media: Why Your Firm Should Care
28 LEGAL MANAGEMENT SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2010
An introduction to social media tools to
get your firm up to speed.
BY TRACY ACOSTA-SPORE
Business today is conducted in a virtual world where organizations of all sizes have
the potential to participate on a level playing field. Information is king when it comes
to fully exploiting this virtual marketplace. Social media has become the
tool of choice for gathering and disseminating the plethora of information
available. How can a firm ensure their message is being heard and the right knowledge
is being gathered given the immense volume of digital data flying around in cyberspace?
That’s the question facing just about every lawyer and legal administrator today.
Results of the 2010 Corporate Counsel New Media Engagement Survey indicate
AmLaw-ranked firms have “jumped on the new media bandwagon” and a majority
of in-house counsel expects to interact with firms using these tools now and in the
foreseeable future. Of the 164 survey respondents, 62 percent indicated they prefer to
obtain their business and industry news online using a variety of digital tools. Is your
firm currently able to deliver this much sought-after business and industry news to the
electronic devices of choice, whether through a computer, BlackBerry or iPhone?
WWW.ALANET.ORG SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2010 29
Corporate counsel may find social media nine percent of firms are getting work directly or
tools invaluable in finding and engaging by referral from social networking sites such as
qualified legal counsel. These tools give firms LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.
an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise One of the best ways to attract a steady stream
in the areas of law in which they specialize. of traffic to a firm website is by incorporating a
You can find just the right firm to meet your blog. A blog is essentially an online broadcast
current needs by carefully listening to what of thoughts and information written in a casual,
they offer through these venues. first-person style. Bloggers post content that
communicates a message they want to share with
WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA? the community. Members of the community are
Before you begin any foray into the mysterious then able to provide feedback about that content
world of “social media” it is important to first by typing comments directly on the page where
understand what it is and how it is used. Let’s the blog post resides. These virtual conversations
start with a basic primer of the more common are usually available to the general public and may
social media tools currently available. appear in search engine results for the topic under
In broad terms, the entire Internet is one big discussion. This provides an easy way for firms and
social media tool. Search engines such as Google, potential clients to find one another.
Yahoo and Bing make it easier than ever to find Marketing professionals encourage bloggers
information. With this overload of information, to be “authentic” when creating content, but
however, it is easy to get lost in the sea of data. suggest that posted content be closely monitored
A few innovative companies have developed a to ensure it’s in line with the firm’s overall
handful of Web-based tools designed to harness business goals. Because the tone of a blog is more
the power of social media. casual, the message may be perceived as more
Most organizations, including law firms, personal. Blogs can help build credibility when
have websites already. Although it is not used appropriately and may be used by corporate
commonly considered a social media tool, counsel to determine their general compatibility
a branded website serves as an online brochure with a firm represented by the blogger.
and thus can help communicate your message. LinkedIn is a website that allows users to
Most law firm sites include office locations, create a profile that resembles a resume or CV.
attorney information, practice areas in which they Depending on the options selected, members
specialize and news mentions or press releases. may view profiles, receive status updates through
However, such static information is unlikely to comments and posts, and view who else they
attract repeat visitors and keep your firm in the connect with. Corporate counsel may also review
forefront of their mind. For corporate counsel, the connections of the firms in which they have
these sites may be your first exposure to what a an interest in engaging, which may be helpful in
firm can offer your company. avoiding potential conflicts. LinkedIn members
To remain competitive, firms may opt to may join groups and connect with others who
include newer social media tools such as a blog or have similar interests. If a group dedicated to a
pages on LinkedIn and Facebook. However, these particular interest does not exist, you can establish
interactive elements must contain timely, accurate one. LinkedIn is an avenue for listening to what
and useful information. Content must be updated law firms, clients, potential clients and competitors
on a regular basis to remain fresh and attract are talking about. Simply join the groups in which
repeat visitors. they participate and frequently review the posts
According to a recent survey conducted within the group discussion forums. “If you do
by Alyn-Weiss & Associaties on corporate nothing else,” said Jessica Jaramillo, a marketing
transactional and defense firms, 2010 National and business development consultant for Alyn-
Marketing Effectiveness Survey: What Works, Weiss & Associates, “join LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an
What Doesn’t and How Much Firms are Spending, opportunity for constant visibility. LinkedIn lets you
30 L E G A L M A N A G E MENT SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2010
get the word out and promote what you do 24/7.”
This is a valuable tool that can easily complement
face-to-face marketing efforts.
While LinkedIn tends to be focused on building
business relationships, Facebook is much more
social in nature. It’s likely that many of your firm’s
attorneys or their family members are already using
it personally, this minimizes the perceived threat
that may exist when adapting to a new technology.
Facebook allows users to become fans of a
company page. Fans are then able to see anything
the company has posted on its page in their own
news feed when they log on to the site.
Twitter is essentially a mini version of a blog.
Members can post short, 140 character messages,
called tweets, through the website or from their
mobile devices. Tweets are then broadcast and
are viewable to anyone. Most users tweet about
the status of current projects, things they are
interested in or working on or events they are
attending. Twitter members can follow others and
are automatically shown the tweets of any person
or company they choose to follow. Tweets can be
viewed from the website directly or via any mobile
device. LinkedIn or Facebook can also be set up to
automatically display these tweets directly,
thus reducing the time involved in keeping each
“Twitter is an amazing tool for gathering
information, disseminating information and
building readership for blogs. Lawyers should not
dismiss it as frivolous,” said Amy Knapp, President
of Knapp Marketing. However, Knapp also cautions
lawyers and staffers to enter the Twittersphere
slowly by following others for a while, listening
to what interests them and then carefully crafting
tweets in a way that will engage clients or
WHY USE SOCIAL MEDIA?
There are plenty of articles, how-to books and
websites covering the social media phenomenon,
yet you may not be convinced of their value for
a law firm or solo practitioner. Even when the
benefits are clear, most firms are reluctant to dive
in. Before taking that leap, evaluate which tools
are best suited to your firm culture, size, marketing
practices and business goals.
WWW.ALANET.ORG SEPTEMB ER/ OC TOBE R 2 01 0 31
Tracy Acosta-Spore, Office Administrator, THOMPSON & KNIGHT LLP
To remain competitive, firms may opt to include newer
social media tools such as a blog or pages on LinkedIn and
Facebook. However, these interactive elements must
contain timely, accurate and useful information. Content must be updated on a
regular basis to remain fresh and attract repeat visitors.
Educate yourself on the tools available and how 2.0 Summit in San Francisco last October,
competitors and clients are currently using them. “Improvements in social networking and mobile
Here is a general overview of what is occurring computing platforms (led by Facebook and
within the legal industry according to some Apple ecosystems) are fundamentally changing
industry thought leaders. ways people communicate with each other
• LexBlog indicates that as of March 2010 nearly and ways developers/advertisers/vendors reach
half of the AmLaw 200 firms are blogging – an consumers.” They also noted that Twitter had
astounding 147 percent more than in August year over year growth of over 1,171 percent
of 2007. with approximately 5,000 tweets per second
• Apollo Business Development reports that every being broadcast during peak times.
one of those AmLaw 200 firms has a profile
on LinkedIn. In fact, of the approximate 50 HOW DO I GET STARTED?
million LinkedIn users, nearly 1.5 million of Now that you are familiar with the basics of social
them are lawyers. media, the next step is to develop best practices
• Among the AmLaw 100, 31 percent have and policies associated with the use of these tools.
a Facebook fan page. Remember to distribute any policies internally and
• Seventy-six percent of AmLaw 100 firms have educate your population on using social media
a Twitter presence. responsibly. A social media blunder is a very public
misstep that has the potential to countermand
Some of these numbers may be somewhat any progress your firm may have realized
deceiving, as only a handful of the firms using previously. Sample social media policies abound
these tools have done so aggressively or on the Internet and may be found by doing a
effectively thus far. However, given the rapidity search using any of the popular search engines.
with which these tools are being adopted Information may also be found on legal-specific
by firms and their clients, this is likely a short- social media communities or through your
term condition. professional liability carrier.
According to Mary Meeker, Scott Devitt and Learning the essentials of using social media tools
Liang Wu of Morgan Stanley in their Economy themselves is as easy as reading a book, listening to
+ Internet Trends presentation at the Web a podcast series on iTunes or taking an online course.
Ann Handley and Mack Collier of MarketingProfs.com
Become a fan of ALA on Facebook: offer a podcast entitled “How to Blog Effectively for
Search for Association of Legal Administrators Business (GF101),” as part of the Inbound Marketing
Join us on LinkedIn:
University podcast series on iTunes. They suggest
Search for Association of Legal Administrators that bloggers should be passionate about the firm,
excited about social media technology and interested
Follow us on Twitter:
@ALABuzz in connecting with current and potential clients. They
also point out that bloggers should be good writers
32 L E G A L M A N A G E MENT SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2010
who are willing to commit time on a regular basis to about the author
keeping the content fresh. Laura Fitton of Pistachio Tracy Acosta-Spore is Office Administrator for
Consulting and co-author of the book Twitter for Thompson & Knight LLP in Dallas, Texas. She is
Dummies, also participated in the podcast series with also the VP-Programs for ALA’s Dallas Chapter and
a segment entitled “Twitter for Business (GF501).” frequent contributor to Legal Management and the
Fitton suggests that using Twitter allows companies Lonestar Administrator, a publication of the Dallas
and brands to “engage more deeply with consumers Chapter. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
and markets in strategic and powerful ways.”
The Association of Legal Administrators (ALA)
is a great tool for learning about social media.
Some members of your local chapter have likely
investigated the possibilities, started a social media
program, or created a social media policy, network
with other members who may already utilize these
tools successfully. There will likely be speakers on
social media at chapter meetings and regional
conferences. As always, you can access the
www.alanet.org website for resources and
information about social media. These resources LES S DOUG H
may be the best way to determine which social
media options may be of value to your organization.
“Lawyers just need to get comfortable engaging
in online conversations … they just do,” said
Knapp, who also cautions lawyers and staffers to
internally introduce the topic of social media slowly.
“Do not come in like gangbusters or the prophet
of social media.” Continue to add one additional
social media tool at a time until the appropriate
mix is achieved that best suits your business needs
and the social media experience of your attorneys.
Remember to keep the information fresh and remain
actively engaged with your followers. Listen as
much as you communicate, adjusting your message
appropriately to meet the needs and expectations of
the client community.
If one of your tools is languishing remove it rather
than abandoning it. Having stale content that’s no
longer pertinent or a Web presence that’s never
updated does not present a favorable impression.
Remember creating an online presence is not a
one-time activity. Your firm must be committed to
engaging clients and potential clients for the long haul.
Although the monetary investment may be
minimal, the time investment necessary to do it
successfully should be considered when deciding
on a social media strategy that is right for your
organization. However in today’s world, it is likely
you will find any time investment worthwhile. K
WWW.ALANET.ORG SEPTEMB ER/ OC TOBE R 2 01 0 33