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Gated and walled communities for lawyers versus the open net

gate walled community lawyers

Bob Ambrogi (@bobambrogi) writes this morning, “Another Day, Another Social Network for Lawyers.”

Ambrogi’s post was prompted by the launch yesterday of Foxwordy, self billed as the first private social network for lawyers. Referencing LegalOnRamp’s launch six years ago, Ambrogi pointed out that Foxwordy is not the first attempt at a ‘by invitation’ private network for lawyers.

In addition to OnRamp, you can go back to ALM’s Counsel Connect launched 21 years ago and Martindale Connected started 5 years ago. It’s possible the later two were not by invitation. None of their online social networks survived in any meaningful way. Arguably, they never got any traction.

The bigger question in all of this is what is the value to lawyers of gated and walled lawyer communities.

Foxwordy’s announcement listed three benefits for lawyers. The value pitched sounded eerily similar to the private networks come and gone.

  • Enhanced, Private Collaboration: Foxwordy’s invitation-only model brings together relevant top-tier colleagues across the legal market to effectively collaborate in real-time and allows them to share mission-critical knowledge on a private social-networking platform.
  • Reputation Enhancement: On Foxwordy, lawyers grow their reputations based on the nature of their interactions with their peers. This puts lawyers in control of their own reputation and gives them a fresh alternative to the often-arbitrary five-star ratings on a multitude of consumer sites.
  • New Opportunities: Through Foxwordy, legal professionals can expand their relevant network by building relationships with fellow lawyers that lead to a variety of new business and career opportunities.

The problem with closed collaboration is that it doesn’t work anymore – or least compared to other alternatives. It’s like open source software. If you want to advance ideas and learn more, you do it on the open net.

How much blogging have the founders of closed networks done? Do they use Twitter for sharing what they are reading?

Do these things effectively and you’ll find people drawn to you like you’ve never seen before. People who you will learn from, collaborate with, and eventually call colleagues and friends. In a private network you won’t even meet the most valuable people to learn from and collaborate with. As a result, there is far less done to advance ideas and knowledge.

Reputation enhancement happens on the open net. In spades.

Why put your reputation enhancing activities under a rock when we have Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn both empowering you to enhance your reputation and measuring your influence?

Hang out in a closed network if you must, but you’re moving in reverse as far as establishing your reputation as its viewed by social networks. And without a solid reputation established by your open blogging and your blogging being cited, shared, and liked, you are going to find yourself way behind your peers in a couple years.

No question opportunities and new business come from relationships and networking. But lawyers are busy, they’re going to use the social networks they are already using and not create profiles and network in a closed community. Lawyers network via blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and even Pinterest, Instagram, and Vine.

Some of the use of these networks is professional, some of it’s personal. But it’s this networking that enables a lawyer to get to know people (lawyers and non-lawyers), establish trust, and build a reputation.

When I got the Foxwordy announcement I couldn’t help but recall the personal demo for me of Martindale Connected in a Denver hotel in 2009. My impression was that’s interesting, but one, I am not sure how you get lawyers to use it, and two, there’s much more to be gained in open networking online.

It’s long been argued that lawyers need a private network for true collaboration. I’m just not sure that the people who argue for this have experienced the power of the open net.