Thursday, 8 April 2010

Play the advantage

Working in the digital media industry I see first-hand every day the benefits to individuals and businesses from taking advantage of the newest technology, social media and web 2.0.  An industry was born of it, trailblazers lead it, those who participate in it are cutting-edge, engaged with their customers and reap the rewards.  They also have a bit of fun with it.

Hold on a minute….what was that you said?  What’s web 2.0?  Ah yes, social media it’s a risk isn’t it, you need rules to prevent your employees recklessly libelling their boss on Facebook. I don't give staff access to social media sites, its counter-productive.  I can’t Twitter, it would be a breach of confidentiality. Anyway, my firm has a website.

Sorry. I forgot. You’re a lawyer. Risk-averse.  You hear "social media". You think "policy". Go on, admit it.

So, I was delighted to read about this excellent symposium being organised by lawyers for lawyers.  It’s a fresh and quirky look at how technology is affecting the practice of law. Sessions include: “Up in the Air and the Cloud”,  Would Lincoln get Linked In? Or would he Tweet?” and, my personal favourite, “What’s your Avatar? How social media is changing the way we work and how to take advantage of it”.

If you're lucky enough to be attending this symposium, you just know you’re going to be able to listen to people excited about their subject and come away feeling inspired to get your personal lawyer brand online, out there and competing with the best of them.

Contrast those sessions with an in-house lawyer forum I’ve been invited to recently by a regional law firm. How could I not want to find out: “How to control social media in the workplace”, “How to prevent online defamation” and “How to control your risk online”. 


It gets worse.  An entirely separate conference I was invited to bears the ominous title “The Internet: What can go wrong and how to avoid it”.  It includes sessions entitled “An Online Survival Guide”, “Avoiding Problems” and “How to Perform a Legal Operation”. 

No, I don’t get the relevance of the last session either. But it’s a conference about the internet so….err…I guess it needs some scary sounding items that lawyers can warn their clients about.  Maybe the organiser got a byte from a mouse when he was younger. 

Anyway, I know which conference, I mean, symposium I’d rather be at.  Go on law firms, I dare you, when it comes to social media and web 2.0, be a trailblazer and get your profession excited about the possibilities new technology and media offer us; don’t blow the referee’s whistle, play the advantage. 


  1. I couldn't agree more. There are some lawyers who understand social media, but the majority of press releases and articles I have seen have been very much on the negative "monitor it, ban it, be very afraid!" slant.

    A lot of these articles are clearly written by people who have no experience of using social media, which is a big part of the problem. It is very difficult to advise intelligently on social media if you don't use it - and to social media savvy clients it is instantly obvious whether or not you "get it".

    There are legal risks to using social media (as there to using pretty much anything), but these shouldn't be the only focus.

  2. Thank you for your comment Jon, absolutely lawyers have to speak from a position of experience when it comes to social media, otherwise the rhetoric just doesn't "click" with the audience.

    There are indeed some trailblazing individuals at law firms who are embracing social media (I know you're one of them!); they stand out fom the crowd because they clearly enjoy being involved in social media and are finding success and exposure because of it.

  3. This is an issue that I am torn on.

    The conservative reticence of the profession is so frustrating on one level.

    I do think law firms and lawyers are too content to hide behind regulation - "Oh, we couldn't, because..."

    On the other hand, their reluctance does open the path for the earlier adopters to explore, trailblaze and, to quote your title, play the advantage.

    Great blog with an inspirational rallying call... and I love that "Would Lincoln Get LinkedIn?" pun!

  4. Perhaps lawyers are no different from many other professional groups, but as one myself I have formed the view that we are incredibly conservative in so many ways.

    New technology and social media are good examples of where we lag behind. In the 70/80s it was the fax and WPs that were cutting edge. Virtually no firm would now be without its website or email facilities, yet only 10 years ago they were rarely used. I was at a meeting of experienced local practitioners recently and asked them if they were using Twitter or Linkedin. There was a general guffawing all around, much as I imagine there would have been 10 years ago had I asked the same question about emails and websites, or 30 years ago about WPs and faxes.

    In some ways I feel I ought to keep these developments to myself so that I can gain a competetive advantage, but at the same time I actually want others in my locality to use them so that we can learn to build better professional relationships.

  5. Thanks for your comment Neil, yes if not everyone is getting on the bandwagon there is definitley more scope for the early-adopters to play the advantage for themselves!

    Personally, I'm very keen for lawyers to be seen as accommodators and team players, rather than as red-tape and obstacle creators, and so in my experience social media has been a perfect tool for all of us (in-housers and private practice lawyers) to engage with colleagues and clients on that level.

  6. Hi Stephen - Yes, when I think of my connections on LinkedIn, very generally, those who are lawyers have fewer connections themselves and a less complete profile than my other connections in the more "edgy" industries. I have managed to find lots of lawyers to follow on Twitter though, although in-house counsel seems to be few and far between on there.
    Social media is certainly all about connections, engagements and better relationship building.

  7. Thank you for the reference to the Law & Technology Symposium. As the author of the titles of the programs, I had to push back against the typical response of others that the titles were too "out there".

    Your point is a good one -- I'm glad we took a chance on the titles. And we'll have the programs up online later this week for all to view.

  8. Melanie
    I am a lawyer in private practice that has a very keen interest in social media; I use it in my practice.
    The issue for law firms though which no one seems to understand (they understand ROI, metrics, web traffic, social communication as a way of networking) is what about the split brand of the lawyer vs. the firm. If you get a strong brand profile established as a firm how do you then deal with those people who start to get a strong following on Twitter etc? I suspect this is no different to the old days where you had a strong BD orientated partner where the client thought he was the firm even though there were a number of partners standing behind him. I have seen a stat which says that only 1.7% of professional service firms have adopted a social media policy which is a worrying statistic. If you have not already watched the video I attach a link ( to a talk that David Meerman Scott did and it should be compulsory viewing for anyone interested in the enormous power of social media.

    I would be interested in the details of the events that you refer to and will keep following your blog.