Survey Reveals Substantial Growth in Online Social Networking by Lawyers Over the Past Year

New survey data reveals that more than 70 percent of lawyers are members of an online social network – up nearly 25 percent over the past year – with 30 percent growth reported among lawyers aged 46 and over. The second annual Networks for Counsel Survey of almost 1,500 lawyers was commissioned by LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell®, the industry leader in networking and law firm marketing. It shows that more than 50 percent of respondents think online networks have the potential to change the business and practice of law, while 65 percent expressed interest in joining an online professional network designed specifically for their profession.
The 2009 Networks for Counsel Survey was conducted by Leader Networks, a consultancy that helps businesses foster online social networks. It is the second annual survey that examines the online networking practices of lawyers. A copy of the survey is available online at www.leadernetworks.com.  “Networking remains a critical means of business and professional development for lawyers even as opportunities for face-to-face networking have become severely limited by budget and staff cuts,” said Vanessa DiMauro, CEO of Leader Networks and author of The 2009 Networks for Counsel Survey. “Online networking has emerged as a viable and fast growing means for legal professionals to accelerate or augment their ability to connect with their peers and share best practices.”  “Lawyers are transforming the way they network by incorporating social media tools into their work in record numbers and in increasingly sophisticated ways,” said Ralph Calistri, CEO of Martindale-Hubbell and senior vice president of Global Client Development at LexisNexis. “Both the survey results and the phenomenal membership growth in our own online legal network, Martindale-Hubbell® Connected, demonstrate the strong demand for a secure, authenticated network designed specifically for legal professionals.”
Frequency and Type of Use
Lawyers rely on a variety of social media to connect, collaborate and engage online as part of their professional and personal lives. The use of specific social media tools varies widely among counsel, as does the frequency of their use:
  • One third of corporate counsel and close to half of private practice lawyers who participate in public social networks for professional purposes do so on at least a daily basis;
  • The majority of lawyers who participate in professional online communities report doing so once per week or more;
  • Only six percent of lawyers participate in microblogging (Twitter, etc.) but roughly 70 percent of those who do, report doing so at least once per week;
  • One third of corporate counsel and close to half of private practice lawyers who read and add comments or ratings to articles, blogs and other online content do so on at least a daily basis;
  • Lawyers who use online content sharing (SlideShare, Flickr, YouTube, etc.) do so weekly or less.
Usage Differs Among Corporate Counsel and Private Practice Lawyers
Corporate counsel report being most interested in using an online, legal professional network to access exclusive content such as white papers, reviews, Webinars, podcasts, user-generated content, interaction with legal thought leaders as well as online CLE courses. Identifying, evaluating and selecting outside counsel remains an important driver for corporate counsel participation in online networking and was among the top three reasons cited for their use of online networks. Private practice lawyers, by contrast, are much more interested in using online networks to expand their professional networks and manage their professional reputation online. While these findings are generally consistent with last year’s survey results, the proportion of corporate counsel seeking online CLE courses (41 percent versus 33 percent last year) and private practice lawyers seeking the ability to manage one’s professional reputation online (40 percent versus 33 percent last year) have both increased.
Lawyers Look to Trusted Brands to Deliver Networks
The survey found that lawyers are looking to well-established brands that are respected and trusted across the legal industry to deliver professional networks. Respondents were asked to pick from a list of organizations including LinkedIn, Martindale-Hubbell, Legal OnRamp, AVVO, Thomson, the Association of Corporate Counsel, the American Bar Association and several others, to identify those they felt were best suited to deliver an online, global legal community: 
  • Martindale-Hubbell– cited by 52 percent of all corporate counsel and private practice lawyer respondents – was the most popular choice;

  • The second most common response among private practice lawyers was LinkedIn, cited by 38 percent of those respondents, and 20 percent of corporate counsel;
  • The second most common response among corporate counsel was the Association of Corporate Counsel, cited by 35 percent of corporate counsel respondents, down from 44 percent last year.
About the 2009 Networks for Counsel Survey
The 2009 Networks for Counsel Survey was administered to 1,474 lawyers – 764 in private practice and 710 corporate counsel in May and June of 2009. 33 countries were represented. More than half of corporate counsel surveyed work for companies with over 10,000 employees; private practice lawyers generally work for firms with 100-999 employees. The findings are available online at www.leadernetworks.com.