Who are the top legal Twitter accounts? Well, one instructive way of answering – which also has limitations – is to look at who has the most followers.
One feature of Twitter is that those with accounts – “tweeters” – can accumulate followers over time. However, the number of such followers does not demonstrate, for example, whether it is an especially useful or entertaining account. Nor does it prove that the Tweeter in question has any “real world” significance. All it shows is that other tweeters – from experts and the curious to the hordes of automated marketing and porn “bots” – have selected an account to follow for whatever reason. So a high follower count by itself may not be impressive, and nor is a low follower count a disgrace. Indeed, some good legal tweeters still have only a dozen or so followers, and not the hundreds of thousands following the banal tweets of some celebrity tweeter.
All that said, there are certain Twitter accounts which have become more popular than others. And a look at the current leading UK individual legal tweeters – the nine or so with more than 3,500 followers – reveals a rather interesting diversity as to what actually makes a “legal” Twitter account one which a relatively large number of other tweeters want to follow. It also reveals something about the individual “legal” Twitter accounts that are not attracting that many followers.
In particular, very few of the self-consciously “business development” accounts – individual lawyers using Twitter just to promote their practices – seem to be getting much traction in building up their so-called “social media profiles”. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, it would seem legal tweeting abhors over-commercial phonies.
The UK legal tweeters currently with the most followers turn out to be a mixed bunch. They include the two established and accomplished legal bloggers @babybarista http://twitter.com/#!/babybarista, now of the Guardian (7,462 followers), and @Charonqc http://twitter.com/#!/Charonqc (5,940 followers), the latter widely and rightly regarded as the doyen of British legal blogging. And showing perhaps the influence of “old media” there are the widely-quoted media lawyer Mark Stephens (@MarksLarkshttp://twitter.com/#!/MarksLarks, 4,946 followers), the famous legal journalist (and relative newcomer to Twitter) @JoshuaRozenberg http://twitter.com/#!/JoshuaRozenberg (4,422 followers), and the barrister and media pundit @John_Cooper_QC http://twitter.com/#!/John_Cooper_QC (3,715 followers).
There is also the remarkable @afuahirsch http://twitter.com/#!/afuahirsch (5,856 followers), the Guardian’s legal affairs correspondent, as much at ease with a print column as with a speedily-posted multi-linked blogpost. Indeed, more than any other legal tweeter, Afua is constantly bridging the gap between old and new media in high-quality legal news reporting.
Then there are tweeters with no real established blogging presence or “old media” connections, who nonetheless have built up large followings just by explaining the law and the legal process to lay people: the excellent Emily Goodhand of Reading University (@copyrightgirl http://twitter.com/#!/copyrightgirl , 5,095 followers), the rising star of the human rights bar, @AdamWagner1
http://twitter.com/#!/AdamWagner1 (3,938 followers), and the estimable @_millymoo
http://twitter.com/#!/_millymoo (3,595 followers). Emily is not legally trained, though her grasp of copyright law is phenomenal, as is her ability to explain it. Adam and Milly are particularly adept in taking emerging news stories and explaining how the media or political narratives often do not match up to solid legal analysis.
Interestingly, neither full-time lawyers nor full-time journalists dominate the nine legal tweeters so far mentioned. Only three are currently practising full time as lawyers – John Cooper and Adam Wagner as barristers, and Mark Stephens as a solicitor, and merely two are full-time journalists – Afua Hirsch and Joshua Rozenberg. And one may note three of the nine mentioned are female (including two of the top five by follower count), as are many other outstanding legal tweeters.
There are also many other individual legal tweeters – currently with fewer followers than those mentioned above – who should be followed by anyone with an interest in legal matters. These range from the in-house insights of @LegalBizzle http://twitter.com/#!/LegalBizzle , @in_house_lawyer http://twitter.com/#!/in_house_lawyer and @legalbrat http://twitter.com/#!/legalbrat , to the detailed legal commentary of @carlgardner http://twitter.com/#!/carlgardner and @Familoo http://twitter.com/#!/Familoo .
All these legal tweeters have one thing in common. They engage and inform. They participate in online discussions and they converse with other tweeters. For them, their Twitter account is not a “channel” for traditional marketing practices. Twitter is instead a means by which legal affairs can be properly explained and discussed with the world at large.
Twitter provides a poor “return on investment” for cynical lawyers and related professionals who just want to expand their internet presence as a commercial end in itself. Indeed, such folk should probably do other things than waste time in trying to develop a Twitter account which then languishes with a few dozen followers at best. But for any lawyer, legal journalist, or indeed anyone with an interest in the law, who wants to take the time to explain the law and legal matters with expertise and clarity, Twitter offers a means to not only become popular but also a way to promote the public understanding of law.
David Allen Green (@davidallengreen http://twitter.com/#!/DavidAllenGreen ) is media correspondent of The Lawyer