law firm leaders and social mediaIn order to be truly effective today, leaders in business must change how they engage, and in particular how they establish and maintain relationships via digital channels.” Charlene Li, Founder & CEO Altimeter Group

As digital marketing and social media consultants in the legal industry we often face an uphill battle in trying to convince lawyers, marketing and business development professionals at law firms about the important role of digital and social technologies. The number one objection we hear from lawyers is that their clients are not on social media, so there is really no reason for them to participate in social networks. While that mentality is slowly starting to change as evidenced by the results of our latest study, the 2014 Social Law Firm Index, the reality is that for the most part lawyers still don’t get social media and what if anything they should be doing on social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

That is not to say that everyone in the legal industry is unaware of the value of an effective presence in social media and the digital arena. In fact, we have several clients who are partners and practice group heads at their law firms, who have hired us and pay us out of their own pocket, because they are frustrated by the lack of knowledge and innovation that their firm demonstrates when it comes to digital technologies, content marketing and social media.

Our sense is that there are many savvy lawyers who are frustrated by their firm’s inability to really help them leverage the power of social media and digital marketing; more and more we expect to see professionals decide to take matters into their own hands by developing their online presence in order to build and enhance their position as thought leaders in their area of practice.

What has been sorely lacking is understanding and vision at the top of leading law firms. In our research to date we have not yet seen or heard the CEO or managing partner of a major firm who really gets it. Someone willing to get out in front of the issue by publicly acknowledging how social media plays a vital role in a lawyer’s and firm’s business development and relationship building efforts. That is up until now! Yesterday we were delighted when Bloomberg’s new website and newsletter Big Law Business, published a video interview with Carter Phillips, the Chair of Sidley Austin’s Executive Committee in which he talks about the marketing efforts of his firm, and directly addresses the importance of social media.

In the video, Mr. Phillips talks about the importance of lawyers maintaining relationships during the course of their careers. He explains how lawyers who maintain those relationships are able to rely on them in the future for business development purposes and that social media is an incredible advance for keeping in touch with clients and colleagues.

He also mentions the importance of content. Not the traditional marketing content about new hires and awards, but rather valuable and educational content. In the interview, Mr. Phillips states that, “what makes blogs so effective is producing valuable content on an ongoing basis and making sure that the quality of the content is A+.” He also adds that it is critical to monitor who is following the content so that lawyers and law firms can leverage that and deliver the customized content to their clients and prospects when they need it.

Needless to say, we are delighted to hear a law firm leader talk about and recognize the value of social media and digital marketing. Hopefully other law firm leaders will heed Mr. Phillips words and start to realize the critical importance that digital marketing and social media has in positioning their lawyers and firms as thought leaders in their areas of practice. We certainly hope so!

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