Why Would A Lawyer Waste Time Studying Social Media?

Because I don’t want to look like an idiot!

(How’s that for getting straight to the point?)

I really do hope that someone out there will actually read my blog. When that actually does happen (that’s right, I am believing with faith), I suspect that the first question they will ask after seeing my posts about using social media is “why on earth would Shawn waste so much of his otherwise billable time learning about how to use social media?” And that is a valid question because I am a lawyer, not a professional blogger. So, before I write my next blog about … you guessed it: what I have learned this week about using social media, I decided to go ahead and preempt the inevitable question by answering it now. Because my professional life is driven by serving my clients, they are the ones I really have to answer to so I am writing this as though I am responding to a loyal client–though certainly no one in particular.

1. Social Media Is The Future: One of Us Needs to Understand It

First, I am firmly convinced that within the next couple of years social media is going to change the way business operates as much as did the use of e-mail, the fax machine, the mimeograph (haha–a copier dummy–you remember the ones from elementary school back in the 70s where you used to love to sniff the purple-bluish ink?), carbon paper, the telephone, the telegraph, and of course, the courier pigeon! You don’t believe me? Well just this past week I read an article entitled Email Use Plummets Among Teens (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/08/email-use-teens_n_820121.html) in which it was reported that e-mail use dropped 59% among 12 to 17-year-old age group and, for the 18 to 54 year-old group e-mail use is declining in favor of the use of social media for communications. Those teenagers who are driving you crazy now are your future customers and my future clients and my guess is they are not going to be exchanging many fax communications with either one of us. You and I are both going to be using this in our business and, if I’m going to be able to competently advise you on this issue, it probably won’t hurt for me to at least have a basic understanding of it as well–and the really good news is that you will not even be billed for my gaining this understanding!

2. I Am No Longer Counting on the Yellow Pages for New Clients

Second, while I love you and truly appreciate you as a client, our relationship is not monogamous. I know you have other lawyers and, quite frankly, I hope to keep gaining new clients. One of the ways I hope to accomplish this is by developing a greater presence out in the market-place and social media is a great way to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that you are able to find me in the Yellow Pages but, to be quite honest, I have not opened a copy of the Yellow Pages in years and I suspect that most of my prospective clients are no different.

3. I Prefer to Learn the Ropes Before Making the Mistakes

Third, I know this is a topic that we have discussed many times before. Please understand that I am not pointing fingers that you but simply explaining myself. As I have explained to you a few other times, unless a situation requires immediate action (and most do not), it is usually best to take your time and study the situation, gain an understanding of how it works, plan out your strategy, and then begin executing your plan. That is, learn as much as you can from the work of others and their mistakes before going in and making mistakes of your own! Right now that is exactly what I’m doing. I have no delusions of my becoming the next great social media blogger nor would I trade the wonderful privilege I have of serving clients like you (despite the sarcasm dripping from every other line of this blog, I really do say this with all sincerity).

I love my work. However, I have a lot of learning to do before I become proficient at (A) understanding how to effectively use social media in the business context, (B) actually being effective at using social media in the business context, and (C) actually learn the ins and outs of blogging before I can begin blogging about topics that are of interest to you and your business (since you don’t seem to think this one is). Therefore, since I am taking the time to study this subject matter, I may as well share what I’m learning with others. Moreover, in the event you ever decide to bring your company out of the stone ages, I will be able to direct you to this blog and let you learn what I have learned and not bill you one red cent for the advice! See, no matter what I do, I am always thinking about your best interests.

4. I Really Don’t Want to Look Like An Idiot!

Have you seen anything in the news lately about Kenneth Cole? Oh wait, sorry, I got distracted … where was I? Oh, ok …

Fourth and finally, I really did mean it when I said I do not want to look like an idiot. One of the things I have learned is that there is an unwritten code of social mores in the world of social media and one little faux paux can have you branded as an idiot in no time. You understand what I mean here, right? It’s like we’ve discussed many times before, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure … oh, and speaking of a pound of cure, please don’t forget about that last bill I sent you a few months ago … the children need new shoes.

8 thoughts on “Why Would A Lawyer Waste Time Studying Social Media?

  1. Shawn

    Congrats to you for embracing social media! In the world of advertising and marketing it was what is needed to stay on top of technology and still remain a viable industry. Each profile on the various platforms is a way of being found. In December alone there were over 18 billion searches in the US. Think about that. Sure we can equate that to the holidays but that is only up from 17 billion in November. The biggest increase is from month/month vs year/year as there were only 14 billion in Dec 2009.

    The attorney/lawyer usage of social media is obviously governed by more limitations than many but at the same time social media is not a means of free pass to overlook how law firms communicate online by ignoring what has already been established. The medium has changed but the basic fundamentals have not. The law does not preclude attorneys from engaging, it looks closely at the engagement to ensure that legal advice is not being given and that the standards of advertising are upheld.

    A firm that is advertising in yellow pages is missing the mark on where people are searching. When someone is searching for an attorney, it is out of an immediate need. They are not on a pleasure search to see who the lawyers are in their area. They hold the ultimate buying power. They can receive a referral that we know they will look up online. If not, they are searching to be able to find a firm that they feel comfortable with from a search (a website solution that makes them trust to take the next step to call for a consultation).

    There is a lot to consider as a law firm – local optimization, blogging, a voice and identity on the various platforms. You are definitely taking the right steps and lending a hand to others to follow your journey into blogging.

  2. Shawn, in reading this article on Social Media one point really stands out to me as a reminder of an earlier post by my grandson. In fact I reproduced his writing on my blog for anyone interested in reading. His article can be found: http://bobwieters.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/a-loss-of-respect-for-the-handwritten-word/

    I felt that both of you hit on the same area of what is being lost over time, and if you really think about it it’s really a sad situation. Our great grandchildren and those after will not have the penmanship that we have or those before us had. Why even you and I do not possess the penmanship that those that came before us had. Look at the beautiful script that was once used in many documents.

    Just thought that this was something that I wanted and needed to bring up. Hope you enjoy Nathan’s article, I feel he really did a nice job on it.


    1. Bob, you and Nathan raise a very good issue. Yes, the beauty of truly elegant and classical handwriting can rarely be surpassed. In fact, many are amazed that my signature is actually clean and legible which, admittedly, is a rarity for lawyers but it is somewhat a family tradition as both my mother and grandmother had very beautiful and elegant signatures. I am thrilled to say that a couple of my kiddos a picking that up as well. As you also know, I am a huge fan of our Founding Fathers and, while I greatly expect the substance of their writings and the power of their ideas, I often time enjoy looking at their writings for the sole purpose of enjoying the beauty of their penmanship. This love of the written word is only magnified by my intense love for fountain pens (with bottled ink only, of course!). Given all of that, yes I too will lament the loss, or at least infrequent use of, this form of communication but, just as I still prefer to use an antiquated fountain pen when others have gone the way of the rollerball, I will do my best to keep this art form alive by passing it, along with my collection of fountain pens, on to my children!

  3. Love the way you approach this thing we call social media, Shawn. We’re all learning, figuring things out, learning from the experiences of others and our own missteps. The effectiveness of Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and other platforms vary by industry, type of business and the time and resources devoted to it.

    But it’s good to be in the game as it develops, even if on a limited scale, learning as we go. And, I certainly don’t want to look like an uninformed idiot, either 🙂

    1. Tim!
      ummmm, ilooks like i reall am an idiot! hahaha turns out it wasn’t your fault on the comment at all … it was some idiot who didn’t realize there was such a thing as a spam filter on here! Ah well, here it is a week later and I finally got to see your comment and yes, it was indeed very profound! This really is a lot of fun and something I enjoy doing so I’m going to do it in a way that reflects that — that is fun. Man, lawyering is hard and stressful work … but in a lot of ways it has to be that way so it just comes with the territory and, since it’s my day job, that’s just how it is! Blogging, however, is for fun and that’s how I enjoy it. Thank you my friend, I really appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts!

  4. You raise a great point about learning new things. Part of the reason I chose this profession was because I wanted to always be growing and learning in my career and the law has been wonderful for that. Now, however, our world is changing faster than we can even recognize — and a huge part of that is the new tidal wave of information that is available — a tidal wave by which we can either get swamped or we can ride till the next one comes along! As for me, “surf’s up dude!” — let’s get it!

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