A friend refers to online social networking as “anti-social networking,” because it’s time spent alone in front of a screen rather than having an actual social experience.
I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have time for yet another social networking opportunity. But if that’s not the case for you, take a look at Foxwordy, a new, invite-only online social network for lawyers.
Foxwordy, launched this past February, is a private platform, built “by lawyers for lawyers.”
All Foxwordy members are vetted, explained its creator, Silicon Valley attorney Monica Zent. You have to be a lawyer or able to otherwise make useful contributions to the legal community. So it takes a day or two between sending in your information and receiving the invite.
Once you’re in, a speedy way to create a profile is to import your LinkedIn profile, as I did. Then you can find or make connections with other lawyers. Foxwordy suggests connections based on your area of expertise, in addition to other new Foxwordy members.
I saw profiles for about a dozen attorneys, none of them from Wisconsin. Nor could I find anyone when I searched for “Wisconsin attorney,” although Zent subsequently assured me there are some, and that just about every jurisdiction is represented among Foxwordy’s 2,200 members.
I telephoned nine of the out-of-state lawyers that Foxwordy suggested as connections. I spoke to just one of them, who said she hadn’t formed an opinion yet of the site. No one else called me back. Foxwordy combs your LinkedIn connections and suggests you invite “relevant connections.” I declined, deciding that if my LinkedIn connections want to join Foxwordy, they will do so on their own.
Aside from the lawyer-only aspect, Foxwordy’s significant distinguishing factor is anonymity.
“It’s a private social network, with anonymity,” Zent said. “It’s innovative for this industry. It’s something that lawyers need and people are responding to very positively.”
Specifically, members can anonymously ask or answer questions, or ask for or make referrals. This, to me, means you can ask a really dumb question without being embarrassed, and preserve client confidences at the same time.
As an experiment with the referral tool, I anonymously asked if anyone knows a good family law attorney in Milwaukee (actually I know tons of them). No one responded.
Likewise, when I searched Foxwordy’s “Docs & Clauses” for articles, agreements, pleadings, etc. using the jurisdiction filters, there were zero entries for Wisconsin.
Foxwordy offers a free 30-day trial, and after that it’s $10 a month for standard membership. The standard level places limits on the quantities of questions you may post, documents you may access, etc. Premium membership costs $34.99 per month, and offers mostly unlimited access to the site’s features.
I asked Zent if she’s aware of how frugal we Midwesterners can be. Plus, I noted, we’re kind of accustomed to free social networking. She responded that, during Beta testing, “Almost unanimously people were of the opinion that they didn’t want to be advertised to. They wanted to be able to just engage with each other.”
But, she said, if members start clamoring for free access and become open to advertising, that might change.
I additionally asked why Foxwordy is better than getting help from a colleague via a listserv. Zent replied that, again from the Beta phase, users overwhelmingly cited time as the problem with using a listserv: They did not like all the email replies and ferreting through them for helpful information. She contends that Foxwordy offers a faster way to get an answer, with more privacy.
I suspect Foxwordy will pique your interest if you’re an early adopter of technology and have the time for it. In my opinion, that doesn’t describe most of the lawyers I know.
As such, I don’t foresee Foxwordy taking off among Wisconsin practitioners.
We’re a state bar comprised mostly of small-firm and solo attorneys, concentrating in state-specific areas. In divorce, criminal defense or real estate law, to name a few, when you have a thorny issue you likely want to run it by someone you actually know, who knows Wisconsin law; preferably over a beer at a fish fry, rather than online.
But if that’s not possible, starting a discreet, generic discussion on the listserv of a specialty bar or the appropriate State Bar section, and asking for offline responses, is probably still our chosen way to get a solid, confidential answer.