The prevailing wisdom among law firms regarding social media goes a little like this: “LinkedIn is a great professional network so we should have as many of our lawyers on there as possible. Twitter has only minor relevance, and Facebook we should avoid altogether.” I hate these broad sweeping statements because they show little thought for how people â€” clients and prospective clients in particular â€” use these tools on a daily basis.
Facebook Is a Dinner Party, Not a Billboard
Facebook is extremely useful to help build existing relationships. Is it too personal? Absolutely. But that’s the point. When you have worked with a client for years don’t the relationships tend to get a little more personal? Don’t you want to know when your biggest client’s children graduate from high school or perform in the school play? These types of relationships are incredibly valuable and go beyond business. It is likely these people send work to you in part because they sincerely like you and you sincerely enjoy working with them. Read more
Originally published in the National Law Journal on September 19, 2011.
A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Memphis, Tenn., to participate in the International Legal Technology Association’s national convention. During a discussion called, “What your lawyers need to know about social media,” we panelists were asked what we thought of Google+.
There was some serious backlash when I suggested that Google+ might fizzle out, just like Google Buzz and Google Wave (Google’s previous attempts to play in the social media sandbox) before it. The other panelists adamantly disagreed, and my poorly received comment was tweeted and re-tweeted across the Internet.
For those unfamiliar with Google+, it is kind of like Facebook but with more intuitive privacy settings. Each connection on Google+ is assigned to a circle â€” “friends” circle, “business people” circle, “strangers I haven’t seen since grade school” circle, and so on. This is really a great feature, and it makes it so easy to keep your business life separate from your personal life. The only problem is, there is already a very easy way to keep those two separate. It is called Facebook and LinkedIn.
I know what you’re thinking â€” wouldn’t it be better to have it all in one site?
I had the chance to interview Richard Susskind, author of the bestseller, The End of Lawyers (Oxford Press 2008). I asked him about his perceptions of social media, marketing for law firms and the future of the legal industry.
Susskind is one of our leading futurists, keeping busy as a lecturer and consultant on information technology to large law firms and legal departments. Since 1998, he has served as adviser to a series of chief justices of England and Wales. He teaches at Oxford University and writes for The Times of London.
When Susskind began sharing his ideas 30 years ago, he felt like a “voice in the wilderness,” he said. Things have changed a lot in the last few years, but “it’s very hard to walk into a room full of millionaires and tell them they’ve got their business model wrong.”
This wasn’t the first time I’d heard this sentiment. During a meeting at a white-shoe law firm earlier this year, a frustrated marketing expert complained that the lawyers were making too much money to be interested in changing the way they did things.
“Do firms really need to change?” I asked Susskind. Read more
In the middle ages there was a custom in European villages to ring the church bells for deaths. The common reaction to hearing the melancholy chime was to question, “was it somebody I know? was it somebody I love?” In 1624 John Donne questioned this practice saying, “[N]ever send to know for whom the bellsÂ tolls; it tolls for thee.”
This phrase wasn’t real to me until the morning of September 11, 2001. I arrived to my economics class only to see the faces of all the students glued to an image on the television of two flaming buildings. Â We watched in horror as the first and then the second building crumbled like match stick houses. I didn’t know anybody in the buildings that day, at the Pentagon or on any of the three hijacked planes. But the morning was one of the most tragic days of my life.
The next hours and days I spent glued to the television. I had never watched so much tv in my life, yet I couldn’t look away. I remember attending the funeral of a great uncle when I was younger and thinking, “I should try to cry, try to be sad,” but it was hard because I didn’t really know that uncle. I didn’t have a relationship with him. I find it perplexing how much more emotional I was over the tragedies of 9/11. I was deeply effected by this tragedy to total strangers and I know that I was not alone.
It is estimated that when the second tower of the World Trade Center fell there were over 1 billions viewers watching it on live TV, worldwide. Three years before Facebook was started and five years before Twitter existed, one tragic moment connected human kind. Never before in history had so many been connected for a single moment.
As a result, patriotism was reborn in America. The American flag went from being an old fashioned decoration to being a symbol of the pride we feel for our nation. Donations flooded in, blood banks were overwhelmed by generous people wanting to help however they could and church attendance of ever denomination surged. We were changed that day.
The cynics in our society, of which we have plenty, complain that “a few weeks later everything was back to normal.” Or they point to the costly wars and lives lost since then and claim that it was all for nothing.
I plainly disagree with this skepticism. In one of the darkest hours for America in my lifetime, we pulled together. In that moment when all Americans glimpsed the fragility of life and for a second truly appreciated everything we have- we recognized in ourselves the potential to do something more, be something better.
Something stirred in us that day. A part of us that many didn’t know existed was revealed. Even if we try to ignore it, try to return to our mundane lives, years later we can never forget what we learned about ourselves in that moment of crisis and tragedy. We are profoundly connected as human beings and it has nothing to do with a high speed internet connection.
For those that haven’t read the John Donne poem mentioned above, here it is:
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every
man is a piece of the continent, a part of the
main. If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory
were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or
of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes
me, because I am involved in mankind, and
therefore never send to know for whom the bells
tolls; it tolls for thee.”
-John Donne, For Whom the Bell Tolls (No man is an island).
My father once told me that to achieve anything really meaningful in life requires sacrifice. This isn’t quite the same message I’m hearing from the media. Instead, they promise us, “Get rock solid abs by just spending 15 minutes a day!” When I see such claims, an alarm goes off in my head: “Warning! Something isn’t quite right about this.”
At the same time, the reason we see so many of these messages is because, even though we doubt the dubious claims, a part of us really wants to believe they are true. Everybody is looking for their own fountain of youth or magic beans. Many expect the same from social media: some trick, some series of tweets or LinkedIn participation that will guarantee a steady flow of new clients. I have a hard reality to break to you: Real success through social media requires real work. Read more