f you ask my friends, they’ll tell you that I’ll talk to just about anyone, anywhere, about pretty much anything. As a byproduct of that lovely (or terribly terrifying) character trait, I have fallen in love with social media, especially Twitter.
Twitter has gotten somewhat of a bad rap. A lot of people seem to consider Twitter as a place “where you talk about your last meal” or a platform for publishing any ridiculous thought you have in your head. Or they see it as a medium for following their favorite movie stars or athletes. But Twitter is more than that; it’s an awfully powerful tool for past, present, and future law students.
For instance, colleagues Brian Hoffman, Jack Whittington, and I have used Twitter to start a pre-law resource we call Law School Chat. The concept is simple; it allows college students to use Twitter to talk to current law school students about everything law students wished they knew before they started law school and made the $100,000 investment. Students can use the chat to learn about what the first year will be like, how others balanced law school and a personal life, and just how bad law school exams are. We also have practicing attorneys chime in for additional prospective on how law school used to be, and how they made it through.
But even more than preparing for law school, Twitter is a place where you can start planning your career and making contacts. For instance, I’ve made it a practice to follow attorneys in fields that I want to practice and to try to interact with them. It is very easy to do, and the best part is there are no geographical boundaries. Twitter has become my own online “bar association.” Instead of being limited to attorneys in New York, I’ve used Twitter to speak to attorneys in California, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida, and Colorado.
However, using Twitter effectively takes some time, time that you may not have. And, like everything else in law school, using Twitter boils down to a cost benefit analysis that is personalized to you. But I can tell you that I set aside about an hour a day to keep up with my Twitter account, and the benefits for me have far outweighed the cost. For instance, I’ve used it to gather some extremely valuable career advice, I’ve had people offer to look over my resume and cover letter, to help me learn about branding, and to help me forge my own brand. I consider Twitter a supplement to career services.
But there are also valuable opportunities for “resume builders” as well. For instance, Twitter allowed me to connect with an attorney who needed help planning and researching for a presentation she was giving for the American Bar Association. I told her I would love to help, and I was named as a co-contributor on the paper. I’ve also seen attorney’s looking for help with bluebooking their publication, and with researching and writing law review articles. Granted, these opportunities take time out of your schedule to complete, but in my experience, many of them are worth it.
So how do you use Twitter successfully and find these opportunities? First, be outgoing. When I first got started, I tweeted something very simple, “law student interested in employment law, any ideas for blogs to read?” From there, I had other users suggesting blogs to read, accounts to follow and people to talk to. The response was amazing. Second, be engaging and build your network. Talk about sports, law, current events, really anything. Be the person other people want to talk to, and would want to work with. Don’t be afraid to show your personality. And finally, take it offline. Being Twitter friends is a great start, but meet your friends offline and invite them to coffee or lunch. Build a relationship and trust with them, it’s worth the investment. Maybe they’ll have a referral for you when you need clients, or better yet, a job. But you’ll never know until you try!