History does not bode well for the prospects for success for legal-networking sites. As regular readers of this blog have heard before, many legal-networking sites have been launched over the years, but few have survived. The ABA’s social networking site, LegallyMinded, shut down in 2011 after barely two years of operating. Another one, Lawford, launched in 2011, lasted less than a year. Earlier this year, the Minnesota State Bar Association shuttered its MyPractice networking site because of its limited use. Among other now-you-see-them, now-you-don’t lawyer networking sites were Lawyer-Link, HubSTREET, PivotalDiscovery.com, and ESQChat.com.
Other networking sites forge on, but it’s not clear what, if anything, is going on within some of them. As I’ve noted here before, both Martindale-Hubbell Connected and Legal OnRamp are still operating, but the 2012 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report indicated that both have only a fraction of lawyers as members — with 1.8% of lawyers saying they personally use Connected and 1% saying they use OnRamp. A site called lawyrs.net has been around since at least 2008 and claims 9,956 members from 187 countries, but still describes itself as in “public beta.” Back in 2008, I declared the site LawLink to be on life support; it must have gotten some good triage, because it’s still hanging in there. And then there were two new networking sites launched late last year, jdOasis.com and wireLawyer.com.
Now there is a new entrant in this troubled terrain, Esqspot.com. Launched this week by New York lawyer Val Kleyman, Esqspot has all the usual ingredients of a social-networking site — member profiles, practice and interest groups, Q&A forums, community blogs, and event listings. So how is this site different from any of the others? Here is what Kleyman has to say:
While it has all the functions of other social networks, my focus is not on building a social network for lawyers, but on building a real community where legal professionals can interact, network, ask questions, look for jobs, and pretty much do whatever they want without having to earn any points or pay any money.
Kleyman also wants to use the site as a hub to facilitate personal, offline connections among lawyers. Esqspot is hosting legal-networking events around New York City, with the next one coming up June 27, and says he is willing to help others set up events of their own “so that lawyers can make connections with real people offline and earn their trust and referrals the old fashioned way.”
Here again, however, this is not the first site to take this approach. In 2009, I wrote about the now-defunct HubSTREET, which actually grew out of live networking events and sought to facilitate both in-person and online networking.
To his credit, Kleyman is realistic about all this and is not coming out of the gate claiming his site is the first of its kind, as wireLawyer did when it launched.
I do not have any big shot financial backers or supporters. I do not have anyone sending me traffic. I work hard everyday with a very small team to spread the word and get lawyers involved through LinkedIn groups and personal connections. I know I am clearly not the first to come up with this idea, but I strongly believe that legal professionals need their own “spot” in the social network realm, and that this place should be free, open and unlimited. And if it doesn’t work out, well at least I still have my law practice and I have built a great network for myself to use.
I can’t argue with any of that. Still, the success of any networking site turns on the members it can attract and their level of participation. Only time will tell whether Esqspot will be in it for the long haul.