Young Lawyers hosts seminar, reception to emphasize Web networking

Issue November 2008 By Kelsey Sadoff

Scott M. Heidorn, Esq., of Campbell, Campbell, Edwards & Conroy PC in Boston, recognizes that law schools teach students how critical contacts are to “maintaining our profession,” but he notes the law community “seems behind the curve” in utilizing the Web for social networking purposes.

On Oct. 15, the MBA’s Young Lawyers Division held an educational seminar and cocktail reception to introduce attorneys to online networking sites that provide an opportunity for practitioners to market themselves and their firms.

Networking sites generally fall into three types — primarily social sites (Facebook), professional networking sites (LinkedIn), and lawyer-to-lawyer networking sites, which offer lawyers a way to share legal knowledge and information.

“There are the four Cs to good social networking sites,” said panelist Robert J. Ambrogi, Esq., of the Law Office of Robert J. Ambrogi in Rockport. “Connections, community, content and collaboration.” All of the sites allow opportunities for client and personal referrals.

Panelists focused on LinkedIn as a prime example of a networking site that provides numerous professional benefits to practitioners. Attorneys who utilize the site have the option to include information about their firm within their profile, and can even link to their firm’s Web site. This creates an opportunity for both personal and firm exposure. Because online connections have the option to visit their colleagues’ Web sites, the extra Web traffic to the site increases the potential to raise a firm’s Google profile, providing additional marketing exposure for the firm.

“[Online social networking] is the beginning of a relationship that can develop,” said panelist David A. Barrett, Esq., of Hulien & Barrett LLC in Boston. [The Web] provides a nice environment to support that, which can lead to career development.”

Barrett, who has the world’s largest LinkedIn lawyer network, characterizes his success on LinkedIn to his philosophy about social networking tools, which is “very different” from many of his fellow attorneys.

Barrett characterizes individuals who participate in online social networking as either “closed networkers” — those attorneys who only network with colleagues they have previously interacted with — or “open networkers” — practitioners who don’t mind letting people into their network who are virtual strangers.

“I don’t mind if I have never met you,” he said. “I will let you into my network.”

While social networking sites offer attorneys online exposure, panelists also warned attendees of the potential legal issues associated with information posted on these types of sites. In particular, employment attorneys are now faced with questions from clients about how to create company rules and guidelines concerning online social networking. Many employers struggle with how to deal with employees who spend significant time networking during company hours, as well as how to monitor employee profiles for content that might reflect poorly on the company’s reputation.

“This is a whole area of law not litigated yet,” said Jessica Margolin, Esq., of Ropes & Gray LLP. “It is a struggle to figure out what an employer is comfortable with and how to monitor that.”