Raising the Next Generation of Suckers

P.T. Barnum is famously attributed  with the phrase, “there’s a sucker born every minute.”  The lesson for scoundrels is to get your tentacles into the young’uns as early as possible, preferably before they realize that you’re a scoundrel.  After all, once they’ve been sucked dry, who cares?

Due to an inadvertent twit by Norm Pattis yesterday, I stumbled onto another in the vast array of legal social media marketers, who now outnumber lawyers 17 to 1.  Those are tough odds, and as any decent bookie knows, tough odds demand tough ideas.  This marketer, Jay Pinkert, calling his blog Scatterbox, didn’t disappoint. 

Playing on the fear of every law student, that the last job has been taken and there’s no more left for you, he tacitly offers up the solution.  Can you guess what it is?  That’s right!  Social Media!  The answer to every law students dream, to blog or twitter your way to fame and success.  It’s bad enough that lawyers with silent telephones are willing to march into this fool’s paradise, but these are students who have yet to wet their whistle in the law.

Then comes the missing link of social media salesmanship, the big lie. 

Probably the most famous student blawgger [sic] exemplar is Rex Gradeless of  the Social Media Law Student blog, who built a large a loyal following through advocacy of technology innovation in the practice of law. I thought it might be interesting and useful to start looking for other student voices and other approaches that exhibit aptitude and passion for the medium.

And what about Rex commends social media?  He has a loyal following?  He’s techno loving?  He’s got more than 76,000 followers on twitter?  Very impressive.  He’s also unemployed, but you won’t see any mention of that in the post.  Rex graduated law school last year, and despite being asked to give talks to bar associations about how to amass twitter followers, it hasn’t served to start him on the road to being a lawyer. 

Before anyone yells at me for picking on Rex, it’s not his fault that he was chosen as the bearded lady for this post.  He’s just a pawn in the social media marketing game, though he’s certainly done everything in his power to make himself the biggest pawn in town.  There is a point to writing about this, and pointing fingers as needed.  For every dopey comment from a law student savant who knows all there is about the world and doesn’t need a dinosaur like me telling them what’s what, I get 100 emails from other law students who see themselves in these posts challenging their misconceptions, who realize that their pipedreams will go up in smoke if they follow the easy path to success. They want to believe the lies, especially when that’s all they hear.  But they appreciate the dose of reality that saves them from playing Barnum’s fool.  The only secret to success is hard work, two words you will never hear uttered by a social media marketer.

This isn’t to suggest that blogging, or twitting, or FBing, or whatever flavor of social media comes along tomorrow-ing, is a bad thing to do.  It’s not like Rex couldn’t find a job because of his twitter status, though he, along with some other new lawyers have likely elevated their profile for the wrong reasons and done themselves some significant damage in their prospects for gainful employment in the process.  Blog if you want.  Twit to your heart’s content.  Have fun, provided it doesn’t suck time away from more useful activities. 

But don’t listen to the social media snake oil salesmen.  Ignore the charlatans who lie by omission to hook you while you’re young and naive, wanting more than anything to believe that there’s a magic bullet that will bring you the success you were told would follow three years of law school and about $100,000 of debt. 

As for the scoundrels who aren’t satisfied with their efforts to scam lawyers into their clutches, but want to get law students hooked before they know better, let me offer another quote, this one from Pink Floyd:  Leave them kids alone.

6 comments on “Raising the Next Generation of Suckers

  1. Jeff

    Thank you for this post. I’m starting law school in the fall and I am obviously worried about job prospects in 3 years. Many “advice” columns suggest getting involved with social media as a way of getting your name out there. I’d rather do well in school, work hard at my internships and network that way. I just started reading your blog and so far I really like what I see. Keep up the good work!

  2. SHG

    Keep up the good work?  Well, thanks, I guess. More importantly, glad that I can offer you an alternative to the advice of others.  You sound like the law may be a good fit for you.  I don’t say that about too many people. 

  3. Kevin OKeefe

    As you know, I am as big of a proponent of using social media for professional and business development as the next guy. Hell, It’s what I do.

    But a loaded gun around kids is a dangerous thing. Law students and new grads have got to understand, it’s all about becoming a good lawyer. That’s it. Nothing short of that.

    Before you go build 10,000′s of thousands of followers on Twitter because you can’t get a job, why not walk over to the local public defenders office, knock on the door, ask to see the chief lawyer, and let them know you are ready to go to work as a clerk doing briefing – for free. You may learn some things, pick up a mentor, and even meet some good lawyers, judges, and clerks.

    That’s how you get a job. That’s what I did. It even impressed a lawyer with a civil practice where I wanted to work hire me after I knocked on his door unscheduled 3 or 4 times asking him for a job.

    The competition sucks for law students trying to get a job. There’s never been a better time to get a job with a good lawyer or good law firm. You just need to apply yourself. Your competition will not.

    Sure, its scary not to hide behind social media alone as a way to get known, but so is your first jury trial.

  4. SHG

    Thanks Kevin.  It says a lot when a guy whose business is building blogs isn’t trying to spin them as the magic answer for law students.

  5. Kevin OKeefe

    You’re welcome Scott. It may be that I don’t view my business as building blogs. I view my business as serving as a partner that’s integral to a lawyer’s professional and business development success. Having been a lawyer for closing in on 30 years, I know professional and business development success comes from being a good lawyer – and there’s no short cuts in becoming one.

    I also know that blogging isn’t just about business development, it’s also about professional development – blog in a thought provoking way so that you can grow a network of other lawyers/professionals you can learn from and blog in a way that develops your understanding of the law. It’s not a coincidence that good lawyers tend not to have as many problems getting clients. ;)

  6. Marc

    I don’t have a website or current business cards. But I have clients. Maybe I could work out a trade somewhere.

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