Okay, I gotta admit that I’ve been skeptical about the value of Twitter. Lawyers tend to delude themselves into believing that they think important and deep thoughts. For example: “I just read an interesting article on res ipsa loquitur and its relationship to the Philippines probate code. Would you please pass the Chardonnay and the shrimp tempura?” And let’s face it, how good are lawyers at being brief? Lawyers are almost congenitally incapable of expressing themselves in 140 characters or less.
But my army of marketing consultants (er, all the marketing dudes writing on the Internet) says Twitter and Facebook have real business value for lawyers (everyone assumes lawyers are too anti-social to actually use those sites for their originally intended social purposes). So I’ve done some moderately careful looking at Twitter and have decided to jump on the bandwagon. Of course, now that I am on that bandwagon, I think Twitter is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Here it is, my button so you can follow me on Twitter:
What am I Tweeting about (like most people above 23, I initially associated the word “Tweeting” with something that was dripping down my leg)? I have only been Tweeting a few weeks, so I am still getting my sea legs. But here is a list of things I have been and expect to be Tweeting about:
- Employment-related legal issues. This is the main area of my practice, and most of my Tweets will be on this topic.
- Legal issues relating to the medical industry (much of my employment litigation is in the medical industry).
- Other legal issues which I think may be of interest to my “followers” (I feel the power coursing through my veins).
- Time management and organizational skills. Like most lawyers and business people, I am always looking for ways to become more efficient, so I can spend more time concentrating on deep thoughts.
- Computer and software products & issues that might be of interest to lawyers and business people.
- Media issues. I teach a class at Fairmont State University on legal and ethical issues in media, and I am especially interested in media bias in general and specifically relating to political coverage.
My Tweets will almost always contain a link to an Internet-based story or article, so the points is usually to provide people following me a brief explanation to an interesting article on the Internet (remember, the 140 character limit).
Trying to put a meaningful message into 140 characters (or less) is challenging, but it reminds me that litigation lawyers especially should always think about how to simplify and shorten their message. Lawyers in preparing for trial almost always think they need nine years to present their case to a jury, and judges almost always think the lawyer needs no more than 140 characters. So lawyers have to shorten and simplify their message, and have to weed out all the extraneous garbage.
That need reminds me of one of my favorite books, and what is arguably the mother of all examples of the need to condense and weed out—the gold-plated LP on the Voyager spacecraft. The book is Murmurs of Earth by Carl Sagan. In 1977 NASA launched two spacecraft named “Voyager”, with the purpose of traveling past our solar system into the stars. Each spacecraft contained a gold-plated long-playing record (in other words, an old “LP”). The LP was a “calling card” to alien beings who might one day find one of these spacecraft. This book is by the people who were chiefly responsible for selecting what went on that LP. Think about it. If you had the limited space of an old LP: (a) what greetings would you send from plant earth, (b) what sounds from earth would you put on the LP, © what pictures from earth would you put on the LP, and (d) what music from earth would you put on it? This book is about what Carl Sagan and others selected, and why.
So, you are shooting a spacecraft into the heavens, and you have only a single, gold-plated LP to place the “message” from planet Earth which you want alien beings to receive. What text, what pictures, what sounds, and what music from your planet Earth do you want them to receive as the first message from Earth? They know nothing about you and your planet, so what is the story you want to tell? Breathtaking!!
So there is my purportedly deep thought for the day, in writing about Twitter and its 140 characters. So pass the Bud Light, and put the TV back on the wrestling match.