Tom Koulopoulos, Founder of Delphi Group, is providing the Keynote Address tomorrow morning at the International Legal Technology Association 2009 conference, this year held in the balmy National Resort south of Washington DC along the Potomac.
Tom attended the social networking / "tweetup" event this afternoon. He seems very interested in Enterprise 2.0 and business and technology innovation and I am looking forward to his talk.
The social networking discussion that I heard at that event (I didn't get to the start) largely revolved around attorney's reaction to social networking or social media tools and processes, in particular, around attorney's concerns about the ethical and proper professional use of these tools as reflected in social media policies. Some bar associations are more restrictive than others around their attorney's use of these tools.
My belief is that these types of concerns tend to be greatly ameliorated as people get more familiar with these tools. Yes, the same types of communications that were improper or unethical if made by letter, phone, or email can be made via blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, Sharepoint wiki, or any number of other social media and Enterpise 2.0 tools. And some typical uses, such as LinkedIn recommendations or identifying oneself as an "expert" in a given type of law, may continue to be prohibited to lawyers under ethical guidelines, while remaining acceptable and appropriate for most other inhabitants of these realms.
But it should be the substance of the communication (such as one that makes the recipient reasonably believe the attorney is representing them on a legal issue when that is not the case) that is problematic, not the channel in which it appears.
A participant mentioned at the meeting that interesting examples of social media policies have been developed by IBM, the New York Times, and Intel. See also ILTA's own page on social networking, Doug Cornelius' posts on "Top Ten Mistakes Lawyers Make With Social Media" and Blogging/ Social Media Policy For a Law Firm, and the Legal Blog Watch on the Wall Street Journal's policy. There will be a session devoted to this topic on Wednesday at 1:30 (at the same time I am speaking, unfortunately) at which V. Mary Abraham, Mary Hoskins and Honora Wade are speaking.