Major law firms are joining the ranks of companies in the hiring of social media specialists.

I’ve been asked by one law firm among the top ten largest in the country to help identify social media professionals, preferably with law firm experience, for a position with the firm. (let me know if you have a interest) Another top fifty law firm has told me they are interested in hiring a client development/marketing professional dedicated to social media.

This ought to be no surprise with law firms looking to leverage to power of blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

Per Augie Ray, a Forrester Research analyst who specializes in social computing, in a story on social media hiring by the Orlando Sentinel’s Sarah Lundy:

This has been the year where every organization has come to realize the importance of social media, rather than just a handful of organizations.

Social media is a little all over the map right now, It reminds me a great deal of the late 1990s with where we were in respect to the Web. At that time, companies realized they needed a new set of skills that they historically had not valued or needed. …They went out seeking those skills, but at the time, many didn’t know what they didn’t know.

Law firms would be wise to educate themselves on what social media is really all about before they do hiring for social media.

Per Shawn Vincent, digital-marketing director for Brand Advance, also quoted in Lundy’s story:

For the most part, a lot of companies still don’t know really what they are doing with a digital-media plan. …They are not quite sure who they are looking for most of the time.

Ray agrees.

Right now, some companies are not necessarily mature in (the) way they view or use social media — but they recognize they need it.

No question law firms recognize the need for social media use. But before locating an expert to perform tasks, it may behoove law firms to first develop a social media strategy.

Developing a social media strategy begins, by definition, with education on what social media is and how it is being leveraged by successful companies and law firms. I’d advise that law firm leadership (managing partners, chief marketing officers, executive committees) be involved in the process.

Having developed a strategy, begin with some pilot social media projects in your law firm. Such projects could be begin with your own employees in counsel with outside professionals. You’ll get the feel for what works and for whom in your law firm social media works.

Just as when your law firm hired dedicated web specialists, you’ll then have a better of idea of who and what you’re looking for.