Does Twitter Really “Enable Lawyers to Improve Their Craft”?

I believe social media can be a useful tool for lawyers. No big surprise. After all, I wrote the book on lawyers and social media, along with my co-author Carolyn Elefant.

But when I read this post, “Twitter Enables Lawyers to Improve Their Craft,” I had to disagree with the assertions made by my good friend Kevin O’Keefe over at Real Lawyers Have Blogs.

I agree with Kevin that Twitter is more than a marketing tool. For some lawyers, Twitter participation can absolutely be beneficial, but the value derived from Twitter interaction is contingent upon a lawyer’s goals, areas of practice, and geographic location, among other things. That being said, through Twitter, lawyers can network, obtain and share information about news relevant to their areas of practice, and promote their blog posts.

However, I respectfully disagree with the assertion Twitter can be used by lawyers to hone their legal skills, which is, to me, what the title of the post implies. In support of this claim, Kevin suggests that:

Twitter provides lawyers a lift similar to that which you get at bar and industry conferences. When you do attend such events, you’ll feel like you know as friends the lawyers you’ve been interacting with on Twitter. Relationships grow.

You’ll find on Twitter that the attorneys you’ll be interacting with will have similar interests — whether they be in the law, social, or in sports. The reason being is that the news, information, and commentary that you and others share on Twitter attracts like minded people.

In my mind, “interacting” with others is simply networking. Not that I’m suggesting that there isn’t value in networking, but networking is not the same as honing your craft.

My fellow New York lawyer Scott Greenfield over at Simple Justice suggests that perhaps Kevin is equating networking to mentoring, in which case, Twitter is the last place you would want to turn:

Mentoring is crucial for lawyers, particularly the young and new ones who tend to look to the internet for comfort.  It’s not about camaraderie, or support, or high-fives or even getting your tummy rubbed.  It’s about being told when you’re wrong, before you do something foolish and damaging. It’s about a deeper understanding of what we do than appears in 140 characters.

I couldn’t agree more with Scott on this one, although I can’t remember the last time I got a tummy rub out of my Twitter interactions. Clearly, I must be doing something wrong.

Be that as it may, let’s turn back to the issue of whether Twitter can make you a better lawyer. The bottom line is I just don’t think it can. Through the effective use of Twitter, some lawyers may be able to develop a useful referral and/or professional network. Some lawyers may be able to successfully expand their client base and/or market their practice. And, other lawyers might even be able to use social media sites such as Twitter to mine for evidence that might benefit a client’s case.

But Twitter doesn’t enable lawyers to improve their craft. Far from it. That requires hard work, experience, and dedication. And, Twitter’s no short cut for paying your dues.

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  1. [...] First, over on Google+, Misty Sheffield posted an interesting white paper/infographic from Lexis Nexis on social media use in the legal sector. It starts with Fortune 500 companies social media use as a benchmark, and then breaks down its legal sector survey data. Second, over on Small Firm Innovation, Nicole Black asks if Twitter really enables lawyers to improve their craft. [...]