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Online networks for in-house lawyers get most of their management comments from non-practitioners

Having hosted for more than a year discussion groups on LinkedIn about law department management and on Legal OnRamp about legal department operations, I can attest that very few in-house attorneys either start topics or comment on topics. Most of the traffic comes from the host (that would be me) or from consultants or vendors. Pecuniary gain motivates contributors, not sharing knowledge. The “gated communities” end up opening access to people who contribute for gain.

Nearly everyone of the hundreds who have “joined” my groups then disappear, as far as I can tell. Maybe the topic of how best to direct an in-house legal team doesn’t actually interest them. Maybe they are shy, reluctant to expose their writing and ideas, uncomfortable with English. Certainly time presses them. Maybe lurking is all they ever intended.

I can’t speak to participation levels for substantive legal topics, but I wouldn’t be surprise if the heavy writing is done by law firm partners (and some professors). Again, the active participants have a pecuniary interest.

The end result, no matter the motives, is that social networks for lawyers have a tiny fraction of the members who contribute and a the vast bulk who lie very low in the weeds (See my post of Sept. 22, 2008: social networks such as Legal OnRamp, with 7 references.).

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One response to “Online networks for in-house lawyers get most of their management comments from non-practitioners”

  1. Rees, thanks for sharing your observations. It doesn’t surprise me at all. Think square peg, round hole.
    I believe most lawyers would agree that you need to listen to your client first before you decide what they need. Right?
    Same goes for social networking spaces. No doubt that despite the best of intentions of the network creators, if the audiences they sought to engage aren’t creators, but rather spectators, they probably didn’t do their “listening” homework.
    Trying to drive home the idea that social media isn’t for everyone and that anyone contemplating the space needs to take a good hard look at who they are trying to engage, Forrester analyst Charlene Li so aptly describes, (in her book Groundswell, 2007) the six “types” of online adults. They are Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators and Inactives. The Forrester 2007 North American Social Technographics Online Survey, (about the time that Legal OnRamp was launched – I think) found that only 18% of online U.S. adults were creators compared to 25% Critics, 12% Collectors, 25% Joiners, and a whopping 48% spectators and 44% Inactives.
    Taking into consideration the nuances of legal practice, e.g. time, confidentiality, and other resources, those percentages are likely not even close when talking about the legal community. However, consultants and those who “talk” and “interact” for a living are probably high in the Creator and Critic categories.
    The legal industry is not the only industry where top people aren’t converting to the social Web. Fast Company recently published their 100 Most Creative People in Business. ( Roughly, only a quarter of the creative class has embraced social networking services. Some say it’s a time drain. Others choose to keep their thoughts and pictures to themselves.
    When it becomes mission critical, e.g. their clients (internal or external) demand it, they may turn around and join the love fest. Till then, your contributions are probably read and valued, so keep up the good stuff!