Legal Industry Poised for Social Media Sea Change

My bold prediction:  we’re in for a sea change in law over the next 12 months.

I began my law-marketing career in 1998.  Since then, I completed business school and law school.  I have seen an array of lawyers and law firms from development to decay, seen those who embrace marketing and those who run from it. 

Yes, it’s obvious:  the progress within law toward more use of social media and data analytics will move upward by next May.  I’m saying the movement will be swifter than in recent annual adoptions of such technology.  There was a slow drift, toward advertising and marketing of law practices in the ‘80s and ‘90s as prior prohibitions were lifted.  The advent of desk-top publishing, email, and then websites also changed the opportunities lawyers had for delivering communications.  In 2008, economics shifted the industry, forcing some to consolidate or find other means of fiscal efficiency and recovery.  Social Media and related analytics are forcing another notable change on the legal industry.

Though various social media platforms have existed for years, law firms and lawyers have taken a long time to entertain conversations about tools and platforms that might be used for business development.  I predict over the next year those conversations will increase as individual attorneys and law firm leadership recognize the ubiquity and power of social media (and data gained from it) to enhance business and client development goals.

Surely you know:  more and more lawyers are interacting on sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and FaceBook.  A few more also leverage engagement via Instagram and Pinterest, not to mention manage their own blogs (or regularly contribute to a blog).  Have you considered these next-tier options, beyond the basic three?

In early to mid-2011, I observed a marked up-tick in the number of business people coming to understand how to use social media and in those wanting to learn as much as possible.  During this past spring, I have started to see a similar strong surge of interest among lawyers, law firms, and law marketers, stronger interest than in the past two years, – to the extent I believe we will experience a notable rise from the legal community actively engaging in business development via Social Media by May, 2016.

In February, 2015, blogged about the ABA’s annual Technology Report.  The blog article includes statistics from the 2014 survey.  Based on those stats, I suggest the following trajectories:

I hope I am wrong – at least to the extent that I have underestimated here and even more progress is made.

A 2011 article from Adweek provided stats from a similar survey of 110 firms conducted by LexisNexis.  The article noted many firms that had a presence on LinkedIn and Twitter, but who were not using Twitter, for example, "in any meaningful way."  In 2015, we have more tools and greater awareness that combine to embolden individual attorneys to press for more autonomy in finding a social media pathway for business development.  I believe the next 12 months will reveal a push to maximize LinkedIn by individual attorneys who will interact more with groups and expand the range of information posted to personal accounts and to firm accounts.  Further, I believe more will come to understand or want to understand how to leverage Twitter as a source for news and actionable information about target markets and clients, as well as how to use Twitter to share information.  SEO Expert, Teresa Shaw posted at regarding the ABA's current survey, noting a key take-away: that lawyers and firms are indeed adapting to social and blogging, and "it's paying off."

One question:  Are you in the engine room, the dining car, or the caboose?  By that metaphor I mean:

  • Engine:  You are an early adopter and have already lead the way with your own engagement via blog posts, etc.  You may even be asked to teach and show the way for others.
  • Dining Car:  You are primed, you want to learn more, and will use the next year to seek out and attend training sessions that will help you improve business development and communication through social media (as part of your overall BD plan).
  • Caboose:  Social media is foreign to you.  You’re really not sure what it is, what you might need, and whether you really even need it.

For engineers:  Keep plugging away.  The continued-learning nature of today’s age is here to stay.  Speak and write about your experiences and shed light on a pathway for others.

For Diners:   You’re on the right track (no pun intended!) – gathering information and testing.  You cannot learn it all and not every platform or tool will be a great fit for you.  The more you study, the more you will understand and identify suitable tools and, more importantly, better define your own voice/specialty.  Plus, you will realize the impact to your budget for software and staff.  Just keep learning to stay nimble.  Specialties come and go faster than they used to!

To the Cabs:  (Cabooses? Caboosi? Caribou?)  Social media may or may not be a fit for you.  The most important thing for you to do is to seek advice of people you trust who are using a form of social media.  Find out what they like and don’t like, how they started, and so on.  Ask them what they would do in your shoes to develop business with their favorite social media tools, and how they would try to achieve that without those tools.  Then, armed with some new perspective, do your own homework investigating what makes sense for you and your practice.

Finally:  Channeling a bit of Porter’s Forces…

  • Outside pressure from clients for value-based pricing and AFAs
  • Inside pressures from rising business costs in order to stay relevant and afloat (and nimble, efficient)
  • Environmental pressure to shore-up outdated business models, websites, communications, hiring
  • Innovations that enable ease of access to information, and increased speed of access

…among others will further force the sea change.

So, let’s check back here this time next year and see how far you’ve come.  In the meantime, whether you are ready to speak to others about your proactive experience or you just want initial advice and brainstorming around options, Flip Cat can help and/or refer you to someone who can!   Contact us today.

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