Solicitors spinning the social web?
March 10, 2009 5:33 AM   Subscribe

MeLegalFi: looking for examples of social media usage amongst legal professionals in the UK

I work for a legal organisation interested in harnessing the mighty power of web-based social media apps. However, the project is up against a strong internal perception of lawyers as lacking the interest and/or aptitude to engage (e.g. "Twitter is for geeks"). I'd like to open up the debate a bit by showing examples of these tools working well. I keep up with some great blogs e.g. Binary law, Naked Law, Geek lawyer, Ipkat etc, and I've found Legal tweets and lawtweets, but it seems slim pickings considering the range of platforms out there.

So I'm appealing to the hive mind to signpost any gems I'm missing - UK flavours preferred. Any thoughts on thoughts on content preference and/or likely uptake also very welcome.
posted by freya_lamb to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's US-based, but Legally Minded is an online social network for lawyers and law firm staff.

You might find good suggestions on Law Librarian Blog, Connie Crosby, Law Librarians, and maybe OPL Plus. [Sorry, don't have time to dig for specific articles, but all those blogs have coverage of legal libraries and legal information issues, and social networking is obviously a big issue at the moment. Will look at it in more depth tonight if I get a chance].
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:33 AM on March 10, 2009

Here's a question: exactly how would lawyers benefit from using such applications?

Information sharing? Part of the problem here is that attorneys have a duty of confidentiality which makes social media applications rather unworkable. Many lawyers and law firms are ridiculously tech savvy; the reason they don't use applications like this has to do with legal problems, not technical or cultural ones. So while there are numerous successful legal blogs, these rarely have anything to do with the various practices of their maintainers. Lawyers can rarely discuss specific details of their practice in public, let alone online.

Soliciting clients? In the US, the words "Advertising Materials" or some equivalent must accompany any attempt to solicit clients by letter, email, etc. This is not exactly conducive to most social media apps. Even worse, US lawyers are prohibited from using any real-time electronic communications to solicit clients, including both chat and voice connections. UK restrictions are even tighter.

Professional networking? Possibly, but the legal field is pretty damn well connected as it is, and the advantage of not using a social media application is that those connections remain out of the public view. This is very convenient a lot of the time, as it permits people to be more candid than they would be if every interaction was subject to public scrutiny. It also limits one's social network to people with whom one has an actual connection, not any random schmuck on Facebook. This serves to enhance the integrity of one's network in a way that social media would compromise.

Sounds to me like this is yet another scheme for implementing the "power" of web 2.0 without any concrete ideas of how that's supposed to actually interface with existing structures.
posted by valkyryn at 6:35 AM on March 10, 2009

Well, have you looked at linkedin? I work with a number of attorneys in the US who use that, and I've seen that the service is used in the UK to some extent.
posted by Pants! at 6:48 AM on March 10, 2009

I suggest loooking at Legal Week Wiki ("guide to the leading UK and US practices with thoughts on your firm's culture and salaries, its strengths and weaknesses") and Roll On Friday (socail media or plain old forum).
posted by laukf at 6:51 AM on March 10, 2009

Good point Pants!, I know of (UK) firms that encourage staff to use LinkedIn.
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:51 AM on March 10, 2009

laukf has the two suggestions I was going to make. Legalweek also has the career clinic and talkback sections.
posted by patricio at 7:13 AM on March 10, 2009

There's a lot of UK legal bloggers and resources available, starting with those you've mentioned. You might also be interested in Infolaw, which is a great collection of UK legal links. There's also the Free Legal Web project, if you want internetty stuff about freeing up the law for broader use. The Society for Computers and the Law sometimes have some good talks on social media and lawyers as well.

The legal sector is generally not known for it's uptake of social media though - they're usually too busy working crazy long hours to bother with that kind of thing, in my experience. Many lawyers barely know how to use 'the Google', let alone navigate the social internet. Facebook and LinkedIn is where it begins and ends for most, alas. It's changing, but, as with anything in the legal sector, the change is slooooow.
posted by shewhoeats at 7:20 AM on March 10, 2009

Hmm, interesting. So is the general consensus that social media is just not that useful to the profession? I'm willing to take that on board (no one wants to flog a dead horse!). I did think there might be a greater use for the short, pithy end of the scale - tweets for links, discussion etc, but perhaps not.

Thanks very much for the links though, lots of good stuff to peruse. I'm thinking that maybe it's better to aggregate and deliver what's out there already - e.g focussing on feeds for specific areas of law. Lots to ponder, cheers all.
posted by freya_lamb at 9:24 AM on March 10, 2009

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