Speaking at Indiana University Law School Tuesday along with Dan Lear of Avvo, made clear the stark contrast between law schools when it comes to exposing students to the profession of law, and social media in particular.
IU Professor Bill Henderson’s class on the Profession of Law had 100 students taking part in a session on how Avvo could be used to select a lawyer for various legal dilemmas.
We then discussed the history of lawyers networking through the net to build relationships and reputations through my experiences as a lawyer and then founder of Prairielaw and later, LexBlog. We wrapped up by discussing how students could start leveraging blogging and social media while in law school.
Other law schools (Emory, Michigan State, Fordam and I am sure others) are also open to teaching students about blogging and social media for professional development (learning) and networking (building a reputation and relationships). These schools offer classes and programs on social media and blogging.
At the same time, other schools offer no such programs and when offered by practicing lawyers are even met with resistance, as was the case with my attempt to speak at Notre Dame’s law school.
Attorney Carolyn Elefant, a champion for innovation and the use of social media in small law shared on Facebook:
For 3 years straight I spoke on starting a law firm and social media for networking at American U Law School which is local. Even with free pizza as an incentive, the most who ever showed up were 10 students out of a 1000 person student body. I’ve repeatedly offered to speak at UDC where one of my law classmates is head of career services but can’t even get an invite. I don’t even bother any more.
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The more “open” law schools want their students to leverage technology and the Internet for learning while in school, to understand how the net is leveraged by innovative lawyers in practice and to enable students to network and to build a reputation while in school – think getting a job.
Some of these schools also see the possibility of advancing how legal services are delivered by leveraging innovation and technology (think Legal RnD at Michigan State).
In medical school and in the grad schools in the sciences, students not only learn core knowledge, but also look to make advances in the medicine and sciences through their studies and research while in school. Why not law students along with professors doing some of the same, these schools ask?
To me, the reason some schools drag their feet is that their professors and administrators have no idea how blogging and social media work for learning and career advancement. Rather than admit what they do not know and figure out how to help the students on these fronts, they look for reasons not to discuss what’s reality today. That’s unfortunate when the schools are leaving some grads $120,000 in debt.
It’s also unfortunate when looking to crack the nut of lawyers being irrelevant to 80 or 85% of the public who never think of contacting a lawyer at a time of need or even know that they have a legal need. These folks often have the money to pay lawyers who charge a fair rate.
Right now these folks don’t trust lawyers or have a way to get to know them. Avvo with its various services and products is one way to make a dent and get lawyers more work, I see blogging and publishing as another.
Tapping into this latent demand for legal services is going to take innovation from private sector companies. Bar associations and lawyers alone are not going to get the job done.
Through study and research on the problem and solutions law schools can not only participate in the change being driven by companies, they can help drive it.
It seems like a win-win to have law schools teaching and researching on this front. Not only would law students leave school better equipped to practice and make immediate contributions, but we also address the issue of making legal services more accessible via innovation and technology.
It’s ashame more law schools are not willing to let go of the past.