Monday, April 27, 2009

Legal Tweeting

There have been more bar journal articles and blog entries on this than you can count. Some are like my earlier posts, written to teach their audience what Twitter and its cousins are and how to get into the fun. Others are more elitist, saying with a sniff that this stuff is not for serious lawyers. I have a view that fits in the middle: there ARE practical uses for streams of short message system posts like Twitter delivers that even serious, superior and super-egotized lawyers can use without embarrassment.

(My examples are from Twitter, though there are likely analogous examples in other systems.)

If your practice includes keeping up with the latest developments in a particular practice area, create a Twitter account and ONLY subscribe to those who post updates and developments on that topic. Here are some examples by practice area of very practical Tweeters that even the senior partner or GC would find appropriate for your in-office Twitterings (by listing these examples, I am not promoting or validating any of these Twitterers, though I do "follow" a number of them myself):

□ Risk Management: Risk Management

□ Product Liability: USRecall News and RecallsAlert

□ Insurance Defense: Legal Alerts

□ Chasing Ambulances? Toronto, Los Angeles and San Antonio are some of the major cities whose fire departments stream alarm reports and California Fire Rescue has an account, as well.
□ Real Estate Law? Try LegalRealEstate or one of the 350+ real estate marketing accounts

□ Looking for an expert? Try InsWeb for insurance or individuals who promote themselves as Business Video, Real Estate or Search Engine Optimization experts.

There are a number of academic streams, too, such as Harvard Law School, Yale Law Library, YourDiseaseRisk from the Washington University School of Medicine and MIT Sloan Business School.

If you want to stay tuned into your state legislature or what is happening in Congress, subscribe to the U.S. Senate, U.S. House or a state equivalent (so far, I only have found Texas, Missouri, Nebraska and Florida)

There is a mountain of data that piles up every day from the millions of Tweets per hour. Some may even be from your opponent or her client. Want to find some needles? This article compares six Twitter search tools.

And finally, there is the growing category of Twitterers dedicated to helping you improve your law practice management skills: JD Journal, Law Practice News, Virtual Law Practice, etc.

If you subcribe to more than a few of these message streams, you will likely want a free tool like TweetDeck. I use TweetDeck because it allows me to group Tweets from certain sources and display them in separate columns. My legislative updates are therefore separate from law-related bloggers I follow and all are separated from people I know personally. I do not know of a comparable application (yet) for mobile phones. I like TinyTwitter on the Blackberry (mobile:, because you see more of the Tweets than Twitter's mobile app will display. HelloTxt is supposed to have a mobile app in the near future. Twitter has a downloads page and there is a larger list on the Twitter Fan Wiki. My colleague, Ross Kodner of RossIpsaLoquitur fame, shared this nice write up on other similar tools.

I remember lawyers who once thought the PC had no place in a lawyer's office, that it was a tool for secretaries. Attitudes change as technology proves useful. Who knows? If products like this mind-reading Tweeting tool start to catch on, there may be more fuel for litigation among Tweets than any lawyer ever dreamed of. Seriously, though, Twitter and its kin are just tools. If they help you stay on top of current legal issues or remain competitive, then use them. If they reduce your productivity, then don't.

So stand up straight. Walk with confidence. Tweet like a big dog. As long as you avoid the temptation to follow your favorite movie stars or pop idols during work hours, you can whip out your smart phone in any crowd to check your "Friends Timelines" for important updates. And even sniff dryly, for effect.

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