Lawyers and their use of social media in 2013
Social media: Up until recently, most lawyers had little interest in it. Social media was deemed child’s play and irrelevant to the practice of law. So, although I’ve been writing about its relevance to the legal field for years now, including my 2010 ABA-published book “Social Media for Lawyers,” in the past, my assertions often fell on deaf ears.
In recent years, however, that trend has slowly, but surely begun to change. As social media affects their client’s cases and is increasingly used as evidence in court, lawyers are finally beginning to sit up and take notice of this Internet-based phenomenon that is now intertwined with many aspects of our lives.
It’s no surprise, then, that the findings from the ABA’s recently released 2013 Legal Technology Survey (online: http://tinyurl.com/2013abatechsurvey) indicate that lawyers are using social media tools more than ever before, with solos and small firms leading the way. Even so, lawyers’ use of social media is growing at a slower rate than that of the general population. Nevertheless, the increasing use is a step in the right direction.
For starters, more lawyers are engaging on social networks than in 2012, with LinkedIn interaction by law firms leading the way. According to the ABA’s report, 56 percent of law firms surveyed now have a LinkedIn presence, whereas in 2011, only 37 percent reported using LinkedIn. Individual lawyers are flocking to LinkedIn as well, with 98 percent reporting LinkedIn use, compared to only 62 percent in 2011.
Facebook ranks second, with 35 percent of law firms surveyed reporting that their firms have a Facebook presence. In 2011, only 19 percent used Facebook for professional purposes. Individually, 33 percent of responding lawyers reported using Facebook, up from 22 percent in 2011. So, again, that’s a large increase over a two-year time period.
Next up, Twitter. While Twitter use by the general population is increasing exponentially, according to the ABA survey, far fewer lawyers participate on Twitter. Nevertheless, even though it’s a less popular social network for lawyers, its use also increased, with 19 percent of survey respondents reporting that their firms used Twitter in 2013, compared to a mere 7 percent in 2011. And in 2013, 14 percent of lawyers reported using Twitter whereas in 2011, only 6 percent of individual lawyers interacted on Twitter.
Another interesting finding from the survey is that blogging is on the rise, with more lawyers maintaining a blog for professional purposes than ever before. Blogging has been around for far longer than social media, so it simply makes sense that lawyers are more comfortable with it. After all, it’s more familiar, not to mention that effective blogging also showcases an attorney’s writing abilities and analytical thinking skills.
Of course, blogging also takes up substantially more time than other type of online interaction, so the number of lawyers who actually blog is smaller than those who use social networks.
So, how many lawyers are blogging in 2013? According to the report, more firms are blogging than individual lawyers. So, in 2013, 27 percent of law firms maintained blogs, up from 15 percent in 2011, while only 9 percent of individual lawyers maintained professional blogs in 2013.
All in all, the findings from the ABA’s 2013 Legal Technology Survey were both enlightening and encouraging. As I’ve been saying for years now, social media is here to stay. It’s now a permanent part of our culture and as a result it’s important for lawyers to understand social media in order to more effectively represent their clients. Engaging in social media is one of the best ways to have a complete understanding of the different platforms, so for that reason alone, it’s nice to see that the numbers of lawyers interacting online are increasing every year.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.