The sky’s the limit for legal eagles on Twitter
Social media brings legal discussion to a much wider audience
Social media savvy: The Irish legal world seems to have taken to online life like barristers to a tribunal. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Whether they are tweeters, blawgers or both, the Irish legal world seems to have taken to online life like barristers to a tribunal.
There are a myriad of legal blogs summarising, analysing and dissecting the latest judgments from Irish courts. The websites of many legal firms include blogs from staff members on current legal topics, while individual bloggers vent their professional opinions or take a more personal approach to their views.
And twitter accounts abound, from occasional tweeters who restrict their comments to legal matters or use the platform to promote their own blogs to frequent tweeters who like to tell us about their favourite TV soap and where they’ve eaten for lunch.
So what is in it for them? Is it just another opportunity to market? Or does it answer a need in the legal community to air views to a wider audience, share experiences and receive support from other lawyers and legal academics in what can sometimes be a lonely business?
Fiona de Londras, professor of law at Durham University, is unequivocal about the value of tweeting and blogging. A founder member of humanrights.ie, a group academic blog on human rights issues in Ireland, she says the blog has created a community of academics that has expanded to engage wider society. Non-governmental organisations, civil society and government actors have and do engage through guest blogs, she says, and people from around the world read, comment and reblog or link to the articles.
Tweeting as @fdelond, de Londras says the principle advantage of this medium is that it helps her stay up to date in the field. It also helps build connections with people working on similar issues around the world.
“And it’s a way I can still contribute to debates in Ireland as well as in the UK, even though I am now institutionally located in the UK,” she says.
It has definitely raised her profile and has given her the ability to connect with policymakers and politicians and to bring research to them.
“I can engage with a Minister, or a TD or a Senator so easily through twitter and connect them into my research in a way that was previously almost impossible for academics to do,” she says. But she adds “you have to be quite good in figuring out how to boil a message down”.
She’s also met people on twitter and ended up with a collaboration of some kind, “a paper or a conference or intellectual engagement that’s really valuable”.
She has almost 3,400 followers and on average, tweets a few times a day, but doesn’t see it as eating into her time.