Biglaw, Facebook, Social Media, Social Networking Websites, Twittering

Biglaw’s Brave New Social World

Can Biglaw solve this puzzle?

Most every law firm — including 100 percent of the Am Law 50 — maintains a Linkedin company page. Or rather, “maintains” such a presence on that most buttoned-up of all the social media platforms. A quick look at the LinkedIn pages of the Vault top 10 shows that only two firms bothered to change their page’s default setting to display “Services” rather than the inapt “Products” tab on the navigation menu. (Kudos to Kirkland and Debevoise!) This might seem like the most trivial of nits to pick, but aren’t these firms defined by fanatical attention to detail? Yet this nonchalance is emblematic of Biglaw’s unsettled relationship with social media.

We can safely assume that Biglaw’s old guard just wants social media to get off its lawn already, but what data we have strongly suggests that, as organizations, firms believe — or act as if they believe — that engagement with social media is worth doing (pace Brian Tannenbaum). When we examine the particulars of how they are managing this engagement, firms should hope that there is truth to Chesterton’s dictum: “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly….”

Throughout 2013, ATL, along with our friends at Good2BSocial, researched the social media practices of law firms. The research had three components: (1) a review of the websites and social media profiles of the Am Law 50 across all public platforms, including an assessment of each firm’s publicly available content as well as social reach and engagement (number of followers, comments, etc.); (2) a survey of the firms themselves regarding the extent to which they are currently using social technologies and practices internally; and (3) a survey of the ATL readership to glean the perspective of practicing attorneys and other legal professionals.

We are publishing the results of this research in two stages. Today, we are making available a white paper summarizing our findings and analysis. (Sign up below to receive a free download of the paper.) In January 2014, we will publish the second component of our findings: our inaugural Social Law Firm Index, a ranking of the effectiveness of specific firms’ use of social media.

We’ve asserted that, broadly speaking, firms believe that engaging in social media is worthwhile. At the most basic level, here is what the Am Law firms are doing to establish their social media presence:

The vast majority of the firms who are on Facebook or Twitter do not just have a “placeholder” page (meaning no profile photo and little or no information). On the other hand, 64 percent of firm Google+ profiles were just placeholders (firm name with no details or updates whatsoever).

So WHY are firms putting effort into social media? What purposes do these efforts serve?

Marketing remains the single most important focus of social technology usage by law firms. Among the large law firm segment, recruiting has emerged as the second-greatest focus of law firm social media practices.

Finally, yesterday Joe wrote about the arguably heavy-handed and overly broad social media policy of Milbank. The firm can’t be judged too harshly as it is grappling with a set of unprecedented concerns. For some context, when we asked our readers whether their employers had an official social media policy, the responses broke out as follows:

• Yes for both internal and external use: 31%
• Yes for external use: 8%
• Yes for internal use: 3%
• No: 40%
• Not sure: 19%

So it appears a bit unclear whether Milbank is in the majority in having an established policy; nearly one-fifth of respondents simply don’t know if their firms have taken such a step.

For a much, much deeper dive into the state of play of Biglaw social media, sign up for a free download of our white paper.

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Earlier: Biglaw Firm Holds Associates To Strict Social Media Policy

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