The Internet and the Courtroom
Ethics and Lawyers Online

Large firms: Take next social media steps


This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Large firms: Take next social media steps."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


Large firms: Take next social media steps

A few weeks ago I discussed the ways in which large law firms can use social media to create an effective firm-wide online presence by establishing firm profiles on the top three most traveled social media sites: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Once a large firm follows those recommendations and creates an effective enterprise-level presence online, the next step is to allow individual members of the law firm to interact on mainstream social media sites on a more personal level.

Of course, handing over the reins to individual firm members is an alarming proposition for many firms. There is a sense of loss of control of the message and fear of unforeseen conflicts and other public relations disasters.

Firms need to conquer their reluctance to allow individual members to engage on social media sites on behalf of the firm. Such personal interaction is the key to an effective online presence since people would rather hire other people to handle their legal matters — not large, impersonal, faceless institutions.

One way for a firm to test the social media waters is to choose a handful of select lawyers, such as younger associates and a few tech-savvy partners, to interact on social networking sites on behalf of the firm using their personal social networking personas. One way to go about this is to form a committee that includes the lawyers the firm has chosen, along with a few other partners, whose function will be to set ground rules for interaction and monitor the online progress of those interacting online on behalf of the firm.

The attorneys engaging in social media on the firm’s behalf should establish a basic online presence by ensuring that they’ve claimed and populated their attorney profiles on the main lawyer directory sites, such as Avvo ( and Justia ( Creating the profiles is free, and simple, and the sites are well traveled by potential clients seeking attorneys.

Each lawyer also should create basic profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook. LinkedIn is important because, even if it’s not used for online interaction purposes, it’s an easily discoverable online resume at the leading professional networking site.

A Facebook presence is similarly important. Facebook makes it easy for lawyers to connect with everyone they’ve ever known. Even if no other interaction takes place on Facebook, an online presence there allows lawyers to be found by, and stay on the radar of, the people that they’ve known from every stage of their lives.

After those basic steps are taken, each lawyer should determine where they intend to focus their online efforts. That decision will be based on their practice areas, target clients, geographic location and comfort levels with the different social media platforms. The decision-making process is not necessarily a simple one, and a more detailed examination of the factors to consider unfortunately, is outside of the scope of this column (but is covered more fully in the book that I co-author with Carolyn Elefant, “Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier”).

The nature of each attorney’s interaction will be governed, in part, by the formality of the specific platform. As a general rule, LinkedIn is the most formal, with Facebook and Twitter being more informal.

The following social media interaction formula provides a general rule of thumb regarding the content of information shared across social networks:

• Approximately 50 percent of interaction should consist of the dissemination of content that is in your areas of practice and would be of interest to your followers, including links to blog posts, news articles and any other substantive online guides.
• 30 percent of interactions should consist of conversation with others, including commenting on the blog posts of others and responding to other people’s posts on various social media sites.
• Blatant self-promotion is acceptable approximately 10 percent of the time, including links to content created by the lawyer or someone in his or her firm, news stories about the lawyer or the firm and updates about the lawyer’s practice.
• Finally, 10 percent of interaction should include posts about the lawyer’s personal interests, to the extent that the formality of the specific social media site permits it.

Things to share include details about hobbies, such as mountain biking, wine or running, updates on favorite sports teams or comments regarding current events, movies or books. Sharing this type of information, to the extent possible, is imperative. It makes the lawyer appear more personable, approachable and memorable.

So give the chosen lawyers some space and let them engage online and hold monthly meetings to monitor their interaction and address any problems that may arise. Then, take stock of their progress. You may find that their online engagement has been far less problematic, and much more beneficial, than you ever envisioned.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at [email protected].


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Kendra Brodin

Great article, Niki -- particularly like the percentages you suggest in your "social media interaction formula." Terrific advice for law firms (and individuals) looking to utilize social media. Well done!

Norman Taylor & Associates Exec Assistant

I have been struggling with this for a bit so and while I have come to similar conclusions this article helps.

What do you do though if the primary attorney wants to have a presence but doesn't have time to do it himself.

Nicole Black

Norman--Generally speaking, it's preferable for people who want an online presence to interact themselves rather than having others do it for them. It makes for a more effective online presence since the interaction is more personal and genuine.

This isn't always the case and it depends on the type of interaction, in my opinion. For example, having another person actually interact with others on a regular basis and not disclosing that the person interacting is actually an assistant, could be seen as disingenuous. So, for example, if an assistant regularly engaged others in conversations on social media networks like Twitter and Facebook using the attorney's profile, purporting to be the attorney, that will arguably make people feel slighted should they later learn that the attorney was not the person to whom they were speaking.

However, if the only thing the online profile is used for is the dissemination of information, such as links to articles, etc., having another person do that for you is less problematic. That being said, this type of online presence is arguably less effective than one where the person actively engages with others using social media, for the reasons described in the article above.

Hope that helps!

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