August 2011 • Volume 99 • Number 8 • Page 382
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Tweeting the law
Lawyers, bar associations, courts, and others use Twitter to push out news, cases, job openings, and more.
The August IBJ cover story describes how some lawyers use Twitter for their practices as well as for their personal enjoyment. But lawyers, bar associations, and other organizations, including state and federal courts, also use Twitter to disseminate news to lawyers and others about job openings, organizational announcements, and new court rules and opinions.
Follow the ISBA
ISBA and its president, John Locallo, the Illinois courts, and legal search firms are among those using Twitter for up-to-the minute news and dialogue.
Follow @ISBALawyer, managed by ISBA's Director of Member Communications, Chris Bonjean, and you'll find news of upcoming ISBA events, updated links to breaking legal news and analysis on ISBA's website and elsewhere, and a multitude of job opportunities. "We're really focused on reaching our members, following what they're saying on Twitter, and following other associations, what they're doing, and how they're trying to reach their members on Twitter. We would love to have all members following us," and vice versa, Bonjean says.
Like other organizations, ISBA has also used Twitter at meetings, including the annual Solo and Small Firm Conference. In October 2010, Bonjean says, "We set up a Twitter hashtag and video feed so that everyone at the conference could follow different meetings and tweets. Steve Dunn, our technical guy, set up a flat screen video monitor in the exhibit hall so only Twitter feeds with that hashtag would show up on that screen. It turned out to be really popular. Attendees and exhibitors could follow events that they weren't able to attend without being in front of their laptops, and they could share what they were experiencing and learning with their Twitter followers."
"Hashtag," for those unfamiliar with all of Twitter's ins and outs, is Twitter lingo for a method of turning words in tweets into hyperlinks. Type the # symbol in front of a word or term, such as "#ISBASSF," and you'll see the term become a hyperlink once you send your tweet. Click on the hyperlink and Twitter will give you a page with all recent tweets containing the same hashtag. As organizations and their members have discovered, hashtag use can be an effective means of aggregating what people are saying about a conference and facilitating connections.
A treasure trove for jobseekers
@ISBALawyer's tweets are a treasure trove for jobseekers. "We tweet all job postings from our career center before they get anywhere else," Bonjean says. "We also tweet about CLEs, upcoming events association news, and anything that's going on with ISBA." Engage with President Locallo and learn about his vision for lawyers and ISBA by following his Twitter feed at @JGLCHI.
For even more employment opportunities, follow Chicago lawyer Sonya Som, a business development specialist at the legal search firm Major, Lindsay, and Africa, her firm, and other Twitterati. Som, an avid user of social media, says "A big part of my job is being a resource for companies and an in-house resource for recruiters." As @sonyaoldssom, she tweets news of job openings from her employer from its official Twitter account, @mlaglobal, as well as from other MLA recruiters.
Som says her firm's sister company, Inside Edge Legal, tweeting as @insideedgelegal, has occasionally filled temporary attorney positions for firms with pressing needs immediately through the power of Twitter. "If we need someone on a contract basis, we can get a response within minutes by tweeting about it, providing a link to our website with the details of the position. It's a really quick and easy way to reach out to all the people we know when we don't necessarily have the time to call and/or e-mail all of them." Other Twitter accounts tweeting job openings include the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin's @lbattyjobs, @LAWMATCH, @GoInhouse, @LawJobsinUSA, @USAttorneyJobs, and @BCGAttorneyJobs.
Som notes that companies increasingly tweet directly about in-house positions they wish to fill. For lawyers who are on the job market, or lawyers who want to keep abreast of their clients' business, she suggests "Follow the companies you do business with" or have an interest in. "It's a quick and easy way to find out what's going on with them."
Though she agrees that, like other internet social media, Twitter is no substitute for the old-fashioned, low-tech methods of research and keeping in touch, including phone calls and lunch, "Twitter is another way to find out what a company is saying about itself and what people are saying about the company."
Cases, court news and more
Further signaling Twitter's arrival as a credible means of disseminating information, the Illinois Supreme Court is now using the medium and has even included a reference to Twitter in its rules. MR 10549, an administrative order appended to SCR 3, Rulemaking Procedures, provides for notice of public meetings on proposed rules changes by the most economical means, including Twitter. Follow @Illinoiscourts for breaking news from the court, including rules changes, opinion releases, court announcements, and press releases.
Though neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor any of the federal courts in Illinois have official Twitter accounts, a number of bankruptcy courts in other states are setting up Twitter feeds for the same purpose as Illinois's state courts. Journalists, lawyers, and other courtwatchers also tweet court news.
With 10 years' experience in the rapidly changing profession of journalism at the Chicago Sun-Times before coming to ISBA, Bonjean says he's hooked on Twitter's capacity for breaking news.
"Nothing else is even close to it right now." For lawyers curious about Twitter, he advises, "Sign up for an account. It's free and super-easy. Search for topics that interest you and follow those accounts. Take a look at what others are tweeting about, and learn by watching."