Monday, February 23, 2009

Aren't you on Twitter yet?

Carolyn Elefant, on Nolo’s Legal Marketing Blog, just posted another piece on why lawyers should be on Twitter: “To Twitter or Not To Twitter? That is the Question for Lawyers” (you know where I stand on this from this post and this one). Elefant gives a very useful overview of what Twitter is and how you can use it to market yourself and your practice. Get on Twitter, position yourself as an expert amongst your peers, develop relationships with people who can help you grow your business, have fun engaging others in conversations about things for which you have true passion that have nothing to do with your professional activity. That sounds easy, doesn’t it? It truly is. But do we Tweevangelists really believe that there is value in that? Real value, the kind you can endorse on the back and deposit into your account?

In a recent post, I asked whether lawyers shouldn’t be using Twitter to engage clients rather than other lawyers. I don’t ask the question because I think engaging other lawyers does not have value. It does. I don’t ask it because I think using Twitter to validate your expertise does not have value. It does. I don’t ask it because I don’t think establishing relationships based on non-work interests does not have value. It does. All of the ways that lawyers are currently using Twitter have real value that can lead to real work.

But I cannot believe that there isn’t more. That we cannot move Twitter from being an effective networking tool to being a practical communication tool. That you can’t use Twitter to communicate directly with your clients in real time, taking advantage of the immediacy and directness and responsiveness and crowd-sourcing and all of the other benefits of Twitter to help you do your business better, make your clients happier, provide better service and add greater value. Others are doing it, such as @scottymonty and @zappos. Of course selling shoes or selling cars is not like selling legal services. But can't we learn from them? Can't we apply what they are doing and how they are doing it to what we do and how we do it?

I don’t know the answer to this question, and I’m not even sure I could come up with it on my own. But I am sure that someone will, and while the rest of us are still trying to figure out why a client would want to communicate with her lawyer in a public forum, that person will move the game to the next level. 

Three related points

First point: in my last post on Twitter I asked for ideas on how lawyers can use twitter to communicate with clients. I got some good comments that are worth reposting here:

Bruce Carton said

“Lance, I have gone with the Trojan Horse method. I re-branded my @SecuritiesD Twitter feed as a "news wire," and have it identified and piped-in via RSS to my website ( as such. Lawyers understand what a newswire is and like it. They didn't pay much attention to it as a Twitter feed.”

  Doug Cornelius said

Lance -

I think there many be some over-enthusiasm for Twitter as a client development tool for lawyers. I think there is a big variation depending on your practice. Chris Brogan gets lots of clients through Twitter because that is the nature of his business. He is a social media consultant. Kevin O'Keefe gets lots of business through Twitter because he is in the social media business.

As a commercial real estate lawyer, none of my clients use social media. They do not read blogs. They do not use Twitter. Only a handful were even in LinkedIn. Even in my new area of compliance, there are very few people in the industry using blogs or twitter. If I were an IP lawyer or dealing with tech start companies. The opposite would probably be true.

The other concern is the future Twitter business model. Right now, the company has zero revenue. That cannot go on indefinitely. Something will change. It may just put Twitter in the junk-pile (anyone remember Friendster?)

I am a big fan of Twitter. But I am less sold on evangelizing it to clients. I would not spend the time in a pitch talking about Twitter. The focus should be on the client and solving the client's need not on your twitter habits.

I like the idea of putting your twitter username on your business card. (That leaves out bigfirm lawyers. Their marketing department would never allow it.) I assume you would also want your blog URL on your business card. If the client notices, then spend some time talking about it.

Melanie Green said (via Twitter)

Get your marketing folks to put Twitter "follow me" links on your web site in areas where people are providing content.

Second point: Does anyone recall how email was received when it first started to become a widespread communication tool? Did lawyers resist it because clients weren't already using it? Did lawyers try to convince clients not using email that it was a great tool for which they should sign up? 

Third point: Please tell me what you think. Can lawyers move Twitter to the next level of client communication? Should they? What are you doing to make your Twittering valuable to you and your practice? Do you think Twitter can be more than what lawyers are it for today?


  1. For attorneys, Twitter can be a great marketing and client TLC tool. What a great way to send case law news flashes out to interested colleagues and to stay up to date on important decisions, articles, etc.! I currently receive a lot of very good content of this type via email and I would be happy to get it on Twitter.
    However, attorneys and clients must strongly discipline themselves not to over advice or communicate about their own projects/cases via twitter or IM, not to mention speaking loudly on a cell phone on a crowded train. It is too easy to misdirect tweets and IMs. A privileged or confidential communication can be sent out publicly if the user forgets to direct tweet. This is also true of email where the -reply all- button is often the instrument of a well intentioned user's downfall.
    From the organizational standpoint, Twitter used for business purposes such as advising clients or closing deals, is very hard to capture as -work product- or a -business record-. How can the tweet be stored and categorized as part of an archive? From the ediscovery standpoint, how are the tweets collected during a litigation; from Twitter? What is the scope of the collection: everything from, to, mentioning, a particular user/custodian?
    I'm sure much more will be written on this topic. The first Tweetified case will be interesting.

  2. You asked for reports from old-timers who remember when e-mail was new. I was working in law firms when e-mail first appeared--the early 1990s. I was also around when voice mail first appeared in law firms (ten years earlier?).

    It is no exaggeration to say that almost all the highest-billing (oldest) partners in law firms during both those eras consistently regarded VM and, later, email to be "highly unprofessional" and "disrespectful of clients."

    In the mid-1990s, I was Gibson Dunn's national marketing director (we call them CMOs now). At that time, law firms were agonizing over whether non-lawyers should be allowed access to the Internet -- because, after all, they would just waste firm time surfing the Web.

    One day in 1996 a courtly older man who was a partner emeritus (or similar title) of the firm strolled into my office. During our visit he recalled how during his father's heyday as a lawyer that telephones were first becoming common business tools. His father initially resisted using anything as crass as a telephone for business communications, but finally succumbed and had a line installed to a phone on his desk. However, for several years thereafter he continued to resist installing a telephone on his secretary's desk, thinking she would merely waste time talking all day to other lawyers' secretaries.

    We laughed together about the short-sightedness of the older generations.

    Here's my point, and I think you can take this to the bank: Any time powerful senior partners in a large law firm characterize a new communication tool or medium as "unprofessional," prepare to see that tool become ubiquitous very fast. The more inflammatory the debate waxes about whether that tool is appropriate for widespread use in a law firm, the more useful that tool will eventually prove to be and the longer its utility will continue.

    Ann Lee Gibson

  3. When it comes to the generational issues folks have discussed in which established clients are not on Twitter or other forms of social media (for me, only about 10% of my clients are on LinkedIn and I have yet to find one on Twitter), I think it is important to realize what social media may and may not be for legal marketers. For my business (jury consulting), I find that the point of marketing is to not only look at immediate gratification, but at the long term benefits.

    Specifically, I am tapping into a whole new potential client base through Twitter- some that may or may not need a jury consultant in the future, but folks whom I know are going to be the future leaders in their industry-- they are already setting themselves apart as the experts of their field through blogs and such.

    I realize that Twitter will likely not lead to immediate business, but it is getting my name out there in another form and with a new group of folks. That is never a negative for anyone as long as you put yourself out there in a meaningful way.

    When I started my solo practice after years at a big litigation consulting firm, a good client advised me: "It doesn't matter how you do it, just keep your name in front of people in a meaningful way. That way, if something comes along next week, next year or 10 years from now, your name will be the one to pop in their heads.

    I think Twitter is a great way to do that.


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