Throughout the past 15 years, social media has grown from a toy for teens into a driving force in economics, politics, and justice, and the legal profession has not been exempt. There are many reasons for this change, but the leading ones are the simplicity of obtaining legal services online and the personal connection social media allows clients to feel with their attorneys. As a general rule, clients do not hire based on the prestige of a law firm but on the personal connection they feel with an individual attorney.
This is excellent news for lawyers who are willing to adapt the way they work and especially for young lawyers who were raised in the social media culture. A strong social media presence is free, easy to manage, and can help you improve and expand your practice both through learning from other legal professionals and reaching out to new clients.
Especially for tech-comfortable lawyers, Twitter is an ideal platform to promote your practice, draw in clients, and learn valuable skills. The 280-character limit mandates good writing skills and drastically reduces the time needed to maintain a strong presence. The open communication allows any lawyer to engage with leaders in the legal community comfortably and easily. And the modernity of Twitter gives young lawyers a rare advantage over their older counterparts: Although many older attorneys have adopted social media, we were born in it. For those lawyers looking to thrive in the legal Twittersphere, here are a few tips.
Watch and Learn
There are a million great legal blogs and publications. And while it’s important for lawyers to invest in learning, the sheer volume of reading material can be overwhelming. Twitter can help you reduce that volume by allowing you to vet material through curators you trust.
Are you a Lawyerist (@lawyerist) fan or an Above the Law (@atlblog) devotee? Perhaps you’re a religious reader of SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) or Popehat (@Popehat)? Don’t just follow the blogs, follow their great contributors such as John E. Grant (@JEGrant3), Mary Juetten (@maryjuetten), Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC), and Jeena Cho (@Jeena_Cho). Let them tell you about the best new content from their own blogs and around the web.
Engage and Be Engaging
In the excitement over self-promotion, many attorneys forget the “social” part of social media. Don’t do that. There is a growing and highly engaging #legal community on Twitter. (If you don’t believe me, take three seconds to search #LegalTwitter). Reach out to people, ask questions, post valuable content, and engage people in their responses. Not surprisingly, lawyers like to talk on Twitter just as much as they like to talk in person.
Have a difficult question about legal writing? Ask Bryan A. Garner (@BryanAGarner). Bored? Challenge The Florida Bar (@theflabar) and Seattle U Law School (@seattleulaw) to a GIF war. (This actually happened after I wrote a shorter article about Twitter. It was hilarious.) Or perhaps you’re curious about some new legal tech? Send out an opinion poll or ask legal #innovators such as Alix Devendra (@alixdevandra), Damien Riehl (@damienriehl), and Nicole Bradick (@NicoleBradick) for their thoughts.
Treat social media the way you would treat in-person communications. People don’t want to talk to or hire the guy who only talks about law. They want to hire and engage with someone they feel they can relate to. So, post a comic you find funny, a photo of your family, or your latest 5K record. Above all, be a human.
Some notable humans: Joshua Lenon (@JoshuaLenon) is the lawyer-in-residence at Clio (@goclio) and a food enthusiast; his Twitter often features his latest #peasantking cooking experiments. Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) is a Texas Supreme Court judge who uses Twitter to make taco-related rulings and talk about his children. And, of course, we can’t forget legends such as entrepreneur and millennial voice Nicole Abboud (@nicoleabboud), certified #lawyerhuman Shreya Ley (@layyourroots) and her partner/husband Colin Ley (@lawyerhuman), legal guru/gadfly Dan Lear (@rightbrainlaw), or Minneapolis’s most outgoing and fun attorney for nonprofits, Jess Birken (@JessBirken).
It bears repeating: Do not advertise. Nothing will poison your social media presence worse than blatant and obvious advertising. This is not to say that you cannot promote yourself. Twitter is a great platform to promote yourself, but there is a fine line you must walk. Promotion is about demonstrating your value; advertising is suggesting that people hire you.
You’ll know the bad examples when you see them, but Aastha Madaan (@MadaanLaw) is a perfect example of the good. On her Twitter page you’ll see her having fun and engaging with others, but also articles she has written, profiles that have been done about her work, and information that potential clients might find useful. What you won’t see is her begging those potential clients to contact her with their legal problems. Perhaps the simplest way to think about it is this: If your Twitter posts look at all like a billboard ad, you’re doing something wrong.
As with any social media activity, you need to be consistent and dependable with your Twitter presence. Otherwise, followers will lose interest and people who reach out to you will get inconsistent results. It does not have to be a daily activity or even a weekly activity, so long as your followers can count on new content on a regular basis. That said, I would suggest posting something at least once a week. But don’t worry—being consistent in your posts doesn’t need to be hard. There are numerous programs such as Hootsuite (hootsuite.com) that can help you schedule posts to go out at a specific date and time.
And consistent activity doesn’t necessarily mean that you are regularly putting thought into unique posts. Sometimes, simple but consistent posts are better. When I started out on Twitter, I decided to post a legal joke every Friday as a way of making sure I was active. With that, #FridayLegalHumor was born. Now years later the hashtag has been picked up by other Twitter users, including multiple bar associations, and old tweets of mine still occasionally receive new attention. At other times I have tweeted out interesting information from legal books I was reading. It was easy, it was regular, and it was valuable information for my followers.
Separate Your Roles
Before you begin building a social media presence, it is important to think about and clearly define two things: your goals and your target audience. As you go about this process, you’ll likely find that your law firm’s goals and audience are different from your personal goals and audience as a member of the legal profession. So why not create separate accounts for each? With all the tools available to manage social media, it doesn’t need to take any extra time, and your efforts toward those identified goals will likely be easier.
Not sure what I mean? Use Greg McLawsen (@mclawsen) as an example. His personal account is often irreverent and always engaging for lawyers, but, outside of his food photos and travel stories, immigrants (his clientele) likely won’t find much value. So, Greg has a separate account for his firm, Sound Immigration (@WebImmigration). That account is full of important updates in immigration law and resources potential clients can use to help themselves.
We do the same thing in my office with a little more overlap. The firm’s owner, Patrick Palace (@PalaceLaw), and I (@jordanlcouch) focus on engaging with other lawyers. The Palace Law firm account (@PalaceLawOffice) is more about posting resources for those facing serious injuries. Where the accounts overlap is in promotional material. When the firm is telling potential clients about our latest victory, Patrick and I are probably celebrating the same from our personal accounts. Separating your roles doesn’t mean keeping them miles apart. Well-managed accounts fit together like puzzle pieces.
Find Where You Fit In
Or "find your tribe" as Lawyerist's Sam Glover (@samglover) and Aaron Street (@AaronStreet) would say. There is no shortage of people on Twitter, and odds are, no matter what sort of lawyer you are or what niche practice you have, there is a group of people already on Twitter who share your interests. Find them, follow them, and engage with them. You can type words into Twitter’s search bar to find people who are talking about subjects you like.
Some communities are more active than others. #AppellateTwitter is quite possibly the largest and most active #LegalTwitter group. With wonderful participants such as Georgia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Stephen Dillard (@JudgeDillard), appellate attorneys Jason P. Steed (@5thCircAppeals) and Raffi Melkonian (@RMFifthCircuit), and Professor Rachel Gurvich (@RachelGurvich), the community has taken off. These days you can even buy #AppellateTwitter mugs.
For legal futurists, there is also a large #LegalTech community, with members including Nicole Black (@nikiblack), Tom Martin (@lawdroid), and Sara Kubik (@SaraKubik). Even a lot of organizations get involved, such as Avvo (@AvvoLawyers) and Clio (@goclio).
In the modern legal marketplace there is no good reason not to be on Twitter. It’s free, it’s easy, and it offers value in a variety of different ways. If what I’ve said above hasn’t convinced you yet, then let me offer a couple more concrete examples of how Twitter can add value to your legal career.
I can honestly say that had it not been for Twitter, I wouldn’t have found my current job. I followed Evolve Law (@EvolveLawNow) on Twitter after I heard a webinar featuring one of its founders, Mary Juetten (@maryjuetten). That’s how I found out about an event being hosted in Seattle. It was at this event that I met my current boss, Patrick Palace (@PalaceLaw), and discovered we had shared interests.
I can also say that had it not been for Twitter, I would not be writing this article (or any article) for GPSolo. My path to becoming one of the GPSolo Division’s Young Lawyer Fellows began and was carried along by the wonderful attorneys I made friends with on Twitter (my #tweeps). Twitter helped me learn new things, build a strong network, and establish a presence in the national legal community. Best of all, none of it cost me a dime. So, take five minutes today and get started. Reach out to one of the people in this article or try one of the suggestions above, and use the hashtag #LegalTwitter to join the new legal community.