by Laurie Anstis on January 12, 2011
The main point that has attracted attention is the fact that Norton Rose (@nortonrosegroup) managed to get into the top ten of law firms on Twitter, despite not having sent a single tweet.
However, one point that stood out for me in the survey was that 34% of the top 50 had no identifiable Twitter presence at all, and of those firms that did seem to have a Twitter presence, in 35% of cases it was not possible to tell whether the accounts were genuinely held by the firm or not. So just over half of the top 50 law firms either have no account or an account which is not clearly owned by them. On that basis, Norton Rose are doing pretty well, even though they have not yet manage to send a tweet.
My theory is that there are five stages of Twitter use amongst law firms:
1. Register an account.
This is my first advice to any law firm. Register an account in your name if for no other purpose than preventing cybersquatting. It is notable that even Norton Rose (who have been on Twitter for a while) are @nortonrosegroup, rather than @nortonrose. It won’t be long before law firms are resorting to @therealbloggsandco, which will do nothing for their brand.
2. Tweet your news stream.
This is what most of the active top 50 accounts will be doing (and getting criticised for) – but it is something that every firm should be doing and which can be done with minimum effort. Every time an article goes on the firm’s website it goes on the Twitter account too. If the website is sophisticated enough, this process can be automated. In his blogpost, Tim Bratton points out that DLA Piper’s Twitter stream mixed Dutch employment law articles with Ukrainian tax advice in a single stream. Industry or sector specific streams would certainly be helpful.
Steps 1 and 2 can be done by marketing teams (or lawyers) with minimum effort, and, since it only involves a certain amount of brand protection and linking to documents published publicly on the firm’s website, ought to be capable of being done with a minimum of bureaucracy.
3. Lawyers get involved in tweeting on industry issues/topics.
This is where the lawyers need to get involved – commenting and drawing attention to things other than the firm’s formal updates. At this stage you need industry or practice group specific accounts.
The legendary quality that law firms are supposedly so bad at. At this stage, law firms actually get seriously involved in their “community”, with regular replies, RTs and comments. Although there are sole practitioners, small partnerships and individual lawyers that do this, I am not aware of any mid- or large-sized firm (say, >10 partners or equivalent) that has managed to do this.
It is very difficult to get “engaged” when you are sending tweets from behind a corporate logo. Twitter is essentially a form of networking, and networking works best when it is personal. You would not send someone along to an industry conference with their face covered with a paper bag with the firms logo on it – and in the same way an account works best when it has a human face on it.
The best way I can see this working for larger firms is using Jon Bloor’s concept of “tweeting in convoy” – the firm’s account(s) being supported by individual accounts operated by and in the name of individual lawyers within the firm.
Winning work is not the only (or necessarily the primary) reason for a firm being on Twitter. However, at some point, particularly if marketing teams are involved, someone is going to want to know what returns are being generated by the firm’s efforts. This will usually mean gaining referrals and clients for chargeable work through Twitter. Again, although there will be sole practitioners, small partnerships and individual lawyers who are at this stage, I do not know of any sizeable firms who have managed this.
What do you think, and have I missed any mid- or large-sized firms that have managed to get to stages 4 and 5?