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January 2008 Issue | Volume 34 Number 1 | Page 49

Online Social Networking for Lawyers

Branching Out in the Lone Star State

The Texas Bar launches a social networking site that helps connect bar members.

On June 1, 2007, the State Bar of Texas officially launched the Texas Bar Circle, the first social networking site for lawyers provided by a state bar organization. Has the site caught on since its rollout?

Definitely yes—as of this writing, more than 2,200 lawyers have joined it. “We knew that lawyers are social animals, and that their success depends on their ability to network with peers and build connections,” says John Sirman, Web manager of the State Bar of Texas. “We saw our members as a group ideally suited for and in need of social networking tools. To me, this concept was a no-brainer and an inevitable offering by any bar association.”

The social network is “closed,” in that only members of the Texas bar can participate. Because the members are all known individuals, the closed network helps to minimize many of the concerns that exist with public sites like MySpace and Facebook. Members sign up using their bar number and automatically have access to their own “Home Page.” This page contains a calendar, announcements and news, links to new members in the Bar Circle, and other information. To add friends to their networks, users click on People and browse for other members, and then the other person receives an e-mail asking him or her to accept or reject that invitation.

A common part of joining a social network is the creation of the member profile, to let others know more about you. The Profile page on the Texas Bar Circle site has areas where members can add information about their current employment and their education, upload their resumes, and add all of their contact information, if desired. The Profile page also contains a listing of the member’s current friends and groups joined. Users can keep a journal on their Profile page, or upload photos to their photo album and share them with the community.

In addition to traditional social networking features, the Texas Bar Circle also offers a Careers page, where users can browse for jobs or post job listings of their own. The Discussions area allows members to converse about virtually any topic. And coming soon to the site will be the ability for members to add their specific practice areas to their profiles.

Members are also able to create their own groups, and as of this writing, there are more than 90 groups, ranging from law school alumni groups to practice-specific interest groups, to Lawyer Moms, Christian Attorneys and Musical Lawyers.

Sirman has seen some interesting things happening in the interest groups. “People really are using it to make new connections with people they may not otherwise have met. A fun example is the Art and Photography group, where there are some real artists sharing their work by uploading photo albums. Or Rainmaking, where members are making new business connections. With the Bar Circle, our members have a way to connect statewide that couldn’t exist without this platform.”

About the Author

Tom Mighell is Senior Counsel and Litigation Technology Coordinator at Cowles & Thompson in Dallas, as well as ABA TECHSHOW 2008 Chair.