If you want to find a lawyer on social media, your best bet is on LinkedIn, according to multiple surveys. LinkedIn is currently popular in a profession that must weigh ethical rules and client confidentiality before every post, while ease of use is top of mind.
The American Bar Association’s recent Legal Technology Survey Report listed LinkedIn as the top social network leveraged by lawyers for professional purposes, at 90% of respondents. The 2019 LTN Tech Survey, meanwhile, reported 97% of respondents reported using LinkedIn, with a noticeable decline for other platforms. The LTN survey also found 84% of respondents use Twitter, followed by Facebook (66%), Instagram (16%) and Slack (5%). Meanwhile, ephemeral video and picture posting app Snapchat wasn’t used by any respondents for social networking.
Observers said lawyers’ social media use can be influenced by professional ethics rules, but most commonly it’s the ease of posting content that skews usage rates to specific platforms.
“Attorneys have to be careful about using social media or any platform, but particularly social media. Because it’s so quick and easy, lawyers must respect the privacy of clients and not convey private information about their clients,” said Charles Mudd Jr., head of Mudd Law.
“They need to be very careful about constructing what can be perceived as advice,” Mudd said, also adding that “an attorney needs to be very careful about making representations that can be construed as predictions of success.”
Lawyers’ professional conduct rules, such as those in New York, may require a disclaimer or certain language that makes posting on Twitter or other social media platforms less appealing.
“I think some firms are concerned about appearing as if they are engaged in advertisement,” said Andrew Lustigman, chairman of Olshan Frome Wolosky’s advertising, marketing and promotions group. “I think it’s somewhat shortsighted because professional networking, at least for the attorneys I know, is an integral part of their business.”
Indeed, when balancing professional conduct requirements and ease of posting, LinkedIn’s hub of professionals in vast industries and 40,000-character post limits currently makes it the go-to site for establishing thought leadership. Instagram and YouTube, meanwhile, require a hands-on marketing strategy and post-production, which makes them less tempting to lawyers.
Legal Marketing Association president Cynthia Voth noted Am Law 200 and larger firms, including DLA Piper, are beginning to leverage Instagram to highlight practices that have exciting imagery, such as retail, transportation and tourism. Law firms with less image-friendly practices can also leverage Instagram and YouTube to tout community involvement, diversity and culture within the firm, she said.
“It’s a visual,” Voth said. “Firms have to be thoughtful about the images they are using and what they are trying to achieve with that.”
Meanwhile, during lawyers’ quest to become thought leaders in a particular practice, Twitter’s 280-word character limit isn’t very appealing.
“I think one of the reasons with Twitter might be that there is difficulty, given the short amount of space, to substantially convey a lot of information. And lawyers like to convey a lot of information, typically,” Mudd said.