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People look to Yelp to find lawyers online, survey says | Fallout over Facebook mood study?

Posted Jul 11, 2014 8:30 AM CDT
By Sarah Mui

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Larry Bodine noted a survey of 3,465 people finding that 58 percent of those seeking lawyers make their first stop at business review site Yelp. And this is significant considering three out of four consumers seeking lawyers use online resources at some point in the process, according to a 2012 survey of 4,000 adult Internet users by marketing research company Research Intelligence Group.

"Martindale-Hubbell, Avvo and Super Lawyers were much less trusted and used by people seeking an attorney," Bodine wrote. The survey was conducted by Software Advice, an Austin, Texas-based software research company.

A key takeaway of the survey is that consumers were willing to go out of their way for a lawyer with a better review—70 percent were willing to travel to an inconvenient location for a lawyer with a better review over a more conveniently located lawyer with a worse review.


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Facebook fallout?

Last month, it became known that for one week in January 2012, Facebook data scientists manipulated the news feeds of 689,003 of its users. One group of users saw only negative posts; the other group saw only positive, Forbes staff writer reported at the Not-So-Private-Parts at the time. The data scientists published their findings, in which they concluded "that emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions ... without direct interaction between people (exposure to a friend expressing an emotion is sufficient), and in the complete absence of nonverbal cues."

Many people were upset to learn this. But can litigation be expected? Hill thinks not. "Legally, I don’t think much will come of this beyond Facebook’s government liaisons working longer, harder hours for a while," she wrote in a subsequent post.

She does note that the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, saying Facebook's actions violated its 20-year consent decree with the FTC for previous privacy mistakes. But Hill notes that Facebook didn't start its probation with the FTC until August 2012, months after the study took place.

"Class-action lawyers are surely sniffing around the case, but it’d be hard to prove that a Facebook-using client was one of the 100,000+ whose News Feeds turned blue for a week," Hill wrote. "Facebook says it designed the study so that the test subjects stayed anonymous. And it’ll be hard to argue that there was some kind of financial harm from a week of attempted sad-making."


Are e-signed contracts legal?

"When you need someone’s signature on a document, your best-laid plans come to a screeching halt," IT consultant Peggy Gruenke writes at Attorney at Work. "That process typically involves printing the document, hand-signing it yourself, mailing or scanning or faxing to the other party—and then waiting for them to print, sign and mail, fax or scan and send it back to you, where it’s printed yet a third time and filed away in a cabinet forever."

An alternative is to use a cloud-based e-signature service, Gruenke writes. But are e-signed contracts legal?

"The U.S. government actually took the biggest step in resolving the legal issues of e-signatures back in 2000 with the U.S. Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-SIGN), which gave e-signatures the same legal weight as handwritten ones," Gruenke writes. "State law, for the most part, has followed suit in recognizing their validity." Documents that require notarization are one exception.

E-signing services apply security at three levels: user authentication that links the signature to a specific person; document authentication, which prevents the document itself from being modified; and process authentication, which proves "what took place during the signing process. This is accomplished by recording all the URLs visited, documents, legal disclosures and actions taken by users in a way that enables the process to be accurately reproduced from start to finish."

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