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August 13, 2021 Feature

Clubhouse for Lawyers: Something to Talk About

Carolyn Elefant
Clubhouse—self-described as a “drop-in audio chat”—is easy to use and plays to lawyers’ strengths.

Clubhouse—self-described as a “drop-in audio chat”—is easy to use and plays to lawyers’ strengths.

AnnaLukina/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Ever since 2010, when Nicole Black and I published the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, social media for lawyers has become a victim of its own success.

What I mean is that once lawyers began to recognize that social media could help attract clients, they glommed onto it and professionalized it, employing social media managers to curate beautiful Instagram posts and moderate Facebook groups and purchasing bland, keyword-laden content for blogs. And just like that, 90 percent of lawyers’ social media became nothing more than one big, boring ad campaign.

And that’s why Clubhouse (https://www.joinclubhouse.com), the newest social media kid on the block, is so refreshing so far. It’s rough around the edges and noisy and diverse and immediate and ephemeral, and, most importantly of all, nearly impossible to fake.

So, what is Clubhouse? Self-described as a “drop-in audio chat,” Clubhouse enables users to join rooms to chat with one another, listen to experts, or host talks. Clubhouse is audio only, so it’s highly mobile. I’ve listened to a couple of presentations and even asked questions while on a long drive. As with other social media apps, Clubhouse users create bios (emojis are searchable and therefore encouraged!), follow each other, and receive alerts of their activity.

Clubhouse has taken off for multiple reasons. First, to date, Clubhouse is invitation only—a current user needs to ask you to join. Consequently, Clubhouse benefits from the FOMO (fear of missing out) phenomenon, even though it wasn’t intentional; when the app was launched, it wasn’t ready for prime time, so rather than roll it out full blast in beta, the founders came up with the invite-only scheme. (For more, see Lacy Boggs, “The Unbearable FOMO of Clubhouse,” Business 2 Community, Jan. 13, 2021, https://tinyurl.com/mx44yfpb; and Emily Tamfo, “This Invite-Only App Is Giving People Serious FOMO,Refinery29, Dec. 5, 2020, https://tinyurl.com/cysss3y4.)

Second, Clubhouse is addictive. One can while away hours moving from room to room, listening to conversations about every topic from the Trump impeachment proceedings to Cannabis Business 101, find advice on careers or dating, or even get a reading from a psychic. And because Clubhouse is audio only, it lends itself to listening on the go.

Third, Clubhouse has attracted big celebrity names. I’ve attended sessions by people such as Gary V. and Marc Andreessen. That kind of accessibility helps further the buzz.

Fourth, Clubhouse is incredibly diverse in age, gender, race, and nationality of users. I’d always thought that social media would help me meet and connect with others around the world, but with the exception of getting to know a handful of legal tech folks in Israel and the United Kingdom, international connections haven’t happened to the same extent as I’ve seen on Clubhouse.

Fifth, Clubhouse came along at the right time. More than a year into the pandemic, most of us are Zoomed out, our schedules are unpredictable as we navigate homeschooling and working from home, and our attention spans are short. Clubhouse offers a quick way to take a break and chat in bite-size time slots at any time.

But that’s the big-picture view of Clubhouse. What you’re probably wondering is whether it’s something that lawyers can use and, if so, how.

To answer the first question—whether Clubhouse is useful for lawyers—the answer is an emphatic yes. Clubhouse plays to lawyers’ strengths by giving them an easy platform to share information, educate others about legal issues, and engage in informal discussions that are off the record (recording chats is prohibited and will get you booted from the platform). In fact, I conducted an informal poll with other lawyers using Clubhouse early on to get some feedback on how they are using Clubhouse. Here are some examples:

  • to mentor law students and women attorneys;
  • to share information on intellectual property;
  • to host a weekly “Night Court” to discuss different legal topics;
  • to interview and shine a spotlight on accomplished individuals;
  • to meet attorneys in different countries and exchange ideas on law practice;
  • to learn simply by listening about the challenges faced by attorneys of color; and
  • to brainstorm solutions and exchange ideas on challenges such as working from home.

And, yes, lawyers are finding business and making money from Clubhouse, too. In two woman-owned-law-firm groups that I’m in, at least three attorneys have reported signing up clients (one found a whopping 15 in a span of two weeks) after hosting Q&As on topics such as business law, branding, and trademarks. No doubt, business development matters, but if that’s your only goal on Clubhouse, you’d be missing out.

Finally, it bears noting that Clubhouse does not set off any ethics alarms. After all, lawyers already engage in conversation, so they are intimately familiar with what we can and can’t say in open conversations, and those rules shouldn’t change whether we’re interacting at a bar event, a birthday party, or in Clubhouse. The scenarios are identical.

But here’s what I like best about Clubhouse: At least for now, you can’t fake it. Instagram can be curated, podcasts and TikToks can be scripted, and videos can be rehearsed over and over again and teleprompted to make them pop.

By contrast, Clubhouse is the simplest and most natural form of communication: conversations just like the ones we used to have at conferences or parties or in-person events. Clubhouse may not completely fill the void, and who knows what the platform will look like months down the road. At least for now, in this time, Clubhouse should give lawyers something to talk about by giving us a new platform to talk.

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Carolyn Elefant, founder and owner of the Law Offices of Carolyn Elefant PLLC, a national law firm in Washington, D.C., is a veteran energy and eminent domain attorney with more than 25 years of experience. Elefant is also creator of MyShingle.com, the longest-running blog/website for solo and small firm lawyers with hundreds of free articles and online courses on starting and growing a law firm and sponsor of the LawyerMomOwnerSummit.com.