I had the honor of participating in a wonderful program at Michigan State Law School on Friday afternoon.

A select group of law students had the opportunity to share how they were currently blogging and using social media for learning and career development. The students were from all classes, 1L to 3L, and used all forms of social media.

The students were also participating in a social media contest to keep them motivated, to learn from each other and to inspire other law students not blogging or using social media to think about it. (Think about that contest idea law firms)

I shared some introductory comments on how to use social media for professional development, gave the students feedback on what they were doing, and participated in a vibrant discussion between audience members and the panelists.

One student, who blogged, got a clerking opportunity with a UK firm through Twitter engagement. Another had a company fly her to San Francisco for a conference based on her social engagement and the Internet presence she created via all forms of social, including blogging.

That wasn’t it. Another was engaging the fashion industry in New York and California via her Fashion Law Blog and other social media. A 1L was networking with professionals in the tech industry (which he previously worked in) via LinkedIn.

And one student was using social to put a “real person” behind her resume. Through Twitter, blogging and other social media, this veteran, mom, and animal welfare advocate gave the world a real feel for who she is.

In the conference hall was a big crowd of law students, business students and recent grads. Why? To learn how they could use blogging and social media. Not only did they learn via the presentations and dialogue, but they left inspired to act.

In her opening comments welcoming me, MSU Law School Dean, Joan Horwath (@joanhowarth1) said it was the students who brought me to East Lansing. It was not the administration.

The students engaged me via blogging and social media as long as a year and a half ago. I was engaged and enthused by their energy and desire to use blogs and social media as a way to learn, engage leaders, and build an online identity.

But for the law students using social media in ways they soley decided upon (not the school telling them what to do), I would never have made it to East Lansing for an afternoon that I’ll long remember.

The lesson for law firms? Turn some lawyers loose. Empower them through your encouragement, support, and education to blog and use social media. Tell them it’s all about professional growth, building word of mouth and building relationships.

Have a contest to keep the lawyers motivated. Sounds trite for lawyers in a law firm, but as Americans we are motivated by competition in just about everything.

Select five or six of the “contestants” to present at a large get together of the firm’s lawyers. Encourage audience members to engage the panelists with questions and comments. Have some fun and laughs. Find out what is working and what isn’t.

Go a couple hours and follow it up with beer and wine.

As at Michigan State Law School, every one will have learned a lot and many of your lawyers will leave inspired to blog and use social media – or to blog and use social media better and more effectively than they have.

I have seen a lot of law firms push a rope trying to motivate and teach their lawyers to blog and use social. This method works.

A big thanks to Dean Howarth, Professor and Assistant Dean Dan Linna (@danlinna) and his team in the Career Services Office (@msulawcso) and, of course, all the students.

Image courtesy of Moyan Brenn

  • My alma mater. I’m not a bit surprised the idea originated with students rather than the administration. The Dean showed real leadership by listening to the students. There’s a lesson to be learned there by those of my generation who are privileged to run law firms.

  • Ron Miller

    This is one of those things that is harder to get your mind around in a law school vacuum. But it does not hurt to try.