When local attorney Steven Klepper attended a conference for appellate lawyers in Chicago recently, he was surprised when Don Willett, now a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, recognized him and called out across the room, “Hey, Steve!”
Willett recognized Klepper from his Twitter page — @MDAppeal — where Klepper, a principal at Kramon & Graham P.A. in Baltimore, has more than 3,200 followers. In addition to his own posts and retweets, Klepper also tweets regularly for the Maryland Appellate Blog.
“It’s funny now going to American Bar Association events (and) having people say, ‘I know you from Twitter!’” Klepper said.
Klepper said his Twitter page has been “very helpful” in establishing his public identity as an appellate lawyer. He said that several prospective clients have contacted him via Twitter — but that he’s generally referred them to other lawyers.
Local attorneys say they find the social media platform helps keep them in the loop on everything from Maryland appellate news to takes on the latest Ravens game.
For Klepper, Twitter is a place where appellate lawyers can network and get to know each other.
“Appellate lawyers are very often introverts, so having Twitter as an outlet is a good way for us to socialize,” he said. “Over time it’s coalesced into a network of appellate lawyer nerds nationwide who talk with each other.”
For other Baltimore lawyers, Twitter serves as an outlet for personal opinions.
Jenny Egan, a public defender in Baltimore, makes it clear that her Twitter page represents her personal, not professional, opinions. Egan said the page has been useful in her work as an activist, specifically when she helped start the Baltimore Action Legal Team during the protests following Freddie Gray’s 2015 death in police custody.
Egan said Twitter helped her team keep track of where protesters were around town so team members could provide legal assistance and advice where needed. Twitter also helped the team keep track of protesters who were arrested. Also, during the protests and since then, Egan said Twitter has helped her stay connected to Baltimore-specific news through non-mainstream media sources.
She particularly values learning about events that might fly under the radar of mainstream news organizations.
“I sometimes do think my Twitter is a personal bridge between communities experiencing unconstitutional criminal policing and lawyers who would otherwise not see or be exposed to those indignities,” she said.
Survey results published in the 2017 American Bar Association Tech Report showed that 26% of respondents maintained a personal Twitter account and that lawyers with personal accounts tended to work at larger firms.
Lawyers who need to stay up to date on political issues say Twitter can be a valuable tool for taking the measure of political candidates. Becky Witt, an attorney for Baltimore’s Community Law Center, said she uses Twitter mostly to stay abreast of Baltimore news — and to tweet her political opinions.
“I find it really valuable,” Witt said. “I like to hear from people I trust.”
Most legal professionals are limited in what they can tweet, since they must protect their clients’ confidentiality and are often part of a firm or another organization. But others, such as law professors, have more freedom.
David Jaros, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, said he has more flexibility on Twitter than lawyers who are actively representing — and seeking — clients.
“I would say it all has to do with your role and your legal role,” Jaros said. “During the Freddie Gray trials for the (police) officers, that was when I got interested in Twitter because I thought I actually had some role to play in explaining what was going on (by) explaining law to the public.”
And, Jaros said, “(Twitter) gives me the chance to connect with other law professors, (to exchange) stories we think are relevant to both our field and the community.”