I recently attended a swearing-in ceremony for newly-minted lawyers who passed the July 2016 bar exam. The ceremony was nice, complete with several speakers, introductions of numerous city and state bar group leaders, and a reception afterward. During the ceremony, an accomplished lawyer provided remarks about professionalism and the practice of law. Among her remarks were some strong sentiments about internet usage – she encouraged each new lawyer to cultivate a strong presence online through blogging, active engagement on social media, and other public legal writing. I immediately wondered whether this was the first time these new lawyers had gotten this advice. I also wondered how law schools currently educate and advise students about curating content in their online profiles, and whether law schools should do this at all.
Writing publicly online, whether through social media, blogs, or otherwise, plays a role in how lawyers interact with both the public and each another. Above the Law reported recently that a majority of Americans – 54 percent – say they would likely to hire a lawyer who is active on social media. Among Americans aged 18-44, this number increases to 69 percent. A U.S. News article has suggested that law students should use social media for career development because of the rapidly changing legal landscape.
The legal profession was initially skeptical of the internet and social media, but this has changed in recent years. The American Bar Association's 2016 Legal Technology Survey Report indicates that nearly 90 percent of law firms have a website. Since 2013, roughly 26 percent of law firms have maintained a blog, though this number is much higher for larger firms. Among lawyers who maintain a law-based blog, 42 percent say that they have had clients retain them because of their blogging.