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Law firm blogging efforts require a lawyer’s involvement

The concept that a lawyer needs to be involved in any law firm blogging or other social media effort ought to be painfully obvious to all. The problem is that it’s not to some otherwise smart lawyers and legal marketing professionals.

Every day, I speak with law firm legal marketing professionals who believe it’s their responsibility to protect a lawyer’s time when it comes to the firm’s business development efforts: “Our lawyers are billing hundreds of dollars an hour, we cannot afford to get them mired in the details of how to use the Internet for business development.”

Crazier yet is that lawyers think they can hire marketing professionals to do business development for them when it comes to the Internet.

Don’t get me wrong. Legal marketing professionals are wonderful people. Based on what they have to put up with from some lawyers, there ought to be a special place in heaven for them. But expecting legal marketing professionals to network with a lawyer’s target audience so as to nurture and build relationships is illogical. It’s also a waste of time for everyone involved.

Most good lawyers (especially the older lawyers) understand the fundamentals of social media better than marketing professionals. Lawyers my age know that lawyers get their best work through word of mouth. Sure, advertising in the form of websites and the like play a role, but networking with the right audience and getting out and engaging people is how relationships are established and strengthened. Relationships are the heart of business development – and they always have been for lawyers.

Why not allow lawyers to hear that social media is all about traditional legal business development? Most lawyers I talk with about social media and networking through the Internet have a paradigm shift.

After explaining the concept of blogging to network through the Internet to a seasoned lawyer I am apt to hear: “I never understood that the Internet hadn’t really changed anything. I thought the Internet was used to market and advertise or to distribute content so we could get people to see our law firm and its website. No one ever explained that it’s all about networking with my clients, prospective clients, and those people and organizations who influence them. That concept of networking through the Internet to nurture and establish relationships makes a lot of sense.”

If you’re going to build relationships with people by engaging them, you can’t send someone else out to do the job for you. Imagine if a lawyer in your firm was invited to speak at a leading industry event attended by clients, prospective clients, leaders of associations in which your clients and prospective clients were members, and industry reporters. The lawyer would be surrounded by people who’d like to talk with them or get their business card after their presentation. A cocktail reception or luncheon would follow where the lawyer would engage people further.

Could you picture the lawyer and marketing team deciding the lawyer’s time was too valuable to speak at this industry event? To engage people after the lawyer’s presentation to answer questions and arrange for later times to meet with prospective clients who wanted to talk with the lawyer? And forget cocktails or lunch to socialize with industry leaders or reporters.

It would save a lot of the lawyer’s time and energy to send one of the firm’s marketing professionals to speak and network. Heck, that’s what we have the marketing team here for, to get us new business. Plus, we’ll not have to worry about the lawyer embarrassing herself or damaging the law firm’s brand. You know, among of the chief responsibilities of the marketing team is to protect one of the firm’s lawyers from embarrassment or a marketing ethical faux pas. The brand is paramount — even if it does get in the way of business development.

When it comes to networking through the Internet via blogs and other forms of social media, why do lawyers and legal marketing professionals often check their common sense at the door?

Don’t think for a second that your clients, prospective clients, influential bloggers, and reporters can’t tell the difference between ’email newsletter or alert like content’ cut and pasted into a blog for a lawyer by Marketing and an engaging blog post written by the lawyer after listening to their target audience.

Don’t think for a second that Marketing can identify the key thought leaders, influencers, and interesting legal issues the way an experienced lawyer can.

Don’t think for a second that marketing can engage other bloggers, reporters, clients, prospective clients, and association leaders the way a lawyer with passion for a niche area of the law can. If you don’t engage that audience, you’re not going to establish relationships and generate a strong word of mouth reputation.

And don’t think for a second that Marketing can identify relevant sources and subjects to follow in an RSS reader (something many senior lawyers do) to stay on top of their game professionally and engage in conversations between thought leaders and other influencers.

As a Dallas law firm’s Chief Marketing Officer told me last month, every business development effort, online or offline, must begin and end with a lawyers involvement. Sure, your marketing department can assist where appropriate, but blogging for professional and business development requires a lawyer’s leadership and involvement.

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