Open Letter to Law Firms: Control The Message

Dear Law Firms:

Why don’t you want your attorneys engaging in social media like blogs, Twitter, and Facebook?

Is it because you want to “control the message?” Let’s take a look at why this is a flawed strategy.

In the old model, partners with the big firms are pillars of their community (or should be). They are members of the country club, park their boats with the local Yacht Club, participate in great programs like Rotary and United Way, and volunteer with the Boy Scouts. Being engaged in the community is a major component of what makes them so successful. They are involved, and when legal work arises, they are called upon because they are known. This is a great model, and it will continue to be an effective model.

Was controlling the message a problem in the old model? No, and why not? Because as firms, you hired trustworthy people that weren’t going to embarrass you. What would happen if one of your attorneys got arrested? It would look bad for your firm, and so firms try not to hire people that might get arrested. You see, with the old model your firm still needed to control the message- you simply had confidence in the people you hired. For attorneys to effectively use social media the firms need to TRUST the attorneys. Is that really too much to ask? (Let me finish before you answer that.)

Besides, there are three major problems with the OLD model. First, memberships at country clubs and chairs on non-profit boards can be very expensive to maintain. Young lawyers can’t afford those types of expenditures. Second, it takes years- maybe even decades to garner the stellar reputation needed to land business that way. It is well deserved, but it takes time. Third, community engagement is limited in geographic scope. If you are in a struggling market like Buffalo, NY or Pittsburgh, PA as the market share shrinks- so will your business. Social media allows attorneys to realistically have a national reach, without leaving home.

As I have said in previous posts, each attorney in the firm is already a brand unto themselves. As they participate in the community- the brand gains in value. If they write an article for the local newspaper- the brand gains in value. So why not encourage your attorneys to engage in social media and provide them with the tools and training to participate thoughtfully? Each time one of your attorneys writes a blog post about a legally relevant topic, the firm gets free advertising. Each time an attorney post a thoughtful comment on a legal blog, more free press for the firm.

I’m not suggesting a social media free-for-all where attorneys suddenly stop billing because they are on Facebook and Twitter all day, but instead more of a focused individual strategy for each attorney. This strategy would likely entail weekly or monthly blog posts, combined with participation in forums such as LinkedIN, Martindale Hubble Connected and Twitter.

Firms certainly need to control the message, but that will be best accomplished by hiring good lawyers, and trusting them to engage, in whatever venue, in a thoughtful and respectful way.

Virtues Experiment

This month 16 individuals set out to better understand what integrity means. They were all asked to think about integrity, and make a personal goal to have the Month of March be their Month of Integrity. The variety of goals were instructive, showing that integrity means very different things to different people. Here are some of the great goals individuals from the experiment chose:

– Never criticize another person when they aren’t around, unless you are willing to criticize them to their face.
– Train for a half marathon: show integrity by keeping to the goal of running 6 days a week.
– Goal for lent- eat no cheese for 40 days- and be 100% faithful to that goal.
– My word is my bond, follow through on 100% of my commitments, if I say I’d like to watch American Idol with my neighbor- I will watch American Idol with my neighbor.
– Learn to speak Spanish, specifically- learn 60 new words per week.
– Truly live my religion, seeking after things that bring me closer to God.

I am hopeful the members of my virtue experiment will achieve all of their goals, but if not, the process of picking these goals, and sharing them with the group has already created a vision of their potential that will hopefully create unexpected opportunities and serendipitous results.

Here are a few tips I would like to share for setting powerful goals this month:

GOAL SETTING TIP #1

Trees grow because they reach for the sun. For personal growth to occur, we have to leave our comfort zone- explore undiscovered country. The best goals will terrify us a little, demanding we take a step into the unknown.

GOAL SETTING TIP #2

Expect discouragement. Nobody can be perfect in accomplishing their goals, and we must anticipate falling short sometimes. Be honest with yourself in setting goals, but also be honest with yourself in your shortcomings- do not be discouraged if you fall short of perfection.

I want to invite anybody reading this to join us for the month of integrity. Think about what integrity means for you, and set a goal to make this your Month of Integrity. Feel free to comment below, (publicly or anonymously I’ve changed the settings) and let us know what your goal is!

RANT- Lawyers Don’t Need Social Media?

“My firm is very interested in launching a new marketing campaign. You should talk to them,” Sarah told me after discovering I helped law firms with PR.

I then went on to expound on the powerful tools and searches that can be used on Twitter and Facebook to identify specific leads, and to bring traffic to your blog and website.

“Twitter? I don’t think our Estates Practice could really benefit from that; we only work with high-net-worth individuals. We are thinking more along the lines of mailing out a newsletter or something.”

“Those old marketing tactics are so outdated,” Brian, my friend who works for Omniture, chimed in.

“Well, I just don’t think our firm is into Twitter or Facebook.”

How common is this? The leaders of large firms, many of them who still think fax machines are a pretty nifty idea, are making the technological decisions for the firm and every individual that is a part of it. Or check this out, the ABA’s latest article on GREAT law firm websites. Here it is. The author? A 3rd year law student, Rex Gradeless. He makes some great points- and Senior Partners need to start listening.

Here was another conversation:

“We just want to control the message coming from the firm,” a Marketing Director from a medium sized firm told me.

How is that even possible? In a large firm made up of dozens or hundreds of attorneys, each attorney is a brand unto themselves. That’s what many firms don’t get; as the brand and star rises of each individual attorney, so goes the firm. The firm’s marketing committee should be giving the attorneys the support and tools they need to get that message out. They certainly should not be discouraging attorneys from using these cutting-edge tools.

Besides, these are lawyers we are talking about. When doctors were still putting leeches on sick people, lawyers were drafting the United States Constitution. Lawyers have a long history of not just being part of the discussion, but leading the discussion. Applications like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin aren’t just passing fads, they are increasingly becoming the way we communicate. The faster lawyers learn this, the better chance they have of surviving in the new economy.

That’s my rant; thanks for reading.

Act Like Friends, Live Like Strangers

Is social media in fact anti-social?

Here is a conversation that I overheard from an acquaintance:

“I have so many friends on facebook that I would never talk to in real life.”
“Seriously?”
“Yeah, yesterday I was at the Mall and I saw one of my facebook friends, and I purposefully avoided eye contact because I didn’t want to have a forced conversation with him.”

What is the point of social media if it doesn’t translate into real offline connectivity with other people?

I know what your going to say, that social media enhances our existing relationships through sharing pictures, coordinating activities, sharing information, and etc. I think that might be overstated.

My point is that the most important relationships we have in this life require time, sacrifice, and dedication. Our relationships with parents, children, spouses, or other loved ones won’t grow and flourish if we only maintain them through facebook hugs, and twitter nudges. We must be comitted to putting these relationships first, or we will be left feeling utterly alone even while virtually surrounded with hundreds of friendster, followers, and readers.

At the end of a hard day at work, after our son has gone to bed, there is nothing as valuable to me as the quiet time my wife and I spend together talking. I close my laptop, turn off the t.v., turn down the music, and we just enjoy eachother’s company. Its my favorite part of the day, and that is something I really digg.

When is social media at its best/worst?

After writing the post I found some other great articles on the subject

HERE

and

HERE