Beyond Facebook

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Lawyers are going to have to figure out what to make of social networking. By and large, as the link to the articles in last fall’s edition of National indicates, a few are active believers, a few more are cautious optimists, and the vast majority are dismissive or clueless. I can actually understand that. I’ll be the first to admit that Facebook is a pleasant distraction and offers some tantalizing prospects for collaborative achievements, but I’ve received one too many Zombie invitations to be a huge fan. Time-pressed lawyers need fewer distractions, not more.

But Facebook is not everything that social networking is or can be. Using social software to connect and collaborate for any number of purposes is still in its infancy, and there are any number of law-related applications that we’ve just begin to think about. Could we use it to improve legal publishing? Absolutely. Could it be used as a marketing tool? Sure. Could we use it to make the legal conference more effective? Why not?

Now, from Ross Kodner, who’s attending LegalTech in New York, comes word that Microsoft, of all companies, is offering the next big application of social networking for lawyers: using its SharePoint system to create a practice management system inside a law firm that runs on social networking principles. Ross is evangelical in his enthusiasm for what he calls intrasocial networking:

SharePoint connects data . . . and people . . . and opportunities like no other practice management approach I’ve seen. Intrasocial networking will propel law practices of all sizes to surpass currently foreseeable revenue targets, and to surpass client expectations. Intrasocial networking will allow law practices to intrinsically incorporate traditional corporate concepts of “quality control,” “customer satisfaction,” and maybe even eventually, Six Sigma mentalities ….

We’ve only scratched the surface of what social networks will allow us to do as lawyers. Collaboration is one of the cornerstones of the new legal profession, and social networks are the early manifestations of how it will happen. This will be fun.

Hat tip to Legal Blog Watch for the LegalTech links.

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3 Responses to “Beyond Facebook”

  1. michael webster

    Facebook worked because it met a real need.

    In high school, you knew a lot of your class: not so at first year University.

    So just how did you introduce yourself to that cutie in the first row of yoru Psych 101 class?

    Facebook provided you with the necessary clues.

    What is the corresponding need for lawyers?

  2. Jordan Furlong

    I don’t think even Facebook could’ve helped me meet people in Psych 101. :-)

    Facebook is an engine of social interaction, which lawyers don’t really have much call for. There are aspects of Facebook that lawyers can make use of — creating Groups, for instance, organized around a practice area or common interest in which a lawyer specializes and wants to market himself. (I’m planning on starting a Facebook Group for Law21 shortly, for what it’s worth.) But these are ancillary uses.

    What lawyers need is a dedicated professional social network with which they can meet clients, find referral sources, learn and network. LinkedIn meets some of this need, Legal OnRamp meets even more. I expect we’ll see more of these develop down the road — so long as a viable revenue model can be found to sustain them. But running a profitable business on the web is an ongoing challenge for many more people than lawyers….

  3. Andrew

    Faecbook didn’t work because it met a real need. It worked because it was “cute”, vaguely interesting, and full of people developing various tweaks, add-ons, plugins and other paraphernalia, and targeted at a technically savvy population in an age when real, physical social interaction is becoming increasingly rare. It’ll continue to work as long as people keep adding applications to it, and as long as tweens and teens think it’s cool to send each other messages like “OMG! BFF! LOL!”

    But consider. I joined Facebook a few months back, at the request of a family member. For about a week I was a dedicated user, and I got and sent lots of cute little messages with it. Then I gradually dropped off it because it just wasn’t interesting enough. And to be honest, most of the people I know on it have similar usage profiles – including the person who invited me. Now granted, I’m a techie in real life and I spend far too much time on computers professionally to want to use them as a substitute for real social interaction – but not everyone I know on Facebook is in the same category.

    Is it a social networking tool? Yes. Does it have it’s uses? Yes – I think it’s a great way to reconnect with people I haven’t seen or heard from in a long time, or it would be if I could find any of them in the millions of users on it already.

    But – were I in university now, taking the putative Psych 101 class – I’d be a lot more likely to simply walk up to the cutie in the front row and ask her if she wants to go for coffee after class.

    What does this have to do with lawyers? I don’t know – I’m not one. But I think Jordan’s comment about lawyers being “dismissive or clueless” about social networking indicates a dangerous frame of mind for any professional. Applications like Facebook have mindboggling possibilities with respect to their legal (or illegal) ramifications, so whether or not the legal profession intends to them as an element of its business, it cannot afford to be dismissive about them.

    I personally don’t like facebook very much, and I’m pretty careful about what I post to it in terms of personal information – but I’m not in the demographic for it, and I suspect that neither are most of the people reading or commenting on this blog. There are millions of people who are – and they’re the ones who will be coming to you for legal advice when the information they put on Facebook gets abused or misused.

    In short – they’re the ones who’ll be paying (at least some of) your bills. I don’t think you want to be dismissive or clueless when it comes to that.

    By the way, if you’re looking for a topic, I’d be curious to here any comments you might have on Blaney McMurtry in Toronto, their policy on lawyers traveling across the border with laptops with zeroed harddrives, and the concept of nonwarranted electronic search and seizure at the Canada/US border in general.

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