My Law Firm Is Better Than Yours … At Social Media

Anecdotal evidence says that professional services firms – notably law firms – are not setting the standard when it comes to using social media. For professionals whose jobs are to reduce risk, embracing what is perceived as “risky” Social Business doesn’t come naturally.

And yet now we have some comprehensive data to back up this notion.

Good2BSocial, a social enterprise consulting firm, and its media partner, Above the Law, just released an interesting social media white paper called “The Social Law Firm” and an accompanying “Social Law Firm Index” ranking that I hope will collectively serve as an important benchmark for measuring how well or how poorly law firms are integrating Social Business practices into their operations. While organizations such as the ABA, ALM, and Lexis-Nexis have surveyed social media use in the past, I like this study because of its determination to actually rank firms in the quality of their use of social media.

Among the findings of their study:

  • Marketing and recruiting have taken the lead within law firms as the primary use cases for social media technologies.
  • Small- to medium-sized firms are much more interested and successful in deploying Social Business practices than large firms.
  • Younger attorneys are more interested in social technologies than their more veteran colleagues.
  • In general, law firms score very low on the “engagement” aspects of using social media. There is a lot of room to grow for large law firms here.

It’s high time someone took a stab at comprehensively measuring social media performance in the legal market. And while I applaud this study, I think a deeper and wider study of law firm Social Business use should be done. So I was glad to read that the authors will “continue to expand on this research and compile the Social Law Firm Index annually in order to assess how the legal market progresses in its adoption of social tools and practices.”

Here are some of my thoughts on how “The Social Law Firm” study can be enhanced in future years:

Opening Blogs to Comments. The ultimate goal of social media is engagement with clients, customers, and other influencers. To achieve this, I believe that, over time, more firms will open up their blogs to reader comments as professionals realize that increasing engagement will help develop business. The reticence is understandable within the “low risk” culture of the professions. However, with social tools such as Disqus available to help blog owners weed out spam, encourage fair play, and increase dialogue, this is an aspect of Social Business that should be encouraged and tracked. So, going beyond counting blogs to trying to measure the quality of the blogs will be important.

Focus on Individuals. In my view, an important finding in the survey is that a lot of the best social media “experimentation” is underway at the practice group level – not on the firm-wide level. I assume that the study took into account all relevant blogs (such as practice and industry focused ones) within a firm’s digital footprint. Over time, I believe that the study should find ways to identify and measure the impact of individual practitioners’ social sites. After all, “Social” at its best is personal, and I think this is where lawyers who are successful at Social Business will be investing their time. This means taking into account individual lawyers’ interactions and networks on platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

Integration of Social into CRM. This may be difficult to measure, but I think the savvier firms will begin to find ways to incorporate the intelligence they gain in social channels into their CRM systems. At the moment, I doubt many firms know which of their clients (and by client, I mean individual corporate lawyers) are on Twitter or who blogs regularly. Developing “listening” capabilities and learning about the market will be an important aspect of Social Business for law firms. And one way for firms to gather client and industry intelligence is to include Social information in their CRM systems. But measuring this in a survey could be quite challenging. This may be something that firms will have to self-report on within the surveys that are sent to firms.

Social ROI Self-Assessments. Figuring out the ROI of a firm’s Social Business activities is a challenge. But I believe that as law firms become more sophisticated in their social usage, they will try to measure their activities to determine what works and what doesn’t. They should be graded on this. How? Do they use Klout to track the efficacy of their social activities? Are they tracking click-throughs using link shortening services? There appear to be a few firms who are doing this. I would give points for activity like this.

Everyone Loves a Good Case Study. Law firms love to know – and copy – what the other firms are doing. There’s a certain safety in this practice. A knowledge that the “tried and true” works. But those leading the way deserve some recognition. So perhaps future surveys could include case studies about social interactions or campaigns that worked in developing business or serving a client or industry successfully. This would be a more editorial or journalistic part of the yearly assessment, but something that I think would be right up Above the Law’s alley. It could make for great reading.

I was delighted to see this study come out, and look forward to future iterations. 

Photo credit: PaulWa / / CC BY-NC-ND

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