Akin Gump, Blogging, In-House Counsel, Patton Boggs, Social Networking Websites

Many In-House Counsel Are Social Media Savvy. But Biglaw Firms? Not So Much.

There are a number of firms that aren’t up to speed with this whole “social media thing.” But they should be, because their clients are.

American Lawyer Media, Zeughauser Group and communications firm Greentarget surveyed 164 in-house counsel about their social media habits. Lo and behold, they are making use of blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to get their legal information… and, perhaps more interestingly, to judge law firms.

In-house counsel still primarily rely on “referrals from trusted sources and credentialing activity (i.e., demonstrations of thought leadership)” to choose outside lawyers, but they are increasingly taking brilliant tweets and blog posts into consideration…

Media Bistro sums up the survey findings:

  • 43 percent of in-house counsel identified blogs as among their leading sources of news and information.
  • 53 percent of in-house counsel expect their consumption of industry news and information via new media platforms will increase over the next six months to a year.
  • Nearly half of counsel aged 30-39 have used Facebook for professional reasons in the past week.
  • 51 percent of in-house counsel said they would receive content from their law firms via new media platforms provided the content is relevant to their businesses.

The survey also found that the social networking and new media tools in-house counsel use most frequently for biz reasons are LinkedIn, blogs and Wikipedia. (Note to law firms: a reason to keep waging those Wikipedia wars.)

So about half of in-house counsel are social media savvy. Age, of course, is a factor:

But what about law firms? What are they doing and what should they be doing to get on GCs’ online radars?

Corporate Resource recently took a look at which firms are hip when it comes to online networking, and whether tweeting helps a firm’s bottom line. It produced a fascinating chart showing which AmLaw 100 firms are blogging, Facebooking, and tweeting, and even more interesting, their numbers of followers (Patton Boggs and Seyfarth Shaw FTW! Both have topped 1,000 Twitter followers.) Many Biglaw firms are not down with the Internet though:

Although there doesn’t appear to be a correlation between firm size (based on revenue) and Twitter use, it is clear that “white shoe” firms don’t Twitter, ie conservative firms are still conservative. Of the 18 old “white shoe” firms in the AmLaw 100 (we use Wikipedia’s list), none of them Twitter. Expanding the list by the further 11 “new” white shoe firms, nets us only 2 Twitterers (NB there are also no white shoe firms with more than a “holding page” presence on Facebook either). That’s 7.4% against the 29% average.

Good news for tepid tweeps: The GC social media survey suggests that it’s better be big on blogging than on Twitter:

In-house counsel ranked the following activities as “most important” for helping them to research outside counsel for potential hire:

1. Recommendations from sources you trust – 73 percent
2. Articles and speeches the lawyer has authored – 38 percent
3. Bios on the firm’s Web site – 30 percent
4. Blogs published by lawyers on relevant topics – 27 percent

• Half of in-house counsel agree or somewhat agree that in the future, high-profile blogs authored by law firm lawyers will influence the process by which clients hire law firms.

• In contrast, only 10 percent of in-house counsel believe that a firm’s prominence on Twitter will drive business development.

Social media lawyer guru Adrian Dayton notes that there are several active GC tweeps, though:

GC’s like Mark Chandler of Cisco and Jeff Carr of FMC Technologies have been on Twitter and reading blogs for some time- and another much larger group will be joining the party soon according to this survey. Those firms that wait to innovate will be playing catch-up. Time to start blogging.

Just throwing up a Twitter account or blog and tweeting or posting press releases is not enough. (Please, please spare us that.) You have to create dynamic content worth following. Solo practitioners have been onto this for a while. Successful law firm blogs are rarer. Some great examples: Akin Gump’s SCOTUSblog, McDermott’s Legal Crisis Strategies (though it’s infrequently updated), and Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson’s Genomics Law Report.

It’s not like Field of Dreams — “If you build it, they will come”; when it comes to social media, you have to build something interesting.

Greentarget launches Corporate Counsel New Media Engagement Survey [Greentarget]
Social Media Use at the AmLaw 100 [My Corporate Resource]
Survey: Legal Industry Finally Warming To Social Media [PR Newser/MediaBistro]
Twittering Classes: Lessons For and From the AmLaw 100 [My Corporate Resource]
Does Social Media Matter to In-house Counsel? [Marketing Strategy and the Law]

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