Facebook 101: why lawyers should be on Facebook

facebook11 Facebook 101: why lawyers should be on FacebookLawyers who are not on Facebook are missing out on critical opportunities to network for referrals, research defendants and potential jury members, market their law firms, and vet potential legal hires and current associates.

Lawyers who use it solely for personal reasons should reevaluate their use to consider the site’s possibilities for marketing and the development of professional relationships.

For those lawyers who still need persuading, here, in no specific order, are the top six reasons why lawyers should be on Facebook:

  1. Facebook can bring you referrals and clients by helping you to reconnect with old classmates, colleagues, and friends through direct contact both formal (messages) and informal (wall posts), events, and interest groups.
  2. Facebook can help you strengthen relationships with colleagues, both those at your firm or organization, and others. It does this by fostering open communication about shared interests, activities and family life, and by offering opportunities to connect through groups and events.
  3. Facebook Pages are great marketing tools. Pages allow you to post videos, photos, notes, blogs, and other interactive and community-building applications. Once you have created a page, you can promote it through the site’s Social Ads, although you should make sure to stay within the ethical rules for client solicitation in doing so. For more information about how lawyers can market themselves and their businesses on the site, read 3 Things All Lawyers & Attorneys Should Do to Market More Effectively on Facebook and 10 Things All Businesses Should Do to Market More Effectively on Facebook.
  4. Facebook is often used by jury consultants to evaluate potential jurors before and during trial. This internet vetting can disclose juror’s associations, interests or past statements that may make a lawyer want to strike them from the jury pool or prioritize keeping them on the case, and can provide a lawyer with insights into specific jurors which may be beneficial in crafting effective closing arguments. See Social Networking Sites Help Vet Jurors.
  5. Facebook can be an effective tool for investigating defendants, witnesses, and prosecutors. Evidence revealed from profile searches has been used to prove that a defendant had no remorse after committing a crime, to prove a defendant’s motive, as evidence of the crime itself or of an individual’s participation in a crime, and to show the extent of plaintiffs’ injuries after an accident. See MySpace and Facebook Becoming Evidence in Court.
  6. Through Facebook you can research potential job applicants’ public statements, photos and questionable social activity. A search of the site may also reveal statements by current employees regarding your firm or their workload. However, since the site may also reveal otherwise unknown protected information (race, religion, political affiliation) about job applicants or employees, be careful not to take adverse action based on that information.

Most likely you want to use the site for more than professional networking, marketing, recruiting, and branding. You may want to show pictures of your children to your friends, comment on your best friends’ night on the town, or publicize to an upcoming political event.

Just because you want to use Facebook for professional reasons does not mean you should stop using the site for personal reasons. The second article in this series (stay tuned next week) will discuss privacy risks and opportunities, and several ways that you can tailor your privacy controls to your personal and professional needs.

Join the Lawyerist Facebook page to meet other lawyers, learn about upcoming Lawyerist networking events, and more.

Legal Marketing

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  • http://ethicsmaven.com/ Eric Cooperstein

    Certainly any lawyer who needs to market their practice should figure out what Facebook is and how they can use it. FB certainly has the potential to serve all of the uses outlined in your post. But I think there’s a delicate balance between social networking and marketing. Pushing one’s business too hard on FB is like going to a wedding with a stack of business cards and handing them out to everyone you see. Instead, one goes to a wedding, talks to people with genuine interest, and then has a business card ready if the other person asks for it. I think FB users want to connect, not sift through their friends’ sales pitches. There’s more art to it than some people might appreciate.

  • Leora Maccabee

    Eric – Thanks for your comment. I agree in many ways. I have a lot of fun on Facebook on a personal and community-building level and hope that the site does not evolve to be too professional in nature. However, I think that there is nothing pushy in putting a link to your company’s website on your Facebook profile, describing the type of law that you practice, and then using occasional Facebook status updates to talk about work projects that get you excited. I think that most people do not take enough advantage of their Facebook friends for professional networking, especially if they built their Facebook network with hundreds of childhood and college friends. Yet the social networking dance should be made with care and class – more like product placement in a movie than a full-blown advertisement on a bulletin board. But how do you teach that art?

  • http://www.barancle.com Tim Baran

    Timely article! I’m a month-old infant on Twitter and Facebook played a prominent role in my decision to combine (mostly) the personal and professional on Twitter – quite frankly, I don’t think there’s any other way to have a meaningful Twitter account.

    So, I decided that FB would remain (mostly) personal and slowly integrate networking aspects of my professional life as an entrepreneur in the legal profession. First move, besides placing a link in my profile to my site/blog, was to join the Lawyerist FB group.

    The experiment is a work in progress and always will be. And although the decision making process of marrying or separating the professional and personal is unique to each individual and entity, discussions such as this go a long way in making those decisions well informed.

    So, thanks for a provocative piece!

  • MO

    “Facebook can bring you referrals and clients”

    Rubbish. Name me 5 lawyers who have brought in work via FB … you are much better off spending that time in person in meetings or using another method. We tried it, and FB=time sucker. We upgraded our websites (1 for FLSA and 1 for med mal) and the results were better.

    I don’t buy into the FB makes new clients carp.

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    Me, for one. I have gotten several referrals direct from Facebook friends (or friends of Facebook friends) this year, and perhaps a dozen such referrals last year.

    I use Facebook as one more tool to maintain relationships with people I meet, however I meet them. Of course, I still meet people for lunch and happy hour, volunteer, and participate in bar functions.

    Facebook should be a component of an effective marketing strategy, not the entire marketing strategy.

  • http://ethicsmaven.com/ Eric Cooperstein

    Marketing, by its very nature, is an imprecise science. Most lawyers’ practices are built in part (if not predominately) on referrals. Getting people to remember you before they think of someone else is key to getting those referrals. Facebook keeps you in touch with a wide circle of people you might not otherwise have contact with for many months at a time, yet the contact happens on your friends’ terms (i.e. when they want it) not when you push it at them. FB is just one more way of trying to make sure that people remember you when they have an issue that falls in your practice area and that they can easily get to or refer someone to your website.

    It may be that one never gets a referral through FB. But that is also true of all forms of advertising, attending cocktail parties, participating in bar activities, writing articles, blogging, sending out newsletters, presenting CLEs, and taking people to lunch, all of which are the recommended ways of building referral networks. At least FB is free.

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    I feel compelled to point out the best feature of Facebook, hands, down: you can change your language to “English (pirate).” Arrr.

  • http://massrealestatelawblog.com/ Richard Vetstein

    I set up a Facebook Fan page for my new law firm and through existing contacts and a little outside help, I have over 600 fans. I have about 400 regular facebook friends so I built off that. http://www.facebook.com/vetsteinlawgroup.com.

    The ABA Journal even featured it:

    http://www.abajournal.com/news/how_a_solo_gained_more_than_600_facebook_fans_for_his_fledgling_law_firm

    I’m one of these guys, I take a card at a networking function, and I ask if they’re on Facebook. I also feed my blog onto the Facebook fan page via RSS which helps immensely with search engine optimization. I post articles and information about hot topics in Mass. real estate law, my specialty.

    To me, FB helps you connect that much better with clients, referral sources and prospects to gain that commonality that’s so crucial to any sale of personal services.

    Richard D. Vetstein, Esq.

  • http://bringingb2b.com/ Chuck Brown

    I think Facebook is great for all the reasons pointed out, but in addition to sorting out what’s best for you or your firm, you need to make the most of it. Too many firms and lawyers create a Facebook page and then never update it. Dead Facebook pages are of no use to those who found you on the Internet and are looking to “follow” or “friend” you

  • http://www.mnconsumerattorney.com Anne M. Hansen

    I agree that Facebook can directly lead to referrals. Today on FB I announced that I started my solo firm, and created a FB page for my new practice. I had a referral within two hours from someone who saw my updates.

    Whether or not to create a FB page for your law firm (assuming you’re the one who gets to make that decision) is up for debate, but I found it useful for my old firm and wanted to do the same with my solo practice. I can post more law-related notes and links than I would on my personal FB page, so friends and family don’t find my personal page polluted with “lawyer crap.” For someone who’s not ready to go all-out with a blog, a FB fan page is a decent fit.