Law Firms, Social Media, and Business Development Teams

A few articles by legal marketing experts caught my attention last month. The first was mentioned in my previous posting, “Get Online in 2012.” In essence, it stated that it’s time for law firms to let their lawyers engage with potential clients online. A second article similarly suggested that law firms should be using social media to get peoples’ attention, and that it can be appropriate to do this through opinionated or controversial postings, if within the firm’s area of expertise. Then given my interest in the role that teams can play in various organizations, the third article that caught my attention was this one with its self-explanatory title: “Law Firms Should Build Teams for Business Development..”

The ideas conveyed in these articles brought me to the conclusion that it isn’t just time for law firms to encourage their lawyers to engage with potential clients through social media, but it’s time for firms to develop and implement clear social media strategies to coordinate their business development team. Firstly, the firm needs an overall policy for the use of social media in business development. Part of this policy might include recommendations to lawyers on topics they might like to discuss and topics they might like to avoid. For instance, if the firm values a particular client, or wants to attract a particular sort of client, then the expression of particular views on particularly controversial subject matter, might be encouraged or discouraged. The firm policy should also consider how it can make use of every voice in the firm – from administrative staff, through students to associates and partners. Every voice, through each different medium (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and blog posts broadcast through all forms of social media), adds to the volume of the message that the firm wants to convey. It might be to demonstrate its expertise in a particular area of law, its unrivaled client service model, or its fun and energetic work environment.

The importance of the student and associate voice in recruiting other talented lawyers shouldn’t be ignored. For instance, students might be encouraged to get involved in firm business development and reminded that talking about how over-worked they are isn’t the best way to attract the best future colleagues. The firm might someday be their firm, and they should be encouraged to think of it in that way.

Each practice group will also have their own agenda in terms of business development. Again, it will be important to consider at this level the sort of clients (industry, economic and geographic area) they are hoping to attract. Each lawyer, given their expertise, interests and personality could have a specific role to play in business development efforts. Each should be encouraged to have their own social media voice, within the bounds of the firm and group’s marketing goals and policy. In this way, with each members’ assets put to work in the firm’s overall business development strategy, the firm will begin deploying the currently underutilized business development team already at its disposal. The key is to make each member of the firm (the business development team) aware of, and involved in, the creation and promotion of the firm’s business development agenda. After all, it’s in the interests of everyone to ensure the firm has a prosperous future, and they need to be made to feel a part of that.

The difficulty with social media, as the above articles suggest, is the risk of saying things you didn’t mean to say, and reaching the audience you want to reach with the things you do intend to say. A great way to keep the subject matter of your social media contributions appropriate and on topics that people want to hear about, is to consider one of the oldest legal business development tools: offer a little free legal information that’s relevant to a specific legal problem. With the limitless audience available online, this traditional business development method can be applied online even more effectively than it was in one-on-one communication. Your information doesn’t just respond to a single question asker, but connects with thousands of others with a similar problem who are looking for a lawyer with the required expertise. And aside from the marketing benefits, pro-bono legal work makes a lawyer and the profession look good from any perspective (you might like this recent article on integrating pro-bono into your practice).

It’s in solving the problems of social media marketing that steps in to help lawyers out. AdviceScene has the audience of thousands of potential clients posting and reading questions for which they want legal information and a lawyer with relevant expertise. To complete the social media solution, AdviceScene broadcasts each lawyer’s answer to over 100,000 social media followers via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. At AdviceScene, lawyers don’t need to worry about creating their own social media audience or second guessing everything they say in case it might be inappropriate or misinterpreted. The audience is already there and dictating the content they want. The lawyer just has to respond with relevant general information and they’re immediately engaging and demonstrating their expertise to thousands of potential clients looking for a lawyer online. In addition to the business development benefits, AdviceScene is helping member lawyers (and the profession) look great because they’re offering legal information where people are now looking for it.


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