Where Are the Lawyers?

On July 12, 2012, in Editorial Advisory Board, Heather Bussing, HRExaminer, by Heather Bussing

Where Are the Lawyers? - by Heather Bussing - HRExaminer

Lawyers have to be careful about what they write online.

The list of Top 25 Voices of Employment Law came out, and it was only about 35% lawyers. A handful of the people I expected to show up were there, but many more were missing. Where were they? These are people I really respect . They write about employment law a lot, and have both broad and deep knowledge of the subject.

It turns out that’s partly why they didn’t show up on the list. We picked key words across the spectrum of employment law, including topics that HR deals with way more than lawyers, like benefits.  And the Social Ears algorithm then searched the key words across the internet, including blog posts, social media, and anywhere else they showed up connected to that person.

Since most lawyers write blog posts on firm blogs, and don’t have either the time or tweetbots to push out multiple links to multiple posts, the list was compiled based on what they wrote over the last 90 days.

Also, lawyers have to be careful about what they write online. They can’t really write about their own cases because of their ethical obligations to protect client confidences. That requirement lasts forever–even after the case is done. They also can’t write about cases they are currently involved in, because they can’t disclose their strategy and analysis.

Then, they have to watch out for things they write coming back to bite them in later cases. Lawyers have to protect their ability to make the best legal argument for their client at the time–even if that means taking a position different from the one they took in the last case. It might be because the situation is different. Maybe they are simply on the other side this time. But the last thing they can do to their client or themselves is have the lawyer on the other side quoting their blog post to the judge to support the opposition. I’ve seen it happen. (I’ve done it.) It’s not pretty.

Lawyers also have to be careful about giving specific legal advice online. What they are talking about in one situation might not apply to a different scenario. They don’t want people to rely on what they are saying and then do or not do something because of it–at least without talking to an attorney about their specific situation.

So mostly, lawyers write about published cases, new laws,or opinions by agencies like the EEOC or the NLRB.

So when you take a 90 day snapshot of employment law blogs, you’re going to find many lawyers talking about the same latest case or guidance (or lack thereof) from an agency.  Others are going to be talking about deeper or more specific issues than would  normally be picked up by general key word searches.

The people who came to the top of the list are people who gather content across a wide swath of sources from employment lawyers, vendors, HR practitioners, news sources and the many great bloggers in the HR arena.

For example, William Tincup (No. 4 on the list) is an extremely smart guy who knows a boatload about what makes people tick, marketing, business, music, and cigars. He has an intensely curious mind and consumes lots of content to stay on top of trends and issues, including employment law. He also has a tweetbot on crack. But if you walked up to him and asked him whether firing someone after they came back from a stress leave is legal, he’d shrug and tell you to call his friend Jon Hyman, the employment lawyer. Tincup is many things, but he’s not an expert on employment law. And he’d be the first one to tell you that.

Influencer lists measure who is talking about particular subjects and how often they say it. They give you a great place to start if you want to know more. But it’s a snapshot.  No one thinks that the picture of you making a duckface at the party is a representation of the real or complete you. Influencer lists are no different.

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