Quora, a social network of a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it, could become a widely used professional and business development tool for lawyers.
The simplicity of the question and answer format, a clean easy to navigate user interface, user profiles, and the incorporation of social media features give Quora the opportunity be the next big thing in social media. If so, it will be very attractive to lawyers looking to enhance their reputations and connect with their target audience.
I’m biased towards the online Q & A format for lawyers. I’ve found it works well, first as a practicing lawyer in the late ’90’s and from 1999 on in helping lawyers leverage the power of networking through the Internet to build relationships and enhance one’s relationship.
The question and answer format is how in 1996 I began using the Internet as a practicing lawyer. In an effort to help people, I started answering the questions of consumers and small business people on AOL’s message boards. Being that I was a plaintiff’s trial lawyer, most of my answers related to personal injury, medical malpractice, and plaintiff’s employment matters.
The AOL format of answering questions and people sharing my answers across AOL and via email led to my enhancing my reputation as a caring trial lawyer. People in my state and from around the country sought me out to help them. It was also one of the most personally rewarding things I did in 17 years of practicing law. I was making a difference in thousands of people’s lives.
I continued with the Q & A format when I founded Prairielaw.com, a virtual law community which included hundreds of message boards and ‘ask a lawyer.’ Prairielaw.com was rolled into lawyers.com when it was acquired by LexisNexis in 2001. You’ll see the Q & A format lives on in lawyers.com message board and ‘ask a lawyer’ features.
Lawyers working with LexBlog and I now know how strongly I feel about using clients’ and prospective clients’ questions as the genesis of blog posts.
Quora is new, having launched the latter part of last year, and is just starting to get traction among lawyers who are early adopters of social media. So it’s just developing a body of legal questions and answers. You’ll see them broken down into subcategories.
Lawyers doing IP and start-up work may find Quora more worthwhile than other lawyers today as the tech community is the first to use social media sites like Quora. But with the buzz Quora is picking up, it’s only a matter of time that the Quora community will be alive with questions on all areas of the law.
You can expect Quora to be around for a while. One of its co-founders is Facebook’s former CTO, Adam D’Angelo. Benchmark, a Bay Area venture capital firm which also backs AVVO, has invested $11 million in Quora at a valuation of $86 million.
We all have limited amounts of time, but lawyers, especially bloggers, may wish to give Quora a try. Get questions to answer on your blog. You may wish to answer them at Quora and re-post your answer on your blog. Connect with reporters and bloggers who are already using Quora.
Quora’s founders even think of its format as akin to blogging. Per an interview with them with at TechCrunch:
Instead of just Q&A, we think about this as blogging. Some people call it inverse blogging or reverse blogging. When you write a blog post, you write to your audience. When you write on TechCrunch, you know that these people are expecting techie news about startups.
When you come to a question page on Quora and it’s blank there are a bunch of people waiting for the answer. An expert will look at it and say “there’s an audience here and I know exactly what they want to hear. And I actually know about this stuff, or know enough to research and produce a really interesting piece of content, and it’s going to go to the perfectly targeted audience who opted in to hearing about this.”How big will Quora become? I don’t expect it to be as big as Twitter. But what is? My educated guess is that Quora has legs – for the Internet community as a whole and for lawyers.