About five or six years ago, I was talking to a friend, managing partner at a major US firm, about how the profession was fragmenting. He said (paraphrasing) that even in Biglaw much work was closer to commodity work than firms let on, by which he meant work requiring discretion but not briliance, great skill, or exceptional creative imagination. And the work also required a large staff of lawyers, preferably in many locations.
His firm could supply the brilliance etc. (and I think he was right), but in complex cases it would make more sense for a client to hire his firm and another firm, that would charge less. The two firms would divide the work. He gave me the example of a case he was then handling, where the other firm was also a well-known US firm. He predicted that this pattern would continue to emerge. Perhaps it has. It will be hard to discern in the early years.
In effect, just as contract lawyers may be hired to perform tasks a client needs but which can be done safely and less expensively by others (including by outsourcing abroad), some Biglaw firms, in my friend's view, would become the "conract lawyer" eqivalent to other Biglaw firms. Of course, this new waive of "contract" lawyers (we need a better term) will be doing much more sohisticated work but not the highly celebral work that my friend's firm, in his view, would be hired to do. He thought that made a whole lot of sense and, since his clients acted rationally, was inevitable.
So what does this prediction have to do with social media? Many words have been written -- many more than the subject deserves, given its lack of complexity -- and many CLEs offered (including by me) about lawyers' use of social media, the risks, the benefits. I realize that utilizing social media has been good for the practices of many. I think, though, that it is much less beneficial than networking in person. But let that go.
My question is: Is there an argument, that a pervasive use of social media may actually be harmful to some practices? Might there be a tipping point after which the brand gets diluted, cheapened. I recall that some years ago a luxury brand compnay (was it Burberry?) nixed the idea of selling a cheaper but recognizable line of its products, because it would dilute the status of its name and it would lose its high end customers.
Or let me put this another way: What about a business model for some firms and lawyers that avoids most or nearly all social media (I exclude a firm website) and relies on reputation built the old way? I suppose "word of mouth" was the original social media, come to think of it. It worked pretty well.