It’s amazing to me how awful many attorneys are at social media. In large part, I think this is because many attorneys lack a proper understanding of how social media works. Although I won’t name any names, in the last month alone I’ve read an article written by a smart attorney who concluded that social media offers little value to most law practices. I’ve read a number of other articles written by smart attorneys that suggest that using social media is akin to playing Russian roulette with your state bar association’s ethics board. Both positions are simply wrong.
In our last post we addressed the ethics issue. The bottom line is that the rules for social media are the same rules we’ve always played by. If you wouldn’t do something in real life, don’t do it on a social media site. In my research I’ve discovered that in nearly every case in which an attorney has been sanctioned for misuse of social media it was for behavior that would have been a clear ethical violation had it occurred offline as well. Don’t tell clients to destroy evidence that exists online. Don’t make outlandish claims about your services or abilities if doing so in a paper mailer could land you in hot water. And be careful when providing specific legal advice to someone unless you want to develop an attorney-client relationship with that person.
As to the second issue, I can’t believe that anyone could seriously question the value in using social media to market your practice and develop your professional reputation. To quote Kevin O’Keefe of Real Lawyers Have Blogs:
“Social media, ranging from blogging, to Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, is uniquely suited to business development in the law. We’re not selling coffee or ice cream. We’re selling trust and authority leading to relationships and a strong word of mouth reputation. Man, it doesn’t get any better than that when you’re talking social media.”
I’ve obtained literally every client in my law practice from one of the two following sources, and social media has a part to play in each of those sources:
1. Direct Relationships
Like many attorneys, I’ve obtained most of my clients directly through a relationship I had already developed with a client. Social media makes it easy to develop the types of relationships that can lead to clients for your practice. For example, I’m an entertainment attorney. I follow my favorite record labels, artists, artist management companies, music publications, and music PR firms on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I follow them because I’m legitimately interested in what they are doing. I “like” their posts on Facebook; I retweet their messages on Twitter; I buy their albums; and I write about what they are doing and things they are interested in on my blog.
Meanwhile I also talk about my practice through my social media channels. As a result, the people who follow me know that I’m an attorney and to know about the areas of law I practice. Because I’ve developed a relationship with many of my followers, it’s not surprising that many of them come to me when they need help reviewing a contract, negotiating a distribution deal, or any other form of legal representation. This has been true for all of the clients I’ve obtained directly.
It’s true that my practice area makes social media an especially fruitful avenue for engaging with potential clients. After all, most bands, record labels, and other entertainment industry professionals regularly use social media. Nonetheless, even if your potential clients aren’t on social media themselves, you can still obtain business through the relationships you develop on social media. Referrals are the second most common way I obtain clients. In my experience, most referrals come from my ongoing relationships with my current clients, my friends, and my former colleagues. Without a doubt, social media is incredibly useful here as well.
Remember, not everyone you know will remember what areas of law you practice or even, in some cases, that you are a lawyer. Even if they do, it doesn’t hurt to remind them. This is even true for former colleagues and classmates. By engaging with the people you know through sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter you remind them that you exist and that you are an attorney specializing in practice areas A, B, and C. As a result, by maintaining your relationship with your extended network, you make it more likely that they’ll refer work to you than to other lawyers and former colleagues that they may know.
What do you think? Have you obtained clients through the relationships you’ve developed on social media? Conversely, do you think social media is overhyped as a marketing tool for attorneys? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section.
- New Rules for New Media? Nope – You Already Know Them (rocketlawyer.com)
- 4 Ways to Add Oomph to Your Practice (rocketlawyer.com)
- You’re Lawyers, Not Luddites: Why Attorneys Can’t Ignore Tech (rocketlawyer.com)