Ok, as someone who is a keen and early adopter of most new communication mediums this post may appear somewhat zealously biased, although it does articulate what I genuinely think about lawyers and how important social media is for successful careers.
More and more lawyers are understanding the benefits of online networks. The various social media channels are still seen as more of a medium to promote yourself, but I see the smart use of the internet and social media as having far broader significance for service providers to market themselves in the broadest sense of the word so that they can be far more capable and relevant professionals.
In no particular order here are the top ten reasons why I believe people will increasingly hire social media conversant lawyers:
1) Problem solving using the crowd
Networks and reach are the same reasons why firms were originally formed by large groups of lawyers basing themselves in one office so they could more easily collaborate. However, in the last few years technology has meant that being ‘down the corridor’ from other lawyers is becoming increasingly irrelevant as those who have built a mass of online relationships have an ability to access leading insight and legal minds from far and wide geographically and are not restricted to the more silo thinking that would exist if you just relied on a traditional law firm’s retained employees, not least because such an inflexible and bureaucratic network carries a far greater overhead.
2) Personal knowledge
Those lawyers with strong online profiles will be consuming a diverse range of quality content and discussing issues with leading thinkers around the world, developing their knowledge in a way that isn’t possible from purely relying on the more mainstream media and one’s own imagination through search engines. This superior access to information will mean that lawyers will have a better ability to see and understand trends and their legal advice is more likely to be commercial and in context in relation to modern business practice.
3) Relationship building and communication skills
Being able to build an impressive online following is a great indication that lawyers have strong interpersonal, communication and relationship building skills. These have always been fundamental attributes for a career as they enable you to be resourceful and get things done, but there has never been a way before for potential clients to be able to quickly judge whether a lawyer possesses such qualities.
4) Ability to spread ideas and connect people
Publicity is the oxygen of all businesses. A lawyer with a well built up online presence and connections can spread their clients’ messages far and wide and also help introduce them to key contacts to help their business grow. Such a connected lawyer’s online influence will not only bring a significant ‘value add’ to the legal services they provide, it may also reduce the need to spend quite as much on external public relations and marketing agencies.
5) Passion and eloquence
Blogging and microblogging about issues relating to their practice areas shows lawyers have genuine enthusiasm about and insight into their clients’ industries and the legal and business issues they face. Such online communication also demonstrates publically how eloquently and persuasively they are able to articulate their points.
6) Broad interests
In today’s rapidly changing and competitive market lawyers need to wear a variety of hats, from client relationship manager to marketer, from business strategist to legal technician and also have a good understanding of how legal specialisms inter-relate and then fit into the wider commercial reality. Social media helps keep lawyers up to speed with changing business practices and able to ‘connect the dots’, in the process developing a dynamic attitude that will help them succeed in the marketplace.
The 24/7 nature of social media and the increased blurring between people’s personal and business lives gives me the impression that a lawyer who has embraced these new communication mediums is more likely to be contactable at all times and responsive to client demands, rather than, for example, hide behind a firm’s switchboard number and infuriate contacts by being unavailable to take calls.
8) Good judgment
In order to build an interesting online profile and following you need to frequently take calculated and well judged risks. You are therefore more likely to be the type of character that clients would prefer to hire, as opposed to the stereotypical fence sitting and risk adverse lawyer (who has an ability to regurgitate the law but not apply it in any useful way) that clients dread.
A large network makes you more resourceful and better able to source and project manage optimum value solutions for clients. For example, in litigation, technologically savvy lawyers will use social media websites to find facts about, and statements by, witnesses, litigants, and clients to build a more persuasive case.
As a lawyer I notice that there is often a direct correlation between those that run less than reputable businesses and the fact that their personal information and profile rarely appears on their website, while they generally have a distinct lack of enthusiasm for building their personal presence on social networks. On the other hand, lawyers who are active online and who are keen to build their personal brands give the often accurate impression that they are open, transparent and trustworthy.
Many lawyers make the mistake of believing that they can hide behind or subsume their identity with their employing law firm, but, as the comments by the in-house departments of large corporations in this article reveal, even at the high end of legal services it’s almost always about the individual lawyer and not the firm or brand they work for that influences the decision to instruct a law firm.
Developing a good online profile and following demonstrates a lawyer’s ability to influence people and their open, outgoing, transparent and trustworthy character. Their networking also means they will have a good understanding of the various dynamics within their areas of interest and have developed good knowledge resources.
It has always been true to an extent that ‘its not what you know but who you know’ and ‘your network is your net worth’, but online tools now act as amazing catalysts to continually connect with new people, cultivate emerging relationships and build and leverage a powerful network. For the reasons outlined in this article, in a digital age its my strong belief that consumers of legal services will increasingly judge lawyers by their web presence and online connectivity rather than traditional indications such as CVs, the brand of the law firm they work for or how smart their suit looks.