Social Media for Lawyers  (Public)

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Comments (15)

Lynne DeVenny wrote on 2 Dec 2009 2:00 PM

Great post, Adrian. I'm also a fan of yours on Twitter :)  I'd like to broaden one of your above quotes to say, "The best and brightest legal professionals, including paralegals, have a great future through the use of social media."  I know from talking to paralegals that many of them have the same reservations as attorneys do regarding social media, but it's just occurring to me that "social" is a possible misnomer for interactive resources that provide so much necessary information for today's legal professional.  Maybe legal professionals would be more open to it if we call it "free virtual CLE"...:)

Jaimie Field wrote on 2 Dec 2009 2:32 PM

Hi Adrian:  

Great post!

I want to answer one of your questions: What will next year bring for Social Media (SM) and the Law?  I think that 2010 will bring more attorneys to (SM) but not in droves.

There is a bit of precedent for this.  It took a long time for many lawyers and law firms to embrace the idea of marketing.  When Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977) was decided by the Supreme Court, first allowing lawyers to advertise their services many lawyers were upset, thinking that it demeaned the profession as a whole.  Many attorneys and law firms scoffed at the idea of marketing their services.

Fast forward to today and most attorneys are, and have been, doing some kind of marketing.  However, with each new marketing tactic, the Attorney or Law firm looks around and says:  "Which other law firm is doing this?  Is this worthwhile?"  

Since there are not many firms ACTIVELY participating in SM, many others say it's not worth my time.  Actively, to me, means that they are engaging in the conversations on Social Media Sites like MH Connect, linkedin, twitter, etc.  However, as 2010 progresses, a number of firms will begin to see the benefits which in turn will cause more firms and attorneys to see the benefits, and so on.  

Like law firm/attorney websites, participation in SM will become ubiquitous, but, IMHO, there will be much faster adoption than any other marketing or business development tactic out there because the noise about SM, its presence, feasibilty, ease and return on investments will grow increasingly louder.

Jaimie B. Field, Esq.

Rainmaking Trainer & Coach

Marketing Field, LLC

ADRIAN DAYTON wrote on 2 Dec 2009 4:05 PM


you are absolutely right.  Social Media is certainly not limited to Lawyers.  Law students, paralegals, and law librarians are in many cases leading the charge with these innovations.  

The educational component can't be left out.  The real purpose behind Social Media is not just interaction but the quality of the media created.  Information that is helpful to others will get passed on.  That's what makes Twitter so much fun.


I think you are right about this next year from attorneys.  They will never adopt new technology in droves, but you will see a continual movement of attorneys to these platforms.  

Mike Mintz wrote on 6 Dec 2009 11:48 AM


I've already told you on GWave how much I love this post, but I'll say it here again ... I LOVE THIS POST!  The interactive entertainment lawyer in me really appreciates the joystick analogy and think you are spot on with the observation that what seems more complicated about social media is actually more simple.  There are ways for lawyers to engage very casually in SM or even just lurk, which can provide great benefit to them.  

One of the reasons I think so many lawyers and legal professionals are hesitant to jump in (besides just being the risk adverse group that we are) is the ethical parameters are just so murky.  Does participating in an only forum present breach of confidentiality risks, even if the lawyer is only speaking in broad terms (Rule 1.6)?  Can a lawyer "friend" clients on a social network?  What about adversaries?  Can a lawyer's friend list create a conflict of interest (Rules 1.7 or 1.9)?  At what point can a lawyer violate her state's advertising rules by engaging in online promotion of her work (Rule 7.2)?  Can listing areas of practice or specialties violate Rule 7.5 restricting designation of "specializations" to strict standards?  

These are very new questions in the ethics realm and are only just starting to be answered (see North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission Inquiry No. 08-234 (2009), - where a judge's "friending" of one of the parties in a case before him resulted in failure to personally observe appropriate standards of conduct to ensure that the integrity and independence of the judiciary shall be preserved (Canon 1), failure to respect and comply with the law (Canon 2A), failure to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary (Canon 2A), engaging in ex parte communication with counsel and conducting independent ex parte online research about a party presently before the Court (Canon 3A(4))).  

I am excited for our theme next month that many of the members of this group are starting to work with us on: "Navigating the Ethical Pitfalls of Social Media" (thanks for your feedback on the title Adrian!).  We are going to discuss these questions and more in the hopes that lawyers will see they can participate safely in social media, that it is not some risky and unstable new fad they should avoid, and come to view social media for what it is: just a better tool to do what they have always done.  

Doug Cornelius wrote on 8 Dec 2009 2:51 PM

Adrian -

I am going to pick on you here.

First, why do you think lawyers are slowest to adopt web-based communication than other professions? Other than social media "experts", there does not seem to be a surplus of any profession. I would argue that accountants are far behind lawyers. The financial industry is even farther behind, but they can lay blame on limitations from the regulators.

The ABA list 2500 law blogs in its directory. Kevin O'Keefe shows that 41% of the 2008 AmLaw 200 law firms are now blogging. Steve Matthews has noted over 800,000 LinkedIn accounts for people identified in the law practice industry.

Second, you are proving your point about html, because you are showing a bunch of MS Word metadata and gobbley-gook (another technical term), not html code. I believe that people should learn some basic html. As we are moving to more and more web-based communication, we need to understand the basics.

I do like your analogy to the video game controllers. Simplicity is good. Clearly, Twitter has shown that simplicity is good and you do not need lots of fancy features. Training is just another barrier to adoption.  

(I have to admit that I have 4 of the 5 video game systems. I never did get a Super NES.)

ADRIAN DAYTON wrote on 8 Dec 2009 3:11 PM


No sweat, I like the attention.  Sometimes,  Lawyers seem to be catching on faster than I expected and this last year has seen explosive growth, but in general they have a long way to go. 2500 blogs in the ABA list is hardly evidence of widespread use.  Lawyers may not be the SLOWEST, but they definitely make the list.  

As for coding,you caught me, I never learned HTML, but I have been slowly learning enough about it to throw codes made by others into my blog.  The new simple tools make it possible for people that are better at throwing parties than coding still have a significant presence online.

I also have owned the game systems mentioned, and on the NES I learned the most important code learned by any card carrying member of generation X or Y.


Doug Cornelius wrote on 8 Dec 2009 3:35 PM

Adrian -

I am looking for some data on why you think lawyers are lagging other industries in the use of web 2.0 tools.

I certainly don't think lawyers are out in front, but who is? and how far behind are lawyers?

Personally, I don't think there is widespread use of these tools by ANY industry (other than "social media experts"). I'm just asking you to back up your allegations.

Priya Marwah Doornbos wrote on 8 Dec 2009 4:01 PM

I think Doug makes a good point in asking what industry is making widespread use of online social networking tools and I would be very interested in seeing such data.  We should remember that many people who are on Twitter and Facebook are people who are purely using it for social purposes and not for any business or networking purpose at all.  I know some attorney friends of mine who are on Facebook, but use it purely for social reasons and are not using it for business development or networking.  In face, one of my former Big Law firms only recently allowed its employees access to while at work and I bet there are still many law firms that still block access to such website while at work.  

But I also am an attorney who has embraced social media and have benefited from it.  But I am now also finding that it is taking up a lot of time and I am struggling to manage my time using social media.  It's too hard to keep up with everything!  

I'm glad to see from Mike that MH Connected is going to put on a discussion on attorney ethics.  That is definitely a concern for attorneys in using social media and an issue that attorneys should be aware of if they are not already.  

ADRIAN DAYTON wrote on 8 Dec 2009 4:04 PM

Doug, I am primarily referring to leadership in the AmLaw 100.  How many Managing Partners or leaders of major law firms have an active presence in the blog or social media world?  

I wouldn't say these people are slow to adopt the technology, I would say they are slow to recognize its relevance.  These are the leaders of the legal industry right now and they are not catching on.  

I have had discussions with CMO's and business development leaders for many of these firms and social media is still considered a novelty to them.  The whole world is going crazy about social media (for better or for worse) and many major law firms seem to be waiting to see if it blows over.  

Greg Lambert wrote on 8 Dec 2009 4:18 PM

I'll jump in and add my 2¢ worth of opinion.  

There is probably a ton of anecdotal evidence out there that lawyers (as a whole) are slow to adopt new technology.  One of my first experiences was moving attorneys off of WordPerfect 5.1.  

However, since then, perhaps they've improved on the time it takes for them to adapt.  For instance, how many attorneys do not have a BlackBerry?  How many firms do not have "networked" computers?  How many lawyers cannot access their documents when they are outside their physical offices?  Many of the established technologies have been adapted by lawyers and is firmly rooted in their day-to-day operations.  

About 15 months ago the ABA published an article that said that ( Web 2.0 Still a No-Go for Attorneys</a>.  But, I think you could have put a number of different professions in that title as well.  

Perhaps lawyers are still looking for solid evidence that Social Media tools are a necessary tool for their practice before dedicating the time, money and training expense of adapting the new technology.  My experience (aka 'anecdotal evidence') is that when lawyers see their peers profiting from using social media, they'll join in.

Doug Cornelius wrote on 8 Dec 2009 6:47 PM

Adrian -

You have been drinking too much of your Kool-Aid.

If you are going to say bad things about lawyers at least have facts to back it up.

If you want to focus on leadership, perhaps we should compare law firm managing partners to corporate CEOs. A friend of mine did a survey of the Fortune 100 CEOs. [ ] There was a negligible rate of participation in Web 2.0. Law firm managing partners are no different than corporate leaders.

Web 2.0 is new. It is a novelty. It still needs lots of maturity. Ethics, regulation and commerce need to catch up to it. The technology still needs to mature.

Lawyers are no different than the rest of the world in trying to figure out what to do with these new tools.

Jayne Navarre wrote on 9 Dec 2009 2:44 PM

I just returned from a self-imposed, digitally restricted diet while away for five days on a REAL VACATION. No email, no Internet and only made two necessary phone calls. Although it felt VERY odd, I think having the break was healthy. I missed the Internet most. I was traveling in rural Mexico and there were several times when I would have loved to "look up" something on the Internet, but had to rely on talking to people or finding and reading printed books and pamphlets, oh, and maps. No GPS, no iPhone data service for Google Maps, no nothing! And I found that I really didn?t NEED technology. Sure it would have been nice to have, but I still got where I was going and enjoyed myself along the way. I learned that I could still be successful with or without the help of digital technologies. That is a relief to know! Hahaha.

Maybe many who choose not to embrace social media are thinking like this too ? I don?t really NEED technology to be successful. Until I can conveniently fit this added task into ?my? already overburdened calendar, I?m not willing to be a first mover. Until this new medium becomes business critical (and I?m thinking it will in some future iteration) and until this technology improves ?my? life or ?my? client facing tasks it?s hard to justify the investment of my time. Eg. I have a nice book of business, referral sources. Face to face contact is important to these trusted relationships. I can use the phone or meet them for lunch. Email works well and it is integrated into most business processes. I don?t have to learn anything new right now. Let other people get their kicks out of experimenting and get their occasional successes. I?ll join in when it?s proven.

Frankly, that makes sense for a lot of people. The alternative makes sense as well. I see many people using social media to do what they?ve always done only better, faster, wider and more often.

A recent article in Business Week offered the analogy of social media to venture capital. It can take dozens of lukewarm or cold investments to hit one successful return, or not! Social media participation is an investment of time. You may write 30 blog posts or 100 entries into a social discussion and make a few new connections that are nice to have, but don?t deliver the goods you?re seeking. Then perhaps you may write one post and bang ? you hit the sweet spot and you?ve landed a new client.

If vague promises of increasing buzz, building trust, and the value of mass exposure and collaboration don?t sit high on the ROI food chain for a business leader then it?s no surprise they?re not investing their time there.  If the big time ?investor? understands that and they still want to play in the sandbox, that?s great.  But in ?selling? the value of social media, I think it?s important to be clear that its still very experimental and it?s not for everyone. (YET)

?Do I really need it?? ?What?s the value to me and my clients?? These are the overriding basis for adoption of any technology. That?s what needs to be answered by each entity or individual before we see wide scale adoption. Meanwhile, the rest of us will enjoy the ride.

ADRIAN DAYTON wrote on 9 Dec 2009 3:12 PM


Great points here.  I think you are absolutely right on everything you have said.  You don't need social media- yet- things are going great for you doing what you have always been doing.  Why mess with that?  

The potential of social media is attractive to people that aren't satisfied with their current results, or want a bigger platform to spread their message.  It is certainly not for everyone,

Social Media is an untested innovation.  It is a gamble for sure because we don't have 5-10 year case studies on the technology.  That being said, all the evidence points to widespread adoption of these tools.  The firms and attorneys that decide to innovate with these tools may put themselves in a great position, but it isn't guaranteed.

To answer Doug's earlier points- there is not widespread adoption by any industry of these tools, but at least in the business world you have some great success stories like Zappos and Blendtech that have used social media to bring about phenomenal results.  There are not yet comparable success stories for major law firms and social media, and I would suggest that until a few firms can demonstrate s competitive advantage from using social media- there will be no hurry to jump on the social media band wagon.  

(As for lawyers being slower to adopt social media than other professionals, that wasn't really the point of my earlier posts- I was really trying to ask questions that would get a discussion going- which apparently worked.)

John Lipsey wrote on 9 Dec 2009 7:11 PM

I'll dive in here myself.  I agree with many of the comments that point out that lawyers are not necessarily slower to adopt social media than other professionals.  Mainstream professionals often simply adopt it for different purposes and in different ways than "innovators", "thought leaders" and "technogeeks".

When we don't see busy practioners piling on in public forums, responding to public blog posts and tweeting their hearts out, we tend to assume that they're simply not participating.

Rather, mainstream lawyers are engaging when and if they see practical business benefit in doing so.  Many already do and are dipping their toes in.  But it's not all happening in the public forums, groups and on twitter.

In fact, I see considerable activity happening in smaller, private and confidential groups where specific business needs to be conducted.  These groups are created among legal departments or firms, among working committees tasked with particular goals, and among affinity groups in which all members have some strong commonality around which collaboration takes place.

Now, some may say that engaging in social media in these non-public, private, walled-off groups is not really in the spirit of social media.  I would argue that, in fact, it is the precise type of application of social media that makes sense in the context of the busy professional.  Some of us enjoy the broader public debate, and indeed there is business value in participating in that way.  But social media is also a platform for communication and lawyers are taking advantage of this tremendous platform, we just don't always see it.

John Lipsey wrote on 9 Dec 2009 7:29 PM

...Oh, and one more thing.  Maybe I'm showing my age here -- but you forgot the grandaddy of all video games -- Atari's Pong.  I doesn't get much simpler.  Two knobs... one game.  When my family got one in 1975 -- I didn't see sunlight for weeks.  Blip...Blip... Blip...