Saturday, April 21, 2012

Name That Regulator: The Law Society of Upper Canada's #Hashtag Problem

It may be the #hashtag that will ultimately do it in.

Or perhaps, it's just that it's still sniggeringly funny to our latent kindergarten brains when someone says the acronym out loud.

This was one of the many things I learned chairing the Law Society of Upper Canada's Legal Ethics in an Age of Technology webinar programmes last fall.

Much of the time, abbreviations essentially overtake long form names in common usage.  You know, the CBA, the OBA, the ABA, the USA....

But nobody does that when it comes to our governing body.

It's interesting - Louisiana State University is known as LSU. Louisiana State University-Eunice is LSUE.

The Law Society of Upper Canada?  Well, in writing, the proper abbreviation is clearly LSUC.  In the spoken English, however, the more usual short-form is "The Law Society," which of course, is no short form at all.

We all know why, right?

(Can I hear giggling starting in the back row of my Grade 4 class about right now?)

Which is bringing me in a round-about way back to the #hashtag issue.

In this Age of Technology, you see, (the Law Society came up with the Title Case for that, not me), Twitter has now wriggled its way into the Continuing Legal Education/Continuing Professional Development classrooms, lecture halls and broadcasting studios of the new world.  Attendees often live tweet from programmes. Remote viewers often pose questions of the panel via Twitter. Occasionally, they also hurl insults constructive feedback utilizing cultivated tones of civility.

It's become quite the interactive world, and therefore it is increasingly commonplace for these CLE/CPD programmes to adopt #hashtags for use on Twitter, so that all related tweets will collect together and be viewable on one Twitter page.

We used #LSUCethics at our two programmes, for example.

And this trend is leading us to a recurring moment of truth for Ontario CPD programme chairs.

In announcing the hashtag, do we say "ELL-ESS-YOU-SEE?"

Or do we just say it the way you naturally want to read it aloud?

Which, of course is (all together now)... "L-SUCK."

Being a total coward, if not a prudently conservative spokesperson for the profession who didn't want to run the risk of developing uncontrollable snicker syndrome in the first five minutes of my first LSUC programme chairmanship, I opted for the safer, if more clumsy, "ELL-ESS-YOU-SEE."  And quite frankly, I delivered the news of this #hashtag our several thousand viewers all across the Province with the unwavering poise of an old-time news anchor.

I was like Cronkite, Murrow, Huntley and Brinkley - all wrapped up together in one guy.

It was a proud moment

My co-panelist, Mitch Kowalski, however, would have none of this.

The words I feared the most were unmistakeably emerging from the lawyer/journalist/author at the far end of our presentation table.  "You mean #L-SUCK-Ethics - right?" offered Mitch.  "That's the #hashtag:  "#L-SUCK-Ethics."

Instantly, I was locked in eye contact with our two other co-panelists, Omar Ha-Redeye and Bob Tarantino.  From deep within our silent crisis-huddle we uttered an unspoken, collective, "OMG, did he just say that?"

But Mitch was on a roll.

He continued, and frankly, delivered a series of very compelling points in arguing for a speedy name change by our governing body from LSUC to the Law Society of Ontario (LSO, for short).

University of Ottawa law professor Adam Dodek (@ADodek) made many of the same points last night on Twitter:

Jeffrey Grey's (@jeffreybgrey) Globe and Mail article, referenced in Professor Dodek's tweets, provides the story that the LSUC name change movement may actually be gaining real momentum:
... A handful of lawyers who work for the federal Department of Justice are supporting a long-shot proposal that would blow at least a symbolic layer of dust off the profession in Canada’s largest province.
They have submitted a motion for next month’s annual general meeting of the Law Society of Upper Canada calling for an end to the body’s archaic name. Instead, they say, it should be known as the Ontario Law Society.
(See:  What's in a Name? Law Society of Upper Canada to Find Out)

What do you think?  Is it time to put the "ELL-ESS-YOU-SEE" regulatory brand out to pasture, in favour of the more palatable, modern and considerably less amusing LSO?

It it time to lose the acronym that shall never be spoken aloud?

Mitch Kowalski thinks so. Adam Dodek appears to think so. And so do I.

Let's do it for the sake of CLE/CPD chairs everywhere.

It's the #hashtag, stupid.

Saturdays are good for segues, so I will use this opportunity to break the news that our Legal Ethics in An Age of Technology Tour 2012 is continuing. Yes, we're getting the band back together.  Mitch, Omar, Bob and I will be reuniting on May 12, 2012 for an all-new and improved live installment of #LSUCethics at Toronto's lawTechCamp.

More on the event:
lawTechcamp is a BarCamp-style community UnConference for new media and technology enthusiasts and legal professionals including technology lawyers, technology developers in the legal space, legal information professionals, bloggers, tweeters, social networkers, and anyone curious about new media technology and its intersection with the legal profession.
lawTechcamp is  scheduled for Saturday, May 12, 2012  from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. The event will be held at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, at 78 Queens Park right next door to the ROM. 
We're going to do lots of q.and a. and are looking forward to a lively session with as much audience interaction as is possible.

We will hope to see many of our readers on the 12th.  In the meanwhile, follow lawTechCamp on Twitter: @lawTechCamp.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto