Eryan Cobham

Thinker-tinker. Web Developer.

Law Firms Trying to Be More Progressive?

Just saw a story that I found surprising. Law firms are notoriously resistant to change, but is that resistance weakening? Some unnamed Atlanta law firm is looking for a “Director of Social Media.” The job requirements for this position are:

  • Must have general knowledge of managing Twitter, Facebook and the internet

  • Effective written and verbal skills

  • Action-oriented and drive for results

  • Must be able to work independently with little management

  • Knowledge of current events in general practice groups in the legal world

  • Must have a college degree and an interest in current events.

The person’s primary responsibility will be to “actively promote our growing law firm using a variety of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and our existing web-site.”

This is an interesting development for law firms. It is certainly a good thing for them to take notice of “social media” and experiment with using it, but I have reservations about doing it this way. My first question is, what is the primary purpose of hiring this person? Is the goal to attract associates by showing how progressive the firm is? To attract clients by demonstrating the firm’s expertise in certain areas? To keep their clients informed of developments in that area? An overall strategy is necessary to focus the efforts of lucky person that lands this job.

I’d also like to know how much the Social Media Director will interact with attorneys. Will that person will be on an island by herself, researching and posting whatever she comes across? Will she have a good idea of what projects people are working on and need to specifically talk about those? She will probably find out about some big case the firm wins, but that is basically just another press release that nobody pays attention to. What about an important legal tidbit that an associate came across while researching a memo or drafting a motion? Will the associate talk to the social media person about posting that information? The ad says the person will “communicate through social web-sites about all specific practice groups and their developments,” but the person will only know about developments through weekly or monthly practice group meetings, which cannot encompass everything that is going on.

So here is my opinion on a better way. Law firms already have employees that know enough about the Internet and social networking sites. RIght now they just call most of them associates. Almost all of them have facebook profiles, and some are probably on Twitter too. Many partners at least have a profile on LinkedIn. The attorneys also happen to be the ones finding information that can add some value to the firm’s presence on the web. Why not just empower them to post something to twitter, or a blog, saying “Hey, I just found an interesting little case that would be of interest to a few clients in a certain area. Check out this case, here’s what it says.” Posting to the website could even be a condition of employment as an attorney at the firm, maybe included in an attorney’s non-billable hours.

Something like that would have appealed to me when I was an associate—do research, and if you want, write a short blog post about something interesting you find. If you need to encourage people a little more, requiring one post per month, or year, per attorney would be more than enough. If you’re worried about giving associates that much responsibility, require that a partner approve it beforehand. Attorneys are already getting daily or weekly updates about significant cases in their practice area, so it won’t require too much extra effort to write up a paragraph about a significant case they find.

A method like this could have multiple benefits. It helps the firm because fresher and more relevant content on the website improves search rankings and prevents the website from seeming stale. This could help the firm attract new clients by showcasing its expertise in certain areas. The attorneys may also benefit personally by getting another outlet to hone their writing and (if their name is attached to the posts) building up their personal brand as an expert in that subject matter. It’s an easy way to get young associates into the habit of publishing and promoting themselves. Being able to show a potential client several pieces you’ve written about their industry and issues that affect them establishes your credibility.

I doubt this is something that will happen in firms for a long time, but I can hope. In the meantime, if anybody is looking for Director of Social Media, I’m definitely available.