Facebook? For Lawyers?

Clear & Convincing Feature Article

Twitter for Your Law Practice

For the two or three folks who have never heard the word "Facebook," let me explain.

Facebook is a social networking platform found on the Internet. When created by Mark Zuckerberg and his roommates at Harvard in 2004, it was limited to Harvard students. Now, 1.49 billion individuals use it to stay connected with family, friends, and business acquaintances. Somewhere among those 1.49B active users is somebody or many somebodies you know.

That is the point of Facebook. It is a social network where people connect and build relationships. All are welcome, including lawyers. You can befriend other lawyers, prospective clients, referral sources, and influencers such as association leaders. Think of it as written word-of-mouth networking; sort of an online cocktail party.

Facebook makes it easy to start. Simply open a browser, find your favorite search engine, type in Facebook, and up will pop their link (www.facebook.com). Follow the link, click on the sign-up page, and follow the directions.

Your first decision is choosing a username. It can be your firm name or an individual. Choose the name wisely because changing it is difficult.

Next, add a photo to the page banner. If you’re a solo practitioner, use a professional headshot of yourself. Firms can use a logo in the little square provided with firm members in the cover picture. Using photos of individuals keeps it personal. Remember, it’s a professional networking party and a professional social event, not an advertisement.

How do you find an audience?

  • Send a one-time e-mail blast announcement to your fellow lawyers, business contacts, and friends,
  • Include links to your Facebook page on your SBM Member Directory profile, in your e-mail signature line, and on your law firm’s website,
  • Send a one-time invite to contacts on Facebook, and
  • Announce your new page with a link on your Twitter account.

What do you post?

To keep your followers, fans, or friends engaged, you need to share interesting content.

Include links to articles written by others in your area of the law, to your firm’s blog posts, or humorous posts. Always remember the social aspect of Facebook, which, according to marketing expert Nicole Black, means that half of your posts should connect readers to online content you find interesting while thirty percent of the time you should reply to a posting by clicking “like” or post a comment. Divide the last twenty percent equally between self-promotion and your personal interests and hobbies.

Use photos with your posts—they foster the greatest response. Include pictures of the people from your law firm. Also add pictures of members out and about in the community—it helps to humanize your firm.

A caveat or two:

Before you click on the link to start your Facebook page, put together a social media policy for the firm to follow. It can be simply a list of strategies created on a napkin at a coffee bar or a complex plan stating who will post what. Try to get ideas from everyone in the firm, including the new associates who have grown up with social media.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking one person can do it all. While that one person can be the official “poster,” all of the firm members should be encouraged to come up with ideas and create content. And, most of all, determine to be active on Facebook with interesting content. If you believe you can’t keep up with it, don’t start the page.

And, I don’t really have to remind you, but I will; keep the ethics rules in mind when posting, particularly MRPC 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3. Put together an ethics guide for the firm to follow, including the applicable rules and links to relevant ethics opinions available on the State Bar’s ethics web page. Remember, interactive communication that you initiate with someone you don’t know without invitation, e.g., online chats, is analogous to ethically prohibited direct solicitation. Don’t give legal advice—stick with news and informational posts in your area of practice to avoid the potential of creating client conflicts. When in doubt about the ethics of your Facebook communication, call the SBM ethics helpline at (877) 558-4760 before you post.

Finally, have fun with it. Remember it’s a networking platform where you can connect with clients, other lawyers, referral sources, and leaders in your area of practice. Don’t forget to go to your profile on the SBM Member Directory and put in the link to your new Facebook page. Create it and they will come.

Roberta GubbinsRoberta Gubbins has served as the editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides services as a ghostwriter editing articles, blogs, and e-blasts for lawyers and law firms. She is the editor of Briefs, the Ingham County Bar Association e-newsletter, and The Mentor, SBM Master Lawyers Section Newsletter.

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