What is Texas Bar Circle? That’s a good question…and one best answered by John Sirman, manager of TexasBar.com and technology editor of the Texas Bar Journal.

How fortunate it is, then, that John just happens to be our guest for today’s edition of the LexBlog Q & A interview series. Though we’ll leave a detailed explanation of the Circle for our interview (available after the jump), suffice to say that the site is living proof of how the right kind of social networking can bring lawyers together in a useful web-based environment…one that we can expect to see more of in the near future.

1. Rob La Gatta: Tell me a little bit about Texas Bar Circle. How did the idea for it first come about?

John Sirman: Texas Bar Circle is a social and professional network for Texas lawyers. It works very much like MySpace or Facebook, but our network is "closed" and only accessible by our members.

Before we launched Texas Bar Circle about a year ago, we had toyed with the idea for some time. We saw it as a natural offering to bar members, especially considering the social nature of the legal profession. So we approached Affinity Circles, which had previously provided networks only for alumni associations. They shared our vision and quickly built and launched Texas Bar Circle.

2. Rob La Gatta: In a January article authored by Tom Mighell for Law Practice Magazine, he notes that between June and January, approximately 2,200 attorneys had signed up for Texas Bar Circle. Since January, has that number grown any more?

John Sirman: Today we’ve got more than 4,600 registered users (and counting).

3. Rob La Gatta:

Do you find that many of the users have simply created the account and lost interest, or is there widespread active participation?

John Sirman: My sense is there are a lot who registered and haven’t been active. Our job now is to figure out how to keep people engaged and coming back to the community.

A tool like this is really what the user makes of it; the more people contribute to the community, the more they’ll benefit. We’ve also seen lots of examples of people who are actively participating and making new connections through Texas Bar Circle.

4. Rob La Gatta: What about security? How are you guaranteeing that the information isn’t accessed by anyone outside of the legal community?

John Sirman: When users register for Texas Bar Circle there are authentication steps in place that assure us they’re actually Texas lawyers. So far, security hasn’t been an issue.

5. Rob La Gatta: Do you expect in the future to see more online networks like this, aiming to draw together attorneys from a specific region or practice area?

John Sirman: I think online social networks of attorneys are here to stay, and that we’ll see more and more of them. There are also likely to be "meta networks," which connect various social networks and allow their members to connect and collaborate outside their own groups.

I also expect us to see things we can’t even imagine today. We’re really at a turning point for social media, and the fun is only just beginning.

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