A marketing and communications’ professional with a law firm on the LexBlog network just asked me, “When Attorneys create their firm Twitter handle, do you recommend that they use their name (joesmith) or customize it & include the firm’s name? She asked me via Twitter, though abbreviating a few words to make the magic 140.

For me, it’s hands down in an individual lawyer’s name without the inclusion of the firm name. That’s either via the firm’s name in the Twitter handle itself or the firm’s logo being included in the lawyer’s Twitter picture.

Here’s why.

  • Twitter is about trust. Right or wrong, people trust other people over organizations – especially when it comes to the Internet and social media.
  • Put a firm name or logo on the lawyer’s face on Twitter and I think marketing. I don’t believe for a second the lawyer is actually sharing information and news their audience would care to see. I believe you’re masking a marketing message, ‘Look at our firm name, we’re great,’ in the sheep’s clothing of an informational Tweet.
  • Do you only send your lawyers out to build relationships with people in the real world if they wear the law firm suit, golf hat, or uniform? Why would you do so when it comes to social media?
  • Look at the Twitter handles with the most followers, they are in the names of individuals. Sure. there’s CNN, BBC, and the New York Times. But your law firm is not one of them. Your lawyers have a far, far better chance of getting a significant number of followers by Tweeting in their own names.
  • Twitter leads to relationships in the world. Twitter opens the doors for your lawyers to meet more people and for more people to come up to your lawyers and introduce themselves. You’ll stymie this natural interaction with a firm brand. And relationships and reputation are how the best lawyers bring in work, no matter the firm name or logo.
  • Lawyers bring their name to your law firm when they join the firm and they’ll take their name with them if they go. Their relationships and reputation will come when they join the firm and go if they leave the firm. You can’t stop that. Let their relationships and reputation blossom without you saying we don’t trust you to go out and build relationships and a reputation while you’re here.
  • Lawyers grow professional networks via Twitter. Your lawyers will pick up followers with similar interests in the law and your lawyers will in turn follow people and professionals with similar interests. Your lawyers will use such networks to meet people they will talk to by phone, exchange emails with, and meet in person. Your lawyers join bar and industry associations to learn and grow networks so they have a better knowledge and resource network from which to serve clients. Twitter works the same way when not being overtly used for marketing.

As much as law firms might want to bend the rules of social media to their way of reckoning, it doesn’t work.

Relationships are built the same way online via social media as relationships are built in the real world – based on personal interaction unclouded by marketing and branding.