If you’re in the legal profession, are interested in social media, and are in or near New York City this week, you should join the Social Media for Lawyers Meetup Group for a discussion about Twitter.

The Meetup, called The If’s, Why’s and How’s of Using Twitter, will be this Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 7:30 PM.  The location is still TBD, but will be somewhere in NYC.

As super-Tweeter and group organizer, Alin Wagner-Lahmy (@alinwagnerlahmy) puts it on the Meetup page:

Let’s gather to talk about how Twitter can be used to:

* Promote
* Network
* Learn
* and more

without it taking control over our lives.

As a meet-up, the purpose is to meet face to face. Those who cannot physically attend a NY venue and wish to attend are invited to attend via Twitter.

Location details to be confirmed soon (somewhere in NY City).

$5 fee for those attending f2f to cover location and drinks. If you plan attending through Twitter please still let us know by RSVPing.

Event Hasgtag: #SM4Law

So, please join in the conversation; and tell them you heard about it here.

You can follow LawyerKM on Twitter here.

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When it comes to micro-blogging (“MBing” – I just made that up), Twitter started it all – on the web.

Then came Socialcast (which I covered here), and then the much-hyped Yammer, which won the top prize at TechCrunch50.

Now, there is a new kid on the MBing block: Present.ly.

Present.ly and the other MBing applications are all about constant awareness. According to their website, though, Present.ly is not a micro-blogging application, it is a “micro-update communications tool for your company” that provides your employees with “the ability to instantly communicate their current status, ask questions, post media, and more.”

In addition to short, frequent updates, there are other features, such as the ability to attach files (like documents, pictures, and videos).  It also supports the most popular internet browsers and mobile devices, including BlackBerry and iPhone.  An interesting twist, and one that I think is essential to enterprise adoption, is the ability to form groups – this allows more focused tweets (so that you don’t have to bother the entire firm with your message).  Finally, Present.ly is customizable and it offers a Twitter-compatible API so that you can adapt tools you use for Twitter to Present.ly.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. So, should you run out and start micro-blogging in your law firm?  That’s a very personal and firm-specific question.  I noted my doubts about law firm micro-blog adoption and Jevon MacDonald listed some pros and cons of enterprise micro-blogging here and here.

One problem I have with Twitter in the enterprise is focus.  It may sound like blasphemy to some faithful Tweeters, but Twitter is distracting.  There, I said it.  I love Twitter, but I use it when I have a few minutes to kill.  I don’t go there to find information that I need.  For me, it’s background.  It’s the Musak of the Web.  As Susan Cartier Liebel said “Tweeting is backslapping and chatting on the street.”  (Other Tweeters have chimed in about their take on Twitter here).  Yes, I know that in the enterprise, presumably, people won’t tweet about what they had for breakfast or their new shoes, but are we inviting a new form of media overload into the firm?  Aren’t email overload and RSS overload enough?  I’m probably not alone when I say that I need to concentrate on my work to do a good job.  Micro-blog posts from my colleagues every few minutes will not help me concentrate on the task at hand.

Another problem is that the signal to noise ratio on Twitter is low.  People are willing to tweet just about anything; but too much of it is just noise.  If people need to have the right information at the right time, how does Twitter in the law firm help with that?  In my experience, probably a fraction of 1% of the tweets that I skim are actually worth reading.  Does micro-blogging have a place in law firms?  Maybe.  It goes back to the question of: what’s the right tool for the job?  If I have a really important question, I probably won’t blast it out on a micro-blog and sit back waiting for responses.

Here is a brief video introduction to Present.ly (listen closely – it’s quick)

Here’s a list of enterprise micro-blogging tools.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

Will law firms will use Twitter? So far, not many are. The main reason that most firms will not likely use it as a way to communicate among their attorneys is that it is a public platform. Twitter can be set so that messages are private and viewable only to trusted users, but I can’t imagine that any law firm will be willing to post messages (other than for marketing purposes, e.g., law firm web sites and substantive blogs) on the web.

But will law firms use an internal Twitter-like micro-blogging application that is not open to the public? Socialcast announced Socialcast 3.0, which gives them the opportunity to do so.

Socialcast operates as a Twitter for the enterprise, enabling SMBs to capture the tacit knowledge of workers and leverage mindshare to bridge the gap between generations of co-workers, said Tim Young, CEO of Socialcast. See the press release. You can try an online demo of Socialcast here.

I have my doubts that law firms will adopt this type of application anytime soon. From a KM perspective, I am not sure that 140 characters (the Twitter / micro-blogging limit) is enough to make a meaningful contribution to the enterprise knowledge base. Don’t get me wrong, I like Twitter. I think that it has potential as a knowledge base and expertise resource. And yes, micro-blogging would, in theory, enable people to capture tacit knowledge. However, I question how much value lawyers can derive from such snippets – unless those snippets are “attached to” other pieces of intellectual capital, like models, samples, forms, and other lawyer work product. In this way, micro-blog posts could become what I like to call “little KM.”

Little KM. More on this later, but in a nutshell, “little KM” is about “how” and “big KM” is about “what.” Little KM helps people find the big KM. Little KM consists of tags, comments, “diggs” or votes. Little KM points lawyers to the substantive stuff (the big KM) that they need: the model agreements, the sample pleadings, etc. Tags, comments, votes, and the like can help lawyers decide which of the firm’s documents (the big KM) to use for the task at hand.

With some adjustments, perhaps, a micro-blog post (or “tweet” if you’re using Twitter) can be a kind of little KM. A lawyer could post: “Here’s a great seller-friendly purchase agreement <insert link to the agreement>.” If your enterprise search engine indexes the micro-blog, then others may be able to find that agreement (via the micro-blog) when they search for seller-friendly purchase agreements. To me, that seems a bit clunky. Why not just encourage lawyers to add their little KM right within their existing work flow? Give them the tools to add tags, comments, and votes (little KM) right to the document; for example, in the document management system, in Microsoft Word, or in SharePoint after they locate a valuable document.

Twitter is cool. But is it right for the enterprise? Time will tell. There are many who, at first, said “why in the world would I want to use that?” Some of them are now the biggest users (and promoters) of Twitter.

So, do you expect to see a micro-blog in your firm? Discuss…

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