Hey, 1Ls! It’s Okay to Use the Internet

Law Student BlogI can’t believe I’m actually writing this — in late 2013 — but I’ve heard the same thing from enough new law students that I feel compelled to address it.

Namely, if your school tells you not to blog or use social media IGNORE THEM. This is incredibly stupid advice (and you can tell them I said so).

Why? Let’s count the ways:

  1. Unlike your school administration (apparently), I don’t think you’re an idiot. The reality is that the people law schools are trying to warn away from their own stupidity are going to keep publicly posting drunk selfies on Facebook. Why? Because they’re not very bright. Yes, some law students talk about their illegal drug use on Twitter. These people are moronic. But they’re not going to stop because some well-meaning, out-of-touch law school dean points out that maybe this isn’t such a great idea. Any sane person with one iota of good sense knows it’s stupid. But…common sense isn’t on the LSAT, so there you go. For the record: You probably want to lock down your personal Facebook account and refrain from posting anything illegal, immoral, or unethical anywhere. Duh. Conveniently, that still leaves you with plenty of stuff to talk about.
  2. Have you looked at the job numbers for new law grads lately? I think we can all agree that the days where law jobs were a dime a dozen are over (if they ever existed). You know what unemployed new law grads are hearing? “Build your personal brand! Network! Find ways to stand out!” You know when they should have started this project? As 1Ls. Building any sort of reputation — online or off — takes time. If you start a blog, or a Twitter account, no one’s going to pay any attention to it for months. That’s fine if you start early, because it gives you time to figure out what you’re doing and what you want to say before anyone’s really paying attention to you. But it’s not so great if you’re desperately trying to find work. By the time you need your online network, it’s too late to build it. Gotta start early.
  3. How else are you going to meet anyone? Yes, it’s great to get involved in your local bar association and join some law school clubs. But at some point you’re going to want to expand your network. Hum, I wonder how you could meet new people who share your interests but don’t live near you? Give me a second…oh right, the internet! Golly gee whiz, what an opportunity. You can connect with Lawyers on Google+, you can meet tons of cool legal-related people on Twitter, and who knows who’ll find your topical blog on a subject of interest. Call me crazy, but I think it’s terrible advice to cut new law students off from this entire universe of potential connections based on a vague fear that they’ll say something stupid. (Particularly since we recently threw a conference made up mostly of friends from the internet, and it was fantastic. Never would have happened if these people hadn’t been online.)
  4. These are skills employers want you to have. Now, I know some of you opted for law school because you suck at math and you’re afraid of technology. Too bad. Welcome to the 21st Century. Unless you want to be a slave to the robot overlords, it’s time to develop a modicum of technical know-how. I’m not going to insist you learn how to code (although it’s actually not that hard and you probably could if you wanted to), but any new employee should be able to manage a social media feed and set up a post in WordPress. This stuff is basic. Outside of the largest law firms, who have their own technical issues, almost any legal employer is going to welcome your ability to help with online marketing and content distribution. (Bonus: With three years of experience, you’ll be a resident expert, making you invaluable to the team.)
  5. You might actually learn something. It’s inevitable that you’re going to spend a bunch of time as a 1L reading cases from 100 years ago. That has value, to a certain point. But it’s a lot more fun to see the law in action — something you can do if you actively engage with all the resources that are available to you. For example, every day I get new posts from different lawyers, including a trial lawyer, a family lawyer, and various solo practitioners. How did I learn about all of these people (and many others)? Via social media.

If you’re paranoid (or extremely rule-bound), you don’t have to write anything of your own, or even curate content. But turning your back on all uses of social media is just silly — and I really can’t believe law schools are still spreading this nonsense around.

Online communication is a critical 21st Century legal skill, and law schools should be helping their students learn to use these tools responsibly and effectively.

Maybe that’s too much to hope for. At a minimum, please shut up and get out of the way!

Let your students blog if they want to…

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