For the first time since the beginning of the year I have some quiet time to reflect and write. I feel like the end of 2020 and early into the new year, there was a deluge of stimuli on the daily. Between traditional press and social media, something was always buzzing somewhere. There were cases before the courts, nonstop talk of COVID numbers and mitigation, Tik Tok challenges and the US election. Sometimes I read what’s happening, sometimes I don’t and I when I think about why that is, it’s the same reason we read some Legal Blogs and ignore others…it’s about trust and influence. Trust is not something that comes easily, it’s earned, it’s rewarded, and in some cases, it’s very hard to achieve and sustain. But at its core it’s a point of connection.
Last week, I hosted a webinar about the legal issues in addressing social media in the Workplace for the ACC in Alberta. Most of the issues surrounding social media pitfalls revolve around trust and the strength of relationships between employee and employer, relationships which are built on trust. You have to trust that employees will use technology appropriately. You have to trust that social media will be used for good and not evil, that firm provided technology will be used to connect rather than to detract. And you have to believe that there is a social contract that is the general baseline of suitable social conduct. As we’ve seen in many examples over the years, social media has the power to influence.
Yesterday, I participated in the Canadian Lawyer – Women in Law Summit on a panel discussing the role of mentors, champions and allies in directing the careers of women in the legal industry. There is nothing scarier than putting your trust and career in the hands of the people who stood before you and hoping that they will usher you to success. Mentorship too is about influence and trust, it’s about being able to be vulnerable even when you feel like you might not fit in or find your place and hoping that someone else will help you define your value and champion your progress. In the legal industry especially, that’s a lot of trust.
Trust and influence in the legal industry goes beyond social media and mentoring to upholding the rule of law. To effectively practice law, you need good sources to help you reference and research the law along with secondary research and citations. You need to trust in your sources and the data you have on hand to build your arguments and draft contracts with conviction so you can influence, build trust and persuade. With information parity in the internet age, leading to information ubiquity and eventually information overload, how do you know what sources you can trust? How can you establish the veracity of the information you seek/need? The last several months with people sheltering in place it has been too easy to stay isolated and to access what you know and love without asking too many questions. But in good intelligence practices (for the legal industry and beyond) it is incumbent upon us to ask lots of questions of the sources we read and of the information we share and use on a daily basis. I know many of my librarian colleagues would agree that especially now, trust in information is mission critical.
So how can we be sure? What can we do to make sure the sources we use are trustworthy? If trust is hard, how you test information credibility can be easy. It’s all about the A, B, C’s – Authority & Accuracy, B – Bias & Beneficiary, C- Currency & Coverage . It’s really quite simple, but not really. Trust is hard. Accuracy is hard. Coverage and Currency are hard, but Bias is the most difficult part and the part for me that bring its all together. Trust and being a positive influence are ultimately about the seeing past bias or removing it completely; bias is a strong actor that plays the most important role. Bias, especially our own, is the thing we can’t see or measure that makes us think it is ok to share photos online that should be kept private, bias is the unseen hand that encourages us to support and mentor some while others are left to struggle alone, bias is what makes reporting fairly difficult. The awareness and ability to check bias is what builds (or breaks) trust. The rule of law should be free from bias, making it easy to trust. So too should the news that we read and the sources that we cite be free from bias. Finally, the ways in which we encourage others to matriculate through the legal world should too be free from bias as we develop and strengthen the legal industry with positive influence one story, one mentee, one social media or blog post at a time.