A Rapid Rise in Social Media Use by Older Lawyers?

A report this week on social media use by older adults has important implications for the legal profession — even though it never mentions the legal profession or any other profession.

A study by Pew Internet, Older Adults and Social Media, finds that social-networking use among Internet users aged 50 and older nearly doubled in the last year, from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010.

Even more noteworthy, among adult Internet users aged 50-64, social-networking use grew by 88%, from 25% to 47%. That means that nearly half of Internet users aged 50-64 use social networking. And within this 50-64 age group, one in five say they use social-networking sites virtually every day.

Another finding: One in 10 online adults aged 50-64 and one in 20 aged 65 and older uses Twitter or a similar service to share status updates.

The survey is of adults who are Internet users, not of the population at large. Of course, virtually all actively practicing lawyers these days are Internet users. That suggests that the survey’s findings can be applied to lawyers.

If roughly half of adults aged 50-64 are using social networking tools, it seems fair to assume that roughly half of lawyers in that age range are using these tools. That leads to two conclusions:

  1. Social networking is not just for younger lawyers. If you are 50 or over and not using social networking, you will soon be in the minority even among your peers.
  2. Social networking is increasingly becoming an essential skill. Social networking among lawyers is often viewed as primarily a marketing tool. It is that, of course, but it is also a tool for communications, networking, knowledge-management and even research.

From one north-of-50 lawyer to all you others out there, a word of advice: If you haven’t started to engage in social networking, the time to do so is now.