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When social media networks first rolled out over a decade ago, most people viewed them as a fad, something that teenagers used to wile away their days. However, it quickly became apparent that social media wasn’t a temporary pastime, but was instead a phenomenon that affected all aspects of our lives, from how we obtained and shared information to how we interacted and communicated with others, conducted business, and more.
Even as social networks increased in popularity and became mainstream, many lawyers still doubted their relevance to their day-to-day law practices. Over time, however, that changed, and today most lawyers will readily acknowledge that social media impacts many different aspects of their practices, including their marketing and business development efforts and their cases in practice areas ranging from litigation and matrimonial matters to criminal defense and copyright law.
Of course, social media use by lawyers is always evolving. That’s why I like to review the results of the annual ABA Legal Technology Survey Report each year to see which networks are used most by lawyers and to learn how often – and why – lawyers interact online.
For reasons I don’t quite understand, this year’s Report continues the trend of focusing its social media inquiries to a limited list of social networks and that list hasn’t been revised in a number of years (and the same thing occurs in the mobile section where wearable use by lawyers still remains unaddressed). So, for example, Instagram use by lawyers isn’t discussed. Hopefully the Report’s authors will choose to revise their inquiries in these categories next year.
In any event, this year’s report was chock full of lots of interesting statistics on the ways that lawyers use some of the more popular social networks, so let’s dive in and take a look!
Lawyers and Social Media
The lawyers who were surveyed were asked why they chose to interact on social media. Not surprisingly, the reasons for interacting online varied quite a bit. 70% reported that career development and networking were their motivating reasons. 54% hoped to obtain clients as a result of their participation online. 48% used social media as a tool to increase their education awareness. And finally, 30% used social media to investigate their cases.
For those lawyers seeking to drum up business as a result of their online interaction, some were successful, with 35% reporting that they’d had a client retain their services directly or via a referral because of their social media use for professional purposes. 46% indicated that their online interaction never resulted in a new client, and 19% weren’t sure.
Lawyers and LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a popular site for lawyers, something confirmed by this year’s report. 46% of lawyers indicated that their law firms maintained a LinkedIn presence. 65% reported that they personally maintained a LinkedIn profile for professional purposes, and 34% shared that they used LinkedIn for reasons unrelated to professional goals.
Larger firms were the most likely to have a presence on LinkedIn, with 89% of firms of 100 or more attorneys have a presence in LinkedIn (compared to 91% in 2016). Next up were 65% of solos (compared to 85% in 2016), 90% of mid-sized firms with 10-49 lawyers (compared to 76% in 2016), and 58% of smaller firms with 2-9 lawyers (compared to 63% in 2016).
When it come to personal LinkedIn pages, solos and lawyers from mid-sized firms led the way, with 93% of lawyers from firms with 10-49 lawyers using LinkedIn (compared to 99% in 2016) and 80% of solos (compared to 91% in 2016). In third place were lawyers from firms of 2-9 lawyers at 74% (compared to 85% in 2016(.
Lawyers and Facebook
42% of lawyers shared that their law firms maintained a Facebook presence. 37% of responding lawyers shared that they used Facebook for professional reasons, and 90% indicated that they participated on Facebook for personal, non-professional purposes.
The most active lawyers on Facebook for professional purposes are solos at 59% (compared to 48% in 2016), followed by 49% of lawyers from small firms (2-9 attorneys) (compared to 41% in 2016). Mid-sized firms with 10-49 lawyers were next at 26% (compared to 22% in 2016), and lawyers at firms with 100 or more lawyers came in last at 26% (compared to 16% in 2016).
Lawyers and Twitter
14% of respondents indicated that their law firms maintained a Twitter presence, and 25% indicated that they interacted on Twitter using personal accounts. Lawyers were asked to indicate why they personally used Twitter, and the responses varied. 73% indicated that they did so for social/personal reasons, 49% did so for educational awareness, 27% used Twitter for career development and networking, 17% hoped to obtain clients as a result of their Twitter interaction, and 6% investigated cases on Twitter. Finally, a mere 1% of lawyers reported that a client retained them as a result of their use of Twitter for professional reasons.
Lawyers from mid-sized firms led the way with 20% maintaining a Twitter account (compared to 26% in 2016), followed by 24% of solos (compared to 25% in 2016), 31% of large firm lawyers (compared to 25% in 2016), and 25% of small firm lawyers (compared to 24% in 2016).
Lawyers and blogs
Blogs have been around longer than social media, so it’s no surprise that some lawyers blog. However, over the years, the number of lawyers and law firms maintaining blogs has dropped, and the statistics from this report show a continuation of that downward trend.
50% of firms with 500 or more attorneys maintain at least one law firm blog (compared 71% in 2017, 60% in 2016, 58% in 2015, and 62% in 2014). Next up is firms with 100-499 attorneys at 57% (compared with 71% in 20178, 52% in 2016, 53% in 2015, and 47% in 2014), followed by mid-sized firms with 10-49 attorneys at 35%, then small firms with 2-9 lawyers at 30%, and solo law firms at 8%.
When it came to lawyers who personally maintained a blog for professional reasons, solo lawyers were the most likely to do so at 8%, down from 15% last year. Next were 11% of lawyers from firms of 2-9 lawyers which was the same percentage as last year, 5% of lawyers from firms of 100 or more attorneys (down from 11% last year), and 3% of lawyers from firms of 10-49 attorneys (down from 10% last year).
Lawyers blog for a number of reasons. The most popular driving force behind maintaining a blog was client development at 73%, followed by the enjoyment of writing and outreach (36%), and career development and networking (32%). Finally, 36% reported that a client has retained their services because of their blogging efforts, down from 43% last year.
So that’s how lawyers and law firms are using social media in 2019. How does your firm’s social media use compare?