David Giacalone is the latest lawyer to dismiss Twitter as a mindless waste of time and to brag about the fact that he’s not using Twitter – like that’ll make other ignorant souls think more of him.

Things might have improved a bit (or at least gotten a patina of adult and professional participation) since Time Magazine told us last year that “more often than not” Twitter’s members “are simply killing time.” But, we’ve seen how often fellow blawgers jump on new technologies and crazes that end up creating an unmanageable and unjustifiable torrent of information and distraction…….If you think that constant marketing or attracting blawg visitors is at the core of your law practice (or your cyber-business), joining the Twitter revolution might make sense, as you follow dozens, scores, or maybe hundreds of other Tweeters throughout the day or hope they follow you. But, I sure hope you’re not my lawyer (or my employee), adding yet another wave of cyber-distractions to your workday, instead of focusing on efficiently providing quality services. For us, maintaining multiple levels of unessential multitasking is not a virtue.

Here’s some straight talk about Twitter from someone (me) who used to wonder what the heck some pretty smart people saw in Twitter.

  • Lawyers are becoming better lawyers through their growing networks on Twitter.
  • A lawyer can gain immediate expertise from a thought leader across the country by asking a general question or sending a direct message via Twitter.
  • Clients get better served by immediately connecting the client’s lawyer with a needed lawyer in another country within a 1/2 hour (happened yesterday on Twitter).
  • Lawyers are meeting business associates and prospective clients on Twitter who arguably are in a higher demographic group and more innovative than the general business population.
  • Lawyers are enjoying the practice of law more.
  • Lawyers actively using Twitter glance at their Twitter application on and off during the day, perhaps like one would read an article during a break from work. Such lawyers are not ‘tweeting’ throughout the day.

All happening via Twitter. Every single day.

But hey, hang to your prejudices, ignorance, and a year old article in Time Magazine as reasons to tell lawyers that Twitter is not worthwhile.

Sorry to be so blunt, but Twitter is adding a lot to many lawyers’ lives. Twitter is not something to be dismissed by lawyers who are not giving Twitter a fair try.

  • Kevin,
    Thanks for sharing some of your insights on the benefits of Twitter for the legal profession. Some of your observations hold true across other industries as well, as long as the user has found other interesting, thoughtful users who provide professional value.
    The key to successful Twitter use is its use as a tool to connect with other engaged, relevant professionals to consume their content or engage in thought-provoking dialogue.

  • I agree wholeheartedly about the benefits of Twitter for lawyers. However, Twitter is not alone in fulfilling the functions that you mentioned.
    Solosez, the ABA’s most popular listserv (with over 3,500 members) could be considered the illegitimate love child of Twitter and blogs – that is, if its existence didn’t pre-date Twitter by about 10 years. Like Twitter, the list is open to any and all subjects. Since posts aren’t limited to 140 characters, however, some posts are more similar to blog posts than to tweets.
    The ABA describes Solosez as: “an on-line resource for lawyers to share and obtain information on a wide range of personal and professional subjects: legal questions, client referrals, topical issues, practice technology problems and solutions, travel information, jokes, or just to gloat about a court victory or vent about a local judge. Hosted by the ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division, this Internet tool is changing the way many solos practice law.”
    Twitter, its value to lawyers, and how to use it, have been popular topics of discussion on Solosez of late. I try to help list members understand Twitter by pointing out the similarities between Solosez and Twitter.
    Finally, because David Giacalone doesn’t have an active law practice, the benefits of Twitter are perhaps less relevant to him than to the rest of us.

  • I think there are many people out there who are getting joy out of coming up with extreme positions and then let others react. Yes, some tweets out there are worthless. Many blogs are the same way. And websites. And about 200 channels on my cable box.
    The key, I’m finding, is how to filter things and use the devices to maximum benefit. Although I’ve just started Tweeting (twittering?) a few weeks ago, I’ve gotten a lot of benefit from the information being shared. And using connections to further relationships.
    The only expression is still valid: You get out what you put in…

  • Like any tool, Twitter is what you make of it. I don’t disagree completely with David’s criticism of Twitter. Twitter can definitely become a distraction during the work day. It surprises me a bit how much time people spend on Twitter during the day.
    But Twitter has its benefits. I have learned a great deal from thought leaders, enhanced relationships with friends and business associates and I have even gained a few clients as well.
    The key for me is to use Twitter at night or on the weekends. I have always blogged at night so that works for me. Constant participation during the work day is not necessary to see benefits. I encourage lawyers to give Twitter a try and use it in a way that works for them.

  • We’ve just started to use it as an adjunct to the three blogs my firm publishes. Like anything these days, it has the potential to become a distraction. But as another channel of communication and idea sharing, it has potential. I’m going to try it out for sharing items that are not worthy of “full” blog posts, and to listen in on the conversation.

  • Kevin, you know I am a Twitter fan, and while I don’t agree completely with David’s comments, I’d be interested to know the metrics of the “straight talk” you describe above. After all, at last count there are only 491 lawyers on Twitter right now; I would imagine there’s not enough real data on that to make it any more than anecdotal evidence.
    The only anecdotal evidence I have to offer is by observing the lawyers I follow on Twitter. Contrary to your comment, most of the lawyers *are* Tweeting throughout the day — and I would say that less than 5% of the tweets have any legal significance or marketing value. Most of it is just lawyers talking about their day to other lawyers. I hope that changes, but I really think lawyers are still in the early adopter stage of Twitter. My .02 cents

  • The Great Twitter Wars Begin

    A while back I posted that I will not twit (tweet?).

  • I think there will always be folks who see any interaction as a waste of time. Practice group lunches at my old firm? HUGE waste of time. Conference calls, email, listservs? I’ve worked with lawyers who have felt all of these things were wastes of time.
    I subscribe to Solosez, Lisa, and as a non-lawyer even I can see the benefits of it (and the similarities to twitter). In fact, I just called the list the grandfather of twitter in a phone call with a lawyer yesterday. :-)
    As with anything, Twitter is what you make of it. It’s how you use the tool that makes it worthy (or not) of your time.

  • Twitter is about developing new relationships. It’s at first, a handshake. Then, it can develop into a regular conversation. A regular conversation then lets you learn from others, and creates trust in the potential new relationship.
    It is true when they say, people buy from people who they like and trust. This is true in the legal profession as well as any other profession, even if your litigate!
    For example, I learned from Lisa Solomon, Niki Black, Vicki Pynchon, Dan Schwartz, Steve Worrall, Patty Spencer, and Kevin O’Keefe, Grant Griffiths and many others all from Twitter conversations. On a day-to-day basis, I can easily say that I learn something new from my Twitter frinds.
    In fact, if I came across a client referral opportunity, I am more likely to refer a person to my Twitter list of lawyers since I have already developed a relationship with them.
    The process of developing a relationship with other lawyers is not a one or two day thing; It’s slow one as it should be in any other relationship when you are really trying to get a feel for a person with whom you are conneting.
    I keep statistics on the number of estate planning, elder law, probate and tax practitioners I have met on Twitter as well as on other social nets like Facebook, with whom I intend to have a continuous relationship for years to come.
    Will be happy to share my experience in the social nets over the last 12 months.
    I highly recommend Twitter to all lawyers.
    Best to you,
    Mina Sirkin
    On Twitter follow: @MinaSirkin

  • Thanks for all the comments guys. Some very worthwhile discussion for lawyers still learning about Twitter – me included.
    On the 491 lawyers on Twitter? Again it’s just anecdotal Tom, but my guess is that the number of lawyers on Twitter is higher than that. And more anecdote here, but I’d guess lawyers are adding to the Twitter ranks at the rate of 20 to 30 a day. That’s 7 times the rate of new blogs from lawyers.
    On the talk being being mostly social by lawyers, that’s okay. Lawyers should learn to be more social, both as a way to learn from their network (people they meet through social conversation) and as a means of getting new work (people hire the people they know and like).
    Today I exchanged messages on Twitter with a professional in Austin who grew up across the street from Lambeau Field and whom was babysat by Hall of Fame Quarterback Bart Starr’s wife. We built a bond that my guess is will lead to meeting at some time and doing work together. Small talk leads to big things.

  • dang, i cant believe how popular twitter has gotten. i guess im due up to make an account.

  • I have found twitter to be a great relationship/professional tool. I had a question about the IRS’s handling of a situation and got responses from lawyers around the country. I have found some great blogs that I wouldn’t have found otherwise. Taking it a step further, I have actually met some of the people I twitter with through the first #denvertweetup further creating relationships. I am sure 10 years ago, lawyers complained about the internet and how it would never bring clients to a firm, 5 years ago that blogs would never bring clients, and now it is Twitter and other social media applications. To the lawyers that say this, I say keep saying it! I will keep twittering, blogging, and using social media to get the clients that you don’t want.
    Elizabeth Lewis
    Website: http://www.eclewis.com
    Blog: http://www.eclewis.com/wordpress
    Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/eclewis
    Twitter: eclewis
    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/people/Elizabeth-Lewis/10236905
    (Yes, I use it all!!!)

  • Dan

    I find tweeting very useful (http://twitter.com/DanHarris) but I also turn it off for long stretches (typically 4-5 hours) at a time so it does not become a distraction. Who says one has to tweet 24/7?

  • cant believe how big twitter has grown in the past few months. does facebook do this same kind of thing?