I view the social networking phenomenon with the jaundiced eye of someone over the age of 16, yet it seems to be increasingly making inroads into the professional world. While I can almost see the value of an attorney having personal web pages out there besides her/his firm bio page, it’s a lot harder to wrap my brain around the professional utility of Twitter.
Nonetheless, I was accosted a day or two ago, here in the sprawling metropolitan offices that hold Cal Law / The Recorder / Legal Pad, by a friendly marketing person (I suppose unfriendly marketing people don’t last long) who asked whether I knew anything about the viability of Twitter as a tool for lawyers.
If you’re interested, we can compare lacks of opinion, or surfeits of snark, on the topic after the jump.
Apparently legal-marketing folk were aflutter over Twitter, after Heather Milligan at Legal Watercooler posted about a Legal Marketing Association on the subject. The most relevant points she took away:
- Social media is here, growing and not going away.
- We need to get over our aversions and adapt. …
- And, most importantly, Damn. If I was only selling something I’d be rich today or at least have a lot more business leads.
Twitter, for those not in the know, is like the mutant stepchild of text messages and blogging. You get the 140-character limit and cr8tv abbreviations of text messaging genetically spliced to the sheer inanity of most personal blogs, meaning that at any moment of the day, any of the dozen or hundreds of Twitter-ers (twits?) you follow will tell you things like, “Leaving work to watch Series.” “I’m sleepy.” “Traffic sux.” “I want a ham sandwich.” “Puppies!”
These messages reach your computer, cell phone and/or BlackBerry by the dozen, at all hours. And the question at hand seems to be, is this a valid marketing or professional development tool for lawyers?
And here I thought the jury was still out on LinkedIn.
While I can’t imagine that, say, Quinn Emanuel is going to be landing any nine-figure, bet-the-company litigation because someone in their extended twit family “tweeted” out something like, “ne1 kno a gud atty 4 IP lit pls thx?” I do suppose that attorneys on the boutique and solo scale might find better uses for any convenient and inexpensive opportunity to network. Since the hallmark of the social-network adopter is the inability to keep a stray thought to himself, I hit Google for a quick education.
One lawyer lists some of the professional benefits he’s gotten from Twitter, including “easy to get feedback from random people on quick questions that I have.” All right, that explains how firms can try to get things done despite laying off librarians, research attorneys and other staff.
Two other attorneys counter that Twitter, like the listserv dinosaurs of the early yesterday epoch, just jam your inbox of choice with time-wasting clutter. [Well, not exactly. See comment No. 2, below] I’m kinda on that side, which you’d know if you were following my twitter feed thingy.*
A site that sells online-marketing services for lawyers says social networking is way cool, and offers some thoughts for those of you not deterred by common sense or my sarcastic tone. And if you really must dive into the fray, or the chaos, or whatever, there is apparently a list of absolute-must-follow lawyer-twitterers that caps out at a seemingly arbitrary 145. (How bad must the 146th-most-interesting-microblogging-lawyer feel?)
I figure it's not viable: Even if it's not a potential discovery nightmare, just the "This does not constitute legal advice" disclaimer on the email of every lawyer I know is more than 140 characters.
Legal Pad invites comment on the usefulness and/or entertainment value of social networks of all stripe for building business, getting work done or balancing the work-life equation from any lawyers, consultants or marketingfolk who have an opinion. Despite the obvious thematic symmetry, I won’t ask you to keep your thoughts to 140 characters.
— Brian McDonough
* I do not have a twitter feed thingy.