11 February 2015

Review: Mootis – Will the New Legal Social Network Become Facebook for Lawyers?

A new social network exclusively for lawyers is attempting to muscle in on the likes of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Mootis opened for business this earlier month in a blaze of publicity in the legal trade press, with its founder, Exchange Chambers barrister Bill Braithwaite QC, saying:

“Sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook are hugely successful, but we feel the world of legal services is large enough to warrant its own, bespoke platform. So many legal professionals – at all levels – understand the need to engage with social media but are not entirely comfortable with the general nature of what is out there at the moment. There’s a lot of clutter. Mootis is specifically tailored for what is a vast legal services marketplace that extends far beyond lawyers.

Certainly Mootis looks impressive, with a clean design and functionality that bears a close resemblance Twitter. For example, accounts are prefaced with the '@' symbol and users can send tweet-style "moots" to their followers, or "remoot" others' "moots".  Posts are viewed via a timeline and there is also a similar "notifications" column that alerts users when they have been mentioned in someone else's moot. Plus there are Twitter-style hashtags and a facility to view what is "trending".

Where Mootis differs from Twitter – apart from only targeting those with an interest in law – is in its absence of the famous 140 character word limit. Instead users are permitted to send "moots" of up to a rather lengthy 500 words. In this feature, Mootis has clear parallels with LinkedIn's blogging platform. Also reminiscent of LinkedIn is the more detailed user profile, which allows users to provide information about their job and educational background. Further, the popular LinkedIn feature of user notifications when someone views your profile is also incorporated into Braithwaite's venture.

Mootis has a few unique features, the most prominent is its poll function. This sees users asked "yes", "no" or "not sure" questions on topical legal issues. They are then supplied with a percentage breakdown of previous answers, enabling them to gauge snapshot views on these matters, intending to spark debate. Another original feature is the capacity to attach documents to moots.

As with any social network, ultimately it will be the users which determine whether Mootis succeeds. And in this sense the early signs have offered some promise. Amidst the publicity of Mootis' launch there have been a wave of sign-ups, as a host of solicitors, barristers and law students clamour to sample the new platform for themselves. Among them are big names such as top legal journalist Joshua Rozenberg, UCL legal academic Richard Moorhead and leading legal blogger Carl Gardner – all of whom are prolific on Twitter.

So far though these individuals have remained silent on the network, declining to issue a single "moot" between them. Other lawyers who have signed up have also been quiet. But it is early days and the fact that Mootis is attracting the interest of prominent tweeters must be encouraging.

Far more active have been the professional news service accounts which feature on Mootis, with the accounts of the Law Society Gazette, BBC News and the Financial Times churning out a steady stream of "moots" – albeit almost entirely links to articles rather than commentary or analysis. 

It is difficult to predict how Mootis will develop. It seems to have the resources to fund a sustained tilt at gaining traction, with a spokesman for the network telling Legal Futures that a number of private individuals have invested in the business. It has also been reported that Manchester tech firm goldsixty7, which developed the site, has taken a stake in Mootis. According to founder Braithwaite, the site will remain free to join, with no “immediate plans” to bring in revenue. Going forward this could be done through advertising or payment for premium services.

For now though it is anyone's guess how this bold venture will develop. One thing is for sure: any law students looking to improve their commercial awareness could do a lot worse than spending a few hours getting to know this innovative platform.


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