Denver Bar Association
April 2011
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Facebook Announces the Addition of Serve & File Tab

by Nicole M. Mundt

I

n an unprecedented move, Facebook announced Thursday the release of its new social media program targeting attorneys and providing more streamlined legal filing services for its users. Lawyers on Facebook will now have the option to add a Serve & File tab to their Facebook homepage. Facebook believes the new addition will allow for an efficient way to keep track of legal case filings within the easy-to-manage confines of a social network account.

"Social media has made its way into almost every aspect of our lives. It’s about time Facebook started catering to lawyers," said Mel Reveles, the Director of Internet and Technology for the Colorado Bar Association. "I believe the addition of the Facebook Serve & File tab will modernize our state’s litigation practices."

Facebook tackled certain challenges in designing an interface that would allow users to log in and make public status updates or photo posts, while also providing protected access to confidential case pleadings. A user seeking to access Serve & File will be required to create a separate legal account within a Facebook account by providing the state of licensure, attorney registration number in that state, and social security number. The authentication process takes a matter of seconds, and on approval, the user is prompted to create a username and password separate from the user’s Facebook login information.

Logging into Facebook does not automatically log a user into Serve & File, but simply clicking on a user’s Serve & File tab within that user’s Facebook page will take the user to his or her confidential Serve & File account. Like many other legal databases, five minutes of inactivity will automatically log the user out of Serve & File. Facebook reports that it stands wholeheartedly behind its security features and promises the Serve & File tab will receive enhanced protection; however, legal professionals aren’t so sure.

"I’ve had my Facebook account hacked into on several occasions. I would never subject my clients to the possibility of publicizing their legal affairs," reported Ed Orton, a local Denver attorney who relies on Facebook to keep in contact with out-of-state friends and family but vows to never mix business with pleasure.

Colorado attorney JulieAnn Roberts agrees. "I use Facebook as a mindless reward at the end of my day or over my lunch hour. I couldn’t imagine a world that combines the formality and seriousness of legal pleadings with a website for college students to post photos of drunken frat parties."

Well, believe it or not, it’s happening. Over the last several months, the Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., have been abuzz with the details of the new project. Facebook flew in specialized IT professionals from overseas to facilitate the integration of the legal filing code, which Facebook purchased from an anonymous computer programmer for an undisclosed price. After weeks of intensive programming, the Serve & File project was deemed a success.

The new tab will debut on April 1 for Facebook lawyers located in New York, California, and Florida. Based on its anticipated success, Facebook plans a nationwide release of the Serve & File tab on April 30.

"My parents always wanted me to go to law school," said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the subject of the recent film "The Social Network," one of the world’s youngest billionaires, and Time Magazine’s 2010 Person of the Year. "I loved computers too much to become a lawyer, but I hope this partnership between Facebook and the practice of law sends a message to my family that I respected their vision for my career. I will do everything I can to use social media to help ease the hectic lives of today’s attorneys."

With roughly 500 million Facebook subscribers worldwide and an average user age of 44 years old, "it was only a matter of time until Facebook ventured into the legal arena," remarked American Bar Association President Stephen N. Zack. "I commend Facebook not only for its cutting edge approach to case management and legal filings, but also for its willingness to branch into an industry primarily dominated by one company."

Because Facebook is not a public company, the terms of the deal to purchase the underlying code will remain confidential. Professionals in the know, however, believe Facebook likely spent approximately $1.5 billion, from start to finish, to develop the Serve & File tab. For an Internet empire worth more than $50 billion, the price of the deal was peanuts.

It would be prudent for professionals in other industries to acknowledge the recent Serve & File project and take steps to partner with Facebook before it becomes a competitor in their industries. It won’t be long before Facebook is the one-stop-shop for everyone’s personal, as well as professional, online needs. D

 


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