As an attorney, legal recruitment specialist, and member of the millennial generation, I am energized by the ways attorneys and large law firms are using social media to improve their careers, practices, case work, and business development strategies. I am simultaneously wary of the many new ways social media is employed, relative to ever-changing state rules governing professional responsibility and ethics.
While there are many sources and guidelines for best practices and ethics, these are thought-provoking primers:
How are lawyers and firms using social media today?
Social media listening: One interesting strategy called social media listening is used by large firms to collect evidence and business intelligence, and stay informed about clients’ businesses. Hootsuite describes social listening this way: Unlike basic social media monitoring, which simply tracks how many followers your firm has or how many people saw your latest LinkedIn post—broad social media listening analyzes hundreds of millions of pieces of data, intelligently sorting and assembling the noise of social media conversations into meaningful patterns.
Research and investigative work: The ABA TECHSHOW 2017 featured a presentation on how modern e-discovery has switched its focus from predictive coding and technology-assisted review (TAR) to cloud computing, modern apps, and new platforms of social media. The ABA TECHSHOW blog also addresses how lawyers can use social media in investigations and process service. Social media is used in different ways for discovery in liability cases as well.
Business and career development: The ABA’s 2016 Legal Technology Survey Report delved into web and communication technology use among attorneys and their law firms. The report revealed 74% of firms maintain a presence on a social network, and 76% of lawyers personally use one or more social networks for professional purposes. Lawyers who personally use or maintain a presence in social networks for professional purposes do so for career development and networking (73%), client development (51%), and education and current awareness (35%).
Which firms are making the most of social media?
The Social Law Firm Index 2016 prepared by Good2bSocial evaluated the 100 firms on The American Lawyer’s 2015 Am Law 100 list of the highest-grossing firms. Firms were ranked on the effectiveness of their use of digital marketing and social media based on performance, reach, and engagement, and success in thought leadership content. A similar study was recently conducted among top UK firms.
In most cases, according to Good2bSocial, large law firms are achieving low levels of reach and engagement relative to available resources and market opportunity. And the use of social business technologies and practices for internal collaboration and communication among large law firms are in their infancy.
Law firms can improve in those areas by tapping the skills and strengths of their millennials.
Capitalize on the DNA of millennial associates
In the ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, not surprisingly, the attorneys most likely to use or maintain a presence in a social media network were under the age of 40, representing 88% of respondents. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, millennials comprise more than 20% of lawyers in the United States.
As firms continue to refine social media strategies, and as the use of specialized tools expands, it seems logical and advantageous for law firms to tap talented millennial associates to lead these initiatives and their firms into the future.
The ways of and reasons for using social media are growing, along with advances in technology and ensuing ethics rules. Since it is here to stay, embrace it with enthusiasm, let true digital natives lead the way, and as always, proceed with prudence.
A member of the State Bar of California, Amanda Brannigan earned her J.D. from Vanderbilt University Law School. At Lucas Group, she is based in Los Angeles, sourcing legal talent for Big Law, boutique firms, and Fortune 500 corporations, and assisting attorneys in achieving career goals.