The other day my five-year old and I were playing a game of “If your family member were an apple, what kind would she or he be?” I told him that he’d be a Red Delicious because of his cute, rosy cheeks. He told me I’d be a Granny Smith because I’m old. (Note to self: Call Laura Bartels to have the chap taken out of the will.)
But his thinking me old got me thinking. I’ve talked to a lot of attorneys lately about Twitter, and about whether they use it and why. Attorneys have told me: “I’m too old for social media” (which I do not think is
true and I don’t really use Twitter for social purposes), “I don’t need more stuff to do” (I hear you, but you might be missing out professionally), “It’s a waste of time” (not if you use it right), “I already do Facebook and they are all the same” (they are not the same), “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” (sure you can, woof woof ), and “I don’t need to post a picture of my sandwich” (agreed, please don’t, unless you want to have one delivered to me, then make it a Dagwood with extra bacon).
So my point in this article is to convey that you’re not too old or young for Twitter, and that it really can help your law practice. I’ll tell you what Twitter is, what I use it for, what I don’t use it for, what I use hashtags for and why, what benefit Twitter can have to a law practice, suggestions on whom lawyers and law firms might want to follow, nd last, Twitter’s revolutionary capacity for sociopolitical and corporate change.
What Twitter Is. Twitter is a set of programs operating on the Internet linking people, news, blogs, companies, organizations, and causes. It is free to join and recently had an initial public offering, so at times you see tweets from advertisers. You can set up a Twitter account easily by going to Twitter. com or downloading the app onto your smartphone. Setting up the account and name is easy (mine is Lisa Jerde Spillman @LmjSpillman.) You do not have to use your actual name, but it is my experience that most professionals do.
What I Use Twitter For. I do not use Twitter in the social sense I use Facebook. In my experience, people use Facebook generally to see what his or her friends are doing, to post about what’s going on in her or his life, or to post pictures of a child, a bruise or Katmandu. Perhaps some use Twitter for that purpose, but not I. If Facebook is my living room, then Twitter is my office.
What benefit Twitter can have to a law practice. I follow people, blogs, or entities to quickly bring me news relevant to my practice of law. For example, when an opinion is published, legal bloggers quickly tweet a few-word explanation of the decision and a link to his or her blog about the decision, which aid me as an appellate attorney. I see tweets by Twitter users who tweet links to articles in a variety of areas of law. And the tweets are not
overwhelming, because they are limited to only 140 characters, and I can choose, or not, to follow the link and read the article or blog. Sometimes, I find a tweet or article worthy of a retweet, meaning I resubmit that user’s tweet and link to the Twitterverse and to my followers. Sometimes, I will reply to tweet or “favorite” it. Other times, I may tweet something I drafted, or find something online and tweet a link directly to another user, because I think that user would be interested, or I tweet it using hashtags.
What I Use Hashtags For and Why. Hashtags are fun. A hashtag is a set of characters or words strung together with a preceding “#”. So, for example, I would not tweet these, but when my kids finally fall asleep, I might feel #exhausted, or want to #PraiseGod. When I lose a case I might feel like I need to #ThrowInTheTowel or go to #LadiesNightOut. Hashtags can be used to draw attention to a user or a tweet, to raise awareness of an issue, or to promote a product or a service. They can be used to try to ensure your tweet is one of those that comes up when a search is run. So, for example, when an attorney writes a blog about criminal defense or beating a DUI charge, he might tweet a link to the blog with #DUI #KnowYourRights #Ventura #Lawyer. An attorney writing wills and trusts might tweet a link to her blog about a new law regarding trusts and include #Ventura #Attorney #Wills #Trusts.
Creating a unique hashtag can make an issue, product or service go viral.
Whom I follow. Anyone on Twitter could see whom I follow, but here are some of the law-related ones: @VCBA1, @CalCourts, @CalAppOpinion, @ USSupremeCourt, @SCOTUSOpinions, @SCOTUSblog, @SCOTUSblogposts, @scotusreporter, @StateBarCA, @Cal_Lawyer, @EsquireNation, Steve Henderson, Wendy Lascher, Rachel Coleman, Panda Kroll, Karen Darnall, Lynn Smiley, Kate Brolan, Carol Mack, Gabriele Lashly, Howard Bashman @howappealing, Above the Law @atlblog, @ CACJNews, @KamalaHarris, @StateDept, @UN, @justiacom, @TheJusticeDept, @Sena t eFloor, @Hous eFloor, @InnocenceMatter, Innocence Project @innocence, @YaleLawSch, @Harvard_Law, @thelegalintel, @NationalJurist, @Chapman_Law, @ReutersLegal, @emilybazelon,@Jef freyToobin, @ABAJournal , @WSJlawblog, and @BloombergLaw. I also follow a number of state and U.S. Congress people and other political figures. I follow numerous news organizations from around the world. To keep things fun, I also follow comedians to get a SarahKSilverman, @TheEllenShow, @JerrySeinfeld, @jimmyfallon, @TheOnion,@WhoopiGoldberg, @billmaher, @SteveCarell, and Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome.
I also get a little spiritual, and follow Pope Francis @Pontifex, The Dalai Lama @DalaiLama, and maybe even God @TheTweetOfGod.
One thing I truly love about Twitter is what I see as its revolutionary capacity for sociopolitical and corporate change. Let me give you an example. It should come as no surprise that I do not think partially undressing and gyrating in front of a microphone is an appropriate way to make a video go viral. Nor is telling millions of women and men and boys and girls that a woman should sex it up to make a video go viral. And apparently, I am not alone. During the Super Bowl, a company showed a commercial with a famous actress doing just that, and I loved the response by women and men across the globe, who directly sent that company tweets denouncing the
commercial, and including the hashtag #NotBuyingIt. I love this hashtag for its literalness – hashtaggers are giving the potential death knell – I am not going to buy what you are selling because you screwed up. And an easy Twitter search of #NotBuyingIt reveals myriad other products, services, tweets, or programming that Twitter users are not buying, figuratively or literally. Where social pressure won’t work, the bottom line just might. Twitter is also being used, second by second, to broadcast footage and reports by regular Twitter users of what is happening on the ground in #Venezuela and #Ukraine. Revolutionary, indeed.
But if your feathers get ruffled, bear in mind that every tweet is forever public, even if you delete it. It won’t appear on your page, but it still exists in the Twitterverse. So thieves and spies, future would-be employers, the Bar, your children, and the police may be watching. And speaking of the police, don’t even think of tweeting while driving. Not only could you hurt someone, but your tweet and its time and date stamp, could end up being used against you in tort or criminal actions. And keep this in mind: the California Legislature is considering AB 1555, which would redefine vehicular manslaughter to include a defendant whose use of a cell phone while driving leads to the collision.
So all in all, I think Twitter can have wonderful benefits for attorneys. It certainly makes following legal news, decisions and analyses across the country and world intriguing, timely and fun. And it’s not that hard or intimidating, even for a “Granny” like me. #GiveItATwy
Lisa M.J. Spillman is an attorney in Ventura who specializes in criminal appeals and habeas corpus petitions.