End of Summer Fun: Lawyers and social media mash it up

Since we're at the end of summer, it's time for some frivolous fun.

Have you noticed that lawyers and social media don't mix very well? There are exceptions of course, like Grant Griffiths.

What I hear most often from people who ask questions at my keynote speeches and my New Rules of Marketing seminar is that when lawyers get involved in providing opinions to companies on activities like corporate blogging, it results in so many rules, regulations, and draconian controls that people just don't blog. I know of Fortune 500 companies with zero corporate blogs because of the legal eagles' opinions.

So how deliciously fun is it to consider what happened to mega law firm Nixon Peabody recently. From the company’s site: "Nixon Peabody LLP is one of the largest multipractice law firms in the United States, with offices in sixteen cities and approximately seven hundred attorneys collaborating across twenty-five major practice areas."


The company was recognized as one of Fortune Magazine's best companies to work for (congratulations guys!) so those wacky lawyers commissioned a song to celebrate.

Now I'd admit that my musical taste may be offensive to some (The Clash, The Ramones, Grateful Dead, Yellowman and Fathead, Talking Heads are a few that come to mind) so I'm not the best one to judge the merits law professional celebratory lyrics set to a 1980s top 40 radio beat, but hey, I deserve my opinion and here it is. This song sucks. Sample lyric: "It's all about the team, it's all about respect, it all revolves around integrity, yeah."

Here is a link to an MP3 version. Friendly suggestion: Make sure to erase from your iTunes after you've heard it so you don’t startle yourself silly the next time you're in shuffle songs mode.

So now you must be asking, what's the big deal?

Turns out the song was for internal use only but was "leaked" (now that's a lawyerly term if I ever heard one) onto the Internet.

So what would you do? What would anyone with a bit of social media savvy do?
> Well, you could ignore it.
> You could laugh about it, "yeah we're just silly lawyers."
> Or what I'd suggest (if anyone at Nixon Peabody had asked) is poke fun at your own song somehow, perhaps by creating a YouTube parody of it. A lawyer rap perhaps? Now THAT would be funny and get them some positive attention.


But since these are high priced lawyers, they didn't do any of those things. Instead, they went legal. Nixon Peabody had a bit of a hissy fit when it learned that law news site Above the Law posted it and then created a YouTube version.


Nixon Peabody executives asked David Lat, the publisher of Above the Law, to remove the song because it was in violation of the firm's copyright. He refused. Soon after, the song disappeared from YouTube with a note saying it violated copyright. Then bloggers and The New York Times picked up the story. It wasn’t the song so much as the Nixon Peabody reaction that people were writing about. And that's what caused the whole thing to go viral.

Shortly after, another version appeared on YouTube that featured a short segment of the song that, (take that you dastardly lawyers!) seems to fall under the legal definition of fair use.

So here's the thing. When I need law advice, I call a lawyer. I wonder if the lawyers ever considered contacting a social media expert before they ventured into social media?

David Meerman Scott

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