Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tweeting Law Part 2

Last year Spot-On Legal Research featured a post on Tweeting Law. In it, Elliot Hibbler discussed the value of Twitter as a means of "staying abreast of hot legal issues, including issues that might be a good starting point for a Law Review Note." Patrick M. Ellis, a student at Michigan State University College of Law, used Twitter as more than a starting point for his Law Review Note. He set out to determine if Twitter could be a legitimate source of legal information for scholarship by using it as his primary research tool for his note.

You can see the results of Ellis's foray into Twitter for yourself. A working draft of his note, 140 Characters or Less: An Experiment in Legal Research, is available at SSRN. Here is the abstract:

In 1995, Robert Ambrogi, former columnist for Legal Technology News, wrote about the Internet’s potential to revolutionize the accessibility and delivery of legal information. Almost 20 years later, Ambrogi now describes his initial optimism as a “pipe dream.” Perhaps one of the greatest problems facing the legal industry today is the sheer inaccessibility of legal information. Not only does this inaccessibility prevent millions of Americans from obtaining reliable legal information, but it also prevents many attorneys from adequately providing legal services to their clients. Whether locked behind government paywalls or corporate cash registers, legal information is simply not efficiently and affordably attainable through traditional means.
There may, however, be an answer. Although the legal industry appears to just be warming up to social media for marketing purposes, social media platforms, like Twitter, may have the untapped potential to help solve the accessibility problem. This Note attempts to prove that assertion by showing an iteration of social media’s potential alternative use, as an effective and free information sharing mechanism for legal professionals and the communities and clients they serve.
Generally speaking, law review editors and other academicians demand that authors support every claim with a citation, or, at the very least, require extensive research to support claims or theses. This Note seeks to fulfill this requirement, with a variation on conventional legal scholarship. Almost all of the sources in this Note were obtained via Twitter. Thus, this somewhat experimental piece should demonstrate social media’s potential as an emerging and legitimate source of legal information. By perceiving and using social media as something more than a marketing tool, lawyers, law schools, and, most importantly, clients, may be able to tap into a more diverse and more accessible well of information. This redistribution of information accessibility may not only solve some of the problems facing the legal industry, but also has the capability to improve society at large.
Twitter won't replace Westlaw and Lexis anytime soon, but Ellis makes a good case for adding Twitter to the list of sources to check when conducting research.

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