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Am I a Twit because I Tweet?

January 18, 2009

“I believe the human mind is capable of using 140 characters quite strategically.”

I confess, I have become thoroughly engrossed in the Allison in Wonderlanesque World of Twitter. I am not a techie–I’ve just begun learning about blawging, and even that has been whilst studying for the bar–but I’m fascinated by the social discourse available for consumption 24/7 on Twitter. As with everything, however, the cacophony about lawyers blawging and tweeting is resounding. Apparently, according to Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice (an excellent blog with a singular post I consider uncharacteristically inane), lawyers who Tweet are Twits. I beg to differ.

Mr. Greenfield’s call to arms against tweeting echoes the gravamen of several articles, stories, and posts I’ve considered, but I stand firmly in what is apparently the Kevin O’Keefe Camp. I don’t see Mr. Greenfield’s syllogism asserting that I, or anyone else who considers Mr. O’Keefe’s concepts intriguing and thereby opens the mind to acting on them, am, therefore, a twit. Surrounded by the emerging cornucopia of twittering op-eds, it seems to have been forgotten that man is capable of exploiting one medium for: (1) Personal enjoyment and entertainment, (2) staying abreast of the latest news (I was amazed to read tweets about the U.S. Airways water landing as it was happening, while also reading about what people were eating, while also reading what decisions were being issued by the U.S. Supreme Court); and (3) even (gasp) professional exposure. It also seems to have been forgotten that there remain those of us who, completely devoid of pecuniary motivation, are genuinely interested and fascinated by people of all kinds and what they have to say.

If Man were an ape, then I would applaud the “lunch meat” theory posited by Mr. Greenfield; however, Man (and [wo]man) is a uniquely divine and complex creature created with the ability to discern. Consequently, I tend not to pay too much attention to the posts that don’t particularly entertain, edify, or inform me. At the same time, I don’t discredit the value in “lunch meat” posts because I know that just as I don’t eat lunch meat (and therefore have very little interest in yours, particularly if it is pork), I know other people who are quite partial to that particular deli staple who would, in fact, appreciate “lunch meat” posts. I think nothing less of the “lunch meat crew” simply because I don’t have an appreciation for the finer nuances of deli slices.

What has most troubled me about the new world I’ve been navigating in the twittering blawgosphere is that in an effort to be concise or edgy, there’s a tendency to oversimplify and/or post material demonstrating diabolical (yet sometimes conflicting) opinions like that of Mr. Greenfield’s most recent post. One attorney posted the Top 10 Reasons he trashes resumes (with which some I agree and others I find overly harsh), but later goes on a diatribe about judges who are not compassionate to the humanity of defense lawyers. I have friends who are attorney generals, district attorneys, criminal defense lawyers, politicians, judges, photographers, graphic designers, mechanics, secretaries, and the like–and I’m referring to people I know well, not just acquaintances–and can attest that all of them (and me), regardless of their label or stature in life, have made mistakes (some more controversial than others) and have had those humbling days, with which we are all familiar, when they have had to beg of another’s compassion. Perhaps the substance of the tweeting and blawging e-world would be substantively elevated if everyone were to remember their most humbling moment when preparing to be critical of another.

I tweet because I find the experience to be wonderfully entertaining, enriching, and edifying. And yes, I also do it for exposure. I understand (and largely partake in) the old school idea that good lawyers don’t need exposure. At the same time, I often like to distinguish myself from President Bush by highlighting the fact that I am not so rigid in my beliefs that I devolve into a state of ignorance. In other words, times change, and I think everyone will agree that the face of the bar and the practice of law is changing. Let’s face it: The great lawyers of old (there are too many to name; insert the name of who you consider legendary here) never tweeted or blawged. They didn’t have to because there were relatively few of them, only a handful of news sources, and, dare I say, the public was, perhaps, a bit more “discerning” (the word of the day).

I’ve had the unique experience of inside exposure to the authentic good ‘ole boys club of venerable criminal defense lawyers, most of whom practice in Miami (the kind who have been practicing since the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s), and if everything remained static, I doubt I ever would have gone to law school. Why? Quite simply because in days gone by, you couldn’t be a woman and a lawyer. Even now, most female attorneys (whether they publicly admit it or not) struggle with the balance between being a woman and a lawyer. Women aren’t taken seriously–lawyers are. But I digress.

The world, much like the law, evolves and does not remain static. Yes, the authentic good ‘ole boys club is still out there in all geographical areas, and I (nor any other woman) will never be invited into its circles unless as a guest, and there remain the few who can firmly adhere to the old lawyering theory that good lawyers don’t need “exposure” (which is really just PC code for “advertising”), be it by tweeting and blawging or just blawging, but unless you are Roy Black, Howard Srebnick, Marty Weinburg, or a handful of others, the reality is that people won’t know you’re good if you sit in your office waiting for the clairvoyant to appear with tens of thousands of dollars in hand.

I do not consider the dimension of tweeting one can use as a tool for professional exposure as ingratiating oneself to others by expressing an interest in their rueben (although, for those who like reubens the way I like tea and coffee, preferably in a cafe or even a Starbucks (ideally with a pastry if I am so inclined to indulge), I can understand how a mutual affinity and bond can be created over something so . . . unlearned (even by the learned)).

No, I believe the human mind is capable of using 140 characters quite strategically (and I think my opinion is validated upon investigation). As a person who walks with one leg because I’m trying to negotiate my way around the world with my foot in my mouth, I also have personal knowledge that 140 characters can simply present a 21st Century medium I can use to stick my other foot in my mouth.

And yet I tweet. Why? Because what is fascinating about Twitter is that it presents a window into which I can see, in a single individual, their character through a stew of posts that are profound, nonsensical, entirely uninteresting, wise, and silly. Through that lens, I can then discern the people for whom I am willing to put my reputation on the line (and those who are familiar with my work speak highly of me, even if they don’t like me) and those who, while I still read their posts and blawgs, I will only unwittingly see at Starbucks (or a deli).

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