I’ll admit that I didn’t initially “get” Twitter. Friends had been telling me to sign up for years, but it seemed like a waste of time. When I launched The Girl’s Guide website, I pretty much had to set up an account, because there’s a “Follow me on Twitter” button at the top of every page. (Suffice it to say my designer put it there without asking me. I didn’t notice until it was too late to take it down.)
For the first few weeks, I still didn’t see the point. I posted a few links, got some (very random) followers, and not much happened. Then, suddenly, the light bulb went on — Twitter is the best thing ever!
Every law student should have an account.
What Changed My Mind?
I saw the light for two reasons:
- One, people I didn’t know started to get in touch with me
- Two, I realized there was a ton of great stuff on there, which I could share with other people
Understandably, you might be thinking:
Sure, it’s fine for you to have a Twitter account — you run a website. But I don’t need one — I’m just a law student! No one needs to know about me. Who do I have to share anything with anyway?
This thinking is misguided.
Why Twitter is Valuable for Law Students
Twitter is valuable for law students for several reasons:
- It’s an amazing way to meet people
- It allows you to (very rapidly) build a reputation as an “expert” in your specific niche
- It exposes you to new and useful ideas, carefully curated by someone who knows more than you do
- It gives you an instant “gut check” about what you truly find interesting
- It allows you to surround yourself with helpful, supportive people, who are doing what you want to eventually do
- It’s fun!
Let’s talk about these in more detail.
Twitter is a Great Way to Meet People
Twitter is a great way to “meet” people, either directly, or via their work.
Meeting People Directly
There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to personally meet every super-famous person that you’d like to be introduced to (although it might happen). But I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll meet people who share your interests, that you would never otherwise have met.
In many cases, those people will reach out to you. In other cases, you’ll follow them and find you have something relevant and helpful to add to their conversation. If you’re truly helpful, it won’t take long for people to notice you exist. Presto — new relationship!
Meeting People Through Their Work
Different, but equally valuable, is the opportunity to surround yourself with interesting, helpful people who are doing the sort of work you eventually want to do. Unlike Facebook or LinkedIn, where you need to know the person you want to connect with and get their permission to be connected, you can “follow” anyone you want to hear from on Twitter.
It doesn’t matter that they’ve never heard of you — you can still get the benefit of their Tweets.
In her fantastic book Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck talks about the universal Everybody. This is a voice you carry in your head, which tells you that “No one ever gets a clerkship from this school,” or “There’s no way you can start your own law practice right out of law school,” or whatever. It’s basically designed to bash your dreams, and probably sounds a little bit like that teacher you were frightened of in second grade.
It’s worth reading the book to see what Beck has to say, but the short version is that you can replace the negative Everybody in your head by surrounding yourself with more supportive messages. Twitter is great for this!
Say you’re interested in pursuing a type of law that isn’t common among graduates of your law school. When you talk to people at school about it, they’re either entirely clueless, or actively discouraging. I’m willing to bet there are people on Twitter who not only do what you want to do, they actively Tweet about it — probably to a whole community of people who do the same thing.
The power of this sort of network is hard to overstate. Even if you never meet a single one of these people in person, just knowing that they’re out there, doing what you want to eventually do, is a huge motivator. And, chances are good that you’ll eventually get to join the group, if you hang around long enough.
Twitter Helps You Figure Out What You’re Truly Interested In
Another great aspect of Twitter is that it helps you figure out what you’re truly interested in (not what you think you’re interested in, or what you should be interested in).
This comes about when you start selecting people to follow. Once you’ve found one account you want to follow, you can look at other accounts that are similar. For example, here’s the list of sites that Twitter thinks are similar to The Girl’s Guide to Law School.
If you click on the name of anyone in that list, you’ll get their three latest Tweets in the sidebar.
Those three Tweets are enough to tell you if you want to follow the person. What? Don’t we need more information? No. The entire point is to make a snap judgment. Are you interested in what they posted? If so, follow them. If not, move on.
What’s useful about this process is that it pretty quickly shows you what you’re not interested in.
For me, it turns out I’m bored by streams about recently decided cases, even if they’re curated by very prominent members of the legal profession. Similarly, most law school and law professor streams bore me, as do most mainstream legal publications. Should I be interested in these things? Probably, but I’m not! So I don’t follow them.
What I am interested in, as it turns out, is a motley mix of legal innovators, tech/startup people, girl power proponents, business blogs, and life-design experts. Your mix will be totally different, but that’s precisely why Twitter is so powerful.
Twitter Allows You to Be an Expert
Anyone on Twitter can become an expert, in their specific niche.
You’re already in law school, so that’s two potential components of your stream right there (law student, member of the legal profession).
What else do you like?
- Are you interested in tech law? Add technology, startup culture, and some IP law content
- Are you thinking about construction law? Add “law for architects,” “architecture for lawyers,” and the latest development news in your area
- Are you considering family law? Add child development news, tips on mediating a divorce, etc.
Your combination of topics will be different from anyone else, and that’s exactly the point.
No one is a “lawyer” today. You’re a specific type of lawyer, and one of your jobs is to bring together the different worlds that you work in. Presumably your followers will eventually match your content, more or less. What an opportunity! If half the people reading your Tweets are business people and half are lawyers, and you’re talking about both worlds, you add value all around.
Twitter Exposes You to Fantastic Content
Let’s face it, the Internet is huge. There’s no way you can stay on top of everything.
Let your new Twitter contacts curate for you. Say you have five minutes before class starts. Sure, you could play Solitaire, but why not open your Twitter stream? In a couple of minutes, you’ll be able to skim through the news of the day and lots of interesting articles.
Is 90% of it useless to you? Maybe, but 10% isn’t. Read (and reTweet) that 10%. (This is also another opportunity for a “gut check” about what you enjoy learning.)
Twitter’s Norms Make It Pleasant
If you’ve ever spent any time in the Above the Law comments section (or on any number of other law school sites), Twitter might be a welcome change. Naturally some nasty things are said, but there are norms in place to encourage politeness.
First, almost everything happens in public. Unless you send a direct message, what you post will be publicly accessible, and not just to your followers (unless your account is locked so that only your followers can see what you post). The idea that anyone in the entire world could see what you’re about to post seems to be a good deterrent for really mean behavior.
Second, it’s not uncommon for people to thank you for sharing their content. If you reTweet something, you’ll often get a message saying thanks! It’s quite lovely, and really encourages people to behave nicely towards one another.
Finally, I think most people on Twitter genuinely want to be helpful. If you ask a question, odds are someone will answer it. If someone posted a link, it’s probably because they thought other people would want to read it. (Naturally, there’s some shameless self-promotion, but not as much as you might expect.)
I’m Convinced. How Do I Get Started?
It’s super easy to get started on Twitter. Just sign up for an account, and follow a few people.
A few law student-related accounts you might consider following:
There are tons of other great people, these are just suggestions!
Then, check out this Twitter 101 guide and start going deeper. What are hashtags? How do you send a reply? Don’t worry about all of these things now — you’ll figure them out.
Once you’re comfortable, start posting your own Tweets. One word of advice — no one cares what you ate for breakfast. Try to make your stream useful, even if it ends up being a sort of persona for you. You’re not Jane Doe, random person Tweeting about random things. You’re Jane Doe, future lawyer with an expertise in housing law and affordable development. Totally different people!
Try it out, have fun, and let me know you exist.
Have questions about Twitter? Leave them in the comments!
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