When an important article comes out in the social media industry, I usually see it come across my Twitter stream. When the article relates to social media and the legal industry, I will often see it repeated over a dozen times. Sometimes, when an article is about social media, the legal industry, and controversy is involved the article gets emailed to me by lawyers all over the world and is forwarded to me by my aunt who generally only forwards lolcats. Just such an article hit last week, and if you aren’t living underground (without internet access) then chances are you probably saw it.
This article asked 1,000 people (that use landline phones) how they find lawyers. As expected, the poll found that people use referrals to find lawyers, “Forty-six percent of the respondents say they would ask a friend, family member or colleague for a lawyer referral, while 34 percent say they would contact a lawyer they know or whom they have used before.” This is not sensational or even novel. We have known for decades that clients hire people they know, like, and trust. What was unique? The data with regards to websites, blogs, and social media.
Nearly half or 49% were very or somewhat likely to consult websites where consumers can post legal questions for lawyers to answer. Forty-seven percent were very or somewhat likely to look at lawyer rating websites and 44 percent to check a lawyer’s own website. . . fewer than 20 percent were very or somewhat likely to consult Facebook, compared to 15 percent who would consult blogs and 9 percent who would look at Twitter.”
Now I don’t know about you, but for an organization like the ABA that has largely ignored social media and blogging until recently, this data is pretty impressive. Not impressive that the numbers are so low, but that they are so high. The legal industry is currently estimated to have somewhere around 5-10,000 law blogs. So out of approximately 1 million lawyers in the United States, only 10,000 have blogs. So 1% of lawyers have blogs. 15% of people (that are still using landlines) are using blogs to find lawyers. The important piece of data here is that a significant percentage of your average landline-owning clients are using Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to find their lawyer. Not to mention the fact that referrals are often requested and passed via these very same social networks.
The debate over this issue has raged on over the last week with great posts on the topic:
ABA shows blogs a leading form of client development (See comments for lively discussion between Will Hornsby and Kevin O’Keefe)
Blame it on solo by Carolyn Elefant
Relationships will always be the key to business development, so why do we have to keep returning to this silly debate over which is better relationships or social media? Social media is just a tool for communicating. It also helps build relationships. The sooner the old guard realizes it, the sooner they will recognize that blogs and social media are an important part of the business development mix and they aren’t going anywhere.