How Your Firm Can Profit From & Avoid Pitfalls Of Social Media
This Spring, Tumblr hit the 100 Million mark—100 million blogs, that is. If we’re talking about numbers in terms of profit, Tumblr far exceeded mere millions. In May, social blogging platform CEO David Karp sold the company to Yahoo! for a cool $1.1 billion.
Karp, for those who don’t already know, is a 26-year old high school drop out who built Tumblr while still living at his mother’s New York City apartment in 2007, writes Brian Warner for Celebrity Net Worth.
In the same period it can take lawyers to settle a single lawsuit, Karp created and sold a billion-dollar business. If there was ever a time to praise the popularity of social media, Tumblr’s milestone in millions of blogs could certainly serve that purpose.
That’s why it’s not surprising to read in a recent study conducted by The Research Intelligence Group that 56 percent of consumers and 72 percent of minorities who searched for an attorney in the past year reported doing so via social media.
In fact, over one-fifth of survey participants went so far as to consult the social media pages of the specific lawyers or firms that they were considering during this search for legal representation, reports Kevin O’Keefe for Real Lawyers Have Blogs.
Law is a time-honored profession. As such, it maintains certain traditions and history. Ergo, lawyers aren’t often known for being on the cutting edge of technology.
Nevertheless, most law firms today have a website. Keeping that website up-to-date is critical.
Firm websites help you attract more clients, rise in search engine rankings, keep up with technological developments for electronic legal tools, update your firm and practice area information, and increase interaction with the legal community and community of potential clients, in general.
Recently the Virginia Supreme Court in Horace Hunter v. Virginia State Bar ruled on the extent to which law firms can promote their practice and previous legal wins via a blog or website:
“The Virginia majority held that Hunter did not have to seek clients’ permission to discuss past closed cases, even if there was a possibility that the clients would suffer embarrassment or some other harm by the public airing of their affairs. The court also ruled that Hunter’s blogging about past courtroom successes on his firm’s website constituted an advertisement, even though he also included commentary on the criminal justice system. As a result, the majority said he should have included a standard disclaimer cautioning against too much reliance on past results.” (via Above The Law)
Thus, with proper disclaimers, your firm can join the Twittersphere.
In the end, websites, blogs, Twitter, and other social media are not a new development in technology. The Research Intelligence Group’s survey shows that although the number of Internet users declined with age, a surprising 30 percent of survey respondents above the age of 50 were also professed social media users.
And, among survey respondents, nearly one-quarter made a final selection of a lawyer based, in part, on what they gleaned through their social media research, according to Kevin O’Keefe for Real Lawyers Have Blogs.
So, what are a few “must-haves” for attorney websites?
LexisNexis’ own blog suggests:
- Areas of Law Practiced. Specify your areas of legal expertise and the services that you offer in each of those areas. If visitors can’t find this information quickly, or if it’s unclear, they are likely to leave the site.
- Experience. Prospective clients want to know how long you have practiced law and whether you have previously handled cases like theirs.
- Education. Reassure visitors that you have the know-how to resolve their legal issues. Tell them where you went to law school, and when and where you passed the bar exam.
- Photos. Offer a glimpse of your personality through pictures, but remember to always use professional-looking shots. People who visit your site are searching for an attorney they can trust, not a drinking buddy.
- Biographical Data. Sharing information about your family and your interests/hobbies conveys personality and helps build connections with potential clients. Just don’t overdo it. (But if your goal is to secure referrals from corporate counsel, our research indicates you should minimize such details.)
However, training your team in technology serves your clients in more ways than one.
In today’s Facebook world, lawyers use social media to attract clients, but they can also have an obligation to perform research on social media sites during investigations, as well.
Social media profiles are a potential treasure trove of information in litigation. But using social networking can ensnare attorneys in ethical traps in two different ways: (1) when accessing information in someone else’s profile, and (2) when an attorney’s own profile information might be used against them.
How can you effectively use social networks to gather information to gain a legal edge while ethically keeping out of trouble?
C4CM’s comprehensive webinar, Using Social Media in Legal Investigations: Traversing the Ethical Minefieldon July 16, 2013, from 2:00 P.M to 3:15 P.M. Eastern time, explores key strategies to improve your legal investigation on social media while keeping yourself safe from legal and ethical pitfalls.
If you’ve found this blog post via social media, you’re off to a great start. Keep up the momentum by exploring other important online tools for law firm managers here.
With so many consumers consulting social media, it’s time for law firm professionals to (*ah hem*) follow suit.