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Focus on the possibilities of blogging and social media, not the challenges

I was on a conference call this week with fellow panelists for a presentation we’re doing on social media and blogging. The panel is billed as covering the ethical challenges and pitfalls of Web 2.0.

Being lawyers and presenting to a group of lawyers, law professors, and law students the discussion quickly digressed (how I would describe it) into how lawyers can overcome all the challenges associated with blogging and the use of other forms of social media.

  • Don’t ethics and liability issues (breach of confidences, creating an attorney client relationship, advertising rules that may limit blogging etc) prevent the use of social media in many situations?
  • Doesn’t using social media, including blogging, take a lot of time that good lawyers don’t have?
  • Is there any proof that lawyers can develop business from using social media?
  • How can social media, including blogging, work for client development if my clients and prospective clients don’t read blogs and use social media?
  • Isn’t social media more for the younger and tech savvy?
  • Twitter is so out there, how could it ever work for a lawyer with sophisticated clientele?

I supposed they’re good questions, but they often result in a response like “Oh my God, there way too many challenges– neither my firm nor I are going to get into all of that.” Before ever learning what social media and blogging are all about and how they could be used for client development, lawyers conclude it’s not for them.

What if the focus were first on questions like the following?

  • How would you like to to do the type of work you want for the type of clients you want to serve?
  • Did you know that social media and blogging used effectively is doing that for lawyers?
  • Did you know that many of the lawyers experiencing the greatest success from blogging are 45 to 65 years old?
  • Don’t the same ethics rules that govern our behavior as lawyers offline govern our behavior online?
  • Would you want to learn how social media and blogging doesn’t take as much time as you’d think?
  • Would you want to learn how Twitter, used strategically, allows you to establish a personal brand as a leading authority and expert in an area of the law?
  • Did you know that blogging and social media for client development is not really about technology, but more about building relationships through engaging people, something we lawyers have always done to get work via word of mouth?

When presented with the second set of questions, lawyers would be apt to respond with “Tell me more, I may not understand all you may share with me, but you’ve piqued my interest that there may be something there for my law firm and I.”

As current bloggers and users of social media, don’t we have the obligation to serve as role models for other legal professionals to follow? There is so much to be gained by lawyers blogging and using other forms of social media. Professional growth. Business growth. Greater access to the law by all. Improving the image of our profession.

When presenting at conferences, rather than let a conference host who may know little of blogging and social media frame your presentation around around the ethical, legal, time, and technological challenges of social media, focus on the positive. Whet their appetite. Sure, address some of the practical and ethical issues, it only makes sense. But why lead with them so as to scare lawyers off and possibly run out of time before getting to the opportunities.

It’s all about the questions you ask. Ask bad questions, you’ll get bad answers. Ask good questions, you may get some good answers.

  • http://blog.martindale.com Mike Mintz

    Another great post Kevin – thanks! As lawyers who blog, we have a responsibility to lead the way for the rest of our profession. I’d love to see another post answering each of the questions you posed (even though many of them were rhetorical!).
    On the ethics side, I’m writing an e-book right now about the more common pitfalls for lawyers and how to avoid them. It is true – for the most part lawyers can work safely in social media without worrying about losing their license. The only uncertainty right now is what knee jerk rules state bar committees may enact as they figure out the whole social media thing.
    I’m interested to hear what practicing lawyers have done to integrate social media into their daily routine, particularly when they have been able to eliminate old tasks because of new tools. For example, I often tell lawyers that using a message board for their legal team can cut down on email time. What experience have people had in using social media successfully to save time in the practice of law?