As a lawyer, I knew virtually nothing about Twitter (except that Aston Kutcher had a million followers, or whatever). Lawyers are conditioned to reject technology (progress, maybe?) out of hand. At least on the first round. This is in part because, the more we move forward, the further away we get from that image of the lawyer sitting in his office, burning the midnight oil, head in hands, scratching out brilliant ideas on a legal pad, turning to his mahogany wood bookshelves stacked with trusty reporters and treatises and bar journals. There is something very relatable about this image – or inspiring – even for my generation of lawyers who have quite literally never used a hard copy book for any purpose related to our practice.
When I launched Greenhorn Legal, my web designer at the time told me I should open a Twitter account. So I did. And then I neglected it for about eight months. I had no idea how to use it, anyhow.
Recently, however, I have discovered the incredible value Twitter can provide – not only for small business owners, but lawyers, too. I wish I knew then what I know now (as is always the case). But I can certainly share what I have learned with you.
Here are five great reasons to use Twitter in your legal practice:
1. Twitter facilitates keeping up with legal, non-legal, and client-related news. As a lawyer, it is important to stay up to date on mainstream news, legal news, and information about our clients. Twitter provides an easy, efficient way to do this. With Twitter, you can follow all of your favorite news sources (as examples, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the National Law Journal, the American Bar Association, etc. are on Twitter) and any potential and actual clients (most corporations, large and small, are on Twitter). While you sip your morning coffee or on your commute to work, scroll through your Twitter feed for headlines of interest. By 9 a.m., you will have caught up with the important news of the day and will be equipped to discuss this news with (i.e., impress) fellow partners, associates, or clients, as the case may be.
2. Twitter supports conversation. Unlike other social media sites, with Twitter you have leeway to connect with other users, whether they follow you or not. In other words, you can direct a tweet (a 140-character message) to anyone who is on Twitter. This means you can speak with people you would otherwise have no way of reaching out to. And you would be surprised how often someone will write back, and how this can be the start of a lucrative relationship. When a fellow attorney in another state, or a legal recruiter, or a law school, or a law firm, or a client posts something on Twitter that is of interest, direct a tweet to him/her/it about the fact that you enjoyed the post. Consider including your take on the subject. Indicate that you look forward to learning more about them or hearing more from them. I was told to treat Twitter like a cocktail party – strike up conversations with whomever interests you and, if you are lucky, long term relationships will develop.
3. Twitter builds communities. In line with item 2, as you build relationships with other Twitter users, you will find that those users are connected with even more users who may be of interest to you. Suddenly, you find yourself in routine contact or conversation not only with people you have reached out to, but with other users who share common interests. As lawyers, we have a significant sub-community on Twitter as it is. And you can take this one (or several) steps further, by finding lawyers who are solo practitioners, or lawyers who work in large firms, or lawyers who are looking to build their marketing efforts, or new lawyers searching for jobs, or whatever else may be of interest to you. A Twitter community can provide resources, information, and support as you navigate your practice.
4. Twitter provides unlimited access to valuable content. If you have spent any time on Twitter, you know that the content is endless. Much of it is very good content. It is free content, too. As a practicing attorney, you likely have little (if any) time to generate content that is of interest to others. But, you do have time to scroll down your Twitter feed and find articles, tips, and other information that are of interest to you and your followers. Twitter allows you to “retweet” this information – that is, share it with others through your own account – which is an easy, effective way to stay relevant and top of mind for your followers without actually doing any work. You are leveraging someone else’s content and still providing value. It is also a good way to build relationships on Twitter, as you will often get a “thanks” in response to any retweet (the user is thanking you for sharing his or her information with your followers, who otherwise may not have come across it).
5. Twitter diversifies – and provides opportunity. A good friend of mine who has been a lawyer now for nearly 15 years, recently updated his resume. And he was unhappy with it. While his resume is strong in terms of clients he has represented, cases he has tried, and summary judgment motions he has written, it admittedly lacks diversity of experience. It is apparent that he has done little else but show up for work at the same office every day, year after year, for fifteen years. In the year I have been out of my law firm, one distinct change I have noticed is how diverse my days are, and how many opportunities have been presented to me simply by virtue of encountering someone in my field or writing an article or commenting on someone else’s work. As lawyers, we tend to be consumed with what is immediately before us, and we rarely stop to consider what opportunities await if only we would get out from behind our desks. By using Twitter in the ways I have suggested here, with minimal effort, you are opening doors and exploring possibilities that you might otherwise never see.
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If you have found Twitter useful in your legal practice or in running your small business, please share your experience with us in the comments. We would love to hear from you. And don’t forget to connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for weekly updates, articles, and other information!