Guest post by Lauren Pesko
Just a little over ten years ago, lawyers saw websites as simply another entry point to their firms, the other entry points being their office phone and of course, their firm’s front doors. But today’s overwhelming increase in the activity on social networks by legal professionals, has created an exponential number of entry points for law firms.
According to the recently released, 2009 American Bar Association Legal Technology Survey Report, one in eight firms uses social networks. The report also stated that tools that use the Internet are significantly increasing the productivity of lawyers and decreasing their wasted time.
When used to a lawyer or law firm’s best advantage, social media has the power to serve as an effective public relations tool that has the power to increase awareness of a lawyer’s expertise, knowledge or experience in their practice area. In addition social media has the ability to create and build on relationships that will make a positive impact not only on a lawyer’s image, but also on their overall career.
Four ways legal professionals can benefit from social media
1. Exchange valuable information
The consistent exchange of information is the essence of social media. An example of this would be reading or writing a blog post. Blogging is particularly useful for enhancing one’s legal knowledge. An attorney who commits to maintaining a blog, or frequently participating in conversation on social networks, builds credibility as they develop and refine substantive expertise in their area of practice through their online content. Discussing developments through writing and online interaction requires a very concentrated effort and is an ideal way for a lawyer to share their expertise and establish themselves as a leader in their area. In addition, most blogs allow readers to leave comments in response to posts, and many bloggers use this feature to carry on dialogue with readers.
Due to the possibility of user-generated content and ongoing communication, a single blog post can function as an excellent learning tool for a number of people. Many lawyers may reference their own blogs or the blogs of others in their field to research daily questions that may arise. Another positive benefit is if someone is looking for a lawyer in your area of expertise and sees that you are committed and are passionate enough about your career to blog regularly on the topic – you may be placed a step above your competitors in their minds. Apart from gaining substantive insight and sharing valuable information, social media sites, such as Twitter can function as a great resource to find people who are talking about a very specific topic.
2. Expand your professional network and open up opportunities
Social media will put you in touch with others who are interested in your subject area, and getting to know these various groups online will provide you with possible collaborators, employees or employers. Through this personalized means of communication, you can connect with other attorneys, students, reporters and of course reconnect with old and new friends, and each new person you connect with has different value and potential.
According to a LinkedIn spokeswoman, there are 90,000 attorneys with LinkedIn profiles, and 212,000 people registered there as being in the law practice industry. With numbers like this, it is becoming increasingly easy for lawyers to utilize social networking tools to effectively network. For example, a partner at a firm may be looking to hire a lawyer and may come across your LinkedIn profile and present you with a job opportunity that may not have presented itself had you not developed a strong presence on. Also, since social networking sites are search engine friendly, don’t be surprised if you get a phone call from a member of the press asking you to provide insight for a story or to publicize a recently won case.
3. Humanize your firm
People want to hire other people, not businesses. While it is vital for your firm to have a website to establish credibility and to provide all of the necessary information, it can be advantageous for attorneys to cultivate a uniquely individual online presence through social media. The overlap between social and professional makes lawyers more personable and more approachable. A major asset to social media is the ability to establish rapport online. Potential clients may be less intimidated to pick up the phone and call or email you if they feel like they know you. Sometimes being able to match a name with a face can increase their trust and comfort level, and put you a step above a competing firm that is a not as personable. People want to be able to speak with a specific person, and many times social networks can place a face with a name.
For example, a Facebook profile demonstrates you have a life outside the law office, and reminds clients that you are a person just like them. What’s more, your use of social media can benefit the profession by functioning as a public service. It is a simple fact that people looking for legal information go online. If you have written about or discussed some topic on which someone needs help, you have in a sense, provided a pro-bono service.
4. Social media can attract potential clients
Word of mouth marketing, the leading source of work for the best lawyers, now occurs on the Internet. Clients, potential clients and other attorneys alike can post comments about an individual lawyer or firm, and due to the unique characteristics of social networks, these comments are highly visible in search engines.
Building a positive reputation online and off, is the most effective public relations tool there is and brings in the best clients. Social media has the ability to spread your reputation far and wide to a variety of projects that may have otherwise not been aware of services.
In conclusion, lawyers who successfully leverage social media tools to communicate, collaborate and network have a distinct advantage over those who do not. The most effective way for lawyers to use social media is to talk to people, not at them. Engage in conversation with others, don’t simply advertise your services or firm. Share information about your yourself and your personal experiences, and most Importantly, don’t be afraid to take off your “attorney hat” and talk like you would in everyday conversation with friends, social media should be fun too!
Written by Lauren Pesko, Internal Marketing Associate for Auctori:law.