The legal innovation track at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting is all about the future.
“I think the future is here,” said John Sirman, a lawyer and the web manager for the State Bar of Texas. “Changes that maybe we were talking about a few years ago are happening now.”
That means plenty of opportunities for lawyers to adapt and change, Sirman said. The State Bar of Texas hopes to better equip lawyers for these changes at the annual meeting, which will be held in Fort Worth on June 10 and 11.
Part of the annual meeting is a legal innovation track titled, “The Adaptable Lawyer,” a term coined by Texas lawyer Michael Maslanka. The training will encourage lawyers to adapt to a changing business environment. Social media is an important component of this new environment, Sirman added.
“Lawyers need to be open to new ways of not only doing business, but also making professional connections. Social media is definitely a part of that,” he said.
The State Bar of Texas sponsored a “Twitter-style” novel contest to promote the legal innovation track. That’s right—a complete novel in 140 characters. Sirman said the contest was open to all US-licensed attorneys and over 200 lawyers submitted entries. The winner will be announced at the annual meeting during a breakfast seminar by LexBlog CEO Kevin O’Keefe.
Twitter will also be very visible during the meeting itself. Sirman expects use of the hashtag (#sbot10) will be even more popular this year. A tweetup (#sbottwt) will take place on June 10 at the annual meeting.
There’s more to social media than Twitter and Facebook, though. Sirman cited the experience of Michelle Cheng, an Austin lawyer who will speak during the legal innovation track.
Cheng posts frequently on yelp.com, a site that allows users to post reviews for businesses in a specific community. Sirman said Cheng has made professional connections on the site without aiming to do so.
“She’s not talking about anything related to law practice, but she’s just out there,” Sirman said. “It’s a good of example of participation on social media sites and how you really don’t know what they might lead to.”
Sirman knows the value of social media firsthand. He is the Technology Editor of the Texas Bar Journal and frequently relies on professional relationships he has developed online to track down content.
“It’s my online connections and social media connections that I go to first for articles and contributions.”
A self-proclaimed Internet aficionado, Sirman has managed content for the State Bar of Texas website for the past five years. Sirman said social media has allowed the State Bar to educate not only lawyers, but also the public. The Facebook and Twitter accounts managed by the State Bar of Texas alternate posts geared toward lawyers and the public to appeal to both audiences.
“I think we’re definitely reaching people that we otherwise wouldn’t reach,” Sirman said. “All of this work with social media is just scratching the surface.”
By the numbers:
13,000 people belong to Texas Bar Circle, a social network for Texas lawyers
11,593 people “like” the State Bar of Texas on Facebook
1,268 people follow @statebaroftexas on Twitter
140 blogs managed by Texas lawyers are linked off of the Texas Bar Blog