One of the hottest topics up for discussion at last week’s Legal Marketing Association’s Annual Meeting was social networking. From Twitter to Facebook, blogging and tweeting, it almost sounds like a foreign language to the uninitiated. The LMA even warranted its very own hashtag (#LMA) on Twitter to keep track of all the comments flowing through the twitterstream. My own affinity for social networking brought me to Friday’s breakout session, “Emergence & Benefit of Social Networking for Legal Professionals,” led by John Lipsey, LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell’s Vice President of Corporate Counsel Services. The session turned out to be a broader look at social networking than some of the attendees would have liked, but a number of valuable points could still be gleaned. If you’d prefer to read my comments in tweet form, my tweets from the session follow this post.

Social networks involve reputation management: In a Web 2.0 world, you lose control over your own messaging, so a shift is necessary from attempting to control the message to managing your reputation and that of your firm. Because everyone has a voice on the internet, you never know where your next opportunity, or public relations crisis, will come from. As recent incidents have shown, what you say online can affect your career and is not easily erased. Similarly, what others say about your and your firm online can also impact your reputation. The key here is understanding that whether or not your are participating in social networks, the conversation is happening. So getting involved in social networking allows you some control over what is being said about you and your firm, and the ability to react to what others are saying. To monitor the conversation about you and your firm, John suggested setting up Google alerts for your name, your firm’s name, and considering extending these to specialized practice areas to keep abreast of what online chatter might be affecting your reputation.

Twitter is here to stay: As John said during his presentation, the conversations that happen via 140-characters on Twitter become tomorrow’s blog post and the next day’s front page newspaper article. Twitter can help you to understand the conversations around the things you care about, from hot topics in the legal industry and what your clients want, to things like your favorite sports teams and even tips for running. With Twitter’s growth rate at 1382% as of March 2009, it’s not likely to be going anywhere soon.

Use social networks to listen, collaborate, and showcase: To find the right networks, it’s important to identify the goal you have and then be in the places where the people who can help you meet that goal are going. Although John suggested setting up profiles on numerous social networking sites, that can be overwhelming and unwieldy. Doing a bit of research in advance to see which platforms are the most comfortable for you, and then choosing one or two networks to focus your time on is more effective. I focus on Twitter for building my network, Facebook for keeping in touch with friends and family already in my network, and LinkedIn for my professional network. Your online profile on these sites is your online business card – what you do with it creates your brand and reputation.

If you’re new to social networking, you can learn at your own pace. To start, John suggested finding blogs that talk about the things you care about, and setting up an RSS reader so that you can get a sense of what bloggers in that space talk about. Find online profiles of people you respect to see how they’re representing themselves online. Create a Twitter profile, start following people in your field, and read what they say, look at what they link to (for anyone in the legal field, I highly recommend checking out Kevin O’Keefe’s LexTweet for a list of legal tweeters). When you’re ready to start using networks more interactively, it’s still possible to be conservative, if that makes you more comfortable. You can use your online networks to reach out in the same way you would use more traditional methods. Use Twitter or status updates on Facebook and LinkedIn to send out alerts you are also emailing to clients and potential clients. Comment on the ways new laws might affect your clients in your blog, and link to this on your social networks. Ask questions and engage in conversations. Look for needs that you can help to fulfill. Social media helps to turn traditional marketing materials into market intelligence that’s useful to clients, and by making it immediately available on social networking sites, clients have quicker and easier access to it. Social networks also allow you to open a dialogue with clients and potential clients, which can help you to gain valuable insight. For example, you may learn how to better help your clients based on comments you receive on your blog posts.

The key takeaways I got from John’s talk are to use social networks in the same way you’d use traditional networking methods – to listen, to collaborate, and showcase your expertise. Also, being a part of the conversations taking place on social networks helps you to understand what’s being said about you and your firm, so that you can manage your reputation as well as find out what’s important to your clients and potential clients. For me, one of the best ways to do this is through Twitter, which most of us in the room could agree, is not going away any time soon!

Social Networking Tweets:

Most of the room participates in social networking, but only a few firms have social networking strategies #LMA from TweetDeck

John Lipsey calls the interaction of legal professionals in social media “Legal 2.0” #LMA from TweetDeck

There’s both top down strategy for social networking, but also coming from the bottom up, with younger attorneys/staff using it #LMA from TweetDeck

John mentioned that legal professionals are using Martindale-Hubbell connected – how many of you are actually using it? Any thoughts? #LMA from TweetDeck

In April of 2008, about 50% of counsel belong to social network, like LinkedIn or Facebook #LMA from TweetDeck

Corporate counsel are 3x more likely to use their networks for professional reasons #LMA from TweetDeck

Primary professional networking activities for lawyers: listening, collaborating, promoting #LMA from TweetDeck

Doesn’t mean “promoting” as a traditional marketing message – more “showcasing” #LMA from TweetDeck

Social networking is just a tool, not a solution – Good point #LMA from TweetDeck

RT @EsuziT: don’t treat social networking as just another mktg channel (duh) or you’ll fail #lma from TweetDeck

Need to think about social networking as a new tool – you can’t use an old process with a new tool #LMA from TweetDeck

@holdencalgary It certainly has been for our network – little financial investment with GREAT return! #LMA from TweetDeck in reply to holdencalgary

No surprise – what you have on your social networks (if not kept private) can impact your career #LMA from TweetDeck

“As soon as you say it, assume that it’s there forever” #LMA from TweetDeck

Suggests that you set up a google alert for yourself, not just your firms, practice areas, etc. – it’s about reputation management #LMA from TweetDeck

In a web 2.0 world, you lose a lot of control over your own messaging – question is how to deal with less control & manage reputation #LMA from TweetDeck

How do you deal with sheer amt of info from alerts? Trial and error – don’t be too broad. Figure out your objective & filter #LMA from TweetDeck

Everyone has a voice on the internet, and you never know where your next opportunity or PR crisis will come from #LMA from TweetDeck

To train lawyers: help them find the blogs that talk about the things they care about & set up an RSS reader #LMA from TweetDeck

So true: Today’s twitter is tomorrow’s blog post is the next day’s front page newspaper article #LMA from TweetDeck

Most of the room has experimented with twitter, but only very few tweeting – we’re still in experimental stage #LMA from TweetDeck

Twitter helps you to understand the conversation around the things that you care about #LMA from TweetDeck

If you’re afraid to tweet, you can just read what other people are saying until you get more comfortable #LMA from TweetDeck

Twitter is “keyboard bravery” – audience member said it’s giving the bad kids who pass notes in class a voice #LMA from TweetDeck

Our responsibility as marketers to anticipate and guide firms as new technologies happen – twitter not going away #LMA from TweetDeck

Need to figure out what your goal in social networking is & then be in the place where ppl are going or seem to be going #LMA from TweetDeck

You can still be conservative in this dynamic new space – important for some of our lawyers, I think! #LMA from TweetDeck

It’s still important to be cautious when joining a social network – do your research #LMA from TweetDeck

RT @EsuziT: make sure social network data isnt being sold or used for some purpose you’re not comfortable with #lma from TweetDeck

Very important to have that confidence that the person on the other side of the screen (so to speak) is who they say they are #LMA from TweetDeck

@SonnyCohen Definitely – I’d rather spend time on 1 or 2 effectively than spread myself too thin #lma from TweetDeck in reply to SonnyCohen

RT @nancymyrland: #LMA Online profile is now your online calling card to the world. What you do with it creates brand and reputation. from TweetDeck

For a great example of a LinkedIn profile – check out Mark Beese #LMA from TweetDeck

Suggestion from the audience to show uncertain attnys profiles from people they respect online #LMA from TweetDeck

RT @nancymyrland: #LMA Show ur attys other attys profiles if they are good. They will follow. “Steal Ideas Relentlessly” from TweetDeck

Why create a large network? It can help you to get a trusted referral when you see how you’re connected to someone (like on LinkedIn) #LMA from TweetDeck

You can decline invitations to networks if they don’t meet with your objectives – generally, the person inviting doesn’t know #LMA from TweetDeck

Suggested that you ask permission to connect – not possible on twitter! But it allows ppl to decide if it’s appropriate to connect #LMA from TweetDeck

@nancymyrland We might lean too heavily on the twitter side though :) #LMA from TweetDeck in reply to nancymyrland

Use your online networks in the same way you encourage your lawyers to reach out to clients in traditional ways #LMA from TweetDeck

Can use social networks to send out alerts, in addition to email alerts – how can we use these tools in a connective/interactive world #LMA from TweetDeck

You can gain valuable insight from clients who post comments to attorneys’ blog posts #LMA from TweetDeck

Social media can help turn mktg materials into market intelligence – then it’s useful to clients & there’s a live immediate interest #LMA from TweetDeck

Yes – There’s a lot of satisfaction when you start something, and people respond, like on twitter or blogs #LMA from TweetDeck

RT @nancymyrland: #LMA The attitude of “if my lawyer has time to network online, they shld be working on a case or matter” is changing. from TweetDeck

Social networking: create engagements, send stories, watch, interact & engage #LMA from TweetDeck

Social networking guidelines: be transparent in who you are & your intention; adhere to ethical rules; you own your own words #LMA from TweetDeck

More guidelines: be responsive & trustworthy, follow through – don’t just start a blog and forget about it #LMA from TweetDeck

My favorite thing – social networking is here to stay!! #LMA from TweetDeck

RT @nancymyrland: Myrland Marketing Moment: Live-Tweet the presentations your prof’s are giving. Let ur clients know u will b doing so #LMA from TweetDeck

Takeaway: networking new medium here to stay; requires a proactive policy; understand implications & render decisions; #LMA from TweetDeck

Others: social media requires diff tools, tactics & strategies – info management not control. Start small, work with thought leaders #LMA from TweetDeck

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Photo of Lindsay Griffiths Lindsay Griffiths

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. She is a dynamic, influential international executive and marketing thought leader with a passion for relationship development and authoring impactful content. Griffiths is a driven, strategic leader who implements creative initiatives to achieve the…

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. She is a dynamic, influential international executive and marketing thought leader with a passion for relationship development and authoring impactful content. Griffiths is a driven, strategic leader who implements creative initiatives to achieve the goals of a global professional services network. She manages all major aspects of the Network, including recruitment, member retention, and providing exceptional client service to an international membership base.

In her role as Executive Director, Griffiths manages a mix of international programs, engages a diverse global community, and develops an international membership base. She leads the development and successful implementation of major organizational initiatives, manages interpersonal relationships, and possesses executive presence with audiences of internal and external stakeholders. Griffiths excels at project management, organization, and planning, writes and speaks with influence and authority, and works independently while demonstrating flexibility in thinking, especially in challenging situations. She also adapts to diverse and dynamic environments with constant assessment and recalibration.

JD Supra Readers Choice Top Author 2019

In 2021, the ILN was honored as Global Law Firm Network of the Year by The Lawyer European Awards, and in 2016, 2017, and 2022, they were shortlisted as Global Law Firm Network of the Year. Since 2011, the Network has been listed as a Chambers & Partners Leading Law Firm Network, recently increasing this ranking to be included in the top two percent of law firm networks globally, as well as adding two regional rankings. She was awarded “Thought Leader of the Year” by the Legal Marketing Association’s New York chapter in 2014 for her substantive contributions to the industry and was included in Clio’s list of “34 People in Legal You Should Follow on Twitter.” She was also chosen for the American Bar Association Journal’s inaugural Web 100‘s Best Law Blogs, where judge Ivy Grey said “This blog is outstanding, thoughtful, and useful.” Ms. Griffiths was chosen as a Top Author by JD Supra in their 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards, for the level of engagement and visibility she attained with readers on the topic of marketing & business development. She has been the author of Zen & the Art of Legal Networking since February 2009.