Does Being on Law Review or Effective Blogging and Networking Provide Law Students with Better Employment Prospects?

12239536886_856aa1cdc4_m

Image by Marcela Palma

[This post was originally uploaded on November 12, 2014. It has been updated below with new information on March 5, 2015.]

Oceans of ink and an unlimited quantum of bits have been expended in the past several years reporting, analyzing and commenting upon the fundamental changes to the legal profession in the US following the recent Great Recession. Among many other things, there has been a significant drop in the number of applicants to many law schools and a declining number of available jobs law students upon their graduation. This is a very complex situation with no easy answers for the law schools and their students.

It is traditional practice at most US law schools for students who finish in the top 10% of their class rankings based upon their grades, to be invited to join the school’s law review. This is always considered to be a significant accomplishment and an academic honor. The member of the law review (also called the “law journal”), write in-depth and heavily annotated legal analyses about developments in the law and concerning specific decisions.

Despite the “New Normal” ¹ in today’s legal marketplace, any law student who is on the law review and/or in the top 10% of their class, will find themselves in a buyer’s market for their academic and writing distinctions. Nonetheless, what can – – what we used to be called the “top 90%” when I went to law school – – do to improve their marketability in such a difficult market?

They can blog, network and build their online presence according to a most interesting post by attorney, legal marketing expert, and renowned legal blogger Kevin O’Keefe in a post entitled Law Blog More Valuable Than Law Review in Landing Job on November 5, 2014 on his blog Real Lawyers Have Blogs. To briefly recap, he describes how Patrick Ellis (@pmellis), while attending Michigan State University College of Law, used his blog and networking skills to eventually land a job as an associate attorney with a top law firm in Detroit. I highly recommend clicking through and reading O’Keefe’s informative and inspiring story about Mr. Ellis.

This post also asserts that such blogging presented opportunities that would have otherwise been foreclosed to Mr. Ellis. Moreover, that the traditional entre afforded by law review as well as moot court participation and “who you know”, have now been surpassed by the effective of using blogs and networking to find jobs in today’s challenging environment. Indeed, as O’Keefe so concisely states “… networking online requires law students to listen, engage, curate and create content with their own point of view.” Bravo and kudos to both O’Keefe for writing about this and Ellis for implementing this innovative legal  job search strategy.

Is effective blogging and networking now an equivalent, if not advantage, over being a member of the law review? Well, as many lawyers are often inclined to initially reply to some questions, I believe it depends. What about these scenarios:

  • Law student X is invited for a recruiting interview at the ABC Law Firm. If he is both on law review and has a strong online presence, nowadays which one more likely got him the interview or was it both?
  • Law Student X is on law review while Law Student Y has a terrific blog and network. Will ABC only invite X or Y, or both based on the candidates’ merits?
  • ABC recognizes that they are lagging in their own online presence and marketing skills. Will they invite X and/or Y for interviews and why? Should the interview for X and Y be different and, if so how?
  • Should alternative career paths be developed by ABC for X and Y? Should both tracks be towards eventual partnership consideration?
  • If X and Y are both hired, should Y expressly help Y in building his or her online presence in some form of buddy system?
  • Will X’s and Y’s skills be differently evaluated in performance reviews? How will this possibly affect ABC’s compensation and bonus structure for associates?

Finally, I additionally suggestion that law students engaged in a search should consider applying some personal network mapping software to identify the people who are “hubs” and “spokes” in your network. The hubs are those members with the highest degrees of connectedness and might thus turn out to be more helpful resources. (see also The Subway Fold posts on February 5, 2015 about mapping Twitter networks and this one April 10, 2014 on mapping LinkedIn networks.²) A Google search on these applications will produce many possibilities.

___________________________
1.  See this excellent ongoing column of the same name on the ABA Journal’s web site covering a multitude of important topics on this tectonic technological, professional and economics shifts.

2.   LinkedIn has recently removed their networking mapping tool.

March 5, 2015 Update:

Following up on Kevin O’Keefe’s very informative post discussed above, he published another enlightening blog post squarely on point for this topic entitled Emory Law School Gets Students Blogging Early with Innovative New Class on February 12,, 2015. This spotlights Professor Jennifer Murphy Romig’s new class on legal blogging at Emory University School of Law. I will again briefly summarize, annotate and comment upon Mr. O’Keefe’s interview with her. I highly recommend clicking through and reading it in its entirety for all its details and insights.

Besides my own very strong interest and involvement in the efforts of law schools to provide their students with the latest business skills, this immediate got my attention because I am a proud alumnus of Emory Law.

Professor Romig’s new course is called Advanced Legal Writing: Blogging and Social Media. It’s listed as Course 851 on the right-hand side of the law school’s Course Descriptions page under Spring 2015 Courses. (Please click on the link for a full description.) The interview with her covered the following topics:

  • Origin:  The administration was supportive of the original proposal, looking to expand student’ skills in “public legal writing”, as distinguished from other traditional first year legal writing for client/matter-specific work. The professor had previously launched her own blog called Listen Like a Lawyer that turned into a very positive experience for her to communicate and network within the legal community. As a result, she sought to bring blogging skills to law students for use in the workplace and to “build marketable skills”.
  • Value: During their job searches, law students will, in all sizes of firms, find potential employers with blogs or else those who might be interested in launching one. Thus, if asked to do so, they will then have the skills to write, post offer strategy on blogs. As well, it provides students with a “creative outlet” where they can choose their own topics.
  • Curriculum: This is divided into thirds including 1. The “ethics”,  “history” and “methods of blogging”. 2. Studying blog writing to present their “legal analysis” and “voice and style”. As well, they will work in groups to revise a WordPress* theme and explain their changes, and give presentations on other topics involving formatting and content. 3.  Creating and critiquing their own WordPress blogs which, at their option, can be used to present their blogging skills to potential employers. Distinguished guests from the world of legal blogging will also be participating.
  • Results: The benefits of effective blogging include improved writing skills in practice and online, as well as the generation of interactivity on other social platforms and personal networking. The trends include introducing students to “different styles” of lawyers’ usage of social media platforms, and providing them with the means to track and adapt to the latest trends in social media.
  • Recommendations: 1. Begin on a small and secure legal blog among a “supportive community”. 2. Use blogging as  an “opportunity to be creative” where students can test out formats and functions. 3.  Find issues that are important to each blogger to pursue in their writing.

I am very grateful to Professor Romig for all of her work in launching this course at Emory Law. I was indeed even more proud of my alma mater after reading about this.

I want to suggest these additional suggestions:

  • Following up and showcasing among students those instances where their blogging has had an impact upon their job searches, legal matters, social movement initiatives, and networking. I would gather these instances and analyses into a report full of embedded inks, to be shared with fellow students and the administration. Perhaps some form of meta-blog where students can post and actively discuss their blogging experiences and techniques.
  • Using the blogging course as a recruiting tool for potential law students. Consider making this an expressed advantage of Emory Law in that the school will provide and enable students with the most modern tools they will need to communicate, market and practice law.
  • Encourage live-blogging of events and presentations at the school in order to open another new media channel to publicize them as well as to refine contemporaneous blogging skills. Again, collecting and archiving these blog posts might be worthwhile on the school’s website.
  • Has Emory Law ever considered holding a legal hackathon? It might also bring in some positive support from the local legal community and be a worthwhile event to live-blog and webcast.

___________________________

*  WordPress is the hosting service used for The Subway Fold.

Visualization, Interpretation and Inspiration from Mapping Twitter Networks

6871711979_bbe5b1ae1f_z

Image by Marc Smith

[This post was originally uploaded on September 26, 2014. It has been updated below with new information on February 5, 2015.]

Have you ever wondered what a visual map of your Twitter network might look like? The realization of such Twitter topography was covered in a terrific post on September 24, 2014 on socialmediatoday.com entitled How to Create a Visual Map of Your Twitter Network by Mary Ellen Egan.

To briefly sum up, at the recent Social Shake-Up Conference in Atlanta sponsored by SocialMediaToday, the Social Research Foundation created and presented such a map. They generated it by including 513 Twitter users who participated for four days in the hashtag #socialshakeup. The platform used is called NodeXL. The resulting graphic of the results as shown in this article are extraordinary. Please pay particular attention as to how the “influencers” in this network are identified and their characteristics. I strongly urge you to click through to read this article and see this display.

For an additional deep dive and comprehensive study on Twitter network mapping mechanics, analyses and policy implications accompanied by numerous examples of how Twitter networks form, grow, transform and behave, I also very highly recommend a report posted on February 20, 2014, entitled Mapping Twitter Topic Networks: From Polarized Crowds to Community Clusters by Marc A. Smith, Lee Rainie, Ben Shneiderman and Itai Himelboim for the Pew Foundation Internet Project.

I believe this article and report will quite likely spark your imagination. I think it is safe to assume that many users would be intrigued by this capability and, moreover, would devise new and innovative ways to leverage the data to better understand, grow and plot strategy to enhance their Twitter networks. Some questions I propose for such an analysis while inspecting a Twitter map include:

  • Am I reaching my target audience? Is this map reliable as a sole indicator or should others be used?
  • Who are the key influencers in my network? Once identified, can it be determined why they are influencers?
  • Does my growth strategy depend on promoting retweets, growing the population of followers, getting mentioned in relevant publications and websites, or other possible approaches?

What I would really be like to see emerge is a 3-dimensional form of visual map that fully integrates multiple maps of an  individual’s or group’s or company’s online presence to simultaneously include their Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn¹, Instagram and other social networks. Maybe a platform like the Hyve-3D visualization system² could be used to enable a more broadly extensible and scalable 3D view. Perhaps this multi-dimensional virtual construct could produce entirely new planning and insights for optimizing one’s presence, marketing and influence in social media.

If so, would new trends and influencers not previously seen then be identified? Could tools be developed in this system whereby users would test the strengths and weaknesses of certain cross-social media platforms links and relationships? Would certain industries such news networks³ be able to spot events and trends much sooner? Are there any potentially new opportunities here for entrepreneurs?

February 5, 2015 Update:

A very instructive and illuminating example of the power of mapping a specialized Twitter network has just been posted by Ryan Whelan, a law and doctoral student at Northwestern University. It is composed of US law school professors who are now actively Tweeting away. He posted his methodology, an interactive graphic of this network, and one supporting graph plus four data tables on his blog in a February 3, 2015 post entitled The Law Prof Twitter Network 2.0. I highly recommend clicking through and reading this in its entirety. Try clicking on the graphic to activate a set of tools to explore and query this network map. As well, the tables illustrate the relative sensitivities of the data and their impact on the graphic when particular members of the network or the origins and groupings of the followers is examined.

I think you find it inspiring in thinking about what situations such a network map might be helpful to you in work, school, special interest groups, and many other potential applications. Mr. Whelan presents plenty of information to get you started off in the right direction.

I also found the look and feel of the network map to be very similar to the network mapping tool that was previously available on LinkedIn and discussed in the August 14, 2014 Subway Fold post entitled 2014 LinkedIn Usage Trends and Additional Data Questions.

My questions are as follows:

  • What effects, if any, is this network and its structure having upon improving the legal education system? That is, are these professors, by being active on Twitter in their own handle and as members of this network as followers of each other, benefiting the professor’s work and/or law students’ classroom and learning experiences?
  • Are the characteristics of this network of legal academics any different from, let’s say, a Twitter network of medical school professors or high school teachers?
  • Would more of a meta-study of networks within the legal profession produce results that would be helpful to lawyers and their clients? For example, what would Twitter maps of corporate lawyers, litigators and public interest attorneys show that might be helpful and to whom?

___________________________
1.  See the April 10, 2014 Subway Fold post entitled Visualization Tool for LinkedIn Personal Networks.

2 See the August 28, 2014 Subway Fold post entitled Hyve-3D: A New 3D Immersive and Collaborative Design System

3.   See also a most interesting article published in the September 23, 2014 edition of The New York Times entitled Tool Called Dataminr Hunts for News in the Din of Twitter by Leslie Kaufman about such a system that is scanning and interpolating possible news emerging from the Twitter-sphere.

Mapping All the Stars in the Milky Way and All the Devices in the Web Way

This week, BusinessInsider.com has posted two articles that present extraordinary visualizations of all the known stars in our own celestial home – – no, not of Hollywood – – but rather, The Milky Way, while the other is of our own virtual world representing by all devices connected to the Web. I think that viewing them together makes for a very thought-provoking juxtaposition of the celestial and terrestrial/virtual worlds, and side-by-side comparison of their individual density. Moreover, they each display their striking vastness and beauty.

First, in an article entitled Incredible New Milky Way Map Is The Most Detailed Survey Of Our Stellar Home Ever Created, by Jessica Orwig, posted on September 16, 2014, we are presented with a “fish-eye mosaic” of the 219 million stars! in The Milky Way that have been cataloged to date. The report provides the technical on how a groups of scientists at University of Hertfordshire in the UK. The report characterizes this project as being an application of big data technology by the school’s astronomers. IMHO, the team members who worked on this are stars in their own right.

Second, is a report entitled This World Map Shows Every Device Connected To The Internet by Pamela Engel, posted on September 14, 2014. John Matherly at Shodan (which desscribes itself on its home page as ” Shodan is the World’s First Search Engine for Internet-Connected Devices”). The article provides the steps taken to generate this incredible visualization. What it very limns is the geographical inequality of available online access. For example, the US and Europe have far more dense levels of connectivity than some other countries and even entire continents. As well, there is an inconsistent relationship between certain areas’ population density and the cumulative numbers of web-connected devices.

I very highly recommend either opening these features and their accompanying graphics in two separate browser tabs and then toggling between them or alternatively opening two browsers and re-sizing them so both images can be seen simultaneously on the same screen. I believe both of these visualizations are testaments to the ever-increasing imagination of scientists who can construct plan and construct them.

I wonder though what, if any, are the possible commonalities of the structures, densities, patterns of change, and mapping processes of the Milky Way and the Net? Do the astronomers and the Net’s cartographers have anything procedurally and/or scientifically to learn from each other’s efforts?

Conflating the messages and information of both of these graphics further made me think that they might present an updated interpretation of the classic line spoken by the visiting alien to Gort, his servant robot, of “Klaatu barada nikto” in the original 1951 version of the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. According to this article on Wikipedia, the author of the screenplay, Edmund North, is quoted as saying this meant “There’s hope for earth, if the scientists can be reached”. As I see it, by providing this more grand perspective, the alien visitor was trying to teach the people of Earth that their planet is part of a much larger universe and they must be responsible for their actions and consequences affecting the larger spheres. Here too, by virtue of the, well, astronomical effort and originality that went into these new maps, perhaps the scientists responsible for them, at least to some degree, appreciate that message.

Visualization Tool for LinkedIn Personal Networks

[UPDATE: LinkedIn Removed access to their networking tool on September 1, 2014. The notice indicating that they were working on new tools for users to map their personal networks on LinkedIn.]

Network mapping is a process of using graphics tools and algorithms to create visualizations of many varieties of, among many others, social, business, telecommunications, biological, and financial networks.

Given the wide availability of these capabilities, have you ever wondered what a visual map of your own network on LinkedIn might actually look like? If so, I highly recommend a click-through to LinkedIn Maps to quickly generate such a map. The site will ask your permission to access your LinkedIn account and then just take a few minutes to produce the map. After the image appears, you can use the “+” and “-” icons in the upper left to zoom in on the map. As you do this, you will see the names of your contacts begin to appear. When you click on a contact you will then see who that person is also connected to in your personal network and a brief summary of their work information in a sidebar on the right.

Besides giving form and shape to your network, this can be quite helpful in a job search or for business development as you start to see who is connected with whom in your network. What is really quite valuable and interesting in that you will likely find that there are members of you network who will be “hubs” connected to many others in your network, as well as those who are more like “spokes” with fewer connections.

Also, the color coding of different groupings of contacts is automatically done by some commonality of employment, education or other types of organizations. When you click on any specific contact within the graphic it will immediately highlight all of that person’s networking connections within your own network. There is a tool available in the interface to label these color concentrated sectors of your network.

Here is an example of what my LinkedIn network looks like (at a lower resolution so that the individual names do not appear):

linkedinmap

A Google search of social and business network mapping tools will produce a lengthy roster of other apps similar to LinkedIn Maps with a great diversity in their graphical and analytical capabilities.