Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Legal Tech New York Shows Social Media The Door

For those of you doing other things like practicing law, there is a big, big convention going on in New York's Hilton this week. Legal Tech New York is best described as a toy convention for lawyers. Pretend as if you are standing in the Apple Store or Best Buy while people in various rooms are talking about the future of the profession.

Legal Tech is the perfect place to learn about all the new technology that can streamline law practice. Apparently Microsoft Office 2010 is about to come out (not sure how that will change my use of Microsoft Word to draft pleadings), there are new software programs to handle discovery sent via e-mail (creatively called "e-discovery"), and there are ways to use the iPad so that you can do an entire case while standing at a train station.

What comes with tech conferences is the call that "lawyers MUST adopt new technology." It makes sense - if you are selling tech, you need people to buy tech, and if your tech is geared towards stupid lawyers who believe they can practice with a 2 year old Dell laptop and a Blackberry, then the best way to sell it is to demand that lawyers buy it.

No tech conference today is complete without a collection of social media lawyers (defined as lawyers who work at Starbucks or at home, who generally don't practice law but did for 5 or 10 minutes, and now have the expertise to show you how to use twitter and other social media sites to get much clients.)

Legal Tech is no different.

As the conference date came closer, the various "social media rock stars" began to figure out how they would be relevant to Legal Tech. I trust none of them are staying in the Legal Tech conference hotel, rather, like college students going to a concert for which they have no tickets, they are most likely staying in a neighboring hotel, or with friends, and loitering in the free exhibit hall hoping no one asks them about the conference that they are not attending.

They are there for a group hug and to drum up social media consulting business.

As I watched the comments coming out of Legal Tech yesterday, I noticed something: None of the social media idiots were commenting much. None of the topics were about social media. None of the self-named "experts" were asked to speak. None.

It was almost as if social media was not the focus of this tech conference.

How could this happen?

How could it be that a conference about how lawyers can better practice law would not include hours and hours about how Facebook and Linkedin were the silver bullets to getting clients? Wasn't there a need to discuss how to properly tweet?

Just when I thought the day would go by without a mention of social media, and the "experts" would go skulking away, it happened.

There was a session on social media. And it must have felt like a slap in the face, no, a punch in the stomach to all the social media evangelists that were there. Like a bride being brought to the alter just to be told "I don't," these words were spoken:

Social Media Credential Fraud. You need to be sure people are who they claim to be online.

Lawyers need to be extremely careful not to convey any false, deceptive or misleading information.

I've written extensively on the liars that permeate social media, from the "gurus" that lie through their teeth about their qualifications, to the disbarred, suspended, and convicted that hide it from their prospective social media clients (and even law clients) to the actual practicing lawyers who believe no one will find out that they are not who they say they are.

The responses I've received go from "wow," to "that's not possible," to "why should I care?" Curiously, most that say "why should I care," are lawyers.

There are also people who believe I shouldn't talk about these liars because "no one needs your protection Tannebaum, we all know about these people." Except the person I spoke to two weeks ago, someone very active on social media, who was about to discuss business with one of these idiots, and had no idea what a liar they were.

Yeah, shut up, everyone knows.

And then there's Tim Baran, who is loved and respected by people in the social media world. Yesterday, as I wondered if anyone noticed that social media was being shown the door, he broke rank with this post: Legal Tech 2001: Not About Social Media.

Ut oh.

One of the rules of social media, is that if you're in the business, you never say anything remotely negative about social media. The circle jerk is essential. For example, my close personal friend Kevin O'Keefe says lawyers are ill served by preaching the perils and pitfalls of social media.

All positive, nothing negative, especially if you're in the business of selling social media to lawyers.

But Tim breaks rank, at the peril of those in social media that will be angry:

LegalTech conference attendees had over a dozen e-discovery sessions to choose from on the first day alone. Social Media? Exactly one. And that one session was more about how not to do social media.

Even so, the large ballroom hosting the session ended up being an echo chamber with only a smattering of attendees.

A look at the conference agenda for the next two days promises more of the same.

Tim wonders what happened here:

Is this a backlash against social media in the legal profession? Perhaps not since a change would have had to occur in order to have a backlash.

Is it a miscalculation of the level of adoption? Conceivably, certainly the adoption by law firms.

Does it have something to do with the sponsor, ALM, the premier publisher of many of the major regional and national legal print publications? They certainly would not be mistaken for being on the forefront of the social media charge.

Perhaps it’s because LegalTech, unlike the ABA TECHSHOW, for example, is more vendor driven than content based.

Or perhaps it's because the social media snake oil salespeople misunderstand the difference between a real practicing lawyer's need to market themselves on social media, and their need to do real work with real tools.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.Share/Save/Bookmark


Lisa Solomon said...

I think Tim is more on point here. The fact is, LegalTech is geared towards large firms, who don't want their lawyers to show the kind of individuality (a/k/a personality) that's as important to social media as it is to any other kind of marketing activity. (Alternatively - or perhaps additionally - the types of lawyers who work at large firms just don't have any social skills in the first place.) Why teach people how to effectively use social media if you don't want them to use it in the first place?

Brian Tannebaum said...

As for your flawed theory that BigLaw is to blame for why social media skills are not important at Legal Tech, I applaud your tenuous and misplaced argument. I know plenty of lawyers at BigLaw who have personality. It's too bad for the social media snake oil salesmen that some of these lawyers just don't buy in to the silver bullet of social media that helps failed an former lawyers think they have some kind of career of which to speak.

Jeff Gamso said...

And, of course, if you're in the business of selling social media, there are no people you don't want to have use it. (Or, at least, none you don't want to have buy it.)

Mark Zamora said...

I read the Baran post. Commented there and will here.

The law business is the last best place for suckers who spend too much. I see it with companies that tout websites, SEO, and now SM and "mobile" sites.

Seriously, why would a lawyer pay for any SM advice? Most lawyer websites are terribly done. They're like having a business card made of toilet paper.

Google ad words? Just learning how to use adwords and buy text ads will help any lawyer 1000s of times more than any SM.

Blogs? Our biggest biz development tool. Bar none. 4 different blogs. All successful, all nich.

Social Media? Please. To be fair it is in its infancy. I have repeatedly challenged lawyers to 'show me the client/case' that came in via Twitter. To date, one lawyer reply. I can talk to 3 different waiters in the course of a weekend and end up with more than one case.

The term "the jury is out?" Doesn't apply to SM. I'd suggest SM is not even to the jury selection phase yet.

Keep me laughing and learning BT