Top Ten Mistakes Lawyers Make with Social Media


Lawyers and law firms are rapidly adopting social media to market themselves and connect with peers. These are new tools. We are all trying to figure out how to use them. Just to make it more difficult, the tools themselves are rapidly evolving as we are learning how to use them.

Some lawyers are doing a great job using them. Some are doing a terrible job.

I thought I would share my thoughts on the mistakes I see.

10. Blocking access. Social media provides a rich source of information about clients, potential clients, opposing counsel, witnesses and other parties. It easy to get around the block with a mobile device or home access. Blocking is just an annoyance. It’s not an effective policy.

9. Failing to have a social media policy. People in your law firm are using social media. They may only using if for personal purposes. But if they identify your firm as their employer, what they do has an effect on the image of your firm.

8. Ignoring Facebook as a recruiting tool. “You do better fishin’ where the fish are.” Many summer associates are creating groups on their own. Your firm would be better off if they administered the group.

7. Not giving authorship to blog posts. The attorneys writing the story should get credit for the story. This gives an attorney an extra incentive to contribute and showcases their skills.

6. Not linking. A blog is much more useful to its readers and its authors if it links to other relevant information. There is no reason not to link to primary source material like statutes and regulations online. Link to other news sources, websites and blogs. Yes people will leave leave your site through those links. But they are more likely to come back if your site is the better source of information.

5. Failing to understand ethical limitations. The bar regulators have barely dealt with web 1.0, never mind the additional issues around web 2.0. Keep in mind that most social media activities can be considered advertising.

4. Abandoning without notice. Nothing lasts forever. If you started a blog and are not posting any more. Put a post saying you’ve stopped or are on hiatus. (This is what I did for my old KM Space blog.)

3. Failing to leverage LinkedIn. You should have a profile in LinkedIn that has at least as much information as the bio on your firm’s site. You should also be leveraging LinkedIn to stay up to date with the movement of your clients and former client contacts. LinkedIn is a great source of information for CRM systems.

2. Posting information about clients. As with any advertising, make sure you get written consent from clients before posting any information about your work with them.

1. Not using social media. The biggest mistake most lawyers are making with social media is not using these tools.  They are here to stay. Get used to it.

What mistakes to you see being made?

Image is from Hugh MacLeod of Gapingvoid – “cartoons drawn on the back of business cards”: you’re a social media specialist?

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12 Responses to Top Ten Mistakes Lawyers Make with Social Media

  1. Matt Simpson August 1, 2009 at 12:48 pm #

    Hi Doug,

    Just some thoughts…

    Re: 4… Sometimes people don’t abandon, but instead, neglect… or fail to prioritize. I argue that this is okay. Priorities are not static, but instead are fluid.

    Doug, you’re one of the most committed, steadfast, and consistent bloggers I know. In fact, I’ve often thought to myself, if Doug can do it, I can too.

    And then, I think about all those other things that I’m doing that Doug isn’t doing, and remind myself that no single person can do it all, all the time. However, I really enjoy having an unpredictable burst of blogginess. I like wandering around my hobbies.

    I would argue that something is a mistake only relative to a goal. I recognize that your premise is based on blogging as a marketing tool. My comments above, of course, are relative to blogging as a hobby tool. And so… we have a relative position… The more people avoid these 10, the more successful they will be in the marketing of themselves and their work.

    • Doug Cornelius August 1, 2009 at 5:40 pm #

      Matt –

      There is nothing wrong with an unpredictable burst of blogginess and inconsistent posting. (My personal blog at is very inconsistent and random.)

      The more the blog is focused on your profession the more it will reflect on your professional image. If you neglect it, that would reflect poorly on your professional image.

      There is nothing wrong with abandoning the blog, either permanently or temporarily. Just put up a message saying so.

      • Matt Simpson August 1, 2009 at 9:50 pm #

        Well said. Can’t argue. Thanks

  2. Mike Mintz August 2, 2009 at 9:34 am #

    Hi Doug: Great post! Your number 1 rule cannot be overstated: ignoring social media will not make it go away. I remember when email started to really catch on in the mid-90’s. I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about and didn’t think I’d have much to say to anyone in an email. 15-years later my Inbox overflows with information and messages. The idea of social media or interactive web is not going away. Policies that shut up or cut off your staff from using it are not the answer. Rather, flexible, clear guidelines, coupled with training and constant revision are the way to go. “Implementing Social Media Policies” is our M-H Connected theme for August 15-31. We’ll highlight this post and it would be great to see more about this subject from you in the network. Thanks! Mike

  3. Vince August 3, 2009 at 9:59 pm #

    Hey Doug, this is an excellent top ten list. I think lawyers and law firms can benefit greatly from using social media. It is a good medium to share information, find information, and to market yourself or your firm. It will be interesting to e how different people make use of it. I forwarded this to my college roommate who just pass the Bar. You can cross-post this to our site and link back to your site. We are trying to create a directory for top ten lists where people can find your site. The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.

  4. Nikhil Vaswani August 5, 2009 at 4:03 am #

    I guess Social Media and Networking is still new and people will need time to adapt to it and to customize it to their requirements. But there is no doubting that Social networking will soon become the most effective way of building your professional career and creating a personal brand.

    By the way, I am new to LinkedIn and have found this resource quite useful. It is a new book called “How to REALLY use LinkedIn” by networking expert Jan Vermeiren. Check it out, you can find a free lite version at

  5. Alin Wagner-Lahmy August 7, 2009 at 4:36 pm #

    Great Post, spot on. The two points strongly resonating with me are #10, #7 and as Mike pointed out #1 , which are about control and removing the entire relationship dimension of social media. social media cannot be ‘controlled’, and if tried to be controlled, it will suffer dire consequences, whether becasue the message looking to find a way out – will find a way out, or because once the discussion is out there, you want your employees/lawyers to participate in the discussion, not let it get its own life.

    You cannot control social media just like you cannot control real life relationships. Allowing your employees to make their distinct voices be heard will not only contribute to the success of the Firm or company externally, but will also foster and strengthen an internal sense of community, a powerful thing in its own right.

  6. Ken August 31, 2009 at 3:00 pm #

    Read #1. Read it again. Social media is a great way to get referrals. Research shows that over 80% of people will hire an attorney based on a recommendation from a friend. This number swells to over 93% when the recommendation comes from a professional. Social media becomes extremely relevant as a tool for letting friends and colleagues know what you are doing, perhaps letting them know you have expanded your practice to include a new practice area. Social media may be most valuable as an SEO tool since the links created by using social media are very effective in driving search engine rankings.

  7. Adrian Dayton October 20, 2009 at 11:41 am #

    Good read. If marketing directors at firms could just scratch the surface with these 10 guidelines it would be a big advantage. Sadly most are sticking their heads in the sand.

  8. Phyllis Patrick October 25, 2010 at 9:18 am #

    Great top 10 list! I wish I had seen this before I recently gave a presentation to some health care folks, as it is a great tool and very succinct. I also appreciate your collection of social networking policies. Many in health care still have their head in the sand, with the emphasis on blocking, avoiding, negating, etc., and generally just hoping it will go away. I say “embrace it,” and use it.

    Phyllis Patrick


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