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Last week a friend asked on Facebook what we thought about President-elect Trump tweeting the possibility of a nuclear arms race with Russia. Was it appropriate for a world leader to be tweeting on such sensitive matters?

The reaction of most people was that it was reckless for the President-elect to weigh in on matters as serious as nuclear weapons in a tweet.  Rather than a reasoned discussion, we have world leaders guessing as to the President-elect’s intent.

Others responded that the President-elect was using Twitter as a press tool, much as corporate leaders are being coached to do. The President-elect was using Twitter to communicate directly to the people, as opposed to going through the traditional media.

I get the concerns about what is proper commentary by a president on Twitter. I was pretty alarmed hearing about the tweet on nuclear arms. But we may be looking at things as they were, not how they are today.

What would be better? Getting a podium, putting flags behind it and asking the media to come to the “Florida White House to be” for a statement or press conference?

Seems a bit outdated to then have reporters reduce what the president said to a sound bite of about 140 characacters when the president could have tweeted it.

The President-elect’s tweet on nuclear arms got the news out and generated discussion world-wide via social media. Vladimir Putin offered a tempered response that what Trump said was obvious and discussed in his campaign. Putin added that he looked forward to visiting the United States and President-elect upon invitation. This and we saw Putin’s Christmas card and message to the President-elect.

A U.S. position stated and reaction diffused all in one day because the President-elect relayed our position via Twitter. Ten years ago we would have been be waiting for the next day’s newspaper to begin two-weeks of news coverage on the subject.

Yesterday, on not nearly as sensitive a matter, we had Hall of Fame basketball coach and president of the New York Knicks, Phil Jackson,  and Jeanie Buss, part owner and president of the Los Angeles Lakers, announce on Twitter the ending of their seventeen year relationship and four year engagement.

Rather than statements from their publicists, as we’d have had in the past, we had tweets from Jackson and Buss.

Law firms regularly issue press releases on firm or client related matters. Press conferences, though declining, are used by firms and their clients on high profile matters. Why not use Twitter instead?

Law firms and their leaders are neither celebrities nor politicians. Their news is not going to draw such immediate interest. The legal industry also runs a step or two behind when it comes to the innovative use of the Internet.

But their are some advantages to using Twitter.

  • Twitter does enable law firms to speak directly to their audience, including industry reporters.
  • Twitter enables law firms to control what the press reports on the firm’s position.
  • Twitter allows law firms to get out in front of a story such as a strong group of lawyers departing the firm.
  • Twitter enables law firms to immediately respond to reports they feel are unfair or unwarranted.
  • Social media, including news emanating from Twitter, is where a majority of people get news today.

Will Twitter replace press releases and press conferences for law firms? Overnight, no, but Twitter or another form of social media will replace the way law firms and their leaders release news and make statements — sooner or later.