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Tweeting legal

News

Cite as: March 2015 89 (3) LIJ, p.26

Lawyers and firms are increasingly making friends with social media.

Back in 2009, a civil trial involving an internet service provider and copyright infringement attracted widespread attention in the profession, the IT and telecommunications sector and the media.

But it wasn’t just that the Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Ltd case was the first trial to tackle these emerging and complex legal matters and proceed to judgment. There was a hashtag #iitrial.

LIV policy lawyer Leanne O’Donnell, who was a senior associate and working on the matter at the time, said it was the first civil trial in Australia to be live tweeted. She watched IT reporters, journalists and bloggers report the trial well beyond the bounds of traditional media. Text meant Ms O’Donnell was able to inform her client of the outcome before the High Court Registry email with the summary of the judgment hit her inbox, and then tweet the result. Read about her experience at http://tinyurl.com/kemqesq).

It meant too, that the outcome was known to everyone with any interest in the matter. One click and they could read the summary judgment.

Growing numbers of lawyers are making social media their friend. Law firms, recognising the benefits of a presence on social media, are increasingly investing in training their lawyers to effectively use social media, and integrating it into communications strategies. So are courts, emergency services and policy makers.

Social media is an effective way to extend a media program, make announcements, imply alliances, position, make connections, extend networks, and critically, to gather and share information.

Back in 2009 Ms O’Donnell (aka @MsLods and author of a law and technology blog MsLods) thought social media and Twitter in particular “was just all about celebrities”. It was a view shared by LIV president Katie Miller, who first dipped into social media with a Facebook that same year, motivated by a desire to keep in touch with family and friends while working interstate for three months. By 2011 she was on Twitter, and this year is blogging (www.liv.asn.au/LIVPresBlog2015).

“I follow a lot of my clients,” Ms Miller said. “I keep up with what they’re doing and what they’re finding interesting. It’s a great way to absorb a lot of information by osmosis. I follow others in the legal profession – initially this was people in Australia, but it’s the global nature of it that’s really valuable. You can see how others are thinking about different issues.”

Twitter and LinkedIn in particular have become efficient ways for firms and individual practitioners to issue alerts or case updates. Ms O’Donnell notes: “People want things faster – a tweet will get them to the right information quickly – and you want to be the person who got it to them.”

Ms Miller agrees – and adds that another benefit is the camaraderie and connection social media offers when people are brought together by interests: “Twitter has been the big surprise for me. I thought it was just about trivia and celebrities. But there are some of the best conversations on Twitter – albeit in bite-sized pieces. But I get perspectives and connect with people I wouldn’t otherwise have ever come across. And I have found it enhances my ‘real’ network.”

Social media platforms are rapidly moving environments. By late 2014 there were more than 2.7 million active Australian users (284 million monthly active users globally) on Twitter; 13.6 million Australian account holders (1.39 billion active users globally) on Facebook; and more than 3.9 million Australian account holders (332 million globally) on that safest of platforms for the risk averse, LinkedIn.

These include law firms, special interest groups and associations such as the LIV, which ensure they maintain a presence in the new media, stay in front of stakeholders, clients, industry and talent, and keep a weather eye on competitors.

With a degree in psychology and communications, and a track record which includes an IT start-up and government and NFP experience, LIV social media manager Adele Whish-Wilson has seen attitudes to social media in legal circles change rapidly in the three and a half years she has been at the LIV.

“Social media is very much a part of public affairs, it is a part of the voice of the organisation and a means for us to present our position to the media, government and other organisations,” she explained. The channels have been used variously to advocate on issues, promote the position of the LIV on matters such as legal aid funding and data retention policy, and engage members.

Resistance tends to come from a belief that social media is too superficial, too risky and too exposed. Ms Whish-Wilson says a good understanding of privacy settings and security available on each of the platforms can counter these concerns.

Evidently a growing number of individual practitioners and legal bodies, as well as sitting and former judges, are navigating the settings and using Twitter to powerful effect, gathering vast numbers of followers who in turn, forward on information to their networks.

“It’s a good way to get involved, to get information, to build networks and personal brand, to develop connections where you wouldn’t otherwise,” said Ms Whish-Wilson, who also recommends that the cautious start with a LinkedIn account or a Twitter account used just to follow (not tweet). “Social media is a free, fast mechanism to keep your finger on the pulse – to get research and reports for example, immediately. You are missing out if you’re not on it.”

Further information

LIV Social Media Taskforce – Lawyers from all areas of practice monitor the impacts of social media on the profession.

Social media and the law – the LIV offers a wide range of resources, including policy guidelines, usage guidelines and training for firms and practitioners. See www.liv.asn.au/Practice-Resources/Social-Media-and-the-Law


ALICIA PATTERSON

Untitled Document
FOLLOWING THE PROFESSION

Consider the following range of legal identifies, key legal organisations and firms on Twitter (and the following they have direct access to):

Malcolm Turnbull @TurnbullMalcolm
(319,000+)
Slater and Gordon @SlaterGordon (just under
5000 followers)

LIV President @LIVPresident (just over 2700)

 

Barrister Julian Burnside @JulianBurnside
(64,000+)
Victorian Attorney General
@martinpakulaMP (4700+)
Kate Ashmor @Kate Ashmor (2600+)
Hugh De Kretser @hughdekretser (3400+) – and HRLC @rightsagenda (19,700) Barrister Jessie Taylor @taylor_jessie (4500+) Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human
Rights Commission
@VEOHRC (just over 2400)
Former High Court Justice Michael Kirby @honMichaelKirby (10,000+) Leanne O’Donnell @MsLods (4400+) Magistrate’s Court @MagCourtVic (2400+)
Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination
Commissioner @LizBroderick (8000+)
Melissa Castan @MsCastan (4300+) Shine Lawyers @ShineLawyers (2300+)
Sarah Joseph @profsarahj (7100+) Supreme Court of Victoria
@SCVSupremeCourt (4200)
Damien Carrick @damien_carrick (1800+)
(presenter of the ABC’s Law Report @
LawReportRN 2300+)
Josh Bornstein @JoshBBornstein (5700+) Liberty Sanger @libertysanger (1800+) of
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers @wefightforfair
(3900+)
Alistair Nicholson @alasnich (1800+)
Allens @AllensLegal (5600+) LaLegale @LaLegale (3200+) County Court of Victoria @CCVMedia (1300+)
King and Wood Mallesons @KWMlaw (5300+) Victoria Law Foundation @viclawfoundn
(3100+)
Fiona McLeod, 2015 ABA President @FiMcLeod
(1000+)
Lizzie O’Shea @lizzie_oshea (2800+) Law Institute Journal @theLIJ (2900+) Victoria Legal Aid @VicLegalAid (1000+)
 
Justice Connect NFP Law @nfp_law (2800+)
Law Council of Australia
@thelawcouncil (670+)

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