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Reconciling my Personal & Professional Lives – or Not

A friend recently suggested I write a blog post about how I reconcile my professional life with the fact that I do flash mobs and wear pasties. My initial thought in response to that was “I don’t.”

Ignite Phoenix After Hours #3 - photo by Devon Christopher Adams

Ignite Phoenix After Hours #3 – photo by Devon Christopher Adams

For anyone who doesn’t know, I’m a lawyer by trade, I do flash mobs with Improv AZ for fun, and yes, there are times when I appear in public wearing pasties instead of a shirt. I’m also a runner, a basset hound owner, a Star Trek geek, and a singer. My standard “uniform” is jeans and a t-shirt but my closet has everything from business suits to miniskirts and tank tops to ball gowns.

When I say that I don’t reconcile my professional and personal lives I mean that I’m not a different person in personal and professional settings. Wherever I go, I’m always me. There may be topics I don’t bring up in certain settings, but if they come up, I’m fine with it. There’s nothing I do in public that I wouldn’t own in any situation.

When I was first getting involved in social media professionally, I asked if I should have separate Twitter accounts for my personal and professional lives. The audience responded with an astounding “NO!” They said that people want to know the whole person so there’s no reason to separate the personal from the professional sides of my personality. They said that some people will seek me out because I’m different than others in my field – and that has totally been true! I had one person schedule a consultation with me after his daughter saw me at one of my speaking engagements. She told her dad that he’d like me because I swear.

Have there been repercussions? I wouldn’t call them repercussions as much as natural consequences. There are people who are turned off from me because I’m bold and don’t conform to the traditional lawyer stereotype. And that’s ok. On the flip side there are people who like that I’m different and that my personal and professional lives are integrated. It’s so much easier to be one person instead of trying to maintain separate professional and personal lives.

The only thing I do keep separate is my Facebook page. If you’re not my friend in real life, you don’t get to be my friend on my personal Facebook page. My Facebook page is where I put things that only my friends find interesting, but I’ll still own everything I post if anyone asks. If you’re not my friend in real life, you’re better off liking the law firm’s Facebook page and following me on Twitter.

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I Was Cyberbullied – Part 3 of 4

This is the third part of my four-part story with cyberbullying. You can read it from the beginning here. Back to the story . . .

Walking Away by Jeremy Raff-Reynolds

At that point, I was done with her harassment. I investigated whether I had options for recourse through the school given that I was experiencing student-on-student harassment and all the emails were sent over the ASU email system. My research revealed provisions of the Arizona Board of Regents Student Code of Conduct that prohibited harassment and discriminatory activities.

I set up a meeting with the Assistant Dean of the law school where I explained what had been occurring and showed him all her emails. By then the semester was drawing to a close. He and I decided that the best course of action was for him to meet with my bully after she was finished with finals to discuss the inappropriateness of her behavior. At the end of the meeting, I turned over my copies of the emails to him to put in her permanent file. If anyone calls the school to ask for a reference for my bully, they may be told a report was made against her for cyberharassment.

My bully reportedly left town immediately after her last final, so the assistant dean was unable to get her into his office for a meeting. Instead, he spoke with her by phone. According to him, she wasn’t very receptive to what he had to say and didn’t take any responsibility for her behavior. Shortly after the call ended, she made the following post on Facebook:

“ruth carter is a giant cunt and a poor person. tell the world I said this.”

She must have realized that creating that post was a poor decision and removed it, but not before I took a screenshot of it and sent it to the school.

The assistant dean and I were astonished by her behavior, and I had concerns about her level of impulsivity. I still had one final to go, and the finals schedule is post publicly, so she had access to information regarding when/where I would be on campus. We weren’t certain that she had actually left town or that she wouldn’t come back.

We decided it was be better to be safe than dead. To protect my physical safety, we decided it would be best if I took my last final in a different location, so I took it in a windowless room, by myself, where only one other person knew where I was.

Read the conclusion to my cyberbullying story in Part 4 of I Was Cyberbullied.

 

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Cyberbullying: What’s A Kid To Do

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.  This blog should not be viewed as legal advice.  It is simply my experiences, opinions, and information I looked up on the internet.

Last week, the world was saddened to learn about the suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer. This 14 year-old was repeatedly bullied by his peers since the fifth grade. To the outside world, it seemed like this was a child with enough self-esteem to overcome this adversity. He had support from his therapist, social worker, friends, and family. He even made a video for the It Gets Better Project where he said, “All you have to do is hold your head up and you’ll go far.” All of this support wasn’t enough to keep Jamey from taking his own life.

Summary http://www.epa.gov/win/winnews/images0...

Image via Wikipedia

According to reports, Jamey was repeated bullied at school and online. It’s not uncommon for victims of bullying to remain quiet because they are too ashamed to report that they are being victimized. Also, many teens feel a need to be independent and handle their problems on their own. They need to know that they have resources and recourse for addressing cyberbullying when it occurs.

Here are my top three tips for responding to cyberbullying.

1. Limit Who Has Access To You Online
Jamey received hateful messages via Formspring. In his It Gets Better video, he admitted it was a mistake to create a Formspring account. It allowed people to send him hateful messages anonymously. I wish Jamey knew he could have avoided this harassment. You can adjust your Formspring settings to disallow anonymous postings. It won’t stop all the harassing posts, but it will stop anyone who is too cowardly to let their name be seen. Likewise on Facebook, you can adjust your settings so certain people can’t see you at all or so that only your friends can send you messages or post on your wall. On Twitter, you can block people who are harassing you.

2. Report Abuse To The Website Where It Occurs
If you’re being harassed on a social media website, report it! Formspring, Twitter, and Facebook all have policies against using their sites to abuse other users. The same holds true for email providers. I suspect these site start by warning users who violate their terms of service, but they don’t change their behavior, they could have their account suspended.

3. Keep A Record Of The Abuse
I know it’s hard to do, but don’t delete abusive posts, emails or text messages. Take screenshots of posts online in case the bully deletes it later. It’s easier to prove you’re being abused when there’s hard evidence. It’s not a he said-she said situation at that point.

It takes a lot of courage to stand up for yourself and report abuse. I know it’s scary, but remember that reporting abuse is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.

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Don’t Believe Everything You Read – Verify It

Today, I saw a link to a story posted by FCKH8.com about a high school student in Tennessee who was at risk of being suspended for trying to start a gay-straight alliance (GSA).  FCKH8.com suggested that everyone call or email Principal Moser at the school to tell him not to suspend the student.

According to the story, Nathan Carroll wanted to start a GSA at high school and circulated a petition to get support.  When Carroll brought the petition to Principal Moser, the principal threatened to suspend him if he tried to create a GSA because the petition created a “disturbing the educational environment.”

My FCKH8 Shirt

Now, I love FCKH8.com. I support their mission. I love their videos and I have a FCKH8 t-shirt.  I’m glad FCKH8 publicizes stories about discrimination that occurs based on sexual orientation, but this time it looks like they didn’t do their homework before posting this story and encouraging everyone to complain to the school.

Thanks to FCKH8.com, I had Principal Moser’s phone number. So I called him. He was a very pleasant man.  According to Moser, Carroll created a petition to get student support for a GSA.  Many students supported the idea and others who were very opposed to the idea. The disagreement between the factions began to cause disruptions in classrooms that were interfering with the teachers’ ability to teach. The principle told the students on both sides that petitions would no longer be allowed in school because of the disruption they caused, and violating this directive could result in a suspension. Moser told me that he told Carroll about the process that all school clubs are required to go through in order to be created and that if students went through that process, then the school could have a GSA. I thanked Moser for his time, and I told him that I hoped the teachers used this situation as an opportunity to teach students how to appropriate communicate when there is a disagreement and people with strong beliefs on both sides.

I’m sure the real truth of this situation is a combination of the students’ and the principal’s perspective, but I looked at this situation much differently after I hung up the phone.  If Moser’s version is mostly accurate, he seems to have acted reasonably for the situation. The school isn’t against having a GSA; it just has to be done through the proper channels.

I went back to FCKH8.com’s Facebook page and posted a comment about my experience. Many others who left comments said that they had emailed the school. There were many posts that took the news story at face value, assumed that it was completely accurate, and called the principal homophobic and insensitive among other things. There were several dozen people who had reposted the original news story on their Facebook profiles.

There are enough bad situations involving discrimination based on sexual orientation in schools that we don’t need to look for problems where they don’t exist. Today’s experience taught me how important it is to verify information and to give the other side an opportunity to explain their perspective before posting comments or repeating information online. If you’re posting inaccurate information, you’re adding to an existing problem, and it’s that much harder to fix.

PS – If everything Principal Moser told me was a lie, please tell me.

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Reinventing Professional Services – Top 5 Tips For Lawyers

Photo courtesy of Ari Kaplan Advisors

Ari Kaplan’s new book, Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace addresses the question of how professionals can integrate new technologies into their businesses to be more influential and effective.  Loaded with resources and stories from professionals in all industries, Ari’s book provides suggestions about how to use social media, blogging, e-newsletters, and video/audio recordings that makes them less daunting.

As I read this book, I reflected on the legal profession, which has the stereotypes of being dignified and particular, and where deviating from the norm is often frowned upon.  Many lawyers and law firms shy away from online resources and tools.  Perhaps this is because of the strict rules in the profession about advertising and soliciting clients, or because members the profession have a low tolerance for making mistakes.

I’ve compiled the top five lessons lawyers can integrate from this book into their professional lives.

1.       Social Media is a Tool, not the Goal.
It seems that a lot of professionals think that having a Facebook page, a Twitter profile, or a blog is enough, but then they never use them.  Doing this is like buying a hammer and never building anything.  These professionals do not understand that these are tools to communicate more effectively with other professionals and clients.  These are merely channels to “cultivate relationships.”  These are fantastic tools for building trust by being genuine and consistent.  Using these tools is not a one-time event; it requires “habitual participation.”

2.       Be a “Visible Enthusiastic Expert.”
This is one of the best lessons I took from this book.  Being a visible enthusiastic expert means being part of the online conversation on topics where you have interest and expertise.  It’s important to contribute “rich content” and to convey your passion.  Conversing with other experts in an online forum is an effective way to become associated with them.  Even the simple act of sharing a link to another’s work shows that you are aware and informed about a topic.  Additionally, being transparent about who you are and what you can do without being a salesperson conveys to others that you care about a particular issue or population.

3.       Pick Your Targets.
Having a solid online presence is a good start, but it’s not the end.  When there are people you want to connect with, you have to reach out to them.  Don’t wait for them to find you.  Websites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+ are instant ice-breakers for introducing yourself to new people.  They provide comfortable opportunities to ask a person for advice or for an informational interview.  If your first attempt at interaction fails to produce the desired result, be sure to follow up.

4.       Do Not Be Afraid to Fail.
Law students are instilled with the notion that they must always be perfect – perfect appearance, perfect cover letters, perfect work product, etc.  They graduate thinking the worst thing they could do is misspell a word on an email.  This can make them gun shy to try new things.  Ari’s book demonstrates that most of these new tools are easier to use than you think.  He encourages readers to consider who they want to connect with, where they are interacting, and to join the conversation.  He promises that you will fail some of the time, and that’s ok.  If you try using an e-newsletter and it doesn’t work for you, you can use another tool like blogging or LinkedIn to reach your audience.  Figuring out what works for you and your business is part of the process.

5.       Never Forget the Value of In-Person Contact
Using technology to communicate with someone is less intimidating than picking up the phone; however it is more impersonal.  Nothing will ever replace face-to-face contact, which is more personal and memorable.  It is important to look for opportunities to meet people in person whenever possible and to continue to build relationships with thoughtful follow up.

Using these tips and tools requires willingness and commitment.  The potential benefits of using technology should overpower any fears that come with trying new things.  Always keep in mind that these tools are to facilitate interaction, not for self-promotion.

Ari Kaplan, a Fastcase50 honoree, is the principle of Ari Kaplan Advisors in New York City and the author of The Opportunity Maker, Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career Through Creative Networking and Business Development (Thomson-West, 2011).  I bartered this blog post in exchange for a copy of his new book. 

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SALK Day 23 – Nancy Smith

Today’s sponsor is Nancy Smith, a licensed Loan Originator with Alliance Financial Resources in Glendale, Arizona.   Alliance Financial Resources is a conventional home loan lender with in-house processing, underwriting, and funding.  This guarantees that buyers can obtain loans quickly at great rates and close their escrows.  Smith is an FHA and VA approved home loan lender.

Smith works with both sides of real estate transactions: people who are looking to buy a home and real estate agents.  Smith helps real estate agents have successful open houses and helps them with their Facebook pages.  Her track record speaks for itself; at her last open house, 115 groups of people visited the property, which generated 30 leads.

Smith is dedicated to her clients.  She has been working with numbers her entire life and recently became licensed lender so she could work “Where Your Family Comes First.”  Her coworkers include Michael J. Thomas and Jeanie Wavrin. They are wonderful professional people with over 30 years of combined experience in the real estate field.   In 2009, Alliance Financial Resources was awarded the Best of Business Award by the Small Business Commerce Association in the financial consultant category.  The winners of these awards are selected based on consumer reports and surveys.

On February 10th Smith is teaching a DIY Facebook class for members of the real estate industry.  Attendees will revise and customize their business Facebook pages, including creating a side graphic.  Smith has a beautiful side graphic on her Facebook page.  The class will be at the Devry school at West Gate, at 6751 N. Sunset Blvd., 3rd Floor, in Glendale.  This is a great opportunity of real estate agents to use social media to share information with potential buyers and enhance their reputation for being professional and progressive.  Please visit and “Like” her Facebook page.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsor is Nancy Smith of Alliance Financial Resources.   For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

SALK Day 8 – Amanda Ellis – The Social Media Connection

My sponsor today is Amanda Ellis, attorney recruiter and founder of Amanda Ellis Legal Search.  Her firm assists associate level attorneys in finding jobs.  She is also the author of The 6Ps of the Big 3 for Job-Seeking JDs, a book that provides a detailed overview about how attorneys can use LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to develop business or find a job.  She also maintains a blog on this topic with tips and her appearance schedule.  Many professionals are afraid of social networking sites.  Her book does a great job of instructing professionals on how to use these sites and tips for having a professional presence online and building relationships with others.  I’m looking forward to implementing some of her suggestions on how to use LinkedIn to find a job in my upcoming search for post-graduation employment.  When Ellis sponsored today, she asked me to share one of my success stories of being a law student and using social media.  I thought I would tell the social media history of Sponsor A Law Kid.

One thing I’ve learned about networking through social media is that it is a process, not an event.  It’s about building relationships and seeing each connection and conversation and a potential stepping stone.

In January 2009, I was a 1L who had just finished her first semester of law school and did not stick out in a crowd.  I attended the first Global No Pants Ride in Phoenix.  I was intrigued by the boldness of Jeff Moriarty for planning such an event and decided that I wanted to meet him.  I purposely stood next to him on the ride and struck up a conversation with him.  By the end of the day we were “friends” on Facebook.  Through Jeff, I heard about Ignite Phoenix, and presented on the legalities of participating in public pranks at Ignite Phoenix #5.  One of the other presenters at Ignite was Kade Dworkin.  Kade and I kept in contact and about a year later, he started his own podcast called Meet My Followers where he interviewed his Twitter followers.  I was on his podcast and listened to his other shows.  One of his guests was Jason Sadler, founder of I Wear Your Shirt.  As I listened to Jason discuss how he makes a living by wearing shirts and creating content, I was inspired to use my blog to fund my final semester of law school.  In November 2010, I launched Sponsor A Law Kid.  This campaign has opened the door for me to connect with attorneys all over the country and opportunities to be a guest blogger for other websites.  It took almost two years and at least seven steps from participating in a prank to being mentioned on Above the Law, The Nutmeg Lawyer, Blind Drunk Justice, and ABAJournal.com.

Twitter is my primary modality for networking.  It is how I create and maintain connections with people in the legal community.  Along with connecting online, I try to connect with as many people as I can in reality through attending events and inviting attorneys to coffee or lunch.  I have stronger connections with people that I have met in person than with people I only know online.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school.  Today’s sponsor is Amanda Ellis.  For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

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Targeted Networking

When I first moved to Phoenix in 2004, I didn’t have a job. Catherine Marsh, a woman who was a leader in the financial industry back when women leaders were a rare occurrence, told me that 85% of getting a job is who you know, not what you. This has been true in every profession I’ve encountered, especially when you’re the new guy.

Despite my adventurous attitude, I’m a fairly introverted person. I don’t like big crowds of people, especially when I hardly know anyone. The idea of going to networking events makes me groan. I much prefer to meet one-on-one with people or in small groups where our gathering has a purpose. I have, however, found a few ways to network that seem to work for me.

I prefer to avoid big dog-and-pony-show networking events. I prefer panel discussions and guest speaker events instead. I usually bring my laptop with me, and if there is someone I want to meet afterwards, I look them up on the internet. Most older lawyers don’t have a Facebook or a Twitter account, but many of them have LinkedIn profiles. I’ll request to connect with them, while the event is going on and say how much I’m enjoying their talk. If they have a Twitter account, I’ll follow them. I tend to stay away from people I don’t know on Facebook until I have established a dialogue them unless they say, “Find me on Facebook.”

Last semester my school had an awesome panel of lawyers who are on the ABA’s Legal Rebels list. Since I am not a traditional law student, I was excited to see my fellow non-conformists. Sam Glover from The Lawyerist was particularly interesting to me. I remembering sitting in the audience thinking, “I need to meet this guy.” I hopped on Google and searched for him. By the time he was done describing what he does in his professional life, I was following him and his blog on Twitter and I had tweeted out how much I was enjoying his talk. I was so grateful to hear from someone who was making their law degree work for them in a way that complimented their personality.

While the other presenters were sharing their stories, I watched Sam tinker with his cell phone. I giddily hoped that he was checking his Twitter and saw that I was following him. After the event was over, a handful of people gathered around Sam. As I approached the group Sam looked at me and said, “You must be Ruth.” I was elated. Since then we’ve connected through this blog and Twitter. He’s been a great resource for me.

Targeted networking is a strategy that seems to work best for me. When I hear someone or hear about someone I want to meet, I look for ways to connect with them either online or in person. It’s much less stressful and often more successful than going to general networking events where I may not meet anyone who shares any of my interests in the legal profession. Most lawyers I’ve met are happy to help the neophytes coming down the pike, but usually I have to initiate the conversation.

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Unsolicited Advice: Think Before You Post

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.  I am a law student.  In accordance with ABA policy, this blog should not be viewed as legal advice.  It is simply my experiences, opinions, and stuff I looked up on the internet.

Laptop at a Cafe
Image by workshifting via Flickr

Never before has Bill Wilson’s advice, “Nothing pays off like restraint of pen and tongue” been more appropriate.  In the past, we expressed how we felt mainly in-person or via phone calls.  If something was important enough to write about, it took time to draft a letter or write an article.  Now with email and social media sties, we can jump on our proverbial soapboxes whenever the feeling moves us and blast our opinion to the universe from anywhere.  More than ever, it is essential to think before we send an email, update our Facebook status, post a blog, or tweet – because it’s permanent!!!

I will never cease to be amazed by what people say in email or post online.  A quick glance at my friends’ profiles revealed a smattering of pictures of people getting drunk and posts filled with hateful language.  For the most part, these aren’t stupid people, but they have done stupid things – and documented it.  It immediately reminded of what my Dad says: “You can’t coach dumb.”

It seems lately that people need to be reminded that there is a permanent record of every single email they send. Even if you delete all of your “sent items,” they are still backed up on a server somewhere, and probably backed up on the receiver’s server too.  Therefore, “if you are dealing with something that could come back to bite you later, pick up the phone, or better yet, go talk in person, but avoid email.”  Don’t leave a paper trail.

And don’t think that deleting your Facebook account will remove all the evidence of any past wrongdoings you posted.  Deleting your account, doesn’t actually delete it.  It just makes it inaccessible to other users.  It’s still in the database. What’s even more frightening is that I’ve heard a rumor that employers are hiring hackers to tell them what’s on job applicants’ Facebook and Myspace profiles.  Don’t assume that changing your privacy settings will protect you.

Too many people treat email and social media sites like casual conversation, but worse because they ignore the fact that they are writing to and about real people.   The fact that the sender doesn’t have to look the person in the eye seems to lower their inhibitions and remove the filter that ordinary blocks them from saying everything that they think.  The result is abusive behavior and harassment.

Cyberstalking, cyberbullying, and/or cyberharassment are crimes in 41 of the 50 states.  In Arizona, cyberharassment is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail, and/or a $2500 fine.  Often when the perpetrator is a minor the crime is cyberbullying.  When the perpetrator is an adult, it’s cyberharassment.  The behavior is the same, just different names.  The courts have allowed lawsuits to be filed in criminal and civil court related to these acts.

Here’s my two cents when it comes to electronic communications: if you feel the need to vent when you’re upset about something, the way to do it without getting in trouble is to simply say how you feel about it.  When I say, “I’m frustrated,” no one can say that that’s inappropriate or that it isn’t true.  It’s a feeling, the fact of my mental state.  You may have a different reaction, but neither person is wrong.  It’s how we act on them that gets us into trouble.

So think whatever you want.  Be careful about what you say.  But assume everything you say electronically, regardless of where you post it, is viewable by the general public and will follow you for the rest of your life.  Don’t send anything via email or post anything online that you wouldn’t want your family, friends, co-workers, or employers to see.

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