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4 Thoughts On Lawyers and Quora

I just recently signed up for Quora, a site that aggregates questions and answers, similar to Yahoo! Answers (and others).    I’m late to the party,  Quora has been around for quite some time now and seems to be gaining momentum, especially in the tech community.

The company has attracted some “A-list” venture capital, and at a reported valuation that implies a lot of confidence from some extremely smart folks.

Though there are a lot of questions with Quora (bad pun intended), it’s something lawyers ought to check out and at least familiarize themselves with, particularly those who have an interest in technology or work with venture capital and entrepreneurial companies.

1) One of the best things about Quora is the access to thought leaders, which is particularly true for the technology space.   Posting a question to a venture capital topic might generate an answer from folks like John Doerr, Mark Andreesen, Mark Suster (who also runs one of my favorite blogs) – or any number of other experienced “C”-level execs.    That kind of access is both valuable and unique.   Plus, responses from known experts is not just great for questioner, but also to the community reading or following the particular thread.    (If you want, Quora will use information from your Facebook account to immediately make you a follower of topics that you may be interested in.)

2) Quora can also facilitate one of the coolest parts about being a lawyer; that is, the continual need to learn about other disciplines and subject matter. Wikipedia is great in a pinch for a quick introduction to a particular topic, as are many other web-based information sources, but Quora offers the potential to add a dimension of interaction to learning.

3) There are also some social media benefits, e.g., there are opportunities to attract followers and build reputation, though it’s not where most lawyers will find any immediate marketing benefits.

4) Finally, it’s fun.   Admittedly, I was hooked on Yahoo! Answers a few years ago, albeit in anonymous fashion.  I enjoyed sitting down with a cup of coffee, trolling around looking to help out someone needing advice on a topic that I felt I knew something about.    A little mental diversion with a tiny bit of community service upside.

Some sharp lawyers, including law technology/social media expert Nikki Black are justifiably cautious of Quora, at least insofar as its ultimately usefulness for lawyers.    Nikki believes that for most lawyers it’s both a time sink and tricky territory for ethical considerations.   If the goal is short-term business generation, it does seem pretty clear that there are better options.

However, “knowledge markets” in general are continuing to evolve (LawPivot is another, focused solely on legal) – and though these platforms are in their early stages with many practical implementation challenges to resolve,  I suspect they have the potential to be disruptive sooner rather than later.

Overall, it does present another potential opportunity for the profession to work together with technology innovators to design appropriate ways to implement new technology.   Evaluating and working with these new technologies as they roll out, in a more pro-active fashion, could help minimize continually being put in the “catch up” position (i.e. getting stuck trying to figure out how to properly regulate lawyer use of technology that has already been adopted on a widespread basis by others).

Thoughts?