Whenever I get a call from a client who has a matter too small to justify my rates or referral to another attorney service, I’ll try to suggest alternatives. In fact, like many lawyers, I keep a list of contact information and websites for legal aid and pro bono groups, law school clinics, small claims court, the Better Business Bureau so that I can offer a client a bunch of different low bono and pro se options.
But this recent article from NPR made me wonder if my resource list is lacking another key tool: social media. The NPR article reports on Rock Art, a local Vermont brewery that successfully fended off a copyright challenge by the national company that makes Monster energy drink. Rock Art didn’t win as a result of a clever legal team. In fact, after Rock Art received a cease & desist from Monster, demanding that the company stop using the name Vermonster in connection with its drink, Rock Art’s lawyers told the company that fighting a national corporation would be too pricey and that the company was better off registering a less controversial trademark. After Rock Art’s lawyers backed down, Rock Art launched a social media campaign, enlisting customers to help with the effort. The campaign went viral and ultimately, the bad publicity lead Monster to back down.
So here’s my question. If clients come to us with a copyright case that’s cost prohibitive or claim against a company that’s sympathetic but not high in value (like finding bugs in a food product, but throwing it out without eating it so there’s no real harm), should we advise them about the social media approach? And taking it one step further, should we help clients craft a social media campaign to seek relief? As a lawyer, I’d be willing to draft a one-time letter to the Better Business Bureau or to a company’s customer relations office. Is helping out with a social media campaign against a company any different?
What do you think?