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LAWYER TRYING TO STAND OUT FROM WEB NETWORKING MASSES Oakland-based personal injury attorney Steven Choi knows there are already scads of online social networking sites, and that lawyers are using them. But he also knows lawyers will rarely turn down yet another opportunity to market themselves. That’s why he started LawLink.com, a professional social networking site just for lawyers, last month. “Attorneys network with each other more than any other professional group, I believe,” Choi said. “It’s particularly important because the legal field is so specialized.” Choi says his site, which is free and only permits lawyers to register, can serve attorneys better than others � such as MySpace, LinkedIn and Facebook � because it’s tailored to attorneys’ needs. “It’s all designed for lawyers,” he said. For instance, Choi and his small LawLink team are working on a feature to allow groups of attorneys working on multiparty litigation to share information through the site. “Whereas on LinkedIn, I don’t think that’s something they’re targeting specifically,” he said. “I believe that social networking sites are going to be going into niches.” There are 90,000 attorneys with LinkedIn profiles, and 212,000 people registered there as being in the “law practice industry,” according to a LinkedIn spokeswoman. “Yes, there’s a lot of attorneys on LinkedIn,” Choi said. “I’m a member of LinkedIn. But I think attorneys are going to want their own site specifically for them, because everything is targeted toward the practice of law.” Choi also knows there are already other social networking sites for attorneys, such as Lawbby.com. But Lawbby appears to be more about social interaction, and LawLink is foremost about giving and getting legal business, he said. The LawLink setup is a lot like LinkedIn’s, where users can invite people to be in their network, and can contact people in their friends’ networks. These networks give users a sense that contacts are pre-screened, in a way, by their friends, Choi said. In addition to serving as a place where attorneys can post information about themselves, the LawLink site has forums and classified ads where attorneys can post legal questions and get referrals for different kinds of legal work. LawLink is being funded by angel investors right now, and Choi eventually plans to make money by selling ads on the site. But first he’s focused on getting more people to sign up, he said. The site launched Aug. 24, and there are already more than 1,000 profiles, he said. Choi’s team has already had to delete more than a dozen fake profiles because whoever created them couldn’t verify that they were indeed attorneys, he said. LawLink verifies every profile by checking State Bar databases or by contacting the person to get some other kind of proof that they’re a lawyer, Choi said. Choi is no stranger to online ventures that serve the legal profession. During the late 1990s, he was among the creators of a site called Powerclient.com, which allowed clients to submit descriptions of the work they needed. Law firms could bid to win that work. “That crashed and burned,” Choi says, unapologetically. “What I tell everybody is, it was the right idea at the wrong time.” There were five other sites doing the same thing, he said, and most failed. But Choi is optimistic about his new project. “Online networking is probably about 1,000 times more powerful than offline networking,” he said. “An attorney recently said to me, ‘I don’t want to have lunch with 10 attorneys, I just want to get work.’ There’s a reason why these social networking sites [such as MySpace] are so gigantic. It makes interacting with your peers so easy.”

Jessie Seyfer

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