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There are three kinds of lawyers in this world.

The retail lawyer, selling off-the-shelf products; the hand-holding lawyer, crafting bespoke private-client relationships; and then there’s the commercial lawyer… who works with businesses (some large, some small). Ok, this is a crass over-simplification but the concept behind this statement should not be overlooked.

For the retail lawyer, and the hand-holding lawyer, the social web makes sense. You want to set yourself apart from the rest. You may well want to be bright, funky and welcoming. You want to engage in conversation and build relationships with individuals. You want to make noise. You want consumers to ‘like’ you on Facebook, retweet you on Twitter and you want them to read your blog. You want men and women to walk off the street and want to work with you.

For the commercial lawyer, it’s a little different. First of all, over the past few years, countless pieces of research have told us that you’re more into your work than maintaining and building a client base (in fact you may wish to take a look at this article about how business development is the ‘elephant in the room for lawyers’…) Second of all, you tend to see your clients as they are in law, rather than the sum total of the people that make them. As an eminent old judge put it: “(corporations have) no soul to be damned, and no body to be kicked.” And thereby, by extension: commercial lawyers often think corporations have no soul that can be tweeted at, no body that can read a blog.

Things couldn’t be more different. Corporations are alive and kicking. They do have a personality. And most importantly: they’re listening to what’s happening online, on blogs and on social media.

We’ve already known for some time that 22% of consumers in America are going onto the social web to source legal services.

But here’s the important part for today. According to recent research by Greentarget, more and more in-house counsel are going online to source commercial legal services. That’s right… IN-HOUSE LAWYERS ARE LOOKING FOR LAW FIRMS TO INSTRUCT BY LOOKING ONLINE.

What they’ve found is that in-house counsel read law firm blogs, keep a check-up on Facebook and Twitter and make meaningful connections on LinkedIn.

I could give you a full run-down of the findings but I think it may be better to take a look at what John Corey, the founder and CEO of Greentarget had to say to Lee Pacchia on a recent episode of the Business of Law by Bloomberg Law.  You can watch the full video interview between Greentarget and Bloomberg Law here. I’ve added emphases on the important parts, all of which are my own.

Lee Pacchia kicked things off by asking: “We want you to walk us through the invisible user trend. So what is an invisible user trend?”

Over to John Corey: “We termed the term ‘invisible user’ back in 2012 when we did our second study. We were measuring that in-house counsel were becoming voracious consumers of content. We started to see that they were going to blogs often, to read content – not to contribute to it. Going to LinkedIn to build connections, to receive news and information; but not necessarily to initiate discussions.

It was really about using the tools to build connections and consume information and what we thought we were finding was because of that, that you cannot apply consumer marketing metrics.

There are a lot of people in the legal marketing space who want to try to apply old techniques to how you measure. But it’s not about the old way.

They’re not looking for conversation. They’re not looking for dialogue. They’re not looking for discussion. They’re (in-house counsel) looking for good information. And if firms can produce that, on the channels where they’re congregating such as blogs and LinkedIn: then we’re finding that they’re going to be able to build a good following.

In our view, engagement is about turning online relationships into offline relationships.”

Lee Pacchia then asks the money question: “So once you know that the vast majority of in-house counsel isn’t there to contribute to the conversation. They’re really there just to listen in a sense. How does a law firm or a solo-practitioner that’s trying to pitch them to get work take the knowledge from your survey to the point of actually getting a client?”

John Corey responds: “Not an easy process. It gets down to quality; producing good content. Understanding where in-house counsel is congregating online. We know that they’re on blogs. We know that LinkedIn comprises the greatest congregation of anywhere on the social web today.”

Pacchia interjects again: “Are they using that to get a job or using that to generate content and interact with others? Are they using it as a true social media site?”

John Corey again: “They’re using it multiple ways. They’re using it to connect with in-house colleagues. They’re using it to connect with outside counsel with whom they work. They’re using it to connect with counsel with whom they don’t work. They’re using it to get news and information. They’re using it to follow and connect with business leaders. So it’s a tool they’re using in multiple ways.”

Another question from Lee Pacchia: “What about Wikipedia? We’ve heard that increasingly doctors are using Wikipedia, what about lawyers?”

John Corey responds: “We’ve found that Wikipedia is among the frequently most used platform for professional and personal reasons. We’ve seen over the past number of years that it’s been inching up by use and on the credibility scale too.

The way they’re using it is for research. And over the last couple of years they’re using it to research topics of personal interest (cyber loafing!?). But in the last year we’ve seen a significant jump in the percentage of counsel that is using it for business and industry research.

50% are using it for business purposes in 2012. And we’ve seen it jump up to 65% in 2013. So it’s actually one of the biggest percentage leaps that we’ve seen in our 2013 data.”

Pacchia: “Law firms are trying to get into the video space. How are they doing?”

John Corey: “On the video side we’ve found through some of the other questions we asked that about 25% of counsel are going to YouTube and other professional content. About 60% of counsel are going to get video of a personal nature.

Now when it comes to law firms actually publishing video either on their websites or firm branded YouTube channels, very few of them are actually getting traction with inside counsel. We don’t think that many firms are doing it today and many firms aren’t investing the time or resources on production technologies to do it well.

 

We think that there’s an opportunity. We didn’t ask: if law firms produced higher quality content, would you come? But we think that we can infer from the data that firms start to move in this direction, and then we think there will be an audience if it is done well.”

Pacchia then comes to social media usage by attorneys, asking: “Are older attorneys going to be as willing to adapt social media as the younger generation?” And adding: “I’ve noticed that things are beginning to even out: I’m seeing older people use Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. What are you seeing in your study?”

John Corey on social media use by attorneys: “Going back to 2010 we saw a sharp generational divide. We need to take blogs aside, because regardless of company size and age group, we saw that counsel were viewing blogs as reliable sources.

But when we got into specific platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter we saw that counsel in their 30s were very active on this platform. Whereas when we looked to counsel in their 40s, 50s and 60s we saw a pretty sharp decline in usage.

Fast forward to 2012 and it started to even out a little bit.Counsel in their 30s: their usage stabilised. But counsel in their 50s and 60s started to substantially increase their usage. And now in 2013, we’re starting to see older counsel taper off a little.

There could be any number of things driving that such as they’re in the later stages of their careers, so they’re not vying for that promotion or that growth in income progression. And generationally it’s not as much part of their DNA.

Usage isn’t as low as it was in 2010 but I think it’s safer to say that younger lawyers are using the tools much more.”

Lee Pacchia asks: “For a solo practitioner or someone at a law firm looking for more work from in-house counsel, what’s the key take away? What do they need to focus on?”

Back to John Corey: “I’d have to break it down into a few points. LinkedIn remains the serious social platform. It contains the greatest concentration of lawyers: 67% have used the platform within the last week; 40% within the last 24 hours.

So if there’s one tool that law firms would have to invest in, it’s LinkedIn.

Blogs continue to be valuable owned media assets. They’re growing and influencing credibility and when done well – and this is important, a key point, we’ve measured this for three years now – when blogs are well executed we have measured that in-house counsel feel that they do have an influence on hiring decisions.

We’ve found this year that 53% of counsel agreed with that statement. 55% agreed with it in 2012 and 50% agreed with it in 2010. So it’s been a very steady, even view that there is a connection between very high quality content delivered through blogs and hiring decisions.”

Pacchia: “So the message is get on blogs, get on LinkedIn if you’re a law firm.”

John Corey: “Yes!”

 

This article was written by EC associate Brian John Spencer.

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