Social Media Law firms not advertisingThe Washington Post’s Catherine Ho (@wapocat), had a  interesting article yesterday on big law firms warming up to social media.

After years of avoiding the Twittersphere, Big Law is warming up to the advertising power of social networking. Leaders at several top 100 firms are for the first time hiring full-time social media specialists to manage firms’ LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter accounts, and many more are making a concerted effort to prioritize social media outreach in marketing campaigns.

Though a good read highlighting firm’s successes and the people involved , I cringed when I got to the phrase ‘advertising power of social networking.’ Social media and social networking are not advertising. I’m not certain that social networking or social media, whether blogs, LinkeIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ have anything to do with marketing per se either. Advertising is trusted by only 14% of people. Social media and social networking is all about networking to establish trust. Personal networking by individual lawyers to engage members of their target audience, whether they be clients, prospective clients, association leaders, reporters, publishers, conference coordinators, or leading bloggers. Lawyers get their best work through networking to build relationships and further enhance their reputation as a trusted and reliable authority. That was the case before the net and now that we have the net. The idea is to not merely get a blog, and a lawyer’s name, ‘in front’ of a general counsel. You could do that with a billboard located across from general counsel’s office.  The idea is to engage general counsel through your blog or engage the people who influence general counsel, such as reporters, leading bloggers, and association leaders. No question, per Ho, social media and social networking works for law firms.

 ….[A]bout 40 percent said blogging and social networking initiatives have helped the firm land new work, according to an ALM Legal Intelligence report released in February that surveyed 179 attorneys, managing partners and marketing directors

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…[O]ne litigator at Dechert recently signed a new client days after a LinkedIn request from a former colleague, now an in-house lawyer, prompted him to pitch to that company’s general counsel.

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……Eric Paley, an employment lawyer at Nixon Peabody, scooped up employee benefits work from a multimedia firm after an acquaintance in his LinkedIn network referred him to the company’s assistant general counsel.

No question that lawyers are going to need capable law firm professionals to assist and guide them when it comes to social networking and social media.

  • LXBN member, Latham & Watkins, hired Dimitra Kessenides (@dimitrakny), a former journalist at The American Lawyer who founded the legal publication’s Web site, to oversee the firm’s use of social media platforms.
  • Sabrina McGowan (@SabrinaPMcGowan), public relations manager at LXBN member, McKenna Long & Aldridge, developed the firm’s first social media strategy and an internal policy on how firm employees can use social networks.
  • Nixon Peabody is in the final stages of hiring its first social media manager.
  • LXBN member, Dechert, promoted public relations specialist, Peggy Heffner (@peggyheffner), to a newly created position that focuses on growing the firm’s presence on social networks.
These capable professionals cannot go out and use social media and social networking to build relationships for lawyers. The lawyers need to do that themselves.

We’re going to see nothing but growth in social networking and social media in large law. Not because it’s advertising, something only 14% of people trust, but because it’s all about building trust through networking. As Sabrina McGowan told Ho, “We don’t have a product, we have a service… — knowledge and experience.”