This ‘Social Media’ Thing Might Not Be A Fad, Law Firms Acknowledge

Above the Law
August 6, 2013
By Brian Dalton

Seeing as law firms are among Earth’s last enthusiasts of Lotus Notes and fax machines, they can hardly be expected to be on the cutting edge of evolving social media technologies. As social media platforms and blogs were exploding over the last decade, most law firms did not engage. Firms continued to churn out the unread white papers and ignorable client alerts as part of their traditional marketing efforts.

This reluctance or skepticism has waned some in the last couple of years and given way to a wary appreciation of the positive role that LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, and similar sites can play in marketing, recruiting, client support and internal collaboration. A 2012 survey of lawyers and legal marketers by ALM Legal Intelligence attests to this shifting attitude. The survey had some striking findings. Among them:

  • 70 percent of law firms maintain blogs.
  • Nearly 50 percent of firms report that blogging and social networking had helped produce leads for new clients.
  • Around 40 percent said those same efforts had actually helped them land new work.
  • More than half of respondents said that their firms plan to increase their budget for social media initiatives.

Just over 20 percent said their firms already have a full-time social media specialist on staff.

The 2012 In-House Social Media Engagement Survey, jointly conducted by Greentarget, Zeughauser Group and Inside Counsel magazine, found that two-thirds of all in-house counsel have been on LinkedIn in the previous week for professional reasons. The most striking takeaway from this survey was that 76 percent of in-house counsel attribute some level of importance to blogs when deciding which outside firms to retain. From the perspective of law firm decision makers, this is obviously a crucial data point.

Of course, there are some folks who will never “be on board” with social media and will continue to regard its advocates as snake oil salesmen. No doubt many of them are. In any event, there is ample reason to believe that there has been a sea change in the attitudes of law firms as organizations toward social media. But the research previously discussed tells us little about what impact has been felt by the individual within the firm. We thought it would be interesting to get the individual point of view.

Do you feel your firm is using social media technologies effectively? Are you even allowed to use social media while at work? Will there ever be a Twitter flame war between Rodge Cohen and Marty Lipton?

Blogs are not social media?

June 19, 2013
By Kevin O’Keefe

Minneapolis lawyer and business development//practice management coach, Roy Ginsburg, writes this morning that “there is nothing particularly “social” about [blogs].”

Ginsburg was questioning why blogs would be included in recent reports that in-house counsel’s use of social media was at an all time high.

In his own review of in-house counsel’s use of social, Ginsburg, rightfully so, relies heavily on the 2013 survey on in-house counsel’s use of new media by Greentarget (@greentarget), the Zeughauser Group, and Inside Counsel Magazine (@insidecounsel). LinkedIn, Wikipedia, and blogs were the top 3 with blogs influencing 53% of in-house counsel in their hiring of counsel.

But other than the very occasional comment on a law blog, Ginsburg saw nothing social regarding law blogs.

Greenburg also questioned a National Law Journal article by Adrian Dayton (@adriandayton), referencing the Greentarget survey, that social media use by in-house counsel was at all time high. Blogs again. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook should be the ones examined, per Ginsburg.

No question law blogs get few, if any comments. I tell lawyers a very active law blog may draw as few as two or three comments a month. Why? We’re not talking sports, entertainment, or cooking. People are concerned about confidence and are not sure where their comment may lead.

But good law blogs are indeed social in every sense of social media. Bloggers engage each either by referencing what other bloggers are saying. Bloggers engage business and association leaders as well as the mainstream media much the same way. Heck, this was the only way we ‘bloggers’ talked in the open to each other before we had short form social media.

Blogs also drive social interaction online. Interaction that leads to learning, reputation building, and relationships.

Try going to Facebook or LinkedIn and entering in the status update field, ‘Hi, I’m Roy, I’m a great guy, you should know me.” Not only would there be no social interaction, you’d like a darn fool.

Now go put up on Facebook a picture of your kids and you on vacation or a picture of you and your daughter on her college graduation day. Watch the comments and likes flow. Social engagement that gives you goose bumps and nurtures relationships, many of those with business associates.

Look at the picture in the abstract, and sure there’s nothing social about it. It’s a picture of people, nothing social about it.

Now go put up your blog post and other’s blog posts on LinkedIn. Watch the comments and likes follow. If you’ve built a strong network on LInkedIn, you’ll find the social interaction regarding a blog post to be far greater than on your blog.

Look at a blog post in the abstract, it’s just words on a screen. Nothing social about it.

It depends what you make of a blog post. As the publisher, are you engaging folks? As the reader, do you share posts on Twitter, LInkedIn, and Facebook?

Think of all the law blog posts that flow through Flipboard, Zite, LXBN, JD Supra and the like every day. Thousands of them. Shared, re-shared, liked, commented upon, referenced in new blog posts, and cited in articles and reports. All as part of the fabric of social media

I get a heck of a lot more interaction regarding and about my blog posts on Twitter and LinkedIn than in comments on my blog. Interaction that makes them much more likely to be seen by folks like in-house counsel (especially true for practicing lawyers). Interaction that increases my influence on Google and makes my blog posts rank higher in search, now that Google is influenced by social.

To dismiss the value of social, it’s ROI, or the characterization of things like blogs as social because the opinions come from people who work in social media, as Ginsburg suggests we do, is a little shortsighted.

Who am I to tell folks to take with a grain of salt what a business development coach says because they’re in the business after all? Or that we ought to question lawyers who advise that it would be prudent to get legal work done to protect our interests because they’re lawyers after all? Who else is in a better position to so advise?

I understand it’s difficult for many to understand blogging and other social media. Without using social media in an effective way to grow your business by building a strong word of mouth reputation and nurturing relationships, the concept of social media can be illusory.

But there’s little question that social media does work to generate business for lawyers and that blogs are very much a part, if not the biggest part, of social media in the law. You can discount these views as coming from a guy in the business, but you’ll do so at your peril.

Lawyers and social media: The jury is out

Reading Eagle Business Weekly
May 21, 2013
By Erin Negley

As blogs and social media grow, attorneys have been slow to catch on and start tweeting, blogging and posting.

Can you fault lawyers, a risk-averse group, for waiting to see how others use these new tools?

“This is unfamiliar territory, and they want to make sure they do it right,” said Kevin McKeown, president of LexBlog, a legal blogging consultant based in Seattle.

But now that blogging and social media are more mainstream, more lawyers are joining the conversation. Local attorneys are embracing LinkedIn, blogs and even Wikipedia to connect, communicate and research. In a competitive market, it’s even more important to build an online reputation and ultimately drive business.

When Greentarget, a communications firm, and Zeughauser Group, a legal consulting firm, created their first survey for in-house counsel in 2010, many attorneys were still uncomfortable with new media. Just three years later, about 75 percent of survey respondents use social media and blogs.

“In 2013, the lawyer who has his paralegal print his emails for him, gets all his news from the print edition of The New York Times and thinks a blog is a smudge on his tie is part of a dying breed,” according to their latest report.

As the legal profession embraces new media, many are hidden users, reading and listening rather than contributing to the conversation. But some have taken a larger role.

Two years ago, Fox Rothschild‘s local office launched the Berks County Law Update, a blog about local legal cases. Partner John J. Miravich and attorney Benjamin Nevius saw it as a way to report important local court cases. Last month, the blog explored DUI blood tests, a local Superfund cleanup site and a pharmaceutical take-back program.

The blog also is a way to promote Fox Rothschild attorneys and their knowledge of the local legal landscape, Miravich said.

Decades ago, Kozloff Stoudt advertised mainly in the Martindale-Hubbell Lawyer Index and phone books.

Now, the Spring Township firm announces new hires on its own website. It also manages several social media accounts to share information with the public and current clients. Social media extend the company’s marketing and give staff another way to connect and build relationships. Traditionally, attorneys would start those connections at networking events, but that’s changed as people become busier.

“The Y Generation is less likely to be out there,” said firm administrator Robin Shappell. “If they’re not out there, how do we get to them? That’s when the answer is Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.”

Most Kozloff Stoudt employees have personal Facebook pages, and many attorneys have professional LinkedIn pages as well.

Shappell uses Facebook to show the personal side of the firm, with photos of community service.

Clients are asked how they heard of the firm, and often, the social media sites are mentioned, said Joan London, a firm shareholder.

“We know that it does have results,” she said.

Barley Snyder uses Twitter and LinkedIn to spread the word about lawyers’ speaking engagements and company information.

The Lancaster company with a Reading office recently attended a business expo, and Marketing Coordinator Jenna Wagner tweeted kudos to other expo companies.

The message is spread far and wide for very little time, leaving a bigger impact than a business lunch, she said.

“It takes such a short amount of time,” Wagner said. “It gets exposure for the firm’s name and shows our company to the community.”

While some attorneys are joining the conversation online, they’re more likely to read information than post. The percentage of these “invisible users” in the Greentarget survey rose to 74 percent in 2013.

Listening is fine, but lawyers should take the next step by building an online profile, which leads to more business, McKeown said. Starting a blog, for example, builds your network beyond family and friends, and each post strengthens those new connections. Sharing someone’s writing and linking to legal sources are great ways to create new relationships.

And the work pays off. Law firms getting 40 percent to 60 percent of their leads online grow four times faster than those generating no online leads, McKeown said.

When lawyers are active online, they choose LinkedIn, the “serious” social network. Two-thirds of counsel in the Greentarget report said they have visited LinkedIn in the past week for professional reasons.

London uses LinkedIn to research and connect with attorneys as well as share legal articles and professional events.

Wagner tells staff to post news and share with their contacts in relevant industries, such as real estate and construction. She also suggests taking five minutes after a professional talk to share a summary and add what’s important for the reader.

Barley Snyder attorneys have asked for LinkedIn training, so Wagner is creating a few sessions about the easiest ways to stay active on the site and get the most return on your time.

There are ethical pitfalls for attorneys online, considering the sensitive nature of the business.

Barley Snyder has a golden rule: “If you wouldn’t say it in public, in front of your peers or attendee at a seminar, it’s best to not post it,” Wagner said.

She advises companies to review social media policies annually because the social media landscape changes so quickly.

Attorneys should avoid giving advice online.

“When we post an article on our website, it always contains a disclaimer: This isn’t legal advice,” London said.

The firm also asks staff not to post confidential information online, because it can be read by an adversary.

Attorneys are discouraged from communicating with clients through Facebook. London will take a question from Facebook, for example, and respond through email, to keep the issue private.

Lawyers also shouldn’t discuss a case of their own or the firm online.

“You have to use discretion, especially when commenting on news stories of local interest, that you’re not potentially taking a stance that could be used against your client in court sometime,” London said. “You have to think before you post and think before you take a stand.”

Be careful about being insensitive, be considerate and use common sense, Shappell said.

London likes Ben Franklin’s words of wisdom, from centuries before the Internet was created:

“When in doubt, don’t.”

Mobile Consumption is Rising

With established benchmarks stemming from three years of data and analysis, our latest research reveals accelerated and irreversible trends regarding “on the go” media consumption and how B2B organizations market and communicate via social media channels.

Reflecting the input of 379 in-house counsel (an all-time high), the 2013 In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey offers ample evidence that social media tools have gone mainstream, providing strong insight to guide the marketing efforts of attorneys seeking to reach this audience. This also presents an inside view into executives’ attitudes toward these tools, which can inform communications programs across the C-suite.

Building on our 2012 data, more than half of in-house counsel say they are consuming news and information through mobile devices in 2013. Fifty-three percent of survey respondents are reading business news on their smartphones daily, while 39 and 23 percent, respectively, are using tablets and mobile apps for news every day.

And while 51 percent of in-house respondents say that receiving information through mobile devices makes them more informed, and 36 percent believe mobile devices help them manage information more efficiently, 34 percent say the mobile trend is contributing to information overload.

What is the key takeaway for marketers? To effectively reach current and potential clients on the go, make sure that your content is mobile-friendly.

Risk Management in Social Media

Two stories playing out today have our attention for similar reasons. Both examples relate to the influence of social media, namely Twitter, as a function of risk management.

The first is a well-written guest piece in today’s Wall Street Journal that explores the role the Boston Police Department’s Twitter feed played in correcting the misinformation that spread rapidly in the wake of the drama surrounding the frantic chase and apprehension of the Boston bombing suspects.

The Boston PD found itself in the unique position of being the authoritative voice on a rapidly developing, fluid situation that was complicated by inaccurate and conflicting media reports.  Their approach to leveraging social media is a quintessential, albeit unusual, example of the ways in which todays institutions are rapidly becoming their own media outlets, whether intentional or not.

However, in stepping forward in this role, the Boston PD opened itself to serious scrutiny and liability. Imagine if the department was viewed as trying to stifle, rather than correct, valuable information being disseminated at lightning speed. Their bold approach would not have been possible without a well-structured, carefully executed and internally aligned approach to social media designed for exactly this type of situation.

The second example occurred hours ago when The Associated Press Twitter feed was hacked with a hoax regarding an attack on the White House that never occurred. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 145 points in two minutes – a chain of events impossible for humans to have prompted alone.

This development illustrates the risk that occurs when you combine high-speed, electronic trading with an unquenchable desire among investors for informational advantage. While details continue to emerge, it will be interesting to determine just how this process unfolded and the extent to which trading systems are trolling social media outlets for keywords to trigger this type of sell off.

In the coming days and weeks, Twitter will be forced to answer a series of uncomfortable questions regarding its security and approach to authenticating information while news organizations rethink what processes are necessary to balance their approach to security with their need to be “first.”  We smell a series of Congressional inquiries, sequestration be damned.

All of these issues are further complicated by the SEC’s recent decision to allow guidance via social media.   While the data from the recently released 2013 In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey shows that in-house counsel and those executives they advise may not be actively participating in Twitter discussions, it’s a tool they will be forced to become familiar with by becoming active users in some fashion- either directly or indirectly.

This raises another interesting question – is it possible, or even advisable, to familiarize yourself with the nuances of a tool like Twitter indirectly?

Regardless, an organization’s approach to social media needs to be elevated out of the back rooms of the “social media manager,” a role often managed by the capable yet inexperienced 20-something set, and into the executive suite.

Leveraging social media platforms is quickly becoming a risk management priority in addition to a reputational opportunity.

New Media Continues To Alter Legal Marketing: Survey

By Ciaran McEvoy

Social media such as LinkedIn as well as blogs by lawyers, mobile telephones and the Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia are all growing in use among in-house counsel for networking and business development, according to the In-House New Media Engagement Survey, which was released Thursday.

The trend toward digital platforms is both accelerating and irreversible, according to the third annual study conducted by communications firm Greentarget, consulting firm Zeughauser Group and InsideCounsel magazine.

“The survey results suggest, in no uncertain terms, that the convergence of digital and traditional media is fueling the continued use of social media among the in-house bar,” said John Corey, president and founding partner of Greentarget, in a statement.

“Our 2013 survey makes it crystal clear — as evidenced by the sustained prominence of LinkedIn and attorney-authored blogs, the growth in mobile consumption of news and a continuation of the ‘invisible user’ trend — that in-house lawyers are using social media as part of their daily routines,” Corey added.

Among the survey’s highlights: The study said that among in-house counsel, the percentage of respondents who said they don’t use new media has dropped from 43 percent in 2010 to 27 percent today.

LinkedIn is still the major social networking website, with two-thirds of in-house counsel using it for professional reasons during the past week and 40 percent using it within the past 24 hours, the report said.

Lawyer-authored blogs are still respected and trusted, with respondents saying they read attorney blogs as often as they read those by professional journalists, with slightly more than half of those who responded to the survey saying that well-executed blogs influence hiring decisions.

The so-called invisible users trend is growing as well, with nearly three-quarters of social media users acting in “listen-only” mode versus commenting on posts or participating in discussions.

Fifty-three percent of survey respondents use smartphones to read their daily business news, while 39 percent use tablets and 23 percent use mobile apps for news every day, the survey said.

Sixty-five percent of respondents said they use Wikipedia to conduct industry and company research, according to the report.

Online videos from law firms are infrequently watched and peer-driven rankings have minimal impact on the opinions of outside lawyers or hiring decisions, the survey suggested.

Reached Friday for additional comment, Corey said LinkedIn and blogs “continue to be where it’s at” in terms of how in-house counsel get their business information.

He also said lawyers who have well-executed blogs “can move the needle in hiring decisions” among in-house counsel.

Norm Rubenstein, partner at Zeughauser Group, in a statement, said the survey was a “real asset” for legal marketers.

“Building on three years of data and feedback, this research can be used to advance legal marketers’ understanding of what in-house counsel use new media to do and what kind of content they are most likely to find meaningful,” Rubenstein said.

In a statement, Karen Cariello, associate publisher of InsideCounsel, added, “The 2013 research underscores that with the continued rise of digital media, organizations today can participate in the news cycle in ways that previously were unheard of.”

How companies use social media to hire law firms

ABA Journal
April 18, 2013
By Lee Pacchia

A new survey from public relations firm Greentarget finds that in-house counsel are frequently using LinkedIn and lawyer blogs to determine who they will hire, John Corey, founding partner at Greentarget, tells Bloomberg Law’s Lee Pacchia. But you won’t find those in-house lawyers in the comment sections of blogs or blogging themselves — they prefer to just listen, rather than engage, the survey says. The survey, which is co-sponsored by Inside Counsel magazine and law firm consulting company Zeughauser Group, is available here.