Speaking with lawyers around the country, I’m always asked ‘What’s the next big thing?’ Like the legal profession has mastered the social media tools that we already have.

My answer is we have enough to handle. Blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and more. The key now is for lawyers to assimilate these tools into how we network with our target audience for client development.

Shel Israel, a well known writer and speaker on social media issues, had an excellent post yesterday, ‘The New Social Media Age of Normalization‘ driving home the point.

We have gone through a prolonged period of disruption in which social media tools have change a great many aspects of the way modern companies conduct business. I believe that this period is now coming to a close.

We are leaving the age of social media innovation and entering a longer, slower-moving period in which businesses and institutions will absorb and assimilate these tools into their everyday business practices. The novelty of these tools will fade away as the utility of them becomes clearer and more universally accepted.

There was a time when people wrote books and produced conferences to discuss the business benefits of email and fax machines. The telephone got introduced at a public fair and immediately business thinkers warned of the dangers that existed if such a device were permitted into the workplace…….What I see happening in the near term future is far more valuable than it is controversial or interesting. We have entered into a long, slow, steady, non-disruptive period of refinement and adoption. The tools we have will get better and easier and faster, but they will not be soon replaced by some shiny new thing. The business that have painfully adopted the new tools will feel far less pain and far more results. New people coming into the workplace and marketplace will use social media tools with as little angst or consideration as they use email or phone.

Shel’s analogy to the phone and businesses resistance to its use is the same analogy I use, except mine is lawyers resistance of the phone.

A great many executives agreed about the phone, but eventually, business saw that the benefits far outweighed the liabilities. Businesses that continued to ignored¬† those benefits eventually disappeared. And as the benefits of the phone became clearer to more and more people, the once-heated conversation about the phone’s place in business cooled down, became obvious, tedious and would eventually wither.

There was time when the use of phones by lawyers was very controversial. Clearly unethical in exchanging confidential information in a non secure environment. And of course a phone would clearly be an unprofessional means for a lawyer to provide counsel. Lawyers who resisted the use of the phone went the way of the dinosaur.

Client development for lawyers has always been about forming relationships. Relationships built by engaging our target audience of clients, prospective clients, referral sources and the influencers of those three.

Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and the rest are just networking tools. Tools that allow lawyers and law firms to engage their target audience to enhance and build meaningful relationships. In that networking for client development comes natural for good lawyers the use of social media tools will become second nature to good lawyers overtime.

Shel sees a Social Media Age of Normalization and an ‘Era about as tumultuous as watching paint dry and as significant as the adoption of the automobile.’

From what I’ve seen so far, the legal profession’s adoption of social media ought to be more entertaining than watching paint dry. But the professions use of social media may be as significant as the adoption of the automobile – or at least the phone.