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Archive for July, 2009

Lawyers as a Community?

I hope you caught the great article that appeared in Business Week about the awesome group of contributors that Mozilla has. If not, you can check it out here: http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jul2009/tc2009071_384108_page_2.htm.

As a new hire in Mozilla’s legal group, I’ve been contemplating whether we could follow the lead of the FOSS development community and establish a community of lawyers to be a part of the Mozilla community engaged in public-benefit legal projects.

According to the BW article, “[Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations], who has spent several years researching collaboration in technology, says people tend to contribute to organizations or causes like Mozilla for three reasons: It aligns with their interests, they can get recognition, and they can meet other people doing it.”

My question is this: do these motivating factors apply to lawyers? And, if so, lawyers at what stages of their careers?

Some related questions naturally follow as I grapple with this topic: Are lawyers less giving? Too otherwise overworked to have the time? Too lacking in “free” time generally in their lives?

Or are lawyers just misperceived? Maybe lawyers are already giving in these ways, or they are just waiting for the right opportunity to get involved? Maybe lawyers are actually craving a sense of community and meaning in their practice.

On an anecdotal level, one of the Mozilla technical contributors quoted in the article mentioned that he was motivated to contribute to entities that foster community and openness.

This made me wonder: does legal training and our legal obligations around confidentiality and attorney-client privilege make lawyers instinctively averse to openness? Does the often confrontational (or at least representational) aspect of lawyering make community building amongst lawyers fundamentally at odds with how we are molded?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. My guess is that there is a group that is looking to engage in just this way. My goal is to identify and engage that group. So please tell me your thoughts (whether you are a lawyer or just have an opinion about them). And if you are a lawyer who would be interested in engaging, I would love to hear what would motivate you to get involved.

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