Imagine this: It’s Friday night. You’re at a bar having a good time. It’s the same bar you go to every Friday night. You’re talking sports with your friends, doing shots, and hanging out. The bartender knows you’re a lawyer because you’re usually in a suit and tie, and often complaining about taking a whooping at trial. She trusts you because you always tip well, you don’t act like you’re better than everyone else just because you’re a lawyer, and you both are secretly huge Dawson’s Creek fans. One night the bartender asks if you handle custody matters because she is having an issue with her former husband. You help her out as a favor because she doesn’t make much money, and she always makes your drinks stiff. The bartender tells her patrons, friends and family what a great guy you are – you’re the guy who saved her kids. Six months later, her friend calls you because they are looking for someone to help negotiate a big car accident settlement with an insurance company. On another Friday night you’re at the bar watching the Eagles game. A bar patron who knows your face pulls you aside at halftime and says, “Hey, can I ask you a lawyer question? My friend got into a big accident over the weekend. The insurance carrier won’t negotiate with him. Do you think you could help him out? The bartender told me you’re a good lawyer.”
Now imagine this scenario: attorney Joe Smith hires a marketer who tells him local bars are a good source of business. One night you’re sitting in the bar and to your surprise Joe Smith walks in. Joe doesn’t know anyone, but he hands his glossy business card to everyone, explains that he is a lawyer, and says that if you or a loved one has been injured you should call him. He puts coasters in the bar that have his name on them and hangs a snazzy flyer on the wall advertising his law practice. Joe continues to come to the bar once or twice a month to hand out his card, have a quick beer, and then leave. Joe never talks about anything except how he is a lawyer and will represent you or your friends if you’re injured. He seems a little uncomfortable in a local bar, and you suspect he just wants to get out of there. Joe is surprised that he doesn’t get any calls, despite the money he put into the heavy stock business cards, nice coasters, and the advice he paid his marketing expert for.
Imagine the bar were the internet and that is how social media for lawyers works.
You have my assurance that there are no “social media rockstars” pulling in tons of business with a silly flawg or a stupid Twitter account. It doesn’t work that way.
Echoing Sam Glover’s article on Lawyerist, the most common question I get from other lawyers is: “Man, I’ve been reading your blog and I love it. But do you make money off of it? Do you make money off Facebook or Twitter?”
The answer: no, but kinda sorta.
This is how it works…
Our blog is fairly popular, believe it or not. However, I’ve never had a client call and say “I was reading Philly Law Blog. Will you represent me?” It just hasn’t happened. Blog posts have absolutely no correlation with direct potential clients. They just don’t. And they aren’t intended for that purpose anymore than having a beer at a local bar is.
What has happened is other lawyers have called and said “Hey, I read your blog and we chat on Twitter from time to time. Would you be willing to give me a hand with a matter in Pennsylvania, or refer me someone who will?” I’ve gotten some very good cases this way.
But this doesn’t mean blawging is some magic ticket to business. It’s a hobby of mine. I’m sure I would get calls in if my hobby were something different. Blawging just happens to be what I enjoy doing, and if it gets boring, I won’t do it anymore. You don’t need a blog to get business, and if you’re not interested in blogging, there’s really no point.
Facebook is similar. Leo made a stupid “The Fishtown Lawyers” page, which I went onto once just so I could say “HA! HA! I LIKE MY OWN LAW FIRM! WE’RE SO AWESOME!” It’s gotten us absolutely zero business.
However, I have gotten work from Facebook. But it came from my friends and colleagues. Normally it’s a message like “Hey Jordan, we had math together in the 5th grade. I see you’re a lawyer now. Do you handle criminal defense law? My friend got arrested over the weekend and he needs to talk to someone.” My status updates aren’t geared towards anyone or anything. I also suspect many of these people would have called me but Facebook was more convenient.
So, this is my view on social media for lawyers: you’ll get business off of it just like you will from anywhere you hang out. But if you try and “leverage” it, or “accelerate it”, you just end up looking like a schmuck.
And if social media isn’t your thing, don’t waste your time with it – spend more time at the bar.
[Editor's Note]: Yes, I am a Dawson’s Creek fan.