In a recent article in Law Technology News, there is a discussion about social media usage among law firm associates. As is usually the case when technology moves forward, there are those who embrace it and those who do not.
No surprise here that lawyers have been more reticent as a group to embrace the use of the latest technology than others. But times seem to be a-changing, and by 2014, investing in social media will no longer be a luxury – it will be a necessity, according to a recent Forbes article.
Glen Gilmore, a New-Jersey-based solo practitioner and social media expert (ranked number 15 on Forbes’ list of social media influencers), found it surprising that only one-third of mid-level associates are “leveraging social media [because] the failure [of] law firms to ‘get’ social… [it] is a terrible disservice to their clients, most of whom are using social media for personal and business purposes.”
What are the factors causing lawyers to participate in social media networks? My list would include: more personal usage, seeing other lawyers surpass them in knowledge and use of social media, client demand and the ability to bill their time, and the ease of research and networkability. I’ve elaborated on these points here:
- More personal usage: I suggest that the personal usage of social media is one of the greatest drivers of whether a lawyer uses social media in a professional environment. In much the same way as some lawyers who refuse to use computers and prefer to handwrite or dictate their communications, the ones who do not use social media in their personal lives tend not to use it in their professional lives. The inverse is also true. Lawyers should start using it on a personal level, and as they build their network it will be less intimidating to use it on a professional level.
- Competition and client demand: This is also a factor because you don’t want to be seen as uninformed or behind the times by your peers or clients. More clients are now using social media and expect their lawyers to be savvy with its usage. Of course, having the ability to show value and bill for the activity is also a driver. If you can show yourself to be more efficient, quicker to do the research, and more responsive to your clients, then you will find that social media might be a great use of your time. LinkedIn and Twitter are especially useful networks in this situation.
- Ease of research and ‘networkability’: Finding articles of interest, doing research, connecting with other professionals or thought leaders: you no longer have to wait for good information or spend hours searching for usable content. Individuals can now publish research, commentary, and news or updates seconds after it is written. Some of the most experienced lawyers and top experts in the legal services industry are providing valuable information every day – all day – for free through social media. New client relationships are being formed and thought leaders are emerging, and it’s all at our fingertips. Even if you don’t “follow” a particular person, there is someone you do follow who will re-link, re-tweet or otherwise make you aware of the good content. As you build relationships with people online, you will begin to see who is providing timely and valuable content and which information is worth reading.
What is deterring you from joining in the conversation? When used correctly, social media will sharpen your networking skills, heighten your awareness of emerging trends, and help develop you or your firm as a prominent thought leader in the legal industry.
Things are happening online, and the speed of the internet is picking up. Better get on board.