Social Media Principles

We’re all familiar with Michigan State University’s athletic prowess. As a Notre Dame graduate, I’ve seen on TV any number of football losses at East Lansing. Basketball Coach Tom Izzo has kept the Spartans near the top nationally for what seems like twenty years.

Michigan State’s Law School though, which I am sure has received national recognition in the past, has not been discussed historically with the likes of Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Michigan.

No longer. The Spartans are getting known, and known in a big way for their law graduates who have harnessed the power of the Internet to learn, to network and to build a name for themselves.

Law firms and other organizations are seeking out Michigan State grads because of what they have learned on the innovation and technology front – and in a good number of cases seeking out particular law students and offering them jobs.

You got it. Students and law grads being offered jobs by companies and firms seeking them out. Not students and grads applying for jobs as is the customary way students are taught it’s done.

What happened?

The law school recognized what the rest of the country knew. The Internet was a powerful tool for learning and networking – and that everyone and their brother was using it. Why not a law school’s students?

First there was ReInvent Law (video channel in absence of site) launched by then Michigan State Law professors, Dan Katz and Renee Knake. When you put on conferences featuring legal innovators in Chicago, Palo Alto, New York City and London, folks take notice. Especially when you’re selling out large venues packed with practicing lawyers, legal tech executives, law students and law professors.

Then Dan Linna left nine years of large law practice to become Assistant Dean for Career Development and a professor at MSU Law, along with serving as an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan Law School.

Without putting words in Linna’s mouth, he saw what was bubbling up at MSU Law. An opportunity to expand the curriculum to include the business of law in ways not taught before – the use of technology, innovation, project management and lean business processes to change the way legal services are delivered by major law firms.

You add guys such as Ken Grady as an adjunct professor and now a full time professor, and you have a real force. Grady, who’s known internationally, in large part through blogging and social media, for transformation in legal and has worked as general counsel, large law partner and CEO of SeyfarthLean.

About this time MSU Law students started using the Internet. Blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, About.me and Facebook, all on professional matters. These kids were bringing it.

So much so that MSU Law students starting citing my blog and sharing items I posted to Twitter. As a result, I heard them and got to know them – from 2,000 miles away. I started spreading the word, online and offline. Other influencers did the same.

These students invited me back to East Lansing to share my thoughts on blogging and social media – as well as to judge a social media contest the law school was conducting for students.

I went. What an incredible afternoon, I was welcomed and introduced by then Dean, Joan Howarth.

I discovered that social media and blogging was not only taught at the law school, but that students needed to use what they learned over a semester or more. The contest was an opportunity to share the results – not just a beauty contest with followers, but in internships gained and invitations to speak in San Francisco.

I asked Dean Howarth, “Why? How?” She said what else was she to do, stand by and watch what was happening to law grads and law students. Howarth, who had yet develop her Facebook prowess (came with her attending a day long MSU Law social media bootcamp), empowered change and the use of social media – as a gift to the law school and its students – whether she knew it or not.

I was at a legal technology meetup earlier this year when a lawyer heard me talking about Michigan State’s tech, innovation and social media bent. He said that his firm, a large one, looks for Michigan State grads because of exactly that.

More powerful than MSU Law’s reputation, or maybe the cause of its reputation, is its students’ use of social media itself.

Pat Ellis, who graduated two or three years ago, landed a job on graduation at the second largest law firm in Detroit, in part because of his blogging and social media use.

Ellis left within two years to accept another opportunity. Someone suggested to him on Twitter that he apply for a position with the general counsel’s office at General Motors. He got the job.

I met Ellis on Twitter, as then, @spartylegal, and via his blogging. I had the pleasure of joining him in a presentation to MSU Law students, with Dean Howarth and faculty attending.

Ellis advised students that what they thought was important no longer was. A tier one law school, top grades and law review were no longer what separated you from others. The Internet enabled students to blog, with posts seen in a day by a law professor across the country, versus never for a law review article. Social media democratized things for the little guy. Opportunities awaited, per Ellis.

Ellis is not alone.

Irene Mo, a recent MSU Law graduate took innovation classes, participated in blogging and social media bootcamps at the school and served as an innovation assistant for the school’s LegalRnD program.

She’s now an ABA Innovation Fellow developing tools to reduce privacy and data security risks for low-income people. An associate position at a leading Chicago privacy and security law firm awaits – this based on MO’s Twitter exchanges with the managing partner.

Samir Patel came to MSU Law planning to be a sports agent – and why not, with the Spartan’s athletic prowess. But he attended a MSU Law social media bootcamp.

One thing led to another and Patel was clerking for a leading blockchain law firm in London because of identifying a niche he could get after with Twitter and blogging – the use of blockchain in professional athletes’ contracts. Patel didn’t ask for the clerkship, the firm asked him on Twitter.

Then, it turned out that someone Patel was interacting with on Twitter was a practice group lead at Holland & Knight. Patel, who just graduated, is joining Holland & Knight in Miami as a result.

Linna has brought real structure to it all launching, two years ago, LegalRnD, MSU Law’s Center for Legal Services Innovation.

LegalRnD is dedicated to improving legal-service delivery and access across the legal industry. It accomplishes this through research and development of efficient, high-quality legal-service delivery tools and systems — heavily relying on the net and social media/blogging for learning and networking.

LegalRnD brings together professionals from a broad range of disciplines. Students are trained in established business concepts and study them with partners, including: legal aid organizations, solo practitioners, corporate legal departments, law firms, courts, and entire justice systems.

Its curriculam, harnessing the powers of networking through the net via blogging and social media, covers:

  • Artificial intelligence & law
  • Delivering legal services, the new landscape
  • Quantitative analysis for lawyers
  • Information privacy and security
  • Litigation data and process
  • Entrepreneurial lawyering

Young people choose law schools for a whole lot of reasons. Usually based on the school’s name and rank.

If I am looking to understand what’s possible, achieve extraordinary things and have employers ask me if I want to work for them in areas of interest to me — all because I’ve learned to used the Internet to learn, network and build a name I’m looking for a law school which can deliver on that front.

MSU Law ranks number one in that poll.

In the last week I’ve had exchanges with a couple law schools that made me wonder how serious law schools take professional development of their students.

I’m basing this on my belief that a law student’s understanding of how to blog and use social media to build a name and network is serious stuff. As they used to say, “as serious as a heart attack.”

In one case, a law school was appproached a year ago by one of the their law students suggesting the school hold a social media bootcamp for law students. The student who had good success using the net for learning, networking and building a name wanted to learn more — and wanted to help his fellow students.

The student, who would organize it, was told that things were awfully busy at the school and maybe it could be discussed in the spring. Nothing happened.

I approached the school earlier this year, was told the idea sounded good. When I heard nothing, I emailed back and like the student last year, was told things were awfully busy this fall, let’s look at the spring.

I can take the hint that we don’t value helping our students, professionally. Or, just as bad, we don’t take seriously learning how we can better help our students, professionally — we’re going to do what we have always done.

The second exchange, and actually much more positive, came when it was explained to me that the law school is pushing social media but is meeting resistence with students who question its value.

The problem may come when you begin by pairing up students and asking each student to look at the problems that may be presented by their follow students Internet identity. The focus rather than what’s great and what can be done is “let’s look at where you can get in trouble.” I can imagine skiing lessons starting with how you are likely to tear your ACL.

Rather than look at trouble, why not begin with the positives and tell students that there probably isn’t a lawyer a year, out of the million of them, who gets into trouble, professionally through the use of social media and blogging. And that there are lawyers coast to coast who are building careers and practices from social media.

Tell law students where they can go by using social media now. Tell them of Pat Ellis, three years out of law school, who is now reporting to the General Motors GC — because of blogging and using Twitter while in law school.

Every student has a networking machine in their pocket. Introvert or extrovert, I bet 99% of your incoming 1L’s use Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook for networking with friends and relatives. They just need a little guidance as to using this machine for learning, networking and building a name.

If you, as a law school, don’t know how it’s done, you just have to care enough to find out how — and to find out today. Otherwise what are you going to tell your students struggling to get a job, we’ll start trying to help you next Spring or the Spring after.

People today communicate via social media. It’s where they get their news, information and damn near everything else. It’s where people build relationships – over two billion people use Facebook.

At least as much time, if not more, should be put into teaching students how to use the net to build a name and to network than into getting firms into the law school for interviews, clerking opportunities and postings for postitions students are supposed to send off a resume. Knowing how to use the Internet is much more likely to help students — and unquestionably, more students.

The second exchange was much more positive as I am headed out to that law school next week. ;) Like with other law schools, I’m getting calls from out the blue to visit and talk with the students. I’m no savior, the schools need to have programs teaching the stuff and I’ll only vist a dozen schools a year.

I’m just afraid there are many law schools who are not taking professional development seriously.

The latest Global Digital Statshot from We Are Social and Hootsuite reveals that the number of people using social media around the world has just passed the three billion mark.

That’s with a B — and represents forty percent of the world’s population.

Social media use

Growth shows no sign of letting up with the number of social media users growing by one million a day over the last quarter.

Note that the growth in Internet users did not slow over the last quarter, the issuers of the report did have any major updates to their Internet user numbers. The growth in social media use suggests though that Internet use is rising at a similar rate.

Facebook exceeded two billion active users in the last month, and unquestionably is the 800 pound gorilla when it comes to social platforms.

Other social platforms being used by a good number of lawyers are growing in active users as well.

YouTube has 1.5 billion active users, Twitter, 328 million aactive users and LinkedIn, 109 million active users. Instagram, used more socially by many lawyers, has 700 million active users.

The takeaway for lawyers has to be if you want to connect and engage with people, you need to be using social media.

Whether it’s leading law firms or associatons, nurturing relationships with clients, prospective clients and referral sources or looking to make legal services and justice more accessible to the public, social media is how people communicate.

You may review and download a complete copy of the report here.

Recode’s Peter Kafka (@pkafka) reports that Facebook wants to help major publishers sell subscriptions while not participating in revenue nor harvesting any data in the process.

The tool to launch later this year would enable users to view 10 articles from a publisher for free. Users would then be prompted to go to the publisher’s site to sign up for a subscription.

Facebook isn’t operating a subscription service ala Apple, which takes up to 30 percent of monthly subscription revenue, it’s merely creating a paywall associated with its Instant Articles feature.

News veteran, Campbell Brown, which Facebook hired earlier this year to Lead new partnerships makes a pretty strong statement on behalf of news publishers.

Quality journalism costs money to produce, and we want to make sure it can thrive on Facebook. As part of our test to allow publishers in Instant Articles to implement a paywall, they will link to their own websites to process subscriptions and keep 100% of the revenue.

As lawyers and law firms you aren’t selling subscription based publications, Facebook’s new tool does not apply to you.

But you are publishing legal news, insight and commentary to raise your stature and nurture relations. The message you should take is that your publishing can and should be openly and freely distributed for reading and consumption across the net.

Holding onto your publishing and wanting everyone to come to your website to read your publishing makes no sense. Get it out there and make it easy to consume where people are.

Your audience isn’t spending their time mingling around your website anymore than all of the potential readers of the New York Times, Washington Post or Wall Street Journal are spending their time hanging around their websites.

These publications know many, if not most, readers are out on social networks. That’s why they’ll get their get their publishing out on the social networks for viewing — and just as importantly, for social sharing.

Sure, create your core publications on their own sites, but look to deliver your publishing, preferably at no cost to you, to other outlets and networks online.

Facebook is a great place for publishing. Clean mobile interface, easy to key in content (even with my thumbs) and a built in audience for engagement.

There’s also no intimidation factor. When you open Facebook, free flow thinking is easy to get down “on paper.” With WordPress, it’s somehow a big deal. A blank screen makes you think that something more seminal needs to be published.

I am not talking personal versus professional. I regularly post professionally, that is matters relating to tech, publishing and business development, on Facebook. So much so that I often copy and paste posts from Facebook to my blog. This one I am penning on WordPress.

But I can’t blog on Facebook – for any number of reasons.

  1. I need to own and control my publishing. Facebook doesn’t allow this. If Facebook goes away or decides to change what can be viewed, my body of work goes away.
  2. My body of work is something that people should be able to access and review as part of sizing up who I am. As with a practicing lawyer, people should have the opportunity to see my interests, how I adresss issues and how I give back to the legal profession as a whole. I need the books and my pubications I authored — my blog — on the shelf. My blog gives me this. Not possible with Facebook.
  3. Google has become the world’s reference library. Relevant information from influential sources is available at your finger tips. Not with Facebook.

Dave Winer (@davewiner), the inventor of blogging who’s gone back and forth publishing on his blog, Scripting News, and Facebook over the last couple years (always leaving a record of his full post at his blog), is now back solely on his blog – for a whole lot of reasons, including the importance of the open web.

Winer also points out four features blogs have, which Facebook refuses to add.

  1. Links. How do you reference and advance discussion without citations, let alone how you engage those you are referencing in your writing.
  2. Simple styling.
  3. Enclosures for podcasting.
  4. Titles. We need to be able to charactertise that to which we are “permalinking” and to have a title to be indexed by Google.

To which I’ll add a few more.

  1. Images
  2. Graphs, charts — may be included in styling
  3. Custom features — this could get hairy, just as plugins do on a hosted WordPress platform. In the law, a blog platform requires a built-in “primary law citator” so that links to cases, codes and regs are available and linked to “open law.” Items such as multilevel editorial controls are also required by many legal publishers.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Facebook and will continue to post and engage there, it’s just not blogging.

What I need to get better at — again — is blogging on blogging software, which in my cases is LexBlog’s managed WordPress platform. Reflect and gather my thoughts on what I am reading, like this from Winer, and blog.

Title: Social media is more about the connections than the information and likes.

Author and Professor Deborah Tannen recently explained to Judy Woodruff on PBS that everyday talk and shares on social media isn’t about information we need to know. It’s about staying connected to the people we care about.

I think of social media as an extension of the how-was-your-day conversations that let you know someone cares about you, so you feel less alone in the world.

What someone is having for dinner, what beach they’re on with their family or a selfie with a friend, and the likes and comments that may follow aren’t necessarily important.

It’s the connections that ensue that are important.

Per Tannen,

Social media haven’t transformed human relations. They have intensified them. While that means ramping up some of the stresses and frailties of friendships, it also gives us new, more immediate, more creative ways to stay connected to the people we care about, who care about us.

I’d take it a step further. Social media give us the opportunity to meet, know, and care about those whom we’d never have met otherwise.

A week ago I talked with a lawyer friend across the country whom I met and got to know through social media. We talked about his wife’s serious illness. I felt good to be there for him. He told me it felt like talking to a brother.

Lawyers are often told by marketers to look at social media as a means of distribution — as a way to get more eyeballs on blog posts or other content authored by a lawyer. That’s totally missing the mark.

“Content” is a the currency of building relationships. Without words at a networking event and without content on social media, there’s no vehicle for us to communicate and engage.

But the words and how many people hear or see them are not the end goal. The end goal is relationships. Relationships with people you’d like to get to know and with whom you would like to know and trust you.

When I see Scott Mozarsky, the President of Bloomberg Law, share on Facebook things such as pictures of he and his son in Ranger’s Jerseys at a NHL playoff game, it’s the not the game nor the jerseys that interest me, it’s the connection and relationship I feel.

A relationship that results in Scott and I getting together at this week’s American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting in Austin.

When I see, Despina Kartson, the Global Director, Business Development and Communications, at Jones Day, on Facebook dropping her daughter at graduate school or Despina working with the disadvantaged in New York City, the information itself is not what is most important.

What’s important is getting to know Despina better, what she values in life and the enjoyment she receives in being with family and helping others.

I have talked to lawyers who say, “So what. Who cares what others do personally. Why would people share such items share on Facebook? Why would anyone care to look?”

But like Scott has shared with me more than once, “Business development isn’t all that hard, it’s about relationships with people.”

Social media, including Facebook, is just another way that Despina, Scott and I build relationships founded on knowing each other and trust, based in part by sharing personal events on social media — and in part by sharing professional items on social media.

Don’t be like the woman who complained to Tannen, “I don’t care what somebody had for dinner, all this stuff out there that nobody needs to know.”

It’ll be your loss, personally and professionally.

Too many lawyers do not realize they can’t land kudos and be easily cited without a Twitter account.

How so?

I regularly monitor sources and subjects for items of interest to me. I do it with my news aggregator, Feedly.

Many of the items I read I share on Twitter. Many of these tweets are shoutouts to the subject of the story. I am not alone in doing this.

In order to give a shutout I need the subject’s Twitter handle.

I go over to Google to look up the Twitter account by searching for the person or organization’s name and the word, ‘Twitter.’ I then include the Twitter handle in my tweet, ie, “Big kudos to @patriciasmith for…” and then include what they did.

Without a Twitter handle the person cannot see the recognition I gave them nor the recognition others gave them by retweeting or favoriting my tweet. With a Twitter account, the subject receives notice of the shoutout via an email and a Twitter notification.

This is a big deal with law firm and association leaders who do not have a Twitter account, but whose public relations people get them in headlines.

I do the same with reporters and bloggers I am citing. I am amazed when I cannot find a Twitter handle for a reporter, after all they are in the media.

Sadly far too many reporters and bloggers in the law lack Twitter handles, something that signals that they are out of touch with media today and aren’t looking to engage their readers.

The ABA Journal shared a list of 12 candidates for the American Bar Association’s Board of Governors as well as the candidate for President of the ABA.

I was struck that no where in the ABA Journal’s listing of the candidates did it include the personal social media accounts or blogs of the candidates. My cynical side wonders if the candidates even use Twitter and Facebook. Do they blog so as to express their passion and network with influencers with similar passions?

There was little I knew about these folks. I wondered how much other lawyers knew about the candidates. How were we going to find out about them – from them – if they didn’t use the Internet?

Today, we get to know people faster and in a more real way than ever before. It’s because of the Internet, and in particular social media (blogging, Twitter, Facebook).

We hear people’s voices in a real and authentic fashion. We feel people’s passion as they speak to us directly. We build trust with each other via immediate and personal online exchange. We even get to know people as people, outside of their professional lives.

I could look up each candidate and find out how they use social media. I fear it may only make me mad that these folks may not be doing what they can to connect with lawyers and the average people in this country. I fear it may make me mad that they are not serving as role models to American lawyers to jump on the Internet to learn, to network, engage people, build a name and advance causes important to you.

These folks are charged with advancing the causes of veteran’s legal challenges, access to legal services, innovation/technology in law practice management and human rights. To learn, connect and engage lawyers and the American people so as to truly advance these causes these candidates, more so than other lawyers, need to be using the same communication medium the rest of us use – social media and the Internet.

Current President of the ABA, Linda Klein, uses Twitter to engage lawyers (even yahoo’s like me) and the public. General counsel, in-house counsel, managing partners and lawyers everywhere use Facebook, Twitter and blogging to network, learn and evangelize causes important to them and their organizations. Nothing prevents ABA officials from using the Internet to connect and engage except fear.

I hope that the ABA Journal and the candidates will come back at me showing me and lawyers everywhere how they are indeed personally using social media. It wouldn’t be the first time I was told to kiss off by the ABA.

It was reported by The Telegraphs’s James Titcomb on Monday that Facebook is on the verge of 2 billion members.

The social network is even defying expectations by continuing to grow despite its size, with growth actually accelerating in recent quarters.

Facebook is expected to report report revenues of $7.8 billion and profits of $3.3 billion when it unveils first quarter results this week. Yes, that’s only for a quarter.

In reading a piece in Adweek that social media is the new television by Kurt Abrahamsom, the CEO of ShareThis, I couldn’t help but think of lawyers holding onto the past when it comes to Facebook.

With the rise of television in the 1950s, marketers gained access to a new medium that was growing rapidly popular. With all eyes on the only screen in the house, brands benefited from its wide reach to engage consumers at an unprecedented scale.

However, the audience’s attention is increasingly turning away from television and moving toward mobile devices and social media.

This represents a huge opportunity for brands, per Abrahamson. Brands can connect with people on social media channels in a personalized way. “Brands looking to strengthen their customer relationships should start with the personalization of social…”

Yet the vast majority lawyers, who need to have a brand, ignore Facebook when it comes to building a name, establishing trust and growing a network for business.

Most law firms not only tacitly go along with the lawyers, but establish a marketing culture where Facebook is viewed as below their lawyers for business development purposes. “If Facebook is to be used, it’s only for personal purposes.”

Some firms won’t even allow their lawyers to log in to Facebook on company machines. Crazy, but true.

I ran across a panel discussion among legal marketing “experts” discussing web marketing best practices for the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Today.

Admittedly the panel’s focus was websites, but the implication was clear. Drawing traffic and getting attention is the name of the game for business development success when it comes to the Internet.

One of the experts said “Blog frequently on your firm’s website (not somewhere else). Postings that address frequently asked questions (FAQs) are a great way to start.”

Lost on him, as he hasn’t networked online to build a name and relationships, is that blogging is all about leaving your website and going out and engaging others – listening to the conversation off your website being the most important concept.

Facebook, with virtually every American using it, represents a town hall discussion, with the people involved and the topics discussed framed by who you engage and what you share. Facebook’s algorithms will surface relevant discussion and people for you.

Lawyers and law firms need to let go of viewing the Internet as an opportunity to broadcast. Like televison, the opportunity to reach people at an unprecedented scale is addicting. But people have moved on to social networks, primarily Facebook, to communicate and engage with each other.

Lawyers have become accustomed to email and cell phones as a means of communicating for business development. Facebook is arguably just as essential for business developmet today.

Are individual lawyers relying too much on their law firm’s marketing professionals, as opposed to taking charge of their own marketing?

Building a book of business as a lawyer has always been about building a name for yourself and building a network of relationships. So marketing departments in law firms can help, but they cannot turn a lawyer into one with a good book of business. This takes initiative on a lawyer’s part. Marketing professionals would probably agree.

But today with many law firms struggling, AI/software soon to be doing the work some lawyers are doing and corporations (LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, Avvo and others) picking up a good junks of the transactional legal services market, it sure seems that lawyers would be foolish not to be scrambling to build a name for themselves.

Large and medium size law firm leaders, and the lawyers employed in these firms, who think they’ll withstand the changes taking place sound a lot like the newspaper publishers and media players of 10 years ago. Or maybe like Macy’s, the nation’s largest traditional retailer, who is closing stores as people turn to the net for shopping.

A senior lawyer in a 400 lawyer firm told me a couple months ago that he doesn’t expect his firm to survive, at least in its present form. “In-house counsel may get fired for not using Cravath, but not for failing to use his firm,” he explained in making the point that rates are going down, in-house counsel are bringing efficiencies with technology and corporations are bringing more work in-house.

The Internet is a fabulous place for a lawyer to build a name and relationships. But it’s not going to happen with a group blog lacking passion (especially one inside of a website), profiles of lawyers and driving traffic to websites and content.

The Internet works best for lawyers when they learn how to engage influencers, prospective clients, clients and referral sources in a real and authentic way. Personal law blogging and the use of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, not for attention, SEO and traffic, but to establish yourself as a trusted authority in a niche and build relationships is the key.

What had to be the pinnacle of employment in sports media, ESPN just laid off over 100. Many were household names. I am sure the sportswriters and announcers who worked their tail off to get to ESPN never envisioned ESPN running into trouble as a result of the Internet overnight changing the way sports is broadcast and delivered.

Turns out that companies like Comcast, DirecTV and Dish are losing subscribers. People are turning to the net, mobile apps more than anything, for sports.

Change can happen — and fast. Chasing partnership track at a medium or large law firm can sound great as a young lawyer. What happens though when things start to soften and then dramatically change all around you? It’s not as if you just slide over to the other ESPN (large law firm).

Sure, you can work in larger law, but while there, use the firm as a platform to build a name and relationships via the Internet, personally. It’s in your mutual interest and you’ll be in a position to more than support yourself in the future.