Social Media for Lawyers Done Right (Part 3)

English: Infographic on how Social Media are b...

English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been discussing ways that lawyers can use social media as part of an effective online presence. My premise has been that an effective online presence is one that ultimately forwards business goals. For most lawyers, this means bringing in new business. But, as I’ve explained, the path that leads to this result is different for every lawyer and varies depending on each lawyer’s areas of practice, geographic location, and the chosen platforms for online interaction.

In Part 1 of this series, I highlighted how some lawyers are creating an effective online presence by creating active online communities, thus establishing a devoted online “tribe” of followers.

Last week, in Part 2, I examined more fully the concept of an “effective online presence” and then featured one lawyer who was using a relatively new social network, Pinterest, in a very creative way.

And, this week I’d like to showcase how a few other lawyers have used social media effectively, including: 1) how a law student created a name for himself online and continues to do so as he builds a solo practice from the ground up, 2) how one personal injury attorney successfully created a blog that stands out from the crowd, and 3) how a BigLaw attorney has created a very successful niche using social media.

The foresight to start in law school

Many law students are hesitant to become involved in social media, in part because many law schools discourage it, which is unfortunate. In my opinion, they are wasting a valuable opportunity to network and interact with potential future employers and colleagues.

Fortunately, this cannot be said of all law students–and Josh Camson is a shining example of a lawyer who began to create an effective online presence and establish these vitally important connections while still in law school. He did this by blogging in 2009 at the popular blog, Lawyeristwhile he was still in his third year of law school.

He continues to blog at Lawyerist to this very day, but now focuses primarily on chronicling his experiences and offering tips gleaned from hanging a shingle and launching his own practice. His posts are interesting, informative and extremely useful, providing lessons and tips for other new solo practitioners, while simultaneously serving as a vehicle for obtaining advice and feedback from more experienced attorneys.

Josh’s efforts are a great example of how to start creating an effective online presence and the connections that go with it while still in law school and his continued blogging efforts only serve to strengthen his online presence and that of his newly established law firm.

A personal injury blog done right

Just as blogging for a group blog is an effective way to strengthen your law firm’s online presence, so too is starting a blog for your own law practice. The problem is, it’s not always easy to create an interesting and useful blog and unfortunately, this is particularly difficult to do in the field of personal injury law. As a result, most personal injury law blogs are uninteresting and many times seem sleazy, with a seemingly morbid focus on automobile accidents, slip and falls, and horrible injuries.

The good news is that sometimes, when you think outside the box, you can achieve great results. Such is the case with the New York Injury Cases blog, where attorney John Hochfelder blogs about the amounts awarded for specific injuries in various New York cases.  This may not sound like an earth shattering proposition, but what is so unique about John’s blog is that he discusses the judgements awarded after reviewing the records on appeal and analyzing the plaintiff’s underlying injuries, many of which are not disclosed in the published cases. His analysis of the injuries and amounts awarded make his blog posts very valuable to other New York personal injury attorneys, who oftentimes use his blog posts as evidence of the value of their clients’ injuries during settlement purposes.

So, why is this an effective personal injury blogging technique? Because, not only does Hochfelder repeatedly use key words that most personally attorneys would kill to be able to naturally include in their posts, he does so for a legitimate purpose. Another benefit is that because of his blog, other personal injury attorneys across the state know who he is, appreciate the service he provides, and thus are arguably now good referral sources since Hochfelder is very much on their radar because of his blog.

One final benefit is that the blog serves a useful purpose for Hochfelder himself since his analysis arms him with useful settlement information as well.

An effective BigLaw presence

Finally, last, but not least, I offer an example of a BigLaw associate who is using social media to successfully create a name for himself in his area of practice. Evan Brown is a technology and intellectual property attorney with Hinshaw Culbertson in Chicago, Illinois. Evan has been blogging at his very popular and well respected blog, Internet Cases, since 2005. His blog focuses on law and technology, and, as the name implies, there is a particular focus on legal issues related to the Internet.

In addition to blogging, he also co-hosts a popular podcast, This Week in Law (TWIL), with Denise Howell, an attorney who was an online pioneer and was the first to coin the term “blawg”. TWIL  focuses on breaking issues in technology law including patents, copyrights and is hosted on the extremely popular TWIT.TV, a netcast network that has over 25 shows and millions of viewers worldwide.

As can be seen at Evan’s “About page“, he frequently receives national press coverage, both written and televised, on the issues about which he blogs and discusses during the TWIL netcast. Surely it’s no coincidence that he’s interviewed regarding the very same issues about which he blogs and speaks. And the press coverage on those issues, along with his very strong online presence, no doubt forwards his business goals.

There’s no “right” way to create an effective online presence

So, as you can see, creating an effective online presence isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. There are many different ways to go about it and no particular method is the “right” one.

Of course, a strong online presence is by no means is it the end all and be all, and it’s not essential for every lawyer, but for many lawyers, it’s worth taking the time to explore your options and test the waters. So don’t automatically write off social media as a worthless endeavor. Because you just might find that a strategic, carefully thought out plan of online interaction may be well worth the time investment and effort. But there’s only one way to find out: you’ll have to give it a try.

–Niki Black

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