A New Social Network Entices Lawyers With Anonymity

Monica Zent, a Silicon Valley lawyer, has launched a new social network for attorneys that’s called Foxwordy. To join, lawyers have to submit to a “vetting” process to prove their bona fides. Then, Zent says, they can digitally schmooze in total privacy—not revealing their identities to other members. “Lawyers can finally have off-the-record conversations,” she explains in an interview.

Why would lawyers want to have off-the-record conversations with other lawyers whose identities they don’t know? Zent says that an attorney might desire information about a prospective employer, client, or opposing law firm—but might not want to reveal publicly that he or she needs the intel.

I guess so, but why would an attorney—or anyone else, for that matter—trust information received from anonymous informants, vetted or not? It’s not like we’re talking restaurant reviews on Yelp here. ”Lawyers are great at filtering,” Zent responds. They can assess the credibility of crowd-sourced information, using what they like and leaving the rest behind.

Alternatively, they could pick up a telephone and engage in private conversation with friends and colleagues. Zent says that’s hopelessly inefficient.

As a practicing lawyer, Zent started ZentLaw, a firm in Sunnyvale, Calif., whose clients include Fortune 100 corporations and “the hottest startups.” On its website, ZentLaw promises: “We offer the expertise and stability of a law firm with the flexibility and pricing of outsourcing. From on-site support to monthly subscriptions and plans that evolve with your needs, ZentLaw has a solution that works for you.”

Monica Zent claims to have signed up 2,800 members for Foxwordy. Basic membership is free, with paid upgrades available for premium members. Some users passively monitor group conversations, gleaning information that way, she says. “They are engaged in observation.” To my ear, that sounds a tad creepy, but maybe it’s a generational thing. I am middle-aged, and eavesdropping on other people’s anonymous, random chat sessions seems like a waste of time.

What about the name “Foxwordy”? Is it some sort of inexplicable play on the 1990s-era comedian Jeff Foxworthy? Zent explains that the name is a “word mash.” “Fox” suggests cleverness. “Wordy” suggests … wordiness. If that strikes you as clever, Foxwordy may be the place for you.

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