Online Social Networking: Is It a Productivity Bust or Boon for Law Firms?


I recently had an article on Faceblocking published in the March 2009 issue of Law Practice Magazine: Online Social Networking: Is It a Productivity Bust or Boon for Law Firms?

Steve Matthews helped me conduct an informal poll to see if  law firms were still blocking access to social networking sites. Our theory was proven in the results. (You can download the raw survey data (.xls) if you want a look at the underlying data.) Of those responding to the survey, 45% said their firms blocked access to social networking sites. The three most blocked sites: Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. Those are also 3 of the top 10 most visited sites on the web. We also published some of comments from the survey respondents: Speaking Out on Social Networking.

The survey is very unscientific. Steve and I thought that it would be useful to get some data about what law firms are doing about access to social networking sites. I was surprised that 45% of firms blocked access to some social networking sites. Perhaps those working at firms subject to blocking were more likely to respond to the survey. I was also surprised that the 45% blocking percentage was fairly consistent across firm size. So small law firms were just as likely to block access as big firms.

Although I am an advocate of open access, I do so with the caveat that you need to let the people in your organization know what is proper use and to monitor their compliance. I fear that many firms use blockage as their policy. That may have worked 10 years ago, but not today. You can just as easily access these sites from iPhone or blackberry as you can from a firm computer. Blocking does not stop the bad behavior that you are trying to prevent.

You should set sensible policies and set reasonable expectations for your employees. Social networking sites at their core are communications platform. You should be able to adapt your policies on email, confidentiality, marketing and similar policies to easily include social networking sites. If not, those other policies probably need updating anyhow.


Why I love Twitter

Tim O’Reilly wrote a great peice: Why I love Twitter.

  1. Twitter is simple.
  2. Twitter works like people do
  3. Twitter cooperates well with others
  4. Twitter transcends the web
  5. Twitter is user-extensible
  6. Twitter evolves quickly

Now that I have moved from The Firm to the New Company, I have been using Twitter much more. Since I have shifted my career from knowledge management to compliance, I am trying to grow my network of information flows and people in the compliance area. (There are lots of KM people using twitter; Very few compliance people.)

Twitter is great way to get news and information updates. There are mainstream news story publishers. New York Times (@nytimes), Wall Street Journal (@wsj), CNN (@cnnbrk) and BBC(@BBC and @BBCbreaking) all push out news stories through Twitter. On the legal side, the American Bar Association pushed law related news stories through @ABAjournal.  Individual journalists are also using Twitter to push out information. Some CNN anchors are using twitter during their broadcasts (@donlemoncnn). In local news, veteran new England news anchorman R.D. Sahl joined Twitter (@rdsahl) this week and has a new program on NECN.

I make extensive use of the Twitter Search (formerly Summize): I run a search on my name to pick up tweets with my handle. I run a search on “compliance” and other key words that interest me. That picks up both people and stories around the topic.

The one concern I have with Twitter is how it will survive. As far as I can tell Twitter has no revenue. There are no subscription fees and no advertising. Something will have to change for Twitter to survive.

If you are looking for a great list of people in the legal field using twitter go to JD Scoop‘s list of 145 Lawyers and Legal Professionals) to Follow on Twitter. The list has grown to over 500 Twitterers.

Do you use Twitter? Feel free to follow me @dougcornelius.

If not, why not?

Social Networking for Lawyers and Legal IT

I had the pleasure of hosting a lunch meeting for the International Legal Technology Association to talk about Social Networking for Lawyers and Legal IT.

I was joined by Jenn Steele and Bob Ambrogi in talking about Facebook, LinkedIn, blogging, Twitter, Legal OnRamp and Martindale Connected. We looked at the ways we each use these tools and how the audience used the tools. We also talked a bit about policy and rules for using these sites.

Here is the slide deck we used. You can also get the slides with our notes on JD Supra: Social Networking for Lawyers and Legal IT.

Social Networking

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: social km)

(We deleted the slides on LegalOnRamp and Martindale Connected because we “borrowed” them from another presentation.)

Jenn Steele is the Director of Information Technology at Morrison Mahoney LLP.  She holds an MBA from the Simmons School of Management and a B.S. in Biology from MIT, with a minor in Expository Writing.  Prior to Morrison Mahoney, she was the Director of Information Technology at Donovan Hatem LLP from 2002-2007, and the Senior Applications Specialist at Burns & Levinson LLP from 2000-2002.  She has also held positions in the health and human services industry.  She is the author of Leading Geeks, a blog focusing on best practices for leading technologists (

Robert Ambrogi is an internationally known legal journalist and a leading authority on law and the Web.  He represents clients at the intersection of law, media and technology and is also established professional in alternative dispute resolution.  Robert is a Massachusetts lawyer, writer and media consultant and is author of the book, The Essential Guide to the Best (and Worst) Legal Sites on the Web.  He also writes the blog Media Law, co-writes Legal Blog Watch and cohosts the legal affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer.

Twitter and Lawyers (and Legal Professionals)

Adrian Lurssen over at JD Scoop put together a list of lawyers and legal professionals on Twitter: 145 Lawyers (and Legal Professionals) to Follow on Twitter. The list started at 145 and has grown to 180. Tweet Adrian @jdtwit if you are not on the list. I have picked up a dozen or so followers already. I am @dougcornelius.

If you are not familiar with Twitter it is open communications platform, operating like an open instant messaging platform. Since it is an open platform, there are many programs that can tie into your twitter account and twitter feeds.  The folks over at Common Craft can explain it better than I can:

To find out more about Twitter, try some of these:

Or just sign up for Twitter. It does not cost anything except a few minutes of your time.

Twitter and the ILTA Conference

Twitter is getting many adopters in law firms.  There appear to be at least a few of us headed to the International Legal Technology Association’s Conference in Dallas next week. 
You can follow the ILTA conference on Twitter:
For those of you using Twitter at the conference we are using the #ilta08 as the hashtag. I am @dougcornelius. For those of you wondering what Twitter is all about, take a look at one of my old posts on Lawyers and Twitter.

JD Supra Revisited

When JD Supra launched backed in February, I jumped on board: JD Supra Launches.  I added a couple dozen documents and sat back and wondered what to do with JD Supra: Profile for Doug Cornelius on JD Supra. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical and had not been back to the site since.

Then I got this message:

I’m an editor at […] magazine, planning a law office technology and practice management theme, and we absolutely need to have an article that deals with social networking as an attorney tool. I downloaded “LinkedIn to My Facebook on My Blog: Social Media for Lawyers and Law Firm ” on JDSupra, and that’s the kind of article we’re looking for. However, it would need to be focused for our readers, who are […] . They are mostly small office or solo practitioners who work on a contingent fee basis and rely on networking to generate business — they’re generally a little slow to move to “new” technology and need to have its pros and cons clearly described. I’m envisioning an article that will describe using social networking sites and other tools to improve both trial lawyer image and a specific lawyer’s practice.
Is there any chance you could retool the article you and Jenn Steele wrote to our  […] readership—or write an update from scratch, since the technology changes so quickly?

So I was wrong in being skeptical. JD Supra has created value for me. I went back and posted a few more articles.

Maybe you should post some of your documents and articles on JD Supra?
Have you used JD Supra?
Have you gotten anything back from JD Supra?

Twitter and Real Estate

Dick Howe at the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell has jumped into Twitter. You can see his page and follow him at You can also follow me at

Twitter is great way to stay connected people all around the world.

If you are not familiar with Twitter, here is a quick video from Common Craft:


Lawyers and Twitter

I am user of Twitter.

For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, you can think of it as a combination of blogging and instant messaging. Each post or tweet is limited to 140 characters so you can send tweets by text message. Like most social media, it is cheap (free and currently free of advertising) and very easy to use (there are only a few buttons).

Steve Matthews wrote a great post on an intro to Lawyer Marketing with Twitter. Kevin O’Keefe followed that up with his own perspective and success stories in Lawyer Marketing with Twitter Has Arrived.

Like both Steve and Kevin, I’ve had a few Twitter moments and find it useful to engage people through this communications platform. In this era of new ways to communicate beyond email, Twitter is a great avenue to communicate and share information.

Rather than duplicating what Steve and Kevin said about Twitter (you should go read both stories), I have two additional features that I like about Twitter.

First, it is very compatible with other platforms. The flow of tweets is available through RSS. For example, Twitter ties into Facebook and updates my Facebook status. I have a Twitter widget on this blog showing my most recent tweets. I also have a Twitter widget running on my intranet page.

Second, tweets are indexed and returned by internet searches. All of that good stuff in my tweets, gets returned in a Google search, just like posts on this blog. You are sharing beyond the Twitter universe.

To learn more about Twitter there is a great video from Common Craft, Twitter Explained. Once you join Twitter, feel free to follow me on Twitter: @dougcornelius.

Twitter and Tweetclouds

I have been a sporadic user of Twitter. I was first drawn into using it when I noticed that Twitter is easily setup to change your status in Facebook.

Twitter continues to intrigue me. I have exchanged some great tweets over the past few weeks. The synchronous nature of Twitter often throws me off. I jump into a twitter and see that something interesting happened hours ago and the participants have since signed off. But I have had some Twitter Moments. (A phrase I attributed to Ray Sims.)

I like the lightweight and easily digestible aspect of Twitter. One new thing I heard about from Luis Suarez is the ability to create a TweetCloud. It creates a tag cloud based on the words you use in Twitter. This is my TweetCloud:

I am not sure if it is useful, but I find it very interesting. Sometimes “interesting” is enough.

If you sign up for Twitter, I am @dougcornelius

KM and Web 2.0 – A User’s Perspective

Presentation Summary From
Boston Knowledge Management Forum Symposium on Leveraging Knowledge
What is KM 2.0? Is it real, or just vendor hype?

Ray Sims, formerly Director of Knowledge Management at Novell (now of Deloitte)

This presentation begins by summarizing what Web 2.0 means from a behavioral (not tools) perspective and what that implies for the future of knowledge management. It then connects these ideas via an exploration of the business-driven use cases related to KM that most benefit from Web 2.0 behaviors and software application approaches. The presentation concludes with some general observations of where we are collectively in this journey and provides some prescriptive guidance for those on the path to knowledge management and Enterprise 2.0.

Ray started with a timeline of his adoption of Web 2.0 technology. He moved onto his definition of knowledge management and his post on 43 knowledge management definitions. (Now up to 57 definitions). He also pointed out the analysis of these knowledge management definitions by Stephen Bounds.

One of the trains of thoughts are that knowledge management exists at different levels. One level is the personal level; organizing knowledge for your own use. Another is at a team level; organizing for a small group. Then there is the enterprise level of knowledge management.

Ray also talked about the differences between knowledge as a flow and as artifact. (I posted about this a few weeks ago: Knowledge is an Artifact and a Flow and Wikis as a Knowledge Artifact and a Knowledge Flow.)

Ray concludes that Web 2.0 is “ideally situated to personal knowledge management and a personal learning environment.” He sees the benefits of personal knowledge management as increasing knowledge in a chosen field. Writing and thinking about field should increase your knowledge and expertise. Using Web 2.0 helps you build your external network. (For enterprise 2.0 is should help you build your internal network.)

Ray believes wikis should be the THE tool as a default text and management tool. He thinks blogs are a great way to manage projects and provide status reports. For the projects he manages, Ray intends to ban project email. (Also see Luis Suarez’s journey on not using email).

Ray sees the four greatest opportunities for Web 2.0 / E 2.0 through the knowledge management lens:

  • Increased social capital
  • Increased innovation
  • Improved decision making
  • Improved efficiency

Why improved efficiency? The increased transparency and openness makes things more findable. You can also leverage the power of the network, getting input from more people. There is also the raw speed. It is much faster to edit a wiki and share changes than editing a document and emailing it around.

Ray also peppered his presentation with the virtues of Twitter (Twitter@dougcornelius) (Twitter@rsims). Twitter is “his girlfriend of the moment.”

UPDATE: Ray posted about his presentation and published his slidedeck: KM2.0 Presentation – Boston KM Forum.

Micro-blogging – Twitter Explained

Common Craft has put together a great video on what is Twitter and why it might be useful to you. I began using Twitter a few months ago.

One thing I like about Twitter is that it is easy to embed into other sites. For example, my Facebook status can be changed by Twitter. Also, there is box on the blog site with my latest Twitter post.

I have thought that Twitter or a variation would be useful inside the firm. I could keep my assistant up to date on where I am and how to get a hold of me (if I am reachable).

If you like this video you should also see Common Craft’s Plain English videos on RSS, Wikis, Blogs, Social Networking and Social Bookmarking