The ABA, social media and Kavanaugh hearing

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On Thursday evening, news broke on mainstream media (news television and news sites) that the American Bar Association was calling for a FBI investigation of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh.

Wanting to following the legal community’s, the public’s and the media’s commentary on the ABA’s position I went to Twitter looking for the ABA’s tweet on its position and the tweets that followed thereon.

It would be in tweets that followed the ABA tweet that open public commentary would ensue. This discussion would drive commentary across the net — last evening and into this morning. The commentary could also bubble up to influence the mainstream media’s discussion of the ABA’s position. And who knows, maybe even commentary on the senate committee floor.

But I could find nothing on the ABA’s position, from either the ABA itself or its president, Bob Carlson.

I shared on Twitter that I found it odd that the ABA chose not to post its position on social media.

This morning, the ABA did post to Twitter that that the ABA president had sent a letter to the the senate judiciary committee urging them to conduct a confirmation vote on Judge Kavanaugh only after a FBI investigation on Dr. Ford’s allegations.

Shortly afterwards this morning, the ABA tweeted for its president, Bob Carlson, the ABA position and a link to yesterday’s letter.

Later on Friday morning the ABA shared its position on Facebook.

My first thought was that the ABA wanted to limit the news on its position and limit discussion on its position among its members, the legal community in general, the public and the media. After all, almost two thirds of Americans get news from social media, with Twitter dominating as the source of news on social media.

On breaking news, such as with the Kavanaugh hearing, Twitter is at the center of news and commentary. Mainstream turn to Twitter for news and commentary, then share, air and ‘print’ tweets. Twitter is where news is discussed by the public, especially those who influence further discussion on the subject.

So if you wanted to take a position, limit who would hear of it and curtail commentary on the position, you’d send a letter, post a press release, and delay sharing word of it to social media.

That’s what the ABA did. It issued a press release on Thursday announcing that that the “ABA president calls for FBI investigation of allegations against Kavanaugh.”

But rather than wanting to limit word of the ABA’s position and limit discussion on its position, my gut tells me the ABA just doesn’t use social media very well. And that’s a little sad for an organization that wants to play a role in driving legal commentary and the advancement of the law in this country.

The ABA and others will think a day’s delay in posting to social media, or even half of day’s delay is nothing. A mere formality. A task handled when someone gets to work the next day.

But the world today dictates otherwise. The use of social media is a reality, and probably more important than press releases and letters.

The ABA has acknowledged that it’s revenues are on the steep decline and that membership is dropping. To remain relevant to the public, its membership and the legal community in general, the ABA needs to learn how to engage its audience in a modern world.

The ABA’s communications on Kavanaugh make clear the ABA has not not yet learned how to engage the public.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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