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Though a few naysayers remain, Twitter has unquestionably become an important way to send and receive breaking legal news.
As an avid Twitter user, I see great advantages to using it not only as a social media tool, but also as a current awareness delivery device. There are still naysayers out there who may not "get" it, but even a lot of the old guard has come aboard, and Twitter has become a great way to get breaking news, including breaking legal developments, as well as a place to direct others to more substantive content linked elsewhere. Following an end-of-term Supreme Court opinion announcement as it happens on Twitter can also be a lot of fun (if you're into that sort of thing; confessedly, I am).
So, for those of you who have yet to embrace this particular social medium, allow me to direct you to some Twitter-based resources that you might find useful (keep in mind, it's not necessary to tweet yourself; one can simply set up a Twitter account and follow other users without ever contributing to the conversation).
First, a caveat: echoing the disclaimer you see in many tweeters' bios, my inclusion of any particular Twitter feed in this column is not an endorsement of any views expressed therein. Some tweeters keep their feed tightly focused on a particular topic, while others, myself included, roam more freely. But the diversity of feeds out there, from government, law schools, lawyers, professors, bloggers, news organizations, bar associations, etc., pretty much guarantees that a Twitter follower can curate a list of feeds to follow that suits his or her interests.
Illinois government on Twitter
Many organs of Illinois state government send out information via Twitter (and through other social media, as well: at the state webpage listing of agencies, one column is devoted to social media).1 At the time of writing, no fewer than 25 state entities had a Twitter presence, from the Office of the Governor2 to the Illinois State Fair.3 And while we often use "agencies" in an executive nature, the list includes General Assembly entities4 and the judicial branch.5 And although we're focusing here on Twitter, there were also 30 entities with a Facebook presence and another 16 with a channel on YouTube.
So, if your practice involves appearing before a particular agency, tracking legislation, or if you just want to know when the supreme and appellate courts are issuing new opinions, following the relevant Twitter feed is a cheap (free!) and easy way of staying on top of things. And, if you're interested in the federal side, the White House6 maintains a list of U.S. government Twitter feeds.7
And all the rest…
Beyond the government itself, there is a vast array of law-related Twitter feeds. You might want to follow bar association feeds, such as the ISBA8 or the ABA.9 Keep in mind that in addition to the flagship feeds, there are other bar association feeds as well, such as committee feeds and young lawyer division feeds, as well as bar association publication feeds.
After the government and bar association feeds, recommendations become much trickier as we start moving away from feeds that appeal to most users towards those that deal with more specific topics with an appeal to a more specific audience. In this regard, it might be helpful to review some well-curated lists of excellent law-related Twitter accounts.
Late last year, Business Insider posted a list of Twitter's legal heavy hitters.10 Though a short list, the included feeds are certainly some of the most well-known and respected Tweeters in the legal sphere. Lists such as this one abound, and others include longer and more detailed information about their recommendations.
A particularly good one is one posted by Rasmussen College.11 Though it's a few years old, it provides pertinent info about each tweeter. Additionally, it sorts the list by occupation, including among its entries law librarians (though I somehow failed to make the list), paralegal instructors, law professors, law schools and, despite the list's title, some non-academic offerings as well.
A final note: if you'd like to keep your legal feeds separate from everything else you follow on Twitter, so that you can see just the legal content separate and apart from, say, the sports and music and restaurant feeds you follow, you can create "lists" on your account. By adding feeds to your list, you can see just those tweets, segregated out from everything else you're following on Twitter at large.
So, if you've yet to jump on the Twitter bandwagon, maybe this will help you take the leap. It's easy and painless, and you might learn something.
Tom Gaylord is a law librarian at Chicago-Kent College of Law.