarah Feingold is here.
How did you come to work for Mayo Clinic?
I started out as a commercial litigator in Chicago with Jenner & Block, practicing general commercial litigation. I then moved on to an IP boutique, Pattishall, MacAuliffe, where I concentrated in trademark and advertising law. After moving to Minnesota, I relocated to Mayo Clinic. Initially, I did trademark, marketing and copyright work. I work in a bunch of areas now, including privacy issues, HIPAA, e-health, virtual medicine, as well as general business issues. I was the head of Mayo’s business law group from 2004 to 2011.
What led to your professional interest in e-health and virtual medicine? Did it stem from a personal interest or did it just emerge from you existing practice?
It was an area that was becoming more important at Mayo, but it dovetailed with my interests in technology and emerging technology issues. It seemed like a good fit for me.
How did the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media come into being?
The Center for Social Media has been around for about a year, formally. It was an outgrowth in Mayo’s interest in being a leader in the healthcare community in social media… We view [social media] as an important healthcare tool, for a number of reasons. It’s a powerful way to deliver health information and create communities which are can help people manage their healthcare. It’s also a nice fit for Mayo, in terms of how our brand has been built over the years. It has largely been a brand built through word of mouth – people have had good experiences and passed those on to other people. And that’s the way social media works, too. It’s about personal connections, which have always been important to Mayo’s brand and to the delivery of quality healthcare. So it was a natural fit…
We’ve always been very committed to fostering social media in healthcare and help make those tools available. Our Center for Social Media and our membership in the Social Media Health Network are an attempt to create crowd source tools and create a member community for everybody in healthcare.
And how did you come to start writing for the Center?
I’ve been the legal support for the Center for Social Media – I got involved pretty early on… It was a natural outgrowth of my practice supporting our social media efforts.
You write about the intersection between healthcare law and social media. Healthcare law is obviously a big part of your practice, but what drew you to social media as fodder for legal insight in your posts?
It’s certainly an area people have concerns about – it’s a new medium… If you look at CLEs, there are lots of them on social media. It’s a new area, and people are always concerned about how laws affect a new area. Certainly, in healthcare, privacy is our watchword and we’re a heavily regulated industry in terms of privacy. So with any communications medium, particularly one that has a lot of different people accessing it – a lot of Mayo Clinic employees as well as a lot of other folks – that’s always a concern: how do we manage privacy?
Reading some of your posts, I really noticed an overlap between the concerns of lawyers and doctors when it comes to social media – confidentiality, avoiding the improper practice of law or medicine, and ethical concerns. Do you think the legal and healthcare industries have something to learn from each other on this issue?
I think both industries have been somewhat slow to adopt social media, and I think that relates to concerns about privacy. I certainly think healthcare has probably a bit ahead of the legal profession, in terms of adopting social media. So I think lawyers can see the benefits that the medical community is starting realize, in terms of sharing information and professional collaboration. And I think lawyers can learn to get over the fear that because of privacy issues, social media is something we shouldn’t be involved in. If the medical community can be involved in social media, lawyers can as well.
What are the benefits for the legal community from participating in social media?
I think for lawyers, it’s largely the personal and professional benefits of collaborating with other colleagues, staying abreast of new developments in the law, and making professional connections they otherwise wouldn’t be able to make. I’ve formed a lot of really powerful, professional relationships with people I’ve met through Twitter or other forms of social media. I’m exposed to entirely different communities of lawyers and other collaborators. So I think it’s that community aspect and that ability to network with people that you might not otherwise come into contact with. The ability to expose yourself to a community and have them learn your expertise can be valuable as well.
Do you have an example of a connection you made through social media that was a boon professionally?
I was invited to speak on two panels at South by Southwest Interactive, a fairly sizable innovation conference in Austin, Texas, exclusively through people I knew on Twitter with whom I’ve formed professional relationships. I met them through a Twitter healthcare social media group.
You’re very active on Twitter. Do you view Twitter as a professional exercise, a personal one, or some combination thereof?
It’s almost exclusively professional. There’s a little bit of personal content, and I think some of that’s beneficial professionally. You know, it’s good to have a personality on social media.
Or in general.
That’s true! But I think most people feel that if they are using social media professionally, they can’t have a personality. They think everything they Tweet has to be a link to a law article. I’m more interested in you. While I value it if you give me good content, I think you can take it to the next level if you get a glimpse at the person too.
But for me, Twitter is ninety percent professional with a little of the personal mixed in. I’m not edgy on Twitter, and there are things I wouldn’t say on Twitter because almost all of my connections are professional.
Pivoting from that mix of personal and professional, what advice do you have for law firms and law departments in drafting social media policies?
It’s hard to boil it down, but I think number one, it’s crucial to have a social media policy. Everybody who is coming into the workforce these days grew up with social media. They all have the mindset of sharing everything that happens to them online. So I think you’re missing an opportunity to, number one, help people protect themselves from making some mistakes that will impact their careers and your firm. And I think it’s a missed opportunity for your firm if you don’t have a policy, because you want to direct that [social media] activity in a positive fashion. There are a lot of benefits to having your lawyers out there on Twitter and Facebook, building positive brand awareness for your law firm and developing your reputation.
So I think word one is to have a policy, and word two is make sure people understand the requirements of maintaining client confidences and acting professionally, and being positive with their online personas. Those are the major things to think about.
One of emerging areas in social media policy drafting is the [involvement of] the National Labor Relations Board. [The NLRB] is very active in monitoring social media policies and ensuring a balance between an employer maintaining the brand and ensuring professionalism, and the protected areas of speech in which employees have the right to talk. So you have to cut the right balance and stay up on where the NLRB is coming down in its decisions.
Posted by Emily Fisher