I came across an interesting title last week on the ABA website. The teleconference is entitled “Managing Your Online Presence” and there are some great experts taking part in the discussion – namely Kevin O’Keefe and Dennis Kennedy. If you are not familiar with these two gentlemen, then you need to pull your head out of a book and spend more time online.
No, this isn’t the first time I have seen this type of course. One of the local Bar Associations here in town had a panel of experts speaking on the same subject last year. I thought it was a great course … but maybe slightly ahead of its time. Now, however, is a different story. I would have to say that managing your online reputation is critical for any legal practitioner in today’s digital times and will only become more important in the future.
We are at a major crossroads in this country and the digital divide grows daily between the digital dinosaurs and the digital natives (I can’t take credit for that one, I have to credit my colleague Warren S. Reid) and how we consume or appetite for information. Gone are newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and The Seattle Pilot – there are currently some 14 newspaper companies in bankruptcy at last count. If video killed the radio star, then the Internet is rapidly choking the last gasps of life from the print media industry.
The bottom line: information has changed and so should you. Even if you refuse to use email, you could care less about your website, and you are waiting for the social media bubble to burst, where do you think that legal consumers will find information about you … a phonebook?
Increasingly, we now find our information online. And as more and more digital natives begin entering the marketplace this statement will only become more true. Whether it’s through lawyer rating sites like AVVO or Internet Referral Sites like LegalMatch, the legal consumer is now turning to Google or Bing before they make that first contact with you. And with social media use skyrocketing amongst older demographics, it’s not even just the digital natives that are utilizing online resources anymore – everyone seems to be jumping on the social media train. Even other attorneys are hopping on board, with a recent ABA study showing that 56% of lawyers personally maintain a presence in an online community or social network such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Legal OnRamp.
The beauty of today’s online environment is that social media gives you the power to control your reputation and the public’s perception of your capabilities as a legal practitioner. While just about every lawyer I have talked to seems to hate AVVO, at least you can take proactive measures to cultivate your online reputation through blogging and social media websites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. These are the places that legal consumers will go to research you before putting their signature on the engagement letter.
A phone book? I can’t tell you the last time I looked in one or what a pain it was to try and find whatever I wanted when I did use one. Now, the best use for a phone book is helping my daughter add a few inches at the dinner table so she gets more crumbs on the table than on the floor. While the reports of blogging’s death have been greatly exaggerated the same cannot be said of the phone book … time to set up that Facebook account?
 ‘Social networking use exploding in age groups targeted by law firms for business development.’ http://bit.ly/92rTfJ
 This compares with 43% in the 2009 and 15% in the 2008. 76% of lawyers stated that they maintain a presence on social networks for networking purposes. ABA Legal Technology Survey Report 2010. http://linkd.in/9ldiLd