This month's Big Question from Tony Carrer's Learning Circuits Blog is an interesting one, not just for learning professionals who are trying to enage colleagues, but also for academics who are trying to engage their students!
"My coworkers are Baby Boomers and Traditionals. When I mention blogs or any social networking they "poo-poo" me and say our workers should not use those tools because it will make them inefficient and not do their jobs. When I have presented the idea of how we can use discussion threads on our environment to discuss topics and make comments outside the classroom, many of my co-workers said it can't be done. They either haven't opened their mind to the idea or really care. In essence, if it is not classroom, they are really not interested in it.
My question is how do I get my coworkers to even consider the capabilities of these tools when it really does not interest them."
In relation to higher education, and legal education in particular, I think that the uptake of social media by the profession can also be used as a driver to encouage staff to (re)consider using such tools in the classroom setting.
It may well be that the profession is also experiencing this 'Big Question' and that senior partners are poo-pooing tools that may be considered as an inefficient use of time, but recently the use of social media by both large and small firms has really taken off.
Writing for the Binary Law blog, Nick Holmes picks up on other commentators in thrall of the BigLaw firms, in particular whether the legal press pays a disproportionate amount of attention to large law firms - with their panoply of marketing directors, PR advisors, website and social media mavens. His response to Jordan Furlong, a Canadian blogger at slaw.ca, was:
"I do think you’re not seeing the wood for the trees here. Social media do already provide the means for solos and smaller firms to leave a bigger footprint and “amplify their voice and multiply their narratives within the profession as a whole”. As you well know, they are doing it through public blogging and the public SNEs; and the pooling and focussing is done via public group activity on group blogs and special interest groups on the SNEs.
That does not provide a complete solution and third party collaboration and aggregation channels are evolving, but I don’t really see that they need “their own media channel” – will it not be an agglomeration of media channels?
The first step for solos and small firms is to engage with social media and they have only themselves to blame if they don’t.
You suggest that their footprints need to be left “in the places where journalists search for ideas and leads”. Turn that around: how about journalists need to engage better with social media and source their stories from a wider range of media channels? Surely it’s a very lazy hack who relies on the mainstream legal media for their ideas; surely they need to be reading blogs, following Twitter et al? Now I know you do this, so the next question to ask (of an employed journalist) is – It’s all very well for me to source some of my ideas and stories from solos and small firms, but will that sell the rag/will it attract the advertising bucks, will it please my paymaster? I suspect the answer to those questions is No."
In a previous post, Holmes also points to a critique of Susskind's book, The End of Lawyers? reviewed by Gillian Bull, which further contributes to the notion of BigLaw:
“Susskind’s book in the main deals with life on Planet Mammon: life on Planet Rumpole (or even Planet Pooter) doesn’t figure much.” Thus, in her view, the book is not relevant to most lawyers and the public at large. Not only that, but City lawyers either won’t need to read it if they’re already on the game, or won’t want to read it if they’re not; and their ICT managers will “need more than the collection of anecdotes and predictions that this book comprises. To make their case for spending money they need lots of hard data, of which there are none here.”
But then, this book does focus on the large law firms and perhaps another book, or another author, could /should look further at small firms and the sole practitioner.
So, returning to the 'Big Question', then yes, both large and small firms are using social media and there may well be an expectation that future employees (our students) should be able to engage, contribute to, or even lead with this type of engagement.
The HEA in general, UKCLE in relation to legal education and individual HEIs all encouarge staff to undertake pilot projects and the sharing of examples which is probably our sector's solution to this Big Question, and has been for some time. However, this does rely on the innovative lecturer to adopt or adapt the case studies for specific purposes on his or her course.
I was particularly drawn to an existing response to the Big Question that included the following presentation - a PR jobs-worth trying to ban the telephone in favour of social media!