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Survey Confirms That Social Networking Gains Traction With Lawyers

A just-released survey of 650 lawyers commissioned by legal industry giant LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell and conducted by Leader Networks reveals that almost 50 percent of attorneys already belong to online social networks, and more than 40 percent want to join online networks. The relatively quick penetration of the social-networking trend represents a departure from the legal profession's traditional resistance to new technologies and slow rate of adoption, according to Vanessa DiMauro, author of the 2008 Networks for Counsel Survey.

Not surprisingly, the study found that the majority of lawyers using social-networking sites are between the ages of 25 and 35. More than two-thirds of this group use social networking, as compared with 49 percent for 36- to 45-year-olds and 36 percent of 46-55+. 

Even more interestingly, the survey found that  40 percent of corporate counsel and private practice attorneys expressed interest in an online professional network specifically for lawyers. This surprised me a little, given the quick death of Lawbby.com, a MySpace-type social-networking site for lawyers. At the same time, Lawbby served a social- rather than business-oriented function; other professional networking sites such as Law Link and Legal OnRamp have survived. 

Still, while lawyers have come a long way towards acceptance of professional networking, the responses to the survey's final question suggests to me that, perhaps, lawyers are still missing the point of social networking. When asked about which organization is best positioned to create a professional-networking site,

    * 48 percent of attorneys identified Martindale-Hubbell as the best-positioned organization;
    * 28 percent identified the American Bar Association as the best-positioned organization; and
    * 25 percent identified the Association of Corporate Counsel as the best-positioned organization.

That's where I disagree -- because in my view, professional-networking sites can succeed only where they are organically built from the ground up rather than from the top down by already-dominant groups. Professional-networking sites have gained traction not because they help reinforce and perpetuate the hierarchies in our profession but because they're the great equalizer, bringing together lawyers who share the same business interests and passions irrespective of where they practice or what stage they're at in their career. Networking groups lose their personality and their very appeal when individual identities are replaced by the mass brand of an organization. If lawyers don't understand that aspect of social networking, then, perhaps, they're missing the point. 

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 11, 2008 at 04:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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