Social Media Analyst for Law Firms
by Rene Ciria-Cruz
Social Media Specialist Analyst Opening for Law Firms
When Latham & Watkins announced an opening for a “social media specialist” to map out its online public relations and marketing strategy, the firm received a ribbing from the legal blogosphere. “Maybe Harvey Levin can take time off from TMZ and The People’s Court to apply,” joked one person, commenting in the ABA Journal’s Legal Marketing blog. “Please don’t hire a ‘Director of Social Media’,” pleaded The Great Jakes Blog, arguing instead for a tech consultant or director of content. (Latham & Watkins declined to comment about its job posting.)
Both the new position and the lampooning pretty well sum up the legal industry’s take on social networking: Everyone is doing it, and no one has quite figured out how to make it pay off. Seventy-five percent of lawyers have joined an online social network, according to a 2009 study by Leader Networks, but many remain skeptical that social media is worth the effort.
Those in the legal industry who sense a possible boon in social media use it to cultivate new business. Eric J. Sinrod, a partner at Duane Morris in San Francisco, says his firm tries to reach potential clients through their “preferred sources and styles for receiving information,” including Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogs. Duane Morris is hardly alone. Every big firm now has a LinkedIn profile. By 2010 up to 56 percent of lawyers were using social media as part of their practice, according to an American Bar Association survey. Facebook is the third most frequently used new-media platform among in-house counsel, and about a third of the nation’s 100 largest law firms have Facebook accounts, The Byrne Blog reports.
Despite all the activity, the jury is still out on whether social networking brings in business for law firms. So far, only LinkedIn has become “the definitive directory of professionals” and source of new business connections, writes business development advisor Larry Bodine. He doesn’t consider Facebook ideal for legal business development “because of [its] casual and personal nature.” And very few law firms on Facebook actually update their content; many just have placeholders on their pages. As for microblogging on sites such as Twitter, only 6 percent of lawyers are engaged in it, and 60 percent of America’s tweeters drop out after a month, reports Nielsen Wire.
Nonetheless, law firms should establish a social media policy. Legal and ethical questions and potential conflicts of interest between firms and clients are unavoidable amid the growth of tweeting and e-commenting by lawyers and staff.