Spending time at a law school allowed me to see something very disturbing; law students are actively and deliberately told by law schools to expunge all social media activity.
The clear message to students is: Do Not Have Any Web-Presence Whatsoever.
Given this message, it’s no wonder that most Canadian lawyers view social media with fear and take no part in it. It also explains the shocked looks when I asked my class to create Twitter and LinkedIn accounts – then use them for class participation. Oh the horror!
Imagine if I had asked them to create blogs!
In my view, the rationale behind this law school directive is wrong.
First, it assumes that all social media activity undertaken by students is inherently damaging to their career prospects. A massively wrong assumption. Not everyone posts pictures of themselves in a naked drunken stupor.
Second, it assumes that Canadian law firms undertake in depth social media searches of all students that they wish to hire – given the lack of social media savvy that I see at Canadian law firms, I find this assumption very hard to accept. I don’t believe that HR departments are sitting up late at night trolling through Goggle searches of potential students – they have much better things to do.
A much better approach would be advice which encourages students to create a positive social media/web footprint that is easy to find; one that displays knowledge, opinion, creativity and, **gasp** personality. Why not teach civility and good sense in social media rather than suggesting that it’s just too risky?
Deadening creativity, opinion and personality should not be the role of law schools.
In an increasingly competitive and globalized environment, where young lawyers will be asked to create unique client experiences, rather than simply competing on being the best – whatever the best means – law schools are doing their students a grave disservice with their advice to stay away from social media.