Top Ten Mistakes Lawyers Make with Social Media

This article appeared in the December 2009 Practice Link for the Canadian Bar Association.

Top Ten Mistakes Lawyers Make with Social Media

By Doug Cornelius

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 do you see being made?

Doug Cornelius blogs on compliance and business ethics at Compliance Building. “Top Ten Mistakes Lawyers Make with Social Media” appeared as a blogpost on Aug. 1, 2009 and is reproduced here with permission. The views expressed are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Canadian Bar Association.

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