Over the past couple of years, I have attended multiple sessions on social media for lawyers all over the United States, and even in Canada. Much discussion at these events is about the rules and ethical pitfalls awaiting attorneys on all social platforms. A couple of themes have emerged as outlined below, but I am struck by the idea that again, it appears that the law is trying to create custom solutions and make special something that should be part of running your firm like a business. Marketing appropriately through regular channels should not be something that needs a law-specific approach. This is good news, because lessons can be borrowed from other comparable industries.
The law is not the only industry or profession with advertising regulations. Those ethical rules are not so onerous as to prohibit the use of social media to educate and engage clients. Social media is a powerful marketing tool that many, within and outside the law, do not fully utilize. That said, lawyers should practice law, and in the vast majority of instances, leave the marketing to an expert by outsourcing or delegating.
Lessons for Lawyers
At Reboot Your Law Firm for 2018, a day organized by the Atlanta Legal Tech Community in December, the presentation on social media resonated well with the 50 small law firm attorneys in the room.
Find your Clients
The key to good marketing and advertising is to connect with customers before they have a need. Content marketing has been around for decades now, and the idea is to provide informative content to educate potential clients. At Reboot, Christina Scalera explained that attorneys should be cautious, and not call themselves experts or let others brag about them in social media posts.
The main point made was that you need to provide more educational content over pure marketing or advertising copy. Finally, choose one social media platform at the beginning and engage with that audience as opposed to trying to be everywhere and not having a good presence.
Put Yourself in Your Client’s Shoes
When researching client behavior for group legal plans, LegalShield pulled together the chart below based on Thomson Reuters 2016 annual FindLaw survey of U.S. Consumer Needs. The idea is to look at what clients expect and position your firm accordingly. The last statistic is relevant, with more than half of the public hiring an attorney who is active on social media.
|Participants Demand||Because Survey Said|
|Mobile Access||71% use their smartphones to solve a legal problem|
|Immediate Attention||58% look for an attorney within the week|
|Expertise||45% consider expertise as a top factor|
|Local Resources||78% wish to hire a local attorney|
|Quality Services||67% use attorney reviews to select lawyers|
|Visibility||54% hire an attorney active online and social media.|
Use social media to educate. Too many attorneys believe that people will reach out to them when they need a lawyer, which seems to make sense based on the above. However, the problem is that many do not understand when a lawyer can help them, particularly with civil matters.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
At the same Reboot event, the Lawyerist’s Sam Glover made the excellent point that by demanding custom software for legal, we are ignoring amazing tools in the wider market. For tasks like project management or custom relationship management, look to the proven tools outside of the legal market, rather than restricting yourself to technology that only works in legal.
Consider Legal Plans
A lawyer at Lawyerist’s TBD law mentioned LegalShield and the other attorneys in the group had not heard of the company. LegalShield, along with other large group legal services companies, like ARAG and Hyatt, provides consumers prepaid legal plans, usually for a flat monthly fee. It’s similar to a health benefit. LegalShield offers plans directly to the consumer or through businesses. These plans are for families, individuals, and small businesses and provide access to legal services in ordinary matters, plus emergencies.
Most importantly, all plans use attorneys, whether through provider firms in each state or by referral, to provide legal services. The marketing and new client acquisition is done for the attorney. As Keri Coleman Norris, senior vice president and general counsel of LegalShield said, “our mobile app puts a ‘law firm in the palm of your hand’, allowing our members to call their provider firm from their mobile phone; send speeding tickets or documents in from their app, or complete questionnaires to facilitate legal service.” That connection between client and attorney allows lawyers to practice law, not social media—just one solution for those lawyers who do not wish to engage on these social platforms.
Whatever your focus for 2018, the key is to plan and use what is already available. A great first step is to follow the thought leaders above on social media and learn from their example. Next, start with education and also consider investigating one of the legal plans to expand your reach.
About the Author
Mary Juetten is the founder and CEO of Traklight, a cloud-based platform for tracking and protecting intellectual property, and is the co-founder and managing director of Evolve Law, a membership organization of legal entrepreneurs focused on innovation and the future of law. Contact Mary on Twitter @maryjuetten.