Social media provides attorneys and law firms of all sizes with the opportunity to connect with a wide variety of people. In fact, as of 2012, according to research conducted by socialhabit.com 56 percent of the U.S. population checked some form of social media once a day. If you aren’t already using social media to promote your practice, now is the time to start.
Why Should an Attorney Use Social Media?
Using social media as an attorney or law firm may seem a bit counterintuitive but we encourage you to think of social media as an Internet-based networking tool. Networking is useful when you show up on a regular basis, participate in the discussion and establish a relationship with the people in your networking group or community. With that in mind we encourage you to:
Use Social Media to Establish a Presence for your Firm Online – Having a website is a great start to establishing a presence for your firm online. By creating firm profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+, you create additional opportunities for clients to find and connect with your firm. Encouraging partners, associates and staff to create professional profiles on these sites also increases the opportunities for your firm to be discovered by potential clients. Having profiles on different sites is like sending members of the firm to different networking events, doing so gives the attorneys opportunities to connect with different people and the firm more exposure in the whole community.
Use Social Media to Connect with Clients – In addition to creating a larger presence online, social media pages provide wonderful opportunities to connect with current, former and potential clients. Posting bits of helpful information about your firm, local news and relevant updates in the law in your practice area will allow you to stay connected with clients in a way that isn’t possible in any other venue. Taking the time to craft and send an email or newsletter to each of your current and former clients would take days but with a social media page you can connect with them all on a regular basis with a simple status update.
To use social media successfully, we encourage you to consider your audience. With in-person networking, no one wants to hear about the same things over and over again. The same is true for social media. We encourage you to discuss a variety of topics to keep your audience interested and engaged.
What to Watch Out For
Because social media isn’t exactly like in-person networking and involves written communication from the firm, you want to be mindful of a few things, including:
State Bar Rules on Attorney Advertising – Staying in compliance with your state ethics regulations with respect to attorney advertising is an important consideration for any attorney or law firm using social media. As social media has become more popular with law firms, ethics committees are issuing advisory opinions on how these tools can be used by attorneys. We encourage you to check with your state bar to see what their guidelines are for the use of social media and as always you should avoid:
- False or misleading statements
- Statements guaranteeing success
- Identifying firm members as “certified specialists” if they are not actually certified
Disclosure of Protected Client Communications – Clients often use social media to ask specific questions about a case or potential case, in order to avoid inadvertent disclosure of confidential client information, encourage clients to send emails or private messages about case specific questions. General questions about the law can always be answered on social media, but case specific inquiries should be limited to private communication between the client and law firm to protect confidentiality.
Ultimately, social media provides attorneys and law firms with the opportunity to connect with people in new and interesting ways. We encourage you to take advantage of the fact that over half of all Americans use some form of social media on a daily basis and set up your firm’s profiles today.
Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s online LL.M. Degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.