Lawfluencers: Legal Professionalism on Tiktok and Youtube
27 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2023
Date Written: May 1, 2023
This article investigates the rise of lawyer-influencers or ‘lawfluencers’ and what their arrival means for legal professionalism. In today’s attention economy, ‘influencers’ are now central players. An influencer shares knowledge and ‘lifestyle’ on social media to accumulate a ‘following’ whose loyalty they ‘monetise’ for commercial gain and/or cultural capital. They do so through performance strategies, usually by curating an ‘amateur’ (charismatic and relatable) identity. Lawfluencers are part of a rising crop of – underexamined – ‘knowledge influencers’; professionals who are sharing their expertise and daily lives with global audiences. To be successful, lawfluencers must choose which balance between professional (trusted expert with certain duties and values) and amateur (authentic and approachable personalities) best suits their ‘brand’ and audience. This public engagement and exposure is unprecedented for a profession that has historically opposed advertising and maintained a certain mystique. Our article explains what lawfluencing is, focusing on TikTok and YouTube as the two most prominent video-based social media platforms. It identifies the drivers behind and technological features shaping the appearance of influencing in law. It also describes the types of videos lawyers are creating, and with what blends of professional versus amateur. Our article focuses on the implications of ‘lawfluencing’ for ‘professionalism’ or for the identities, expertise, values, and arrangements that have typically marked out professional status. Lawfluencing might be offering greater access to justice for the public, and new outlets for creativity and career progression for lawyers, but this activity is occurring on the platforms of Big Tech, subject to their commercial imperatives and the sovereignty of the algorithm. This article outlines the ethics risks influencing poses to clients and lawyers, and the possible challenges to the legitimacy of the legal profession and the legal system. In the process, we identify responsible lawfluencing practices necessary for the sustainable development of the legal profession in the digital era.
Keywords: legal professionalism, lawfluencers, legal ethics, social media, influencers, Big Tech, algorithms, TikTok, YouTube
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