It’s foolish to argue whether legal professionals can use a social media tool such as Twitter for effective client development when many lawyers and other legal professionals are already doing so. Twitter’s just a tool, among many other social media and networking tools.

If Twitter fits within your client development strategy, you’ve figured out how to use Twitter to brand yourself as an authority, and to engage your target audience so as to build relationships, that’s great. If Twitter doesn’t fit within your client development strategy, you don’t understand it, you think Twitter’s a waste of time, and other tools work better for your client development, that’s great too.

I practiced law in rural Wisconsin. I had a couple of lawyer friends who curled for fun, and for client development. Yes, shuffleboard on ice with team members, a rock, and brooms. They spent hours on weekends curling and even traveled to curling tournaments around the state and country.

These lawyer curlers built relationships with curling bankers, insurance adjustors, and business owners through curling. They told me how they got legal work from these relationships built through curling.

What’s the chance these two lawyers would quit curling for client development if I told them curling was a waste of time, that interest in curling was on the decline, that most people who started curling quit, it takes too much time, and that 80% of the conversation taking place while curling was mindless babble unrelated to the law and business?

I didn’t curl. Didn’t understand it as a client development tool. And couldn’t imagine ‘wasting that much time.’

But I sure didn’t call those two lawyers out for telling me and others that curling works for client development. I didn’t go on an anti-curling campaign to save any Wisconsin or Minnesota lawyers who were thinking of curling for fun and client development.

A couple years ago I was much like Larry Bodine. I saw little value in something called Twitter which allowed one to share ‘what they were doing now’ in short 140 character blurbs. ‘My cat just rolled over’ was not the makings of client development as I saw it.

In speaking engagements before legal professionals I wouldn’t even let on that I had a Twitter account for fear people would think less of me.

Two years later, like many business leaders, lawyers, reporters, publishers, and association leaders, I see Twitter as a powerful branding, relationship building, and research tool.

On the branding side, I agree with venture capitalist and author, Guy Kawasaki, that Twitter is the most powerful branding mechanism since television.

We’ve all been a witness to Twitter’s unparalleled growth.

  • Ranked as one of the 50 most popular websites worldwide.(Alexa)
  • Fastest-growing member community website, growing at six times the rate of Facebook in February. (Nielsen)
  • Third most used social network with six million unique monthly visitors. (Compete.com)

Many legal professionals and I discovered how to use Twitter for client development. We’re building meaningful relationships with our target audience of clients, prospective clients, referrals sources, and influencers of those three (bloggers, reporters, publishers, conference coordinators, and association leaders).

We’re not spending too much time on Twitter, we’re having fun using Twitter, we’re using Twitter for client development, and we’re getting clients as a result. See:

  • Blog post listing sample of Twitter client development success stories from lawyers and legal professionals.
  • Blog post on Twitter for client development for lawyers by being an intelligence agent.
  • Lance Godard’s Twitter interviews with practicing lawyers, many of whom use Twitter for practice and client development.

There’s no time here to detail how we use Twitter in a smart, strategic, and time effective fashion. I’ve regularly blogged, spoke, and done webinars on the ‘how to’s’ of Twitter for client development. Other seasoned lawyers and well respected legal professionals have done the same. (See Heather Milligan’s blog posts on Twitter as one example)

All of us sharing how Twitter works were driven by our desire to help other legal professionals, not by, if you buy the Bodine argument, a vast conspiracy to see that American lawyers waste their time on mindless babble.

What of the many lawyers and business people registering for Twitter who didn’t keep using Twitter? Welcome to the world of technology and Web 2.0 applications. Millions of people register for social networking websites and other Internet applications and stop using them.

Naysayers dissing technology is nothing new. It’s recognized sport in the legal profession which hangs on to the past like grim death.

Many lawyers believed the use of a phone in rendering legal services was unprofessional and, of course, unethical. A small group of radical lawyers decided to use the phone, probably for perceived mindless babble.

When I began to teach lawyers how they could use blogs for client development, you’d have thought I killed someone. ‘What a waste of time. No one reads them, especially a lawyer’s target audience. They take too much time. Over 50% of people who start blogging, stop blogging.’

I heard it all. Like many things, I knew I was onto something, if for no other reason, because of the resistance I was meeting.

I may have brought out the anti-Twitter crowd by championing Twitter’s use by lawyers. I may have provoked them further by pointing out what they didn’t understand when they dissed Twitter. By arguing the merits of Twitter for client development on an ongoing basis I may have even created a forum for the naysayers to draw attention to themselves.

I’m sorry. I was just trying to help lawyers the best way I knew how.

For now, can’t we agree that many lawyers and legal professionals are effectively using Twitter for client development? It makes no sense to tell others that’s not possible and that to learn to use Twitter like these professionals is a waste of time.

Note: A copy of this post is included in a thread at LegalOnramp began by OnRamp CEO, Paul Lippe, entitled ‘Bodine v. O’Keefe re Twitter and other Social Media.’ Legal OnRamp is social network for in-house counsel and invited outside lawyers and third party service providers.