Guest Blog by Ivan Serrano
If employers can Google prospective employees and check out their social media accounts, why can’t lawyers use the internet during void dire or to vet prospective clients? Without even digging into the subject beyond asking the question–not a very lawyerly thing to do–it just makes intuitive sense that this practice is not only commonplace, but is probably becoming widespread.
That being the case (ahem), it is safe to assume that social media is already influencing one of the least sociable professions. While not exactly a tired cultural cliché, it is a well-established industry truism that law firms are both traditionally and notoriously averse to change and technology. This trait may be inherent in all things associated with the law, but that’s another story for another day. Regardless, there is plenty of evidence to support the wisdom of lawyerly reluctance regardless of the inconveniences engendered.
Is this a Social Media Lawyer joke?
Even so, when the Law Society in the UK finally announced that it had issued social media guidelines for lawyers in 2012, many people were wondering if the announcement was a poorly framed lawyer joke or a spoof by The Onion.
What are the benefits of lawyers using social media?
In a world where IT is still considered a liability rather than an asset and marketing is mostly an ethical consideration, it seems almost a foregone conclusion that the benefits of social engagement are likely to be harder to find, much less explain.
There is probably little need for selfies in the legal professions, though there is hardly a compelling case that there is really a need for them anywhere else either.
.A pin-board featuring quotes from rulings by your favorite trial judge or recipes for cross-examination are unlikely to garner masses of followers.
While there may be a few GIFs of witness testimony that may generate some interest online, they are not very likely to go viral.
There is a potential market for summarizing legal opinions in 140 characters or less, but this skill would probably require another three years of graduate school.
Could you repeat the question?
But the question remains, will social media ever be used by the legal profession for more than its most obvious use–digging up dirt on potential jurors and witnesses? Will potential social media outcomes every outweigh the risks of social media for attorneys? Does it ever make sense for a lawyer to put something in writing when it isn’t a requirement?
Regardless of any generalized answers to these questions, there will be individual attorneys who are willing to go fearlessly where no one has gone before. And, as with the exploration of all frontiers, until the frontier is substantially settled, there is likely to be an element of unpredictability, a cringeworthy word in any legal circle.
Law Firm Reputation Management: What are people saying?
What are people saying about your firm? You can be sure they aren’t saying it to your face. Monitoring social media or setting up Google alerts may be a way to get a glimpse into what your firm’s reputation is. It’s just a thought, and you never know what you might find.
Determine Jury Pre-Existing Biases
Let’s say your firm has a family law practice. Does it make sense to monitor what is being said on forums or other places where moms, dads and other “family” types hang out to get a better understanding of your target market? How many other practice areas might benefit from this approach?
Client Referrals from Social Media
Personal referrals are still the best source for new clients. If you look back over your history with personal referrals, it’s likely that you will be able to draw two conclusions. First, your best clients are your best referrers, and second, you have no idea where the next referral will be coming from.
Being online, if only in a low-level way is likely to increase referrals. The referral process is all about mind share. That’s the reason your best clients are the best referrers. If you want people to be thinking about you while they are online, you’ve got to be there with them.
Hashtags are an accepted practice online. If you want to make sure your online content is not misinterpreted, just make sure you append the hashtag #NotLegalAdvice to any online post before clicking send.