Last Thursday in New York City, I heard the following. Your job is to guess where I was and who said it:
  • I’m not sure what would possess any attorney to blog, but if you do, don’t divulge confidential information or berate judges
  • I don’t use Facebook, but I understand that one of the purposes of Facebook is to collect the most "friends" as you can
  • I understand there is a lot of "serial poking" going around on Facebook
  • So when you’ve Facebooked another person…
  • Employers need to be careful using social networking sites to find candidates because you’re self-selecting…
  • Social networking is really just about promoting yourself

So, where was I? Attending the Technology in the Practice and Workplace Committee Symposium in New York City, as part of the ABA Labor & Employment Law Section.  (Ironically, today, I visited Facebook – which I’ll report on in the upcoming days.)

And who said these comments? Each of the comments above were made by speakers (namely attorneys) who practice in the labor & employment law field, some at big firms, some at small ones.  

All of them said proudly that they don’t use Facebook (or Twitter, for that matter) and see no reason to change.  In short, they wore their absence from Facebook proudly on their sleeve. 

(To be fair, there were a number of other speakers and attorneys who attended who said that they did use social networking and social media tools, including the General Counsel for Lincoln Center, Inc.) 

All of which raises the question: Can an attorney provide advice to clients about social media when they don’t use it themselves?

Before I answer the question directly, consider this: Attorneys provide advice to clients on areas that they don’t use all the time. Medical malpractice attorneys often counsel doctors on issues relating to best practices in various areas of medicine. And patent law attorneys provide guidance on complex engineering issues all the time.

But what these situations have in common is this: The attorneys have spent time trying to understand the issues that they are facing.

So to answer my own question, no, attorneys need not use social networking in their daily life to provide guidance to employers but, in my view, they better start taking the time to understand it.

What’s the business case for doing so? There are over 400 MILLION people using Facebook. Even if only one percent used Facebook for business purposes — that’s over 4 million people right there. (Obviously the numbers are much higher than that).

Beyond that, though — and what my visit to Facebook today confirms — is that technology isn’t standing still.  Companies like Facebook are looking for more and more ways to create a "social web" and increasingly the public is engaging through that medium.  

Time waits for no one. Even if you’re still skeptical about social media, isn’t it time to learn more about it? Here’s a primer.

  • Attorneys who may not be engaging in social media themselves can still advise clients on proper usage. They should start with recommending that business / corporate clients have a company-wide social media policy in place that will govern the use of social networking sites in the office.

  • Very insightful post. I wonder how many L&E attys are drafting social media policies without having a core understanding of the technologies they are regulating.

  • I have attended a few legal seminars where the attorneys were giving social media policy advice. They not only did not use it, they had difficulty running the powerpoint presentation. Sad. I agree with you, know what you are talking about if you wihs to be credible. If someone doesn’t use social media what kind of social medial policy do you expect them to offer to you?

  • I think that if an attorney is going to be giving advice on Facebook, they better well know what they’re talking about. Why would I ask someone’s advice about how to cook a pot roast if they’ve never cooked before in their life? And why would I pay hundreds of dollars an hour for the useless advice?