More on law students and technology

A couple of days ago I posted an excerpt from Carolyn Elefant’s cri de couer about young lawyers’ lack of ideas for the use of technology in marketing their practice. 

Some of you newbies have told me that law school discourages use of technology. That career offices tell students to stay off Twitter and not to blog for fear of creating an adverse paper trail.  To heck with that! You’re only young once; might as well use the facility for picking up new ways of communicating and make a few mistakes along the way then act like a middle-aged lawyer before you reach that point.  And by the way, you shouldn’t need someone my age to tell you to defy conventional wisdom either.

Although I’m sure there are CSO people who discourage social media use, I think that attitude is changing. Carolyn’s message is getting across, and I increasingly hear from career services professionals who encourage students to use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogs to help establish their professional personas. What I don’t see changing much, however, is the receptiveness of law students themselves to social media.

There are exceptions, of course. In my classes on privacy and cyberspace law, I’ve met a few students with strong backgrounds and interest in technology and its uses. However, my sense has always been that law students are a self-selected group, and that they self-select partly on the basis of lack of interest in, if not aversion to, technology.

Almost all of my students are on Facebook–although even there, the number of students who either have never been on Facebook or have deleted their accounts seems to be decreasing. But few of those students appear to have any sense of how Facebook might be useful rather than damaging to them in their professional lives. Hardly any of them are on Twitter. They have all watched YouTube viral videos, but few read blogs and fewer write them. Some are on Instagram; a few use Foursquare. Law students’ use of technology seems to be purely a part of their personal lives; few see it as integrated into their professional lives. Hardly any of them even use Powerpoint, much less use it well.

It is not surprising that law students tend to be relatively uninterested in technology compared to their peers in other lines of work. Law is never depicted on television or in movies as a profession that involves the use of technology. If I didn’t know any better, and I wanted a career that wouldn’t require much use of technology beyond word processing, law would seem to fit the bill.

I don’t know whether law professors have much influence in this area. Social technologies users among faculty remain relatively rare, and even if there were more of us, I don’t know if law students would see faculty practices as transferable to the practice of law.

Admittedly, all of this is anecodotal and based on my own limited experience. Do others have counter-evidence?

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “More on law students and technology

  1. J

    Ever been fired for expressing an opinion on social media that is contrary to your employer’s, without naming names or giving specifics, or confidential information and been fired for it? I have. Twice. Yes it is illegal since it is a recreational activity outside of work, but we all know what happens to the employee who sues, don’t we? Even if they win they lose.

    Why I don’t blog any more. Why I only use twitter to follow. Why FB has no last name.

  2. There are responsible and irresponsible ways to use social media. Part of being a professional is recognizing that social media does not immunize the user from the consequences of his or her actions. If you can’t think before you post, then social media is probably not for you.

  3. J

    Oh, dear. Without knowing the content you assume my fault. “If you can’t think before you post, then social media probably isn’t for you.” How enlightened. You responded without thinking that you might not have an entire picture. Or pausing to wonder are there jerks out there who enjoy their power that they will use it just for fun. Shows how long its been since you were employed outside academia.

    In one case the opinion I expressed was very personal about competency in a generic context. It was printed, handed to a boss, and the boss was told it was about them. Ironically it was not. However try explaining that with credibility, when that only comes out in discovery at a law suit.

    The second time was an anonymous blog with stories about the difficulties people were encountering in a crisis and how the system couldn’t help them against a machine and how these people didnt have the resources to dig themselves out of a hole created by a confluence of events. It was actually a matter of public policy. A matter eventually subject to state and federal investigations.

    So neither was irresponsible.

    In any event, it is experiences like mine that warn others off from social media, which was my initial point.

    Thank you for the blame, however, my own self recriminations for having an opinion on anything, and expressing it are enough. Just like here… Expressed an opinion on social media, and I got bit! See how that worked!

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