News Law firms Lawyers should wake up to social media, urges PR agency By Catrin Griffiths 7 December 2010 13:22 17 December 2015 15:41 Sign in or register to continue reading. It's FREE Sign in Email Password Keep me logged in Forgot your password? Not registered? It's FREE! Register now Register with The Lawyer Parsley the Lion 7 December 2010 at 15:03 I really don’t think The Lawyer should report on this. It just encourages the PR agencies. And don’t think the sardonic tone helps: you can’t write a report on the uses of LinkedIn and at the same time appreciate irony. Reply Link mary 7 December 2010 at 16:07 What could lawyers possible gain from using social media. This is all just stuff and nonsense. Surely they should be spending time seeing to their clients needs rather than updating their Tweeting status or boasting about their latest corporate lunch on Facebook. Can anyone enlighten me on how exactly Linked In would further anyone’s career? Reply Link Willard Foxton 7 December 2010 at 17:03 Speaking as one of the PRs involved in this story: The research isn’t really some fluffy PR nonsense. We took the definition of the top 50 firms from this hallowed publication itself, and then examined each firm through the prism of their linkedin profiles. We were very surprised to find top twenty firms with basic errors like misspellings and incorrect phone numbers in their profiles. Ask yourself, would you want that on your firm website? Does it look professional? The methodology is simple, but simple does not mean stupid. People can sneer all they want, but why should a client trust a firm to draft a contract if the firm in question can’t even be bothered to run a spell check over a publicly available document. It’s as if an unprofessional Social Media presence is almost a badge of honour to some people in the industry – we think that is an attitude that should change across the board. Are we so wrong to highlight that? It’s all very well to *try* to ignore social media in the modern age, but it’s simply another method of communicating with potential clients and the world in general. To the above poster who questions the value of social media to a law firm, would you question the value of email? Of telephones? Of course you wouldn’t. If it’s pointless for professional services firms, why do internationally respected consultancy services like McKinsey assiduously court Twitter followers? You have to understand how foolish that attitude looks to someone who has seen professional services clients generate hundreds of thousands of pounds of revenue through Social Media led campaigns. Also, unlike direct marketing or traditional media, social media is largely free to use. It’s an old adage that you don’t know which half of your PR budget is wasted, but with free medium, why not make it as good as it can possibly be? As for how would linkedin further a persons career, it’s an excellent way to develop a professional network. Of course, it’s a supplement to a winning manner and big stack of business cards, but why not use it for the supplemental value it provides. If you can log on to a service to view a potential client’s CV & business needs, then the question has to be, why not use it? Reply Link Rocker 7 December 2010 at 17:09 Damn right, mary. How is any lawyer going to charge time spent on FB/Twiiter/LinkedIn – that’s a lot of “business development” not being spent on clients. Reply Link Kevin Wheeler, Wheeler Associates 7 December 2010 at 17:39 If you, or your firm, do feel the need to actively use social media as part of your marketing/BD then getting spellings and grammar right is a basic requirement, as it says a lot about your professionalism, or lack of it. Whether social media has anything to offer the commercial lawyer in terms of adding to their ability to retain and attract clients is in my opinion very doubtful. LinkedIn, for instance, is just a glorified contact management system. As such it has some usefulness, but not a lot. Generally speaking, useful relationships are created and nurtured through face-to-face contact between a lawyer and his/her client/prospective clients, not in cyberspace. Many “snake oil salesmen” are trying to convince lawyers otherwise … beware! Reply Link Anonymous 7 December 2010 at 18:15 The difficulty, Willard, is that the story (as represented in The Lawyer) only makes reference to supply side behaviour. There’s no meaningful reference to demand – that would be the key to demonstrating benefit. As it stands, we simply have an observation that many law furms aren’t doing a lot with Linked-in, and an assertion that this should be a call to action to do something. It isn’t. Back in 2004, many PR firms were trying to convince us that blogs were essential to business. They weren’t. I think we need something a bit stronger than anecdotal “evidence” that this isn’t the same. Good PR hit though. Reply Link Willard Foxton 7 December 2010 at 23:24 Well, in terms of showing a demand-side benefit, I could point to two things – the amount of effort expended each year by Law Firms on directory entries and the way in which growing SMEs engage with commercial law. Each year, law firms expend hundreds of hours of marketing staff time on crafting directory submissions, all on the off chance that one in-house counsel at a FTSE 250 firm will suddenly need someone to settle a life sciences dispute, and will riff through Chambers and Partners, looking for someone with the correct expertise. If directories are worth it, then surely more accessible, far cheaper forms of specific business development are at least worth more than a cursory glance. Secondly, the days of every firm having a legal “advisor” at the local golf club are firmly in the past. When small or medium sized businesses look for a commercial lawyer for the first time, (for their first M&A or large scale contract dispute) now the first place they look for a legal advisor in their field is on the internet. Many clients I’ve worked with have been trading for 5 years or less, are owner-managed, but have turnovers in the £2 million to £50 million range – SMEs by the FT’s standard, but a valuable client to many commercial firms. Trust me, these new firms *do* check out lawyers on the internet before they make that first call, and a professional social media presence can’t make you look bad. Equally, even small mistakes can put people off making that crucial first call. Obviously, both of these arguments are based upon observed behavior – I can’t back them up with empirical data in the same way I can with the supply side, but I think both of these arguments at least merit a thought by senior lawyers. Perhaps we will get around to firming up the demand side research in 2011! As for the 2004 assertion that “a blog is essential to your business”, well, I’d file that under the sort of snake oil that Kevin (above) mentions. That’s not to say Blogs are necessarily bad – David Allen Green in Birmingham, for example, has been able to use a top quality blog (Jack of Kent) to generate tremendous amounts of business as a solicitor. My own experience of Blogs developed for clients is fairly positive (in particular, Barristers’ Chambers I’ve worked with have noticed a marked increase in the quality of candidates applying after running a successful blog) but you’re right, they are rarely a medium which delivers tremendous amounts of business leads. Linkedin is rather different to a blog though; it’s a very passive rather than active form of business development. It’s far less time intensive, meaning it fits in better with the nightmare schedules many law firm partners keep. As Kevin quite rightly points out, it’s a glorified contact management system. However, because it exists in a public sphere, and your contacts passively see many of the things you do on Linkedin, it makes it much more easy, much less intrusive and much more satisfying to use than many traditional systems. For example, a client of mine was recently promoted from senior associate to partner. By updating his linkedin profile, his 400-odd contacts, some of which he had not seen for years, all knew that he was now a partner. A flood of Linkedin messages came through congratulating him on his promotion; some of which came from contacts he had not dealt with directly for several years. Old relationships were rebuilt. One old contact had just started in-house at a large firm, and soon offered my client a large case in his specific field. All of this happened almost effortlessly, and unobtrusively. Can I say that this would have happened without linkedin? Obviously not, but linkedin certainly smoothed the way. Of course, as I said above, Linkedin isn’t a substitute for a firm handshake and a winning manner, it’s a supplement to it. Any “social media guru” who tells you Linkedin will “revolutionise your business” probably calls themselves a “guru” because they can’t spell the word “charlatan”. However, as a simple contact management system, Linkedin is a fantastic little tool, which is free, easy to use and can deliver superb results. As I said above, why not make sure you have professional presence on it? Reply Link Barry 8 December 2010 at 11:02 PR company says lawyers should spend more time on PR. Lard producer says people should buy more lard. Turkeys say chicken tastes better. All of these things might be true, but I’d rather listen to someone who didn’t have a vested interest. Reply Link Anonymous 8 December 2010 at 11:14 Apparently lawyers have woken up to social media, according to this survey: “Are Lawyers Early Adopters? conducted by legal research company Jures found that lawyers are embrace new technology quickly which is seen as essential to their everyday working lives” Source: http://www.iwr.co.uk/news-and-reference/3010607/Lawyers-at-the-information-cutting-edge Reply Link legalBA 8 December 2010 at 12:11 @mary – is it irony that you use a social network feature (comment board) to suggest that social networks are a waste of time? If you have client-related work to do, by all means do it as a priority. If you have traditional business development activities – events, a phone call, some training – please feel free to continue. If you enjoy being online, then social networks offer a new communication medium that is different to the others; some find it complements others, some that it replaces some traditional activities. Please don’t mistake casual social updates on Facebook and similar sites as the limit of social networks. It’s like mistaking a client-facing industry event for an evening in a nightclub. Can I give a recent example you might draw inferences from: I recently hired 4 contractors. I used a mixture of CV review, interviews, and checks on social networks, to get information on candidates. It gave me all sorts of advantages – I knew history, I new contacts I could speak to, I could see topics of interest. It didn’t replace traditional methods, it enhanced them. Now, imagine I was looking for a lawyer… PS: I arrived here by checking @LawyerMag tweets in my Twitter feed. How did you find the topic? Reply Link Anonymous 8 December 2010 at 13:07 Willard – I think we have more common ground than not. I’m a sceptic, not a cynic, but struggle to extrapolate from anecdotes. Look forward to something more demand-side focused in 2011! Reply Link Chris Bond 8 December 2010 at 14:27 Social media can complement what firms are already doing and can be an important source of news and opinion. You can make of it what you will. It’s not for some people but is for others. We’ve been here before when organisations couldn’t see the potential of websites. Those that came to that party too late had to do a lot of catching up. Reply Link Paul Jaffa 8 December 2010 at 15:15 At the risk of accusations of being “self serving”, can I suggest that this debate is well informed by reading Luke Johnson’s excellent Business Life piece on p16 of this morning’s FT. Entitled “A good PR is worth paying for” the article sets out the case well and includes information on the value of social media as part of a relevant communications programme. Reply Link Anonymous 8 December 2010 at 15:16 Willard – As a former lawyer and now consultant to the legal profession, I disagree that “When small or medium sized businesses look for a commercial lawyer for the first time, (for their first M&A or large scale contract dispute) now the first place they look for a legal advisor in their field is on the internet”. My experience is that they first look to colleagues for a personal recommendation, the same way most of us, if we are smart, would look for a plumber or electrician. They would then google them for further information. Nothing can wholly replace the power of personal recommendations and building a professional relationship through human, face-to-face interaction. But I agree that social networks can be a valuable complement to the traditional marketing and business development process. Reply Link barry oyne 8 December 2010 at 15:30 Can’t beat gap year photo stalking on facebook. Reply Link mark clayson 8 December 2010 at 15:35 I love the comments by the user who asks “shouldn’t lawyers be seeing clients rather than Tweeting” (paraphrased. It is typical of the ignorance regarding social media and its uses. There is not enough time to go into this right now but social media can not only be more effective than any other form of “customer relations” (aka: advertising) but it can be effectively outsourced. What Law firm would not want greater communication pathways, better branding and more effective product strategies? Social media hol;d the key (alongside other more traditional methods) for all three as well as lead generation. People need to wake up to the power of social media (and it encompasses MUCH more than Twitter and Facebook) unless theyw ant their competitors to steal their customers. And, you don’t need expensive PR agencies to help you run it all. It can be done for half or less of the quoted prices. Reply Link phil 8 December 2010 at 16:48 Our blog has generated plenty of business but our linked in profiles have generated no business. Reply Link Anonymous 8 December 2010 at 20:22 @Mary the ROI is that their practice will be there in the next five years. Read the book Socialnomics and you’ll understand why. Don’t do it and good luck competing with those who embrace social media. Reply Link Anonymous 8 December 2010 at 21:18 Lawyers! I’m a lawyer, and so is the lady who wrote The Naked Lawyer, including a volume dedicated to Social Media and how we lawyers can benefit from it. Read The Naked Lawyer and it’ll make you rethink your present stance and mindset! You won’t regret it … Reply Link Jonathan Lea 8 December 2010 at 23:12 The social media revolution is now in full swing across all industry sectors and I question a lawyer’s ability to advise their clients properly if they are not engaged with social media and therefore not properly networked. You can see a recent post on my blog about how lawyers can/should use twitter for business: http://jonathanlea.com Reply Link Anonymous 9 December 2010 at 10:05 I believe that most law/professional services firms shun social media because they simply don’t understand it. It’s fear of the unknown. They aren’t traditionally young, vibrant places of work that are early adopters of technology and new ways of working. You can tell this because instead of being curious, you’re all too busy actively knocking it without even stopping to consider the full implications! An open mind here would serve you much better. Forget about using services like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for new business generation for a second and simply think of them as places where people are talking about you. Media monitoring has been around for years and no doubt many of the larger firms (or ego-centric lawyers) are always interested in the opinions others hold. Ever Googled yourself, or your firm? You have no idea what’s being said about you on social networks unless you create a strategy to go look and understand! This should be the first step. Once you have an idea of how you/your brand is perceived, you can begin to think about getting involved with the odd helpful comment here and there, increasing your profile and external awareness of your services. Even if you don’t like it, social media is here to stay and your customers of tomorrow are using it today. It doesn’t have to be taxing and I really don’t see what anyone has to lose by giving it some time. Reply Link Anonymous 9 December 2010 at 13:11 I actually believe that social media can be of huge benefit to law firms, but articles like this don’t do a lot to help the cause. ‘anecdotal evidence “proved” that LinkedIn was a useful tool’? Really? Would it be too much to ask for a case study or information which demonstrated some ROI? Actual financial return on investment… not “engagement” or an inrease in Twitter followers, but an increase in turnover or profitability? Social media is not “free”. It has a cost – not least the opportunity cost of the time involved, which could be spent either working for clients or doing some other form of business development. It can also do more harm than good if it isn’t done properly (and yes, spell checking your profile is a good start!). If you are trying to sell this investment to law firms then surely some concrete information about the ROI isn’t too much to ask for? Reply Link Gavin Ward (WardblawG) 9 December 2010 at 14:12 @Mary Fairly short-sighted of you. If you’ve tried it out, you’ll see how it can work to drive further business and support customer service (provided you’re in the right line of business) @LegalBA Good commentary. Follow me on Twitter on any one of my 10 or so accounts;”Google me” as many businesses are now saying… http://wardblawg.com Reply Link David Gilroy 9 December 2010 at 16:18 Mary, one of my clients has gained over £100,000 of instructions from NEW clients directly as a result of what they have been doing on LinkedIn since we did some social media strategy training with them in June. Not to be sniffed at eh? Regs….David. Reply Link Sceptic 9 December 2010 at 17:38 What puzzles me is why so many lawyers feel the need to engage in `business development’, either through airhead media like Twitter and Facebook or via the local golf club. I have more offers of work than I can deal with simply because I do a good job at a reasonable price, and I know there are many other lawyers in the same situation. I have never engaged in any marketing activity at all, and if I’m on the receiving end of such activity I generally find it repellent. `Corporate hospitality’ events, no matter how lavish, are generally rather excruciating, and I genuinely pity lawyers who are made to go out and drum up business. If a firm is good at what it does its reputation alone will provide all the work it needs from quality clients. If a firm has to engage in promotional activity it may simply be because it’s not very good at practising law. Reply Link Anon 10 December 2010 at 11:47 Sceptic – Glad to see the recession hasn’t hit you. I suspect that you work in areas of law which have been more cushioned from the impact of the recession, but thousands of lawyers have been made redundant through no fault of their own ie not because you are better at practicing law than them. With the combined effect of the recession and ABS, law firm marketing and business development will be crucial for survival. The internet, whether you like it or not, is key to this. Even if new clients find a firm on a recommendation, the first thing many of them will do is Google the firm and/or partner. The first page of Google will show your LinkedIn profile, if you have one. What better, cheaper, less time intensive way is there to make a professional impact? Reply Link Tim Haveron Jones 11 December 2010 at 14:04 It’s a little trite – but nonetheless true – to say that professional firms live or die by reputation. Just ask anyone who (like me) spent a good portion of their working life with Arthur Andersen. One can of course choose to let one’s reputation grow wild, by word of mouth, purely on the strength of one’s work. But doesn’t it make more sense to try to cultivate and nurture it so that it grows in the way that one would like it to? The alternative – to knuckle down, do a good job, and hope that someone notices – is simply not a competitive strategy any more, even if it ever was, and is immensely risky. I have to say that I am not a big fan of the term ‘social media’ because it tends to lump together, into one category, a range of different platforms with subtly different characteristics. And while it is true that an awful lot of the content on Facebook and Twitter in particular seems to be generated by hormonal teens and self-satisfied ‘slebs’, that is not to say that one should dismiss the entire social media environment as meaningless pap. LinkedIn, for example, is a professional community with very high potential and firms should encourage their practitioners to engage in the discussion fora it contains, if for no other reason than to stay in touch with the issues their clients are wrestling with. Meanwhile, blogs like SCOTUSblog (www.scotusblog.com) are truly outstanding. As with other forms of public relations, it’s a mistake to expect more than an occasional piece of new business to come directly from social media – but then that is not their purpose. What they ARE great for, if used effectively, is building a conversation between the firm and its market – and that can have a huge impact on reputation. Reply Link Clare Rodway, MD, Kysen PR 13 December 2010 at 09:54 Some interesting comments over the last week or so about whether social media has any relevance to lawyers at all…. Lawyers often ask me ‘can social networking ever really help win business?’ In short, the answer is in the question: there is a huge opportunity for ‘networking’ on social media platforms which is often overlooked – and done well, it can reap the same benefits as networking in the real world, playing pretty much exactly the same role in winning business as it does in the real world. Moreover, you can do it from your desktop rather than taking time out to travel to and event or conference. Social media tools do not exist in a different space and time zone from your other marketing activity; they should be assessed in exactly the same way. Is this the best way to reach my target audience? Does it create the right impression? Can I communicate messages that show that I am different and better than my competitors? Can I use it to make new business connections? And – crucially – how does this work with my other marketing activity to reel the business in. Reply Link Ed 13 December 2010 at 12:32 It is surprising (to me at least) that there is a debate here at all. Social media/networking is simply another form of communication. If clients are using it, lawyers should be using it. It isn’t particularly difficult and allows you to reach out to a wide audience at a substantially lower cost (opportunity or otherwise) than other methods. It almost goes without saying that, if you do it, you should do it well. That’s just presentation and the same goes for any marketing efforts. It would be interesting to see if there was a similar level of resistance amongst lawyers when businesses first started using email and the internet. But, of course, we wouldn’t be able to find out, because reluctant lawyers would not have aired their views electronically… Reply Link Law student 14 December 2010 at 17:02 The key point here, is that it is difficult to understand what being engaged with social media actually involves. From my brief glance of the previous posts, I saw one post that noted social media strategy as a means by which to engage people in places where your brand/firm is being talked about. Imagine a damaging press article from The Lawyer, the FT online or a blog site that discusses the deficiencies of law firms: do you have someone ready to counter any arguments made against you? Or does EVERYONE that views that page just see the negative story or comment that was posted, without any response? Indeed, using the presence of positive media coverage effectively can involve engaging with it, creating links to it, all of which can be done with a decent social media strategy. How about with graduate employment? How many ways does the internet provide to get a name out there, or put a positive spin on an event or brand or thus far negative stream of information relevant to your business? How many are you using? Social media has meant that the concept of ‘marketing’ itself has evolved. It is no longer only about having an advertisement. Social media means that you can engage people, develop your advertisements continually, and use an already measured and amalgamated market base to which you can advertise directly, and in a relevant way. Like a TV add, but instead of wasting money showing it to everyone at a time when only a fraction of people are using it, you can gain information that allows you to engage people who are more likely to be interested, in a place and at a time when you know they’ll be there. Social media is now so huge, that while it might appear that what you do on LinkedIn might not achieve that much, a decent social media strategy can now have particularly far reaching consequences. Social media crosses content across the web, as well as reaches around the globe. Reply Link Myles Thornton 14 December 2010 at 17:06 I think there is absolutely a positive side to law and social media. I also aggree with some of the above comments that this is probably not the best forum for such debate. I believe that the reputation of a law individual or firm remains to be the fundemental ‘pull’ factor to aquiring new business. Reputation is something that can be monitored and remedied across the online space using social media. Social media allows you to protect that reputation further afield than otherwise possible. I also believe their is great potential for legal recruitment through using social media. Building online law communities, creates talent pools aswell as ensuring there are always candidates available to fill vacancies. Reply Link Victoria 15 December 2010 at 20:50 Lawyers, wake up to the world! Comments such as “i con’t see how tweeting on facebook would help” really show how little understanding many lawyers have of modern marketing practice and social media. Linkedin is not at all about advertising your daily activites, but allows you to keep up to date contact details to a lot of individuals who might not otherwise bother to notify you of a change in circumstance/workplace etc. You then have a perfect opportunity to pick up the phone and initiate some face to face contact. Reply Link Jon Aston 29 December 2010 at 01:56 Hey! Does anyone know any good lawyer jokes? Reply Link Ian Picken 13 May 2011 at 13:55 Although this stream is six months old I would like to add my two penneth worth. Where I think a lot of people miss the point is in the fact that to gain new customers, you need to be where they are. The media is unimportant, if your clients frequent exhibitions, take a stand, if your clients read broadsheets, advertise in the broadsheets and if your clients use social media then use social media – don’t just ignore it on ‘principal’ or through lack of understanding. Well over half of the UK population use Facebook, a figure that is much higher in the 18-34 age range (and they are likely to continue doing so and be your future clients). Why ignore this huge market? What purpose does it serve to actively ignore the majority of people when you could be engaging with them or at the very being where they are likely to look for you? Social media is the media of today, it is the choice of tens of millions of UK business men and women, why would you ignore them? Are they not worthy of your service? At the end of the day, the choice is yours but if you do choose to ignore I can guarantee that many of your competitors wont. Do you want them engaging and building a relationship with the next generation of your clients? Reply Link Name Email Cancel reply Threaded commenting powered by interconnect/it code.