Twitter Will Get You Clients, But Your Firm Must Win The Case

Social media appears to be a permanent addition to the practice of law. Whether advertising practice areas, marketing services to new clients, providing factual information about cases, or just because everybody else is doing it, firms are signing up for Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, etc., without reservation.

The Wall Street Journal recently profiled a criminal defense attorney, Matthew Galluzzo of Galluzzo & Johnson, who used Twitter to answer media questions about (and harness the fame received from defending) their client, Angel Alvarez. Alvarez was shot more than 20 times by police in Harlem in 2010.

Mr. Galluzzo said, “We were getting so many phone calls about the case from the media, we decided to tweet about it and have people follow us for updates.”

Today, the firm’s Twitter feed is a who’s who of media moguls: interview with Reuters, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, French television… in one location, a person or potential client has all the information he or she needs to follow Mr. Galluzzo’s success, which becomes incredible cost-free marketing for the firm.

“In New York, where the criminal justice system often ensnares professional athletes, celebrities, mobsters and Wall Street titans, a lawyer’s media savvy sometimes can count almost as much as courtroom performance. The old tools of branding—snazzy ties, confident bluster and gimmicky ads—are being replaced by a prominent web presence.”

However, before you transfer that personal bravado from person to print, consider the ethical rules behind doing so. Nicole Black, an attorney and co-author of the book Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, has studying social media and law. She has determined that bar associations often do not realize that they subject to the same ethical rules online as in print.

Because it’s much easier to press “enter” on a keyboard than to layout, approve costs, publish, and distributed marketing materials, law firms risk posting information online without the proper due diligence. It takes one second to write a tweet for one million people to view.

“‘A good rule of thumb for attorneys is that “if you can’t do it off-line, you can’t do it online,’ said Black. She advises most attorneys to post clear disclaimers on their blogs and Twitter bios informing readers that what they write doesn’t constitute legal advice,” reiterates the WSJ Law Blog.

But using a disclaimer may not be sufficient. So if you’re uninterested in writing, tweeting, or posting material on the world wide web, Black suggests your firm refrain. Although social media is a powerful tool for law firms, make sure it’s a tool that works for you.

If your firm does use social media, be careful not to over-sell yourself. Black advises legal groups to spend half their time sharing other people’s content “relevant to your area of practice,” then thirty percent should be direct interaction with other people. Only ten percent should be promoting the firm, and the final ten percent should reflect something personal. In the end, Black believes this will yield 100% added value.

The other name partner at Galluzzo’s criminal law practice, Zachary Johnson, also appreciates the merit of social media. At the same time, Mr. Johnson is not about to give Twitter or blogging credit for his firm’s ultimate success.

“You gain a reputation based on what you do inside the courtroom. At some point you have to win big cases. No amount of blogging or tweeting is going to put you on that level. But can you get a big case using social media? Absolutely.”

-WB


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