Legaleaglette @yourlawstudent reflects on The dawn of a new age in legal networking?S0c14l M3d14 might just be that…

@yourlawstudent Ben is a 2nd year law student at the University of East Anglia. In a professional capacity he is Union Council Representant for the Law Society and is a passionate public speaker with experience in mooting and negotiations. He also worked for Lexis Nexis and is currently a freelance interpreter. Outside university Ben enjoys the networking both on- and offline and is a passionate sailor.

The dawn of a new age in legal networking?S0c14l M3d14 might just be that…

As I interact with more and more people from legal and other sectors it becomes immediately obvious that each and one of them has a well rounded opinion as to the goods and evils of social media, internet and the whole online world. From my experience there are generally two type of individuals. One who is is fully embracing the technology and the other who either sees no point in it or simply treats it as a machine invading people’s privacy.
From the perspective of businesses it can be said that not only is it easier and more cost effective at the moment to obtain advertising space and market on the internet but as most people spend more and more time shopping on the online and writing about themselves on Facebook and Twitter, law firms can gauge what their clients do, what they think of them and their competitors. It seems that most city entities already see the opportunities lurking in the ether. For the sake of example, DLA Piper has 4 different Twitter accounts each for different purpose. Whilst Allen Overy has ‘only’ 3 it does run a CSR one where it strives to shape its image. Moreover, the comparatively smaller firms like Ince & CO tweet too. Firms principally use twitter to announce events, campaigns and a range of other things.
From the above it follows that more and more high street and smaller practices will have to adopt this form of networking if they are to stand in competition. Of course this by no means suggests, that the traditional forms of marketing activities need to be discontinued, but merely that online advertising will grow over time and surely will have a more than complementary role in practices’ outbound communication. As Mr Tom Chapman suggests in one of his blog posts :
“The value of social media used for lead generation in comparison to outbound marketing activities is a lot more cost-effective. What this means for small and medium sized businesses is that they can now compete with larger corporations because they can leverage social media to their advantage through effective engagement and creative content at lower costs. For larger corporations the risk is that, if they do not adopt or engage in social media, they will lose a slice of the prospect pie.”

This to me suggests that this online activity seems to level the playing field because of its cost effectiveness.
As firms will start using the aforementioned tools it seems quite plausible to assume that the otherwise quite traditional Bar will do the same.
More interesting for the average law student is the way a student or a law school uses social media. In my personal view twitter for instance provides a healthy soil for networking with professionals or academics with whom a student could struggle to establish any links. This is not because most of them are not approachable and keen to help, but more for the reason that the online worlds permits instantaneous communication from anywhere. My experience is that legal tweeps and commentators are active mostly in the evenings, when they relax after a hard day of work. This creates a friendly and cosy atmosphere in the ether and encourages the discussion of current affairs, legal developments and other issues in a laid back manner and tone.
Not only does twitter, linkedin and the like provide the opportunity for students to further their knowledge and sharpen their legal skills but they also maintain a fora for self-marketing. It is known that when firms and chambers do their research on applicants they usually start with social media pages. There are a fair few cases known to members of the legal blogosphere where on job interviews applicants were asked about their previous blog posts. It can be daunting that one’s success can hinge on what the person in question does in a purely unprofessional and social capacity. However, it can be equally used to one’s advantage. Twitter or a blog in this sense could represent an advert about an applicant and in many cases it serves exactly this purpose. I do not suggest that one should deliberately post lies about oneself, but to post consciously. Employers do read potential employee’s posts therefore I cannot see anything inequitable in enhancing one’s prospects by publishing meaningful content.
In my humble opinion it looks as though we legals are just catching up with something that others already use every day. Change is upon us. Let’s embrace it…

A big thanks to @yourlawstudent for allowing me to publish this article and a welcome to the @legaleaglettes from me.


One thought on “Legaleaglette @yourlawstudent reflects on The dawn of a new age in legal networking?S0c14l M3d14 might just be that…

  1. Michelle

    It is great to see that social media is getting some ‘air time’. In my case, it has been such a paradigm shift that I am now embarking on a whole new phase of my career where I will be working with professional service firms (what applies to lawyers, equally, and indeed to a greater extent, also applies to other professional services) in helping them with Social Media Optimisation. In other words, moving beyond the tools and embracing the changed culture where more and more of their services will be researched and bought on line.

    For people just starting out on their legal careers – from the graduate through to the newly qualified or pupil barrister – social media offers unrivalled opportunity for them to market themselves both within and outside of their organisations.

    One aspect that routinely gets overlooked is the “Brand Called You” which was first coined as a meaningful expression by the uber Guru, Tom Peters. Dan Schwabel and others have since picked this up and made a whole industry out of the personal branding thing. For lawyers it doesn’t just mean having an active Twitter feed, a consummate LinkedIn profile or lots of interesting people on Facebook. It means setting up their own blogs, using the social bookmarking sites, using uTube and looking at the whole social media suite of tools to position themselves in the market as someone who is insanely passionate about their field of expertise or more likely, given their stage of career, their interest in a subject area.

    A lot more needs to be done to clarify the expectations of firms who choose to or who are about to embark on a social media programme. It is no point just building the blog or setting up a Twitter account and hoping that people will find you. In addition, Policies and Guidelines need to be seen as part and parcel of the engagement so that there are no grey areas and everyone knows what is expected of them.

    At the moment there is too much talk around the semantics of social media (even the name feels out of date) and more real time talk needs to come to the fore. Law firms seem to be using social media for the wrong reasons – another pipeline to distribute their offline material – and are not giving enough thought to how they can make the content remarkable.

    As a buyer of legal services in the past, why would I be interested in getting a stream of tweets about case law or client wins? I wouldn’t. I want real world stuff that shows me how I can add value to my business or avoid a risky situation developing.

    I can see huge potential on offer but I can also see a lot of mistakes being made that over time will sour the relationship that the firm has with social media.

    Anyhow, all I can say (again) is that if used correctly it has the power to shape the destiny of a career and firm for the better.



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