Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’
On Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 at 10am PST (1pm EST) West Coast Environmental Law will be hosting the first ever Twitter Moot Court. The event takes the tried-and-true law school practice of mooting and flips it on its head by conducting it via social media. It’s an exciting innovation that will help interested parties explore how traditional legal arguments are translated into modern technology environments.
Presenting a legal argument in “tweets” that consist of no more than 140 characters is certainly going to be a challenge. However, Skunkworks is proud to be sponsoring two students, Matthew Nefstead and Jenn Cameron, from the Faculty of Law at the University of Victoria (alma mater to two of us here at Skunkworks).
In total, 5 Canadian law schools have entered teams into what promises to be a fascinating experiment in legal academics. The other schools participating include Dalhousie University, University of Ottawa, UBC, and The Osgoode School of Law. Each tweeting team has its own page here. The judging panel is a an interesting mashup of talent itself, and includes University of Calgary law professor Kathleen Mahoney, lawyer-turned-novelist William Deverell and legal social media wunderkind Omar Ha-Redeye.
The case that the tweeters plan on mooting is the landmark environmental decision West Moberly First Nations v. British Columbia – a precedent-setting decision that confirmed the government of British Columbia has an obligation to protect First Nation treaty rights from incremental intrusions into the habitats of at-risk-species.
In the actual case, the BC Supreme Court found that the BC government had not sufficiently consulted West Moberly First Nations on how to adequately protect the Burnt Pine Caribou Herd prior to issuing mining permits to First Coal Corporation. It was decided that Crown also failed to put in place an active plan to accommodate for the protection and rehabilitation of the Caribou Herd. As a result, the BC Court of Appeal suspended First Coal Corporation’s mining permits.
It’s important to note, that you don’t need to be a member of the Twitter community to watch the latest crop of digitally savvy law students make social media and legal history. You can follow along through the “twitter feed” embedded at http://wcel.org/live-twitter-moot-feed.
Best of luck to all participants!
[This article was originally published on www.SLAW.ca in September, 2011]
We have been watching the ascent of social media in legal marketing for a few years now. Law blogs, once considered a frivolity suitable only for the technogeek outliers at the fringe of the law firm, are now recognized as legitimate business development vehicles at many, if not most, firms. Likewise, other social media channels including Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube and to some extent Facebook, have all been moving (at varying paces) along a recognizable continuum inside the law firm environment that looks a bit like this:
Derision >> skepticism >> grudging curiosity >> cautious adoption >> widespread use
As social media adoption continues to grow amongst lawyers and law firms, a few lessons have emerged. Social media is disruptive in the sense that it does not automatically reward firm size or lawyer seniority. Smaller, more agile firms and young lawyers can and regularly do play a much more prominent role in legal social media than their larger firm and senior lawyer counterparts. And interestingly, individuals regularly fare better in social media than their own firms do, even in circumstances where the firms are national in scope and have the head start of a multimillion-dollar organization, professional marketing department and a recognizable brand behind them.
Mid-size and large firms in particular seem to struggle when it comes to finding their “voice” with social media, with twitter being the platform where this weakness is most noticeable. To date, most of the larger firm twitter accounts tend to stick largely to a predictable regurgitation of their own firm news releases, new partner announcements and award or ranking achievements. However, when one combines the blandness of this approach with the fact that larger firms are of necessity speaking to a widely disparate group of clients and audiences (the tech startup, the mining giant, the municipal government client and the major bank all have very different information needs) you are a left with a situation where larger firms are using their social media presence to push out a series of almost exclusively self-laudatory items across a scattershot array of industries and topics. The vast majority of these updates are guaranteed to be of little or no relevance to most of the clients. Little wonder then, that social media users typically opt for the livelier and more useful flow of information to be found in a boutique firm or individual lawyer’s social media feed. That individual lawyer feed probably focuses primarily around a discrete legal subject area, includes both his or her own content as well as links to other news items relevant to that area from multiple credible sources, and throws in some commentary and personal anecdotes that let the reader know a little bit more about the person behind the post as well.
The good news for firms struggling with this dilemma is that there is an obvious remedy at hand. We’ve already seen this game play out in the context of blogging. Specific wins out over general. The client doesn’t care THAT much about you. They care mostly about themselves, and the legal issues that pertain to them. Except in boutique firms organized around a single subject area, the “firm blog” approach has largely withered away in favour of niche subject area blogs that cater explicitly to the needs of a specific audience. And just as happened with blogging, law firms need to begin adopting a practice and industry group approach to their other social media efforts. National firms don’t need a twitter account – they need twenty, or thirty. That way, as a client, I can tap into the one or two that are focused on my industry and my issues, and choose signal instead of noise. I can get a sense for the specific lawyers who work in my interest area. And I can ignore the completely irrelevant news from the 90% of your firm that has nothing to do with or for me and therefore is of no interest to me. (Harsh but true.)
From the firm side, this approach may seem daunting but it needn’t be. You already have a practice and/or industry group structure in place. You need to use it. Start with the handful of practices that are already self-sufficient in putting out newsletters, e-alerts or a blog and add social media tools to their arsenal. Divvy up responsibility, and take advantage of existing social media savvy within your teams. Let individual lawyers “sign” their tweets or updates by adding their initials to the end of their posts (and include a legend in the twitter or social media bio section that connects those initials to full author names). And then let them use social media the same way that successful boutiques and individual lawyers already do – by contributing substantive content on a discrete subject area, linking to relevant industry news from credible sources, and showing a human side to the firm and its lawyers.
Social media has moved past the “fad” stage – it’s here to stay. That being the case, it’s time more firms start putting it to work – the kind of real, specific, in-the-trenches work that happens every day at the practice group level.
Torys LLP has launched what appears to be the first Canadian law firm iPhone application. Available as a free download via the iTunes app store, the app includes sections incorporating the firm’s twitter stream, publications, a lawyer directory, video content and firm contact information and maps.
While they may be first to market in Canada, this app is not something that has been haphazardly banged together – quite the opposite in fact. The firm has clearly put some solid thinking behind what information should be included and how it is presented. For example, the lawyer directory goes beyond a simple list to include the lawyers’ photos, short form versions of their bios and links to the full website versions. The contact information includes GPS functionality and live directions to their offices. As already noted on Slaw:
The GPS features might be useful for visitors to Toronto, or the hapless OCI student trying to find their way to an in-firm interview.
The app might even be useful for that cocktail party where you know the lawyer across the room works at Torys, and quite embarrassingly cannot remember their name.
Earlier this year well-known legal blogging and technology thought-leader Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog wrote on his blog about why firms should forget about building an iPhone App. To summarize his arguments, Kevin says: 1) in a sea of 150,000+ different apps, yours will never get found or widely used, and 2) the logic behind building a law firm app is flawed because that’s like asking people to download a separate app for every content source they follow instead of using well-known destinations where content is already aggregated. For those reasons, he concludes that developing an iPhone app is a waste of resources and time and makes your firm look silly by demonstrating a misunderstanding of how content is consumed online.
I have great respect for Kevin and he and I see the world alike more often than not, but on this topic I think he’s DEAD WRONG.
My position is that the goal of a large law firm iPhone app is not to be magically discovered by the world at large in that giant app-sea of games, productivity tools, and time-wasters. Rather, it is to provide existing and prospective clients that already have the firm squarely on their radar another access point and contact opportunity, and to strengthen their sense of connection with the firm. If I’m a new client sitting in the lobby in advance of my second meeting, I might very well appreciate having easy access to the names and faces of lawyers two, three or four that I’ve only met briefly even though I already know my primary contact well. If I’m a General Counsel sitting at the airport and find myself with a half-hour flight delay, I might well browse through my apps and decide to scan a few headlines from the firm’s twitter feed, which the app makes dead-simple for me to find.
As an end-user, the mere presence of the App on my phone also creates ongoing additional top-of-mind awareness for those firms that do make it onto my system, every time I scan through my phone, which is daily. Kevin himself points out in his post that the way we consume content is changing at lightning speed. That being the case, why would we presume to speak for whether or not it is “silly” for someone else to consume law firm content via a standalone app instead of via a blog, a twitter client, or a website? If there is one thing the 300 channel tv universe and the explosion of social media online has shown us, it is that we don’t all want our content in one homogenous fashion.
Kevin also writes that he thinks the upcoming iPad is going to be “a game-changer”. Well guess what – those standalone law firm iPhone apps he dislikes are going to work from day 1 on the iPad and could be great high-tech “lobby material” in lieu of the traditional printed firm brochure – that would send a pretty clear message to clients about the level of technological savvy they can expect from their counsel. My money also says that the firms building iPhone apps now are also going to be the early adopters in getting blackberry versions rolling as well and while there may be apps beyond count in Apple’s store, there certainly isn’t yet in the blackberry world, where a heavy concentration of lawyers, in-house counsel and corporate clients reside.
I also had the opportunity to speak with Torys’ Chief Marketing Officer Stuart Wood earlier today and he made several points that solidified my thinking on this topic even further. Mr. Wood pointed out that the project was neither expensive nor particularly time-consuming, and will provide the firm with real data about usage and adoption rates, which they can then use to make better decisions about further iterations, supporting other platforms etc. He also reports that initial feedback from clients in the first week has been both significant and highly positive and is frequently coming directly from the clients to their own lawyers as opposed to marketing or firm management. Other firms’ I.T. departments are also calling their peers at Torys to find out more about the technical aspects. When the client is taking the initiative to make contact with your lawyers directly to congratulate you on a new marketing initiative and have a chat, and the competitors are calling to see how they can replicate what you’ve done, my money says the small investment in developing that free app has just paid for itself in spades.