Should you use social networking to develop new business? – Part 2 of 2

Should you use social networking to develop new business? – Part 2 of 2


The internet is full of testimonials and case studies from lawyers who have had marketing success with social media (online tools for sharing and discussing information) and social networking (groups of people with common interests mixing together on social networking sites to build relationships).  For example, in an article in Law Practice, Ernie Svenson (author of the widely read blog Ernie the Attorney) explained how he used internet tools connect with a large network of other lawyers:

Now I have at my disposal a very broad range of lawyers whom I can call on whenever I want to brainstorm an issue. In fact, my network of "colleagues" is bigger now in my solo practice than it was when I worked at a law firm. And a number of the clients that have come to me recently are people who would never have found me if I hadn't had an online presence. I no longer think of my professional profile as something static that gets periodically updated, like a resume. My professional profile is now something highly dynamic and easily accessed by anyone in any part of the world. I think the online social networking tools that are freely available to everyone can do the same for other lawyers.

The questions to ask about case studies like this are:

  • How much time was invested in this activity, and how many sales did it produce?
  • If you invested the same amount of time, how many sales would it be likely to produce for your practice?
  • Is this the best, most effective use of marketing time? 

Only you can answer those questions.  And after you do, it will be important to measure your results every quarter or so, to see whether you are correct.

There are plenty of differences of opinion about marketing value.  When the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled "Young Lawyers Building Buzz Tweet by Tweet," one of the people they quoted was criminal defense lawyer Scott Greenfield who has a blog and more than 1,500 Twitter followers. He said he loved the way it gave him an opportunity to "Say my piece," but, "to be honest, I don't think it's done a damn thing for me."

If you do decide to invest time in social networking, there are many excellent sources of additional information on the internet.  If you want an introductory overview, see Jayne Navarre's book social.lawyers: Transforming Business Development

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Become a source for news and insight in your practice area
  • You will probably find that the best referrals and connections come from your network rather than followers
  • Remember the difference between sharing insights about cases and real legal advice (which is something you can't post)
  • Find a good balance between sharing personal information and sharing too much

And whenever you use Twitter, write a blog, post on Facebook, or make connections on LinkedIn, be sure you understand the rules of each medium and most importantly, the privacy settings.

Don't talk about specific cases, clients, or judges. And lawyers must adhere to the same advertising standards as they do when creating an ad for the newspaper. As NYU Law School legal ethics professor Stephen Gillers put it, "Many of the rules are at a high enough level that they can be applied to new technology without revision."

Rules that prohibit law firms from advertising themselves as specialists in certain types of law also apply to lawyers' blog posts and even LinkedIn profile pages.

And whatever you do, don't friend the judge.

This post was adapted from my Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide.

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