Social media for lawyers: questions, tips, and risks.

Quite recently, social media has become a very fascinating, controversial, and widely discussed topic among lawyers.

It has formed the theme of countless legal conferences, professional development courses, and debate on ethical rules surrounding its use. Despite this buzz and lawyers’ reputation for loving to talk, debate, and express opinion, (the very nature of social media) there is a strange juxtaposition of lawyers’ overwhelming aversion towards it.

It is confusing that for a profession that trades in advice, ideas, and opinion – we are largely silent upon these infinitely powerful mechanisms to peddle our wares.

social media for lawyers

Social media is a necessary tool for a modern day lawyer.

For me, social media is as much of my practice as my telephone, email, or photocopies.

As a result, I am often approached by lawyers who tell me that they just “don’t get it” and honestly wonder why I use it at all. They will express feelings of confusion and pointlessness in using it.  Many will hold opinions that it is over-saturated, risky, or just a total waste of their (billable) time. My attempts to justify it’s value is most often met with frustration. Notwithstanding, there many benefits that are worth considering.

As such, here are some of the (in very basic terms) risks, and tips of social media for lawyers. These questions and answers arose from an article (link to follow) on this very topic.

What social platforms do I use in my professional capacity as a lawyer?

In my capacity as a lawyer, I am on Twitter (primary use), LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ to interact with those interested in criminal law, potential clients, and media who often reach out for opinions of legal matters involving criminal law.

How does social media help you with your practice?

The benefits of social media are hard to directly quantify because the benefits are long-term and indirect. In essence, social media for lawyers is another facet of our branding and enhancement of our professional reputation. Through social media, a lawyer has the capacity to characterize their familiarity with the relevant issues that may face their particular area of practice.

Have you had any success in building relationships that generated business for your practice?

Social media is an excellent way to meet and interact with other professionals and develop lasting, meaningful relationships. On many occasions, I have been approached and told “I know you…from Twitter.” I often do the same thing to others. Strangely, in these situations, conversations commence as if we are old friends because of our knowledge of each other through social media.

Is a bio important and is it helpful  in generating conversations on Twitter?

In social media, nearly everything is made upon snap judgments. Whether this is beneficial or not, the “Blink” mindset cannot be ignored. Bios are just another example of ensuring that when a person is making these quick assessments, there is something that engages that user and moves them towards the branding that the professional, business, or individual is trying to achieve through that respective social media platform. A bio for a lawyer should be catchy but still convey the professionalism of your brand and expertise.

What are some of your tips for using social media effectively – for other lawyers looking to build their online presence?

There are four major and necessary aspects to social media:

Be engaged

There is nothing worse than seeing a social media platform for a professional account that is ignored.

Having an account that is neglected actually has a negative impact because it portrays a brand of disinterest and laziness (which may not be true). There is no in-between for social media if you wish to obtain the benefits from it: you are either on social media, or you are not.

There is nothing wrong with spectator accounts; however, this is not true for a business or professional seeking to achieve a positive branding. Like any type of branding, creating a positive and well-known image of your company if hard work.  If you are not willing to put the time and effort into curating your social media platforms, don’t bother.

Be conscious of your brand and reputation.

Social media is an ongoing campaign towards your your brand and reputation as a lawyer or business. Experienced lawyers will tell young lawyers one thing over and over: “reputation is everything”.

With social media, you are building (or destroying it) your reputation with every post. Never forget that social media is potentially read by everyone including your clients, opposing counsel, regulatory bodies, and media. If you are not comfortable saying it to every one of your clients, having it repeated in court, or being on the front page of a newspaper – don’t post it.

Be interesting and specific to your expertise.

Although a lawyer may have many interests outside of the law (like baseball, cooking, etc.) that is not why people are following you. If people want to know about baseball, they will follow sports feeds or professional athletes. If you want to post about cooking, do so through your personal account or an account you create about cooking.

The more diluted your account becomes with irrelevant information for your specific branding or exercise, the less people will be interested. Tell people something they don’t know, or that they can’t find out on their own. Offer a unique perspective on your expertise – not on whether José Bautista should have tossed his bat or not. (By the way, yes he should have.)

That said, everyone likes a joke or personal insight now and then – just don’t make your professional social media the equivalent of gabbing at a bar with friends. Be focused, be interested, be aware of your brand.

Be judicious.

The quickest way to get unfollowed or blocked is to send off too many posts, reposts, repetitive, or meaningless information.  No one wants to hear a daily update of how you were able to get charges withdrawn, or that you settled a case.  Like everything in life, moderation is key.

As one of the best advocates once said: “Brevity is a great charm of eloquence”.