I believe social media is one of the top technological advances of our lifetimes. It ranks up there with personal computing, mobile phones and the Internet.
I didn't always think this was true. In fact as recently as 2011, I dismissed using social media for business purposes as "dumb." I've since publicly apologized for this assessment.
Why the change of heart? Well, in the beginning of 2011, A2L had about 800 unique visitors per month visiting our site. I thought that was plenty since we work on relatively few cases each month anyway. Well, in the next month or two, we will have seen that monthly visitor figure rise to more than 20,000 unique visitors to our site each month. Most come to this blog and most hear about this blog from social media.
Yes, it works for business.
This was the premise of a talk I gave recently at the Federal Bench Bar Conference in Columbus, Ohio. It was a great audience, I was on an excellent panel but I could tell there were still skeptics. How could there not be, with all the horror stories that get aired during these sorts of events? Most are common sense, of course. Don't use social media in violation of a judge's order in litigation. Don't discriminate against potential employees after researching them on social media. Don’t say something on social media that you wouldn’t want the public to know. But there are closer calls.
On balance, I think the rewards of social media far exceed the risks. Assuming you are using common sense in social media just as you would in your personal dealings as a lawyer, here are the five best reasons why I think litigators, in particular, should enthusiastically embrace social media:
1) You'll Get Better at Your Craft: Before the Internet, we exchanged best practices mostly by word of mouth. It was slow, and the rate at which people improved themselves was similarly slow. Now, when someone finds something works, whether it’s green buttons websites (yes, they work) or storytelling in the courtroom as a persuasion device, word spreads fast.
These are not just baseless fads. Rather, something is working and when it is, word spreads quickly. And the principal way that things spread is via social media now. If you are not on social media, your colleagues are going to speed past you in their own personal development.
2) News Travels Fast: Collecting news in the legal industry is more important than ever. From who is representing whom in a big corporate merger this week, to which law firms are supposedly teetering on the edge of failure, to who just published an article relevant to you. If you are not monitoring social media, you are just not going to see these headlines. There is just too much noise in the traditional media. Social media allows you to sort the critical from the superfluous, but you must learn how to do this and use these tools effectively. If you already are doing this, that is excellent. If you’re not, then it is a little like the best time to plant a tree. The answer is five years ago, but the second best answer is now.
3) The LinkedIn News Feed: One million out of 1.2 million of America's active lawyers are on LinkedIn already. The newsfeed on LinkedIn has become the business homepage of your industry. This is true because your colleagues and connections are routinely posting articles of interest about your industry. If you are not watching and monitoring job changes in your network, you are surely going to be left behind. Please do connect with me and be sure to follow A2L Consulting too.
4) LinkedIn Discussion Groups: The best discussions about litigation are not occurring at conferences, retreats or in the hallways of law firms. They are being conducted on LinkedIn in the popular discussion groups. Not using them or not sure which ones are best suited to litigation? Have a look here at our guide to the best LinkedIn groups for litigators and lawyers generally.
5) We are Our Networks: Business development has moved from golf courses to online. A recent survey of general counsel revealed that more than 90 percent say they search for or vet outside counsel using LinkedIn. Think about it: Would you really want to work with outside counsel (or a consultant) that happens to have an extra five hours to spend on a golf course or one that is busy? I know I don't have five hours to spare.
Now, let me be clear that when I encourage litigators to embrace social media, I don't think litigators really need to spend time on Twitter unless they need to monitor something relevant to their client. However, I think LinkedIn is now 100% mandatory for all lawyers and litigation support staff, and Facebook is a close second.
Other A2L related to social media for litigators, trial attorneys and litigation support:
- FREE E-BOOK DOWNLOAD: Social Media for Litigators
- Social media and jury consulting
- The top 50 Twitter accounts to follow for litigators
- Look at all the ways we connect on social media at A2L
- The best blogs for litigators to read