Lawyers should wake up to social media, urges PR agency

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  • 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.

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  • 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?

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  • 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?

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  • 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.

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  • 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!

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  • 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.

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  • 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?

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  • 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.

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  • 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

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  • @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?

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