The following comment was posted on LinkedIn, in response to my early post “Social Networking; Bah! Humbug!” I could not fit my entire reply on the LinkedIn site, so I am posting it here. Hopefully you will find it insightful:
Fellow LinkedIn Member: “Samira, I fear that lawyers are becoming slaves to Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin, just as they are slaves to the time sheet. What’s happened to good old face to face contact?”
I agree. Nothing replaces face-to-face time for networking and more importantly, relationship building. And the suggestion by some that cyber social networking is a must, totally ignores the limitation of time. Every attorney needs to decide on the best use of their time. At some point, we have to spend time practicing law. Cyber networking can consume countless hours, with little or no return on the time invested. Again, it all comes down to the type of clients you are seeking, where they get their information, and where you should invest your time. If you are looking for commercial clients, Twitter and Facebook are probably not a good place to spend it, although if you enjoy them socially, you can go ahead and merge the two activities simply because you never know where you will get your next client. (If you are on Facebook for strictly social reasons for example, it can’t hurt to make sure your “friends” know what kind of law you practice and that you are open for referrals.) However, it is still unlikely, because of the choice of venue, to be where businesses go to find their attorneys and therefore is probably not the best place to spend hours of business development efforts and time.
LinkedIn is a little different, particularly if you are seeking business/commercial clients. But not necessarily for the reasons most people think. I don’t think businesses go there specifically to find their attorneys, but it can be a decent place to renew old contacts that can lead to renewed business or referrals. My legal practice focuses primarily on commercial clients, so I look for venues where I can make good business contacts. I still rely heavily on traditional networking, but I have used LinkedIn to connect with a number of people that I have known over the years that I had lost contact with but are good contacts to keep. I don’t suggest you consume hours on end there, but if you seek commercial clients, LinkedIn is likely worth investing at least a few hours a month to keep current with the times, explore former business relationships and, as you have apparently experienced yourself, as a decent source of information. It is also important from the standpoint of appearances. Many commercial clients use LinkedIn and if you are not on there, you may appear behind the times, so it is good to at least keep a current profile.
There is no replacement for the same tried and true marketing strategies. The key is to locate where your clients get their information for hiring decisions, and spend the bulk of your business development time there. As one of my clients once said, its all about finding the orchard, or as I call it, a prospect rich environment where there is a high density of your type of client. If it is in the cyber world (whether search engines, networking sites, cyber publications, etc.) then you should spend your time there. But in many cases, it is still heavily referral and traditional networking opportunities that win the day. Your website and LinkedIn or other social networking profiles may only be as important as a good brochure or wearing the right business attire. You always want to appear current with the times and once you make the contact, clients in most areas of practice will turn to the Internet to find out more about you.
One other tidbit of information, I was recently quoted a study by a guy that was trying to sell me some pay-per-click advertising on a search engine. I wasn’t buying but the study confirmed what I had deduced on my own. The number one attorney search on the major search engines is for personal injury attorneys. Number two was for criminal attorneys, and number three was for family/divorce attorneys. After that, the numbers dropped off dramatically. That speaks volumes on both where the orchard is for those areas of practice, and where it is NOT for others.
All that being said, as the youtube video I linked to on my previous post suggested, the Internet is overtaking everything on where people go for information. Attorneys, regardless of their specialty, should at least stick a toe in the water, because over time, it will only grow in its dominance, and we need to be ready to stay at least with the trends, lest we be left behind. I still predict that it will never overtake the “personal touch” but it is destined to grow in its importance in all areas of practice.