The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
If you’re asking, “What’s social media?” we need to have a serious chat. Social media (simply defined as Internet tools for sharing information) is key to building your network of legal and related professionals who know what is happening now, and who are smart enough to forecast the future of the legal field.
The ways that law firms manage documents, exchange information, advertise for clients and hire new employees are evolving at a pace faster than the speed of light. Paralegals, including new paralegal graduates, are expected to stay abreast of the latest technological, practice, marketing and hiring trends – including the use of social media.
I know. It’s like learning to swim and not wanting to get your hair wet. But once you realize that water is buoyant, and floating is relaxing, you’ll love it!
Here are 10 social media tips to get you started:
- Start using it. More employers are adding social media skills to their job requirements. Today’s technologically-savvy paralegal might have to contribute to the firm’s blog or Twitter stream.
- Create a free LinkedIn profile. If you already have one that has only your name, job title and current employer, you’re not finished. You need a complete profile that reflects your education, experience and professional expertise. More employers than ever are utilizing LinkedIn to vet applicants.
- Post a headshot with your LinkedIn profile. Your contacts need to see your face. You wouldn’t wear a paper bag over your head if you were attending a legal conference, professional meeting or job fair, would you?
- Connect with other professionals on LinkedIn. In addition to searching for people in your community that you do know, connect with other legal professionals that have similar interests. Even if you’re happily employed, work on building your network before you need it.
- Join at least one national paralegal listserv, such as LAT-Listserv, Paralegal Gateway (Yahoo! Group) or Paralegals (Yahoo! Group). Don’t let the volume of list posts deter you. You can review posts in digest format and only read what interests you. Listservs are a great way to have a resource to post detailed questions and get responses from very knowledgeable paralegals all over the country.
- Follow reputable blogs to keep up with the latest news regarding legal technology, social media and your specialty areas. The ABA Journal has an excellent Blawg Directory to get you started (http://abajournal.com/blawgs/ ).
- Join Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/ ). I know that this step is often the most frightening, but oddly, it’s actually the simplest. It’s free, and in terms of keeping up with today’s legal professionals, it’s cutting-edge. Your next employer may very well want a skilled Twitterer on staff.
- Complete your Twitter profile. You only have 160 characters to describe yourself, and one of the phrases should be your job title. Let other legal professionals know that you are one of them.
- Follow other legal Twitterers. Twellow (http://www.twellow.com/) and Justia Legal Birds ( http://legalbirds.justia.com/ ) are great places to start.
- Now tweet. That’s what Twitterers do. If you’re shy, start by replying to other tweets that interest you, or re-tweet a link to a helpful article that you think others will find interesting.
This article originally appeared in the Institute for Paralegal Education’s September 2009 newsletter. Take advantage of IPE’s excellent continuing legal education opportunities, many of which can be accessed without ever leaving your desk.