Social media is the darling of the early 21st Century. Citizens all over the world consider themselves to have awakened in the morning once they’ve logged on to everyone else. Who could have imagined that, in 2013, two friends relaxing at the same coffee house would text-message each other from across the table? Yes, indeed. Commerce, banking, bidding, hiring and law: they are all part of the social media domain.
Social media can also enhance service and employment prospects for legal professionals. The 2013 In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey reports that social media usage among in-house attorneys reached an all-time high of 73 percent in 2013 (Greentarget; InsideCounsel; and Zeughauser Group, 2013). Fully two-thirds (67%) of the counsel surveyed tap into LinkedIn for professional reasons each week, and 65 percent consulted Wikipedia for information on companies and industries. Finally, 74% percent of in-house attorneys are deemed “invisible users”: they use social media in listen-only mode. Scan the numbers holistically, and one grasps the professional message: social media has become crucial for in-house counsel.
- What Are They Doing?
Naturally, GCs research each other for competitive intelligence information. Believe it or not, Google +, Facebook and YouTube were more popular for in-house counsel than was Twitter (used by merely two percent of survey respondents). LinkedIn is known for business development capacity.
However, the 2013 In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey identifies the power of weblogs (“blogs”). Fifty-five percent of in-house counsel read blogs, and 53 percent believe a well-executed blog will influence future hiring decisions. Further, 35 percent of surveyed in-house attorneys viewed blogs as very credible sources of “legal, business and industry news and information” when aggregated by news services, such as JD Supra, Lexology and Mondaq; 37 percent considered blogs as a somewhat credible source when aggregated (Dayton, 2013). Over half (55%) of surveyed attorneys read blogs by other attorneys.
The survey summarizes its own findings very succinctly: “In 2013, the lawyer who has his paralegal print his emails for him, gets all his news from the print edition of The New York Times, and thinks a blog is a smudge on his tie is part of a dying breed” (Myrland, 2013).
- What to Do?
1. Adopt the concept of social media as a mainstream channel for external communication.
2. Develop and publish original, captivating blog articles. They are going mainstream in law due to the “irreversible” (says the survey) engagement of social media by in-house counsel.
3. Ensure that your blog articles are aggregated by news services for easy access.
4. Build a LinkedIn profile. Two-thirds of surveyed in-house counsel use it more than any other social media channel.
5. Distribute blog content with mobile devices. According to the survey, 53 percent of in-house counsel access content on smart phones; 39 percent utilize tablets; and, 23 percent use mobile applications (“apps”) (Dayton, 2013).
- The Curious Case of Frick and Frack (LLC)
Dale Frick, the senior partner, possesses Harvard psychologist William Marston’s “dominant” behavior patterns. He is driven, direct and decisive. His junior partner, Joel Frack (designated as Marston’s “conscientious” sort) is a methodical, reserved and private pursuer of the best decision. Frick and Frack annoy each other endlessly, but they recognize that their differences strengthen the collective effort.
Frick has informed Frack that the firm needs a new in-house counsel. Typically, Frick wants to get on with it and find the “in-house” quickly. Frack nods quietly and says he will begin researching.
Joel begins by logging into LinkedIn to search for a collection of suitable profiles. (“Hurry up!” yells Dale from the next office). Then, Frack disqualifies those candidates who do not have profiles on Wikipedia (“Results! Results! Results!” chants Dale). Joel raises an eyebrow at the fist pounding the desk…it usually happens later. Finally, Frack’s furious search sends the junior partner to the blogs: “do any of these candidates write their own stuff?” (Frick: “Off-the-clock research?? Brevity is king!”). Joel Frack sighs, prints off the list of first-round prospects and hands it to his senior partner. The pair goes on to interview and hire the most effectively-marketed in-house counsel as identified by social media.
- Fewer People Aren’t Doing It
The 2013 In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey offers critical results to in-house GCs who aim to add value to their work and, consequently, retain their employment. Attorneys tap the Internet in very distinct ways. A traditional legal reference means little online; in fact, only two percent of survey respondents said that peer-driven rankings would exert a great influence on counsel hiring decisions. Yet, in-house counsel increasingly read and value blog articles; more firms provide them as a highly-searchable means of connecting with other professionals. “Invisible users” of social media function like the eyes of Big Brother: always watching. Legal mobility is the currency of prosperity in a wireless world.
Perhaps the bottom line is this: merely 27 per cent of all legal professionals still do not use social media.