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I can still recall the wheat fields of St. Paul

by Joe Kaczrowski | Sep 04, 2015

Perhaps you had some crazy idea about breeding pine trees back in the day. Or maybe some little punk from Harvard stole your idea about a website while you were out rowing your boat. The reality is that things change, and life moves pretty fast. One thing that hasn't, and likely won't, change is the importance of a lawyer's reputation, both within the legal community and the public at large.

What has changed, however, is the amount of information easily accessible. The Yellow Pages used to be a mainstay for lawyers and other businesses. How else could you find information about lawyers in your area? Now there are options like MN Find a Lawyer, and of course search engines like Google and Bing. While members control what information is shared in their MN Find a Lawyer profiles, Google searches are another story.

How much control does one have over search results, or at least can someone track what is out there? Things are a bit different in Europe with the E.U.'s "Right to be Forgotten," but in the States one can consult Google Help for information on what can be removed (not much) and how to go about it. Generally, the recommended course of action is to contact the owner of the website who posted the information, who may or may not have specific policies for such requests.

Things are a bit brighter on the second question. The first step is to Google yourself and see what others see when they search for you. It's not a bad idea to do this periodically, but you can also set up Google alerts on yourself and/or your firm. The State Bar of North Dakota has a guide on its website about Protecting your Online Presence, including a section on setting up alerts. The North Dakota guide also has useful step-by-step instructions on setting up social media accounts, if you haven't already done so. There are a number of other useful resources out there as well.

As many professional athletes are slow to learn, information on the internet is a bit like the Walking Dead, it never really dies. Establishing an online presence is important, but equally important is protecting that brand and developing a sound strategy. 

The times, as they say, are a-changin'. There are still pine trees and phone books, but how people find lawyers is changing more and more each year, as illustrated by this summary of a 2014 FindLaw survey.