If you are not in the legal profession and not active on twitter you have probably not noticed the growing trend of attorneys holding themselves out as “experts” in the social media realm. Not holding themselves out as experts in criminal law, bankruptcy law or other noble legal specialties but experts in social media itself . Often claiming the ability to teach other attorneys how they can be experts in social media or become millionaire rainmakers.
What’s the end game? Money of course
So why would an attorney leave the practice of law to be a “social media expert”? Why would a practicing or newbie attorney want to be taught how to be an expert in social media in a business that revolves around reputation and the credibility of the work product? Because its a jungle out there! The legal market has entered its own 30’s era depression seeing more jobs lost than at anytime in measured history. Everyone is looking for short cut to the razor’s edge.
The real end game? With Twitter Social Media buzz in abundance and attorneys facing declining revenue, afraid of social media or simply do not understand it, the snake oil salesman of the legal profession are coming out of the woodwork.
Here is the rub. There is NO such thing as a social media expert in the legal realm yet. It simply has not been around long enough to develop a body of work. At most, everyone doing well in social media has drawn on unique life/professional experiences and if the experiences are unique enough, they have found niche to wrap basic social media principals around. Nothing wrong with that. If there is a way teaching social media is supposed to work, IMHO that’s it. And whats more, there are no secrets. The same information on how to use twitter and other forms of social media are there for the taking for free from high school kids posting “how-to” videos” on Youtube
So what sets the Legal-Social Media Expert apart? One would think it’s in the ability to use those “unique experiences” and vast legal experience to show the newbie how to integrate it within their unique life/professional experiences . To show how, during the course of their extensive legal career they have intertwined those unique life experiences with Twitter and other form of social media to make their millions.
The next rub? Most have not practiced long enough to have unique experiences or generated revenue in any way shape or form other than billing hours. And if they were so successful in using social media during their practice why are they not still practicing? Seems like a fair due diligence question. They voluntarily left this incredibly successful practice of law making millions using social media to start over and teach you how to use social media so you can make millions? Snake Oil tasting any better?
Bottom line before you drink? Its all about disclosure. If people would do the same due diligence they would certainly do in the brick and mortar world before they hired a lawyer they would find out the following:
The attorneys holding themselves out as having “superior knowledge” (I refuse to use the word expert again) to help you navigate the social media jungle to the pot of client gold on the other end, are often attorneys who are no longer practicing because they could not support themselves, were disbarred, sanctioned or have limited practice experience and often never generated new client portables when they were practicing.
Another rub for you. If these same attorney’s were attempting to hold themselves out on the same level to real client’s in the legal profession would they not be required to disclose much of the above pursuant to state advertising rules. If not required, would it not be logical to assume the client would want full disclosure of the above before making a decision on whether to use that attorney? ( I am making a overall generalization on the advertising rules, requirements vary state to state).
The final rub. Advertising and Disclosure rules for attorneys generally have not caught up with the likes of Twitter. Attorney’s who would never think of pulling such snake-oil shenanigans in the the Big-Law , Small-law or Solo-Law world are now burying their lack of real practice experience, disciplinary history and lack of qualifications to teach anything to other lawyers in the dark Twitter rabbit hole of non-disclosure. Preying on the ignorance of well meaning but economically scared lawyers blinded to the snake oil by the desire to pay rent.
It has become such an issue that many attorney’s have taken to policing their own within the Twitter-Law arena.
One of the most ardent and outspoken of these attorneys and someone who is probably the Top Twitter Cop in the social media realm is Attorney Brian Tannebaum. Brian is a partner in the firm of Tannebaum Weiss. He also blogs at “My Law License” and The Criminal Defense Blog. Every once-lawyer “selling the snake” cringes when @btannebaum shows up in his/her twitter stream.
If you doubt me, look no further than a recent heated Twitter exchange he had with New York attorney Kathleen Scanlon. Kathleen has had her issues. She was one of several individuals indicted in a NY mortgage fraud scheme. She has allegedly pled guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
At issue were her qualifications and credentials portrayed on her twitter profile. Despite the fact of her guilty plea and impending sentence, none of this was disclosed on her Twitter profile which portrayed her as a networking “real estate lawyer” During the course of the exchange when it was apparent to her that Brian had done his homework she changed her Twitter profile and deleted most of her replies.
In the end, it all comes down to common sense.
Why would you give up your good money to a lawyer without checking the person out just because its not “law”. Don’t you want to know about who the person has actually generated revenue for? If the attorney is claiming to help you “make rain” don’t you want to know about his experience as a rainmaker in the legal profession? Don’t you want references from when he/she practiced? Don’t you want to know about standing with the bar? Don’t you want the same information the attorney would be required to disclose under State advertising rules? Once you have all this information then you can make an informed decision.
Don’t settle for less and DON’T let fear of starving cause you to not ask hard questions. If you don’t get the answers you like you may still starve but at least you saved rent payment for another month or more and wont have to live on snake oil while you hope and pray for it to rain.
After I published the above a lawyer by the name of Sheryl Sisk Schelin took issue and defended her right and experience to sell social media to other attorneys despite any failing she may have had as an attorney. She calls herself “The Inspired Solo” She in fact has written a e-book “Twitter For Lawyers” which she is selling for $47.00 as an introductory offer going up to $67.00.
What Sheryl failed to mention in her tweets and on her website is that she has a pretty big failing. She is currently suspended from the practice of law in South Carolina. I somehow missed that in the “About Me” section of her web-site. Call me crazy but I find that very “uninspiring”, how about you?
Thanks Sheryl, I could not have scripted it better if I had tried.