Are New Lawyers Lost at Sea or Charting a New Course?

By Nicholas Baran

There is no question that the Internet
and social media have vastly changed the
landscape in which we work and live. Information
is at our fingertips and we can communicate
across the globe instantaneously.
This efficiency has certainly spilled into the
legal profession, as lawyers and courts are
no longer hamstrung by the printed form.

Indeed, it seems almost foreign to a young
lawyer, like me, to think about a time when
legal research did not include a “terms and
connectors” search on Westlaw or Lexis.
Moreover, the ease and promptness in
which we communicate makes writing a
formal letter seem almost Shakespearian.
There are numerous benefits that exist in
the Internet age. But do these benefits bring
with them unintended consequences?
As my clerkship ends and I begin to
plan the next step in my career, one question
keeps populating my thoughts: how do
I market myself and connect with other lawyers?
This thought brings me back to the
first meeting with my career services office
while in law school. I arrived with the gusto
of any 1L, eager to begin plotting my career
path. The counselor’s first question, however,
stopped me in my tracks. Do you have
a LinkedIn account? To be frank, I had never
heard of LinkedIn. I was told that it was
the professional’s equivalent to Facebook.
Further research was needed. Reviews of
the social media platform suggested that
LinkedIn would become the new way to apply
for jobs. It was the social media resume,
which could be viewed by a seemingly endless
number of potential employers. It was
my opportunity to define who I was as a job
seeker, from sharing relevant news stories to
highlighting a specific set of skills and traits
that I believed I had, which could be “en-
dorsed” by persons with whom I was connected.
The possibilities seemed boundless.
LinkedIn became another social media persona
that I needed to juggle in order to stay
ahead of the times.
As I progressed through my studies, I
realized that my social media presence fell
to the wayside. My LinkedIn presence became
non-existent, and unlike some of my
peers, I had completely overlooked burgeoning
professional networking websites
like VisualCV and BranchOut, to name a
few. I became more interested in attending
local bar events to chat with members
of the bar. This was due, in large part, to
a mantra that one of my professors shared
with me: the legal profession is still about
people and personal connections. Put another
way, a lawyer’s social media presence
means little if he/she cannot exist
in the natural world. I have observed this
first hand as a law clerk. Each day, lawyers
shuffle in and out of the court room: making
arguments before the judge, negotiating
with opposing counsel, and presenting
before a jury. My fear, then, is that young
lawyers are being persuaded to forego
the traditional forms of communication;
that we are being relegated to speaking in
140-character statements or communicating
only via shared content. Will young attorneys
be able to spark up a conversation
with someone outside the digital sphere?
Being a young attorney looking to
break into the profession can be difficult.
It can be a daunting task to approach a seasoned
attorney and attempt to have a conversation.
This may be why young attorneys
– and younger people generally – have
gravitated toward social media. It is easier
to convey an opinion on a particular subject
from the comfort of a computer. There is
no chance of confrontation, nor is there the
possibility of having that awkward social
moment where you say the wrong thing
because of sheer nervousness. This nervousness
can be compounded when faced
with a large group of new faces. But is it a
best practice to avoid these situations completely?
Definitely not. These moments
build character. They provide useful lessons
in handling being placed between the
proverbial rock and hard place. Reacting
to these situations can certainly transition
to practice. How can a new lawyer expect
to stand up to a client, opposing counsel,
or a judge face-to-face, if he or she cannot
handle these kinds of uncomfortable
social encounters? Frankly, they cannot,
and will not. For example, I am now more
inclined to shed my nervousness and address
awkward situations head on. This
confidence came after I spent 15 minutes
addressing an attorney by the wrong name,
only to finally be corrected at the end of the
conversation. This personal flub, however,
had little effect on the engaging conversation
that the attorney and I shared, and I
highly doubt that he would even remember
this encounter. Indeed, young attorneys
offer many interesting insights and often
have a fresh take on legal issues. But are
we really adding to the conversation if we
are only sharing these views amongst ourselves
Personal connections are also extremely
important in a small bar like New
Hampshire’s. All too often attorneys are
pitted against a familiar opponent. Names
and faces become familiar. This is a good
thing. It fosters a collegial atmosphere
even in the face of contentious litigation.
This collegiality must extend outside of
the courtroom. Local and state bar events
provide a meaningful extension to this rapport.
Equally important are the vast committees
and sections that offer engagement
with like-minded members. These offerings
are not just beneficial in the personal
sense. They also play an integral role in
advancing the legal profession. Participation
matters. It not only ensures an immediate
impact on the present, but contemporaneously
guarantees that the future
is shaped in such a way to permit further
progress and growth.
This is not to say that social media is
not a valuable tool for all attorneys. Most
law firms now have a large social media
presence. Social media offers an efficient
way to connect with clients, colleagues,
and the public at large. It can be an effective
tool if utilized correctly. With social
media we can connect with clients in San
Francisco from Manchester. We can provide
updates on personal wins and changes
in the law. We can expand our reach outside
the confines of our small bar.
Simply put, social media is a useful
tool—if used in moderation. It provides
the possibility to expand our social network
to a boundless number of persons.
But we should not forget that our profession
is still, for the most part, people-oriented.
We must not lose sight of the fact
that being a lawyer means being a skilled
orator, negotiator, and people person. No
matter how simple it may become to communicate
without leaving the confines of
our homes or offices, we must remember
that there will always be a human element
to this profession.

Nicholas Baran is in his second year as a
law clerk in Rockingham County Superior
Court and a member of the New Lawyers
Committee for the N.H. Bar Association.
He graduated in 2016 from New England
Law | Boston.

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