Little More on the Social Media Guest Post

August 20, 2010

Christopher Hill, better known as @constructionlaw, asked me to write a guest post for his blog, Construction Law Musings.

The last guest blog post I did was about privacy for Donne Seyle of Law Practice Strategy. Chris, being a member of Lawyer Connection, and a Twitter follower of mine, wanted me to talk about social media and networking. I initially thought that’d be great. Social media is a big topic among the legal community, whether or not to use it, how to use and generally, what to do about it. Social media, be it blogging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, FourSquare or any of the others, raise legal and ethical questions for which there aren’t answers. Yet.

Then I came across this article by Niki Black, and this ATL post from Adrian Dayton. I thought of all the other posts, articles, tweets and what not about social media and the law, and realized a great deal had been written about the topic already. It seems to break down into two groups: those for it, and those against. People for it tout its networking and business development uses, while those against say it’s a waste of time since you get business by face-to-face networking and a hand shake. Many other people have addressed these points on more than one occasion, and me adding my voice to fray struck me as counterproductive. If I took either line of thinking, I wouldn’t be contributing something useful to the discussion.

I opted for a different route. Like your law practice management applications, and your business management applications, social media is less daunting if you find applications to help manage it. You can read the complete post here, and by all means, leave comments.

And I’ve posted it below, too, for simplicity. I’ve certainly left some off, so feel free to leave comments with the social media management applications you use.

If you’re looking for yet another post on the pros (or cons) of social media for lawyers, I suggest you go back to Google and search again.

If you are curious about social media, though, or want (or already use) social media but find engaging in some meaningful fashion a daunting task, then keep reading.

Just as there are vital applications to help you manage your law practice, like Clio or Abacus, and manage the business side of your practice, like Quicken, there are applications to help you manage your social media presence. As you may already know from your practice management and business management applications, what was once daunting is now part of your normal routine.

Engaging in social media can work the same way, so let’s take a look at some applications that can help you manage your social media presence. We’ll look at three desktop and two Web browser applications. Please keep in mind that this is not a complete list, but merely a sampling and a method to get you started. I should also note that they are free.

Desktop Applications

Desktop applications are installed on your computer, just like a word processing application or your Web browser. Here are some to consider:

TweetDeck: I use this one myself. It runs on Macs and PCs, and lets you manage a long list of social media profiles, including FourSquare, Facebook, LinkedIN and Google Buzz, to name a few. And of course it lets you manage your Twitter account, or multiple Twitter accounts.

Digsby: Similar to TweetDeck in terms of accessing and managing various social media platforms, but also lets you manage and communicate through instant messaging applications, like AIM, MSN, Yahoo, Google Talk and Facebook Chat, to name a few. It also allows you to manage email accounts, like Yahoo Mail, Gmail, even IMAP and POP accounts.

Seesmic: Often vying for popularity (and sometimes winning) with TweetDeck, it lets you manage multiple accounts and its Desktop 2 Beta version lets you further customize with plugins. You may never need to visit the home pages of Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare or LinkedIN again.

Browser Applications

Browser applications run inside Web browsers, like FireFox, Safari or Internet Explorer. No downloading is required, which is helpful for those who work in offices with strict policies on third party applications.

HootSuite: It calls itself the “Social Media Dashboard” since it lets you not only manage multiple accounts across multiple social media platforms, but also lets you grant access to others. For example, using HootSuite, I also tweet for @PrivacyCamp. What sets it apart, though, is its tracking functionality. You can see what updates to what social media platforms do, like drive traffic to your site or a specific blog post.

CoTweet: Its claim is that it is “How Business does Twitter,” and since its list of clients includes McDonald’s, JetBlue, Ford, Whole Foods and Microsoft, the claim is easily justified. It offers similar features to HootSuite, but it takes multiple users a step further by allowing you to assign updates to colleagues. So if you see a tweet about a construction accident, say, you can assign it to someone in your law firm for further investigation. Its threading feature lets you keep track of who has followed up on what.

Final Thoughts

I haven’t touched on any mobile applications, I know. They vary as widely as mobile operating platforms. UberTwitter for BlackBerry only, sadly, is the best Twitter application I have used. I tweet, a lot, and it handled my Twitter usage wonderfully. On my iTouch, I use Twitterrific (free version), which is good and also available on the iPhone. I recently gave up my trusty BlackBerry for a Droid, and so far, only TweetCaster (free version) has proven itself, despite its tendency to crash.

Again, this is a small sampling of social media management applications that are available. Mashable put together a good list, which includes ones I’ve mentioned here. The Freelance Folder put together a more comprehensive list, from social aggregators to more specific applications for any given social media platform.

Remember, at one point, it was less of a question of whether to start a law practice and more of a question of how to manage your law practice. The same is true of social media. It’s not a question of whether to engage, but how to manage it. My hope is that the applications mentioned above will give you a place to start. Experiment, see what you like and what works, and go from there.

Lawyer Connection Reaches 200 Members

October 16, 2009

Today was a big day for Lawyer Connection. Today, it’s membership surpassed 200 members.

For many, that may not seem like a big deal, but for me, it triggers a deal I made with myself when I created the network back in May. I created it as an effort to help others. Having been laid off and suffered through somewhat promising job leads that fizzled, and then dry up completely, I felt starting the network was a worthwhile contribution to the moral of lawyers and legal professionals in particular, and to the population at large. If nothing else, it at least provided a central place to connect, however that connection happened.

I didn’t make a plan. I was still (an am still) trying to plot out my consulting company, but found myself drawn to the philanthropic idea of Lawyer Connection. Helping people, even just by setting up the network, was more rewarding than I anticipated, so I made myself a deal. If the network were to surpass 200 members, and continue to grow, then it would be time to actually sit down and formulate a plan, find ways to make it more useful than just a gathering place.

So, today, Lawyer Connection surpassed 200 members. 201 last time I checked, and the membership has remained active. The key, now, is to provide more useful things, like meet ups in cities, partnerships, maybe CLE-type offerings, and other ideas people toss out. I basically need a plan as the “make it up as I go” plan is quickly becoming inefficient.

A number of people have told me the philanthropic angle, while laudable, is absolutely stupid. I won’t make any money from it, they say, so what’s the point? To be perfectly honest, money wasn’t a factor at all in creating the network, but they do make a good point. There are operating costs that are currently minimal, but costs none-the-less.

And this is where I run into trouble. I don’t want to charge dues or some kind of membership fee. That completely goes against the whole concept of the network. Formalizing it as a non-profit seems to be a lot of work and a lot of expense with very little payoff. So perhaps I’ll just keep it as it is…

Truth be told, money gets in the way everything at one time or another, but things work out one way or another. For me, right now, the pay off is knowing that I’ve been of some help. And now it’s time to be more helpful. Time to step out of the background and take action. And yes, you can argue the ABA Journal article already removed me from the background. 😉

If you have any thoughts, ideas, suggestions, etc. about Lawyer Connection, its direction, funding…just about anything, I’d love to hear them. I doubt it’s a secret now that I’m a fan of open ideas, collaboration and general sharing of information.

So, what say you?

Lawyer Connection and the Total PMA Community

September 30, 2009

Last week, the Total Practice Management Association (TotalPMA) launched its new website, and with it the TotalPMA Community. Having joined early, just before the “Get-A-Life” Conference, I was quite pleased with the redesign, and with the community.

The membership is quickly approaching 900 (at the time of this writing), which quite a few people have pointed out to me is considerably more than the membership of Lawyer Connection in days, instead of months. Isn’t that exactly what I don’t need? Another competitor to Lawyer Connection? And how do I plan to compete?

My answer is: no.

I don’t see the TotalPMA Community as competition; I see it as being complimentary to Lawyer Connection. The two serve entirely different needs. TotalPMA is affiliated with Total Attorneys, a company dedicated to helping solo and small firm lawyers handle the business side of law, the stuff law schools don’t teach, so that lawyers can “get a life” or be in a better position to find that often elusive work/life balance. The TotalPMA Community builds on that goal, providing a space where solo and small firms can share ideas, experiences, etc. on work/life balance.

Lawyer Connection, on the other hand, is about helping out-of-work/laid off lawyers network as they look for a new job, or take the plunge and hang out their own shingle. It’s lawyers helping lawyers through the economic downturn, and beyond. The membership is a good mix of seasoned veterans and newly minted lawyers, along with people in between and legal consultants. There is some overlap in membership between Lawyer Connection and TotalPMA, which is perfectly OK.

So, from my perspective, they serve complimentary purposes, and work better in collaboration than in competition. Lawyer Connection is a good spot to find and connect as lawyers get started in one way or another, and TotalPMA is a good spot to find and connect with lawyers who have figured out, or are figuring out, how to strike a work/life balance.

If this recession has taught us anything, it has taught us that work and money aren’t all there is to life.

Lawyer Connection in an ABA Journal Article

July 28, 2009

A couple months ago, I got a phone call from Barbara Rose, a freelance writer for the American Bar Association Journal, or as it is more commonly know, the ABA Journal. She wanted to know about Lawyer Connection, having already spoken to Victoria Pynchon who suggested Ms. Rose contact me.

I was super excited that anyone from the ABA was taking an interest in yet another lawyer-centered social network, and I think she was equally shocked to discover that the network was created by a non-lawyer. I answered her questions, and directed some other Lawyer Connection members her way. She said she didn’t know if, or when, the article would be published and having spend time as a journalist, I understood. Since then, I hadn’t thought much about it.

A few minutes ago, a Tweet from Vickie popped up in one of my TweetDeck windows:

vpynchon u must scroll to bottom of page for the ABA sidebar on how a tweet started a legal network

Tweet that started a legal network…that rang a bell so I clicked on the link, scrolled to the bottom and low and behold! The piece on Lawyer Connection!

Needless to say, I’m pretty excited, and must publicly thank Vickie as she has taken the reigns and totally run with Lawyer Connection. There are 61 members now, and it keeps growing. It’s pretty amazing to watch, actually, and is just downright exciting. Always so much talk about the need to connect, cultivate a network, ways to go about it but hardly anything that demonstrates what happens when you do connect and cultivate a network. Lawyer Connection stands out as walking the walk while talking the talk. Or, more simply, less thinking/talking and more doing.

Anyway, a big thanks to Vickie for all her work and continued effort, to Ms. Rose for writing the side bar and to the ABA Journal for publishing it.

Can’t wait to see what happens next with Lawyer Connection.

Introducing Lawyer Connection

May 19, 2009

One of the things I really love about Twitter is the quick action that can happen, be it answering a question, pointing to other research tools or attempting to help many people. Such is how Lawyer Connection came to be.

From the first blog post on Lawyer Connection:

@kevinhell retweeted @indyattorney “Wondering why laid off attorneys dont band together & start a new law firm. Might be some opportunity there.”

@vpynchon asked if anyone wanted to create a Ning site, and so I did, and here it is: Lawyer Connection.

Being laid off is hard. I’ve experienced it, and many others have too. One thing I’ve learned in the 13 months since being laid off is the importance of relationships, be it family, friends, coworkers or that fast network called the Internet. Sites like Twitter help bring people together. I met quite a few of the people I follow while attending ABA Tech, and hope to meet others at Total PMA’s Get A Life Conference.

So a goal of Lawyer Connection is to build on the relationships established through Twitter, Facebook, Conferences, meetings, etc. We all have something to share, and now there is a collective place to share it.

Feel free to check it out, join and by all means, offer suggestions. I’m a Ning novice, and have no doubt people reading this blog are not, and have ideas and ways to get more out of, and do more with, Lawyer Connection.

It’s a start, so now we can build on it.