Will social networking work for in-house lawyers?

Ok. I’ll admit I’m a bit older than the typical Facebook user, and maybe that has something to do with my attitude, but I have to say I’m skeptical, at least in the short term, about all the social networking sites for lawyers that are springing up.

There are getting to be a fair number of sites that are directed at the legal profession.* Some of them look like they could be useful for corporate counsel (Legal OnRamp in particular). But the issue isn’t so much whether they offer something of value for us, it’s a question of how much time do we have for this stuff?  

There are a lot of things to like about the concept, and I think it has promise, but people only have so much time, and busy professionals in particular need to be careful about how they allocate that time.

I belong to a couple of professional organizations that I find especially valuable that have social networking components.

I would categorize the ACC, the Association of Corporate Counsel, as a social networking organization for corporate counsel. In addition to an extensive “virtual library” they have at least a couple of very active email listservs for members of their committees. I find that resource to be extremely valuable and worth spending time using and contributing to.  

IACCM, the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management, is a great resource for anyone involved in contracting. They also have an extensive library of resource materials and are adding more social networking-like features. I find myself spending more time there, as it directly relates to what I do on a day-to-day basis.  

But it’s impossible to keep up with the volume of valuable material that comes out of just these two organizations. I’m not sure how much more time there is to even explore and evaluate, let alone participate in, other social networking opportunities.  

So how are busy lawyers going to have enough time to do social networking? I think the answer is that we will eventually figure out how to get value out of social networking, but it’s going to take quite a while and will only happen after:

1.      It becomes clear which resources are truly valuable and worth our time and there is a shake-out that reduces the number of options to a manageable number.

2.      The social networking sites figure out how to target their audiences and target their offerings to make the best use of people’s valuable time.

3.      Lawyers become more comfortable with the concept and the technology becomes extremely easy to use. For corporate counsel that may happen more quickly as more companies start to use social networking as an internal knowledge management tool.

4.      Some law firms figure out how to give away information to corporate counsel while still making money.

5.      A younger generation of lawyers starts to take over.

I believe that social networking will eventually become an important part of how in-house lawyers work, but I think it’s going to be quite a while before it becomes a pervasive part of the legal profession. See also Social Networking Sites: Will they work for lawyers and other professionals? for some other challenges for social networking sites directed at lawyers.

David Munn

* A small amount of research yielded the following: 

Nearly everyone (lawyers and non-lawyers) seems to be on linkedin. 

General Social Networking Sites for Lawyers: 

lawyrs.net: An international law community designed for lawyers and law students. 

LawLink: The First Online Network Exclusively For Attorneys 

Legal OnRamp: “Legal OnRamp provides content, connectivity and execution services to help legal professionals deliver higher quality work in less time and lower cost.” 

Document sharing sites that have social networking characteristics:

DocStoc: “Find and share professional documents.”

JDSUPRA: “offers access to a constantly changing database of legal documents (filings, decisions, forms, documents) from the people whose work gives meaning to the law.”

Related Articles:

Inside Counsel: Net-Working – Web 2.0-enhanced sites get in-house counsel talking.

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