Denver Bar Association
February 2011
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Book Review: Covering New Ground in the Digital Age

by Nicole M. Mundt

 

Reviewed by Nicole M. Mundt

 

As someone who considers herself fairly adept at social media, I anticipated "Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier" to be a bit of a yawner. I was pleasantly surprised (and humbled), however, to see how much I didn’t know about social media. Despite being the first of my friends on Facebook and authoring my own blog, I can admit that I learned a lot from this book and have made it a goal to expand and improve my social media presence, both personally and professionally.

This book, by Carolyn Elefant and Nicole Black, is tailored to the entire spectrum of Internet users—from those who are just getting the hang of e-mail to those who have blogs and accounts with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

At the outset, my recommendation would be to think about what you hope to achieve after reading this book and use the very helpful table of contents to narrow your focus. The book is divided into five parts: (1) Overview of Social Media and Its Role in the Legal Profession; (2) Tools of the Trade; (3) Implementing Social Media; (4) The Nuts and Bolts of Setting Up Social Media Profiles and Engaging in Social Media; and (5) Ethical and Legal Issues of Social Media.

What the reader hopes to gain from reading this book determines which portion of the book will be most practical. No matter your goal, this book should not be read in its entirety in one sitting. Because there is such an abundance of information, it could be daunting for social media newbies.

Part One will be most helpful to those who are either very new to or very skeptical of social media. Elefant and Black do a good job of convincing the reader why it is important to have an online presence, and they adeptly introduce the many options for developing that presence. After all, they should know: Elefant is the creator of MyShingle.com, the first blog and online resource for solo and small firms; Black is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and is of counsel to Fiandach and Fiandach.

I personally enjoyed the chapter on "Busting the Legal Profession’s 10 Myths of Social Media." As the authors negated the clichéd excuses, such as "There’s no point in using social media in my practice because none of my target clients use it" and "My teenager can teach me everything I need to know about social media," I found myself feeling somewhat vindicated on behalf of Generation Y.

Part Two provides a more detailed introduction to the different avenues for social media, looking at directories such as LinkedIn, information disseminating tools like Twitter, and community sites like Facebook. I learned about Avvo (avvo.com), which is basically a rating website for lawyers. My initial reaction was that the site would be a cross between "HOT or NOT" (a website for rating the looks of men and women who upload their pictures to the Web) and LinkedIn; however, after a quick search, I realized how useful (and a lot more like Yelp.com) the site really is.

Part Three discusses factors to consider when choosing a social media outlet, provides advice to enhance the "networking" aspect of social media relationships, and discusses branding yourself and your practice. This section is particularly interesting to someone like me, who primarily uses social media for personal expression but hopes to branch out and market herself professionally as well.

Part Four provides the "how to" on creating (or expanding) your social media presence. This section would be most helpful for the attorney who is familiar with social media, yet intimidated by it. The authors provide a great deal of help for the type of person—ahem, a lawyer— who wants to know the rules for creating a profile, starting and maintaining relationships, managing Internet time, and ensuring that his or her firm accepts the use of social media.

Part Four provides a good segue into Part Five regarding ethical considerations of social media. Despite the authors’ early disclaimer that this book will not detail the ethical considerations associated with social media (and refers the reader to a source that does), the authors ultimately conclude that ethical considerations in social media are like ethical considerations anywhere else: be aware of the rules and follow them. Just as a lawyer shouldn’t make deceptive or misleading statements at a cocktail party, he or she also shouldn’t make them on a blog or Facebook page.

The authors conclude in the same manner in which they started, by saying that technology and the Internet are here to stay and the lawyer who avoids them does so to his or her detriment. In a way, some might find this book reassuring, as it confirms what many lawyers have been doing for the last couple years (whether intentionally or not): developing a brand.

Elefant and Black do a nice job of keeping the reader engaged by including "factoids" every chapter or so. For example, "More than 1.5 million pieces of content (Web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) are shared on Facebook…daily." Further, the appendices provide easy breakdowns for basic social media tasks, such as 10 steps to starting a blog, a mini Twitter glossary, and profile creation tips.

At the end of the day, social media is like anything else: it will be what you make of it. "Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier" provides a well-rounded guide for anyone looking to create a social media presence, expand into other online forums, or who believes social media to be too risky or a waste of time.

Regardless of your social media goals, Elefant and Black provide the tools to make the most out of your online endeavors. D


"Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier"
By Carolyn Elefant and Nicole Black

Published by the American Bar Association Law Practice Management Section.

Price: $79.95; $47.95 for ABA Law Practice Management Section members.Available at ababooks.org; enter title or product code 5110710.

Three copies of the book are also available through the CBA Lending Library.Contact Lauren Eisenbach at (303) 860-1115 or lauren@cobar.org to arrange to borrow materials.


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