Chambers & Partners is to launch its own social network for lawyers.
First, the negatives – this will be tough.
The social network for lawyers space is littered with corpses.
In fact, no legal media company or publisher has ever successfully developed a social media site.
Even Martindale Hubbell, which had deep pockets back in the day, didn’t get far with its “Connected” product.
A ton of other lawyer networking sites and newer start-ups have fallen by the wayside as well.
There is also the argument that people (lawyers especially) have limited time, so focus on the online spaces where people already are – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook – rather than fracture the community among more places.
Now, the positives.
This is a bold move for Chambers, and they have plowed a lot of people and money into this.
Unlike other companies that have tried a social network venture, Chambers has a tremendous brand and has spent nearly 30 years building connections between in-house and out-house lawyers.
One thing I’ve learnt in the years I’ve been working with Chambers – don’t write them off.
If anyone can pull this off, Chambers can.
Chambers pioneered the use of client research in the 1990s as an integral part of legal directory research.
People were skeptical, but it went on to define the research directory industry.
When Google came along, people said that would kill the directories.
When law firms developed their own websites in the early 00s, commentators said that legal directories were finished.
Then it was blogs, then social media, then the financial crisis, which would destroy everything that had gone before.
They were all wrong.
Directories like Chambers have not just survived all these threats, they have come out the other end even stronger.
So what’s this new product about?
Well, it’s called “Chambers Connect”.
It’s a closed, subscription-only system, and not publicly available like LinkedIn.
All lawyers officially recognized in Chambers will be invited to join.
Invitations are heading out soon, soft launch style, ahead of a more formal launch next year.
Clients – buyers of legal services – will also be allowed to join.
The idea is to create a space where lawyers in private practice and clients can connect, network, and share ideas.
A central feature of the site is a question-and-answer facility where a client, say, could post a legal question, and private practice lawyers would weigh in with answers to their queries.
It’s similar to what Avvo has done, albeit focused on the consumer end of the market.
Chambers Connect has a bunch of other features such as a LinkedIn-style private messaging system, and some valuable survey data on billing rates in 180 jurisdictions around the world.
Have a look at the brochure for more on the site.
UPDATE: Chambers has provided more information via a question-and-answer with managing editor, Rieta Ghosh. See here for more.