Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Social Media and Lawyers - my perspective

I am officially a big fan of all the new social media. I twitter, I am on facebook, myspace, linkedin, jdsupra, justia and an assortment of other places. Obviously I have this blog and my blog on fibro, and I try to be everywhere. Many lawyers who talk to me about this complain that it is just too much to do, and they are already too busy. I agree that it takes work, but once you have set yourself up, I think that it makes so many things much easier.

For example, on Facebook I have been able to easily reconnect with people I have not seen in over 30 years. And it is so pain-free. I can quickly scan what is going on in their lives. I can also keep in touch with more recent acquaintances, professional and otherwise. I just have to remember that what ever I put out there is out there for the whole world to see. I also have to remember that my opposing counsel or my opposing party is likely to be reading some of these things.

Of course, you can spend hours looking for people on Facebook, too. That can be a lot of fun and very rewarding, but you have to make sure it does not cut into your work time. This is true of anybody, including lawyers.

When I served on the school board, I remember a school board member asking why do we need to have so much technology in the schools for our kids, when it used to be that a pencil and paper were adequate. Surprisingly, that was only eight years ago. Look at how things have exploded. Paper and pencil - who needs them? I have diddlebug on my Centro, and those notes are saved forever on my Centro and on my computer. I can do Sudoku puzzles, take notes in court, keep track of my billable time, read major newspapers, get a weather report, get a tweet about local traffic conditions and all in the "Palm" of my hand, and all without paper or pencil.

However, social media does open up a new area of concern. It is more public than you can even imagine. There are people I run into on the street that I recognize from one of these social mediums, and they look familiar, but I can't quite place them. Then I realize that I followed a twitter link to their web page and learned all about them, all without meeting them. Or there are Judges who are following me on Twitter - better not insult any of their colleagues, right? (Not typically my style anyway, but something to keep in mind.) And Facebook becomes a mixed bag, when you have clients following you as well as old friends from high school who just want to keep reminding you of those embarassing things you did before you were even old enough to drive.

That is why you need to take the time to understand how the medium works. You can put controls on who sees what, but you need to pay attention and not just skip through the "fine print" on the websites. Learn to adjust your settings. Learn to rethink the settings as time goes by. Find software that can help you make your participating more in tune with your time schedule. Learn to make it work for you.

Anyway, I am loving the social media explosion and I love being toward the forefront, although I think everyone is going to catch up with me real soon. Just like anything, make sure you understand what it can do for you and what you can do with it. Use technology, don't let it use you.

That being said, I better get back to my 300 emails so that I don't miss anything important.