Without a doubt, the fastest-growing tool for social media marketing for attorneys is LinkedIn. It has many uses as a marketing tool for attorneys, including the ability to use its features to position oneself as a leading authority or thought leader in a specific practice area. In light of the many ethical concerns in the legal profession, it is essential to know the pitfalls in creating a profile and a network, and how to avoid them.
While the ABA began to allow certain forms of marketing in the 1990s, the real proliferation of marketing (formerly called the less offensive "client development") in the legal industry has been in this century. With the advent of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more recent forms of social media, the means of marketing to peers, clients and potential clients has increased in regularity. So, focusing on LinkedIn and some of its most powerful features, let's look at what can it do for you even with the ethical boundaries?
Marketing, Ethics, LinkedIn?
First, what is LinkedIn? It is a combination of the old Rolodex or contact management software you had (or have?) combined with the networking you currently do with your Chamber memberships, while attending meetings and conferences and those charity dinners you still attend.
But now you can do all of this at your desk, or on your tablet or smartphone. So one of the first ethical considerations is, while using social media which is accessible to almost anyone these days, how do you maintain confidentiality and comply with the attorney-client relationship considerations?
Beware: LinkedIn Endorsements and Recommendations
Two of the features of LinkedIn that help you build your network are known as "endorsements" and "Recommendations." As an attorney, you know you can only represent yourself as a "specialist" in certain states and in certain practice areas. And you also know you can't represent your services are better than those of any other lawyer.
So what happens if a client "Recommends" you as "The best tax lawyer on the planet" after you reduced her tax bill by several thousand dollars? Sure, you did a great job on her case, but you can't represent yourself as being able to do that on every case. Similarly, what if a satisfied client "Endorses" you for your litigation skills? OK, so you won their case in court, but does their endorsement convey the impression that your services are better than another attorney?
While certainly an effective marketing tool, maintaining a LinkedIn profile requires careful management to walk the fine line of ethical standards. But it can be done. Stay tuned for future posts that will provide tips on maintaining that balance.