By Kevin O'Keefe

Fear of social media? Lawyers need to get over it

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As a young trial, I used to fear the newspaper or television calling to interview me. How would I sound? How would I look? What if I said something that prejudiced my client’s claim? What if I sounded like a fool? What if the newspaper got my point wrong (something a rural daily did regularly)?

It was so out of my control.

As I got older I came not only to enjoy speaking to the media, but I sent out press releases announcing press conferences in our law office so that the TV stations and newspaper would come. Each came fearing they would miss what the other would be reporting.

What changed in me? One, getting comfortable with the mediums of TV, radio, and print. Two, accepting there’s a lot of hit and miss in mass media — they’ll be taking quotes from multiple parties, they may miss my point, and that my story may get lost a among all the other news.

But what influenced me most was my learning that I needed an effective presence — to grow my word of mouth reputation as a good lawyer, to advance how the public (yes, jury pool) saw my client’s case, and to put pressure on the defendant corporation.

Social media is a lot like talking to the mass media years ago. There is a lot of out your control.

However, it’s not a sound option for a lawyer looking to have a strong word of mouth reputation today not to have an effective Internet presence — a presence that can only be achieved through social media.

Read what Dorie Clark (@dorieclark), a strategy consultant with clients the likes of Google and Yale University, says in her post today, ‘Shy of the social media spotlight? Get over it.’

It’s hard enough for diffident professionals to “put themselves out there” in the regular context of work. Social media makes it even worse — a risky, high-speed word-of-mouth machine they feel they can’t control. But it’s also, as my student admitted, increasingly essential. Having nothing, or only some paltry wisps, representing you online now marks you as out of touch (she’s not even on LinkedIn?), inconsequential (what, she never did anything important enough to be written about?), or even suspicious (why isn’t there any evidence she ever worked there?)

If you view this new workplace reality as everyone with an online megaphone, you’ll not adjust, per Clark.

But if you think of it as an opportunity to raise the discourse, focus on meaningful ideas, and draw attention to worthy people and causes, even the most wary might learn to love social media.

In order to do business development as a professional today, you need to have an effective Internet presence. Effective and ‘Can you find me when you Google my name?’ are not one and the same.

Fortunately, it’s possible for you as a lawyer to begin to use social media without drawing a lot of attention. Just as it takes some time to develop a word of mouth reputation in the offline world, it takes time in the online world.

You can begin to blog and use Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook for building relationships without drawing much attention at first. Professional’s blogs or posts on social networks, especially at first, draw few comments.

In addition, lawyers using social media are using it to share professional insight, commentary, and information. We’re not apt to spout off our mouths in such a fashion so as to draw enemy fire.

I got over my fear of the mainstream media over 20 years ago, you can do the same with social media. And better than with the mainstream media, it’s your microphone this time.

Image courtesy of Flickr by ‘amboo who?

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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