Vol. 13, No. 3, November 2010
Social Media for Lawyers
The ABA has always been concerned with issues involving communications between lawyers and the public. Social media is the next frontier of communications, and the ABA is trying to stay on top of how lawyers can use social media in a responsible, ethical manner. In September of 2010, the ABA issued a white paper, Issues Paper Concerning Lawyers’ Use of Internet Based Client Development Tools, examining the state of lawyers’ use of social media, and some concerns from that use that may need to be addressed in the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The end of the paper has a bibliography of many journal articles that cover the subject of legal ethics and social media.
LinkedIn is a social networking site which focuses on the “networking.” Users set up profiles, with an emphasis on information such as education and employment history. Users also set up “connections” with people they know from work or school. With all of this information, people can search LinkedIn, using it both as an informal reference check and as a way to identify people in particular fields who share some level of connection with the searcher. There are already more than one million lawyers worldwide on LinkedIn, putting a wealth of legal experience just a click away.
Twitter is an extremely popular service for broadcasting short messages to the world. However, it is better used for sending messages to a defined group of people – “followers.” Twitter lets users follow other users, and then receive messages from only those they follow. Conversely, one can follow friends, institutions, and many legal professionals for their updates. Messages can include hash tags, to denote an author’s intended topic for a message (for instance, #1L) and the ability to direct a public tweet to someone with an “@” tag (for instance, @wneclawlibrary), allowing for directed conversations. Users often use a URL shortener to abbreviate links to web sites they share. The only limitation Twitter imposes is that each tweet must be 140 characters or less.
Mashable is one of the leading websites for tracking developments in social media. The social media landscape is constantly changing, and being early to a new social platform could lead to a large following, if that platform takes off. Mashable is a one-stop place to find out what is up, what is down and what is on the horizon. In addition to news, Mashable has various how-to guides and entire guidebooks for both Twitter and Facebook. Make sure to look at stories with the “political and legal” tag for stories at the intersection of social media and law.
While the word “blawg” is an awkward-sounding portmanteau of the words “law” and “blog,” it does make finding blogs related to legal issues easier to find in a search engine. However, the best online source for finding legal blogs is the ABA Journal’s Blawg Directory. There, one can find blawgs sorted by topic, by region, and by the type of author. The ABA Journal also publishes a yearly list of the Top 100 Blawgs, chosen by ABA Journal editors.