An alternative look at the ABA’s networking survey

by Sami Hero on May 10, 2008 · 0 comments

in social media for lawyers,Web 2.0

A while back I read Larry Bodine’s article in Law Technology News titled “Social Networking – Crowded but silent”.

Larry covers well the challenge we face in any social or professional networking system – whether it’s online or offline – what’s in it for the participants? MySpace and FaceBook have been successful in large part due to their open and customizable nature. The applications and content were created by the users for the users. The reason to come back was to not only check out what’s going on with your network but also to “play” – a nice addition to your texting (SMS) and instant messaging with your friends.

Larry quotes the ABA which has an ongoing online survey for Young Lawyer Social Networking habits. As any online study, the response period seems to have ended a while back. I checked the results on 5/6 and the latest report is dated March 14, 2008 with a total of 2,786 people responding.

Larry’s read of the study was that young lawyers are not using social networking based on results:
• 91% said they spent 25% or less of their online time, excluding e-mail, per week on social networking sites.
• 8% said it was “very important” to network with legal colleagues via online social networking.
• Among the few who did find online networking “very helpful,” 9% chose Facebook, another 7% chose LinkedIn, and only 3% chose MySpace.

Fair enough, but let’s look at some other interesting points from the study to get another view on what might really be happening:
• 86% of the respondents say they spend more than 6 hours per week online excluding email
• 59% of young lawyers selected professional networking as important or very important aspect of a social networking site
• 46% of respondents have not visited Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn
• But 64% said they would be interested in joining a social network if ABA provided it

So what do I take from this study?

I think 6 weekly hours or more spent online is a large number given how hard attorneys work. New associates’ working hours are incredible, and to squeeze this amount of potential billable hours (or hours you could categorize as “life”) is already pretty significant. Also, it appears that young attorneys may be interested in a network offered by a trusted legal organization like the ABA or similar.

The majority of respondents agree that professional networking is a more important use for social networking than keeping up with friends and family. I think the results would be rather lopsided if we asked the same question at law schools. I recently had the opportunity to participate in LexisNexis Law School Advisory Board meetings and one of the participants explained that their school could easily stop the introductory course as all the kids entering the school “know” each other and other students through FaceBook groups…

I agree with some of the quotes in Larry’s article that say nothing beats in-person interaction when it comes to networking. The issue is that we have less and less time for that today, and I don’t see it changing in the near future. I personally spend a fair amount of time on the Web, but thanks to the new tools like browser called Flock, I keep up with my social and professional networks in a more efficient manner.

The success of any professional or social networking site in the future depends on how relevant it is for the participants. If I can find relevant information , potential clients, potential new jobs, collaborate with my colleagues – it’s all about the applications and how they can create value for me as a user. And BTW: I have been on LinkedIn for the longest time and love the new features on newsfeeds and Q&A – this has increased my time on-site exponentially!

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