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Social Media: Fuel for Your Legal Career?

Social Media is here to stay. In many circles and industries its usage has become norm. It is presumed that Generation Y lawyers would have no difficulty in harnessing the power of social media. Whilst this may be true in the personal space, at Lex Conscientia, we have found that many Generation Y lawyers are still unsure about social media’s use and best practices in their professional space. We have also found that for some, the lines between professional and personal social media use have become blurred. Without a measured approach, social media use in the professional space can become hazardous for your professional reputation and career building prospects.

Why Bother with Social Media?

Let us examine the benefits that social media can bring to your legal career:

  • it provides an avenue to gain vital content to be mined for expanding your own legal expertise and skill development;
  • it keeps you abreast of trending topics within the profession locally and globally;
  • it allows you to communicate with peers as well as with thought leaders on any given topic;
  • your clients, prospects and referral sources are increasingly using social media;
  • legal recruiters use social media to source for candidates; and
  • social media is 24/7/365 and can be accessed on the move.

Platform Selection

Establish upfront what you would like to accomplish from using social media and determine which platform/s to use. Many people start by selecting the platform first, and then try to figure out who they want to reach and what they want to achieve. We strongly advise against this approach. Therefore, determine your objectives, find out where your audiences are and then chose the platform.

There are dozens of good platforms, but we generally recommend LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ for the professional space. The number of platforms you select is not important as there is no necessity to master every one. What is important is the quality of the effort you put into any platform. Each platform is unique, has its own strengths, suits specific audiences and requires distinct strategies for use.

Once you have decided on the platform/s to use, invest some time to understand the key features and capabilities of that platform/s. Read the available guides and FAQs and follow changes and improvements introduced over time. Such diligence will ensure you are maximising the potential benefits of the platform and will help you attain your goals.

Goals

Having an account simply because “everyone else has it” is clearly a wrong approach. Having poorly managed accounts, scanty profiles or dead accounts with little or no activity can stunt your career growth prospects. Decide objectively what is relevant to your situation and what you intend to achieve? Ask yourself, do you want to:

  • develop new relationships and/or strengthen existing ones?;
  • promote your views or spread your ideas?;
  • use social media to get the “collective scoop” on what is happening in the profession?;
  • showcase yourself and your achievements?;
  • use social media to follow your seniors and mentors or a particular law firm you would like to join one day?;
  • find clients and prospects? And/or
  • be headhunted?

You may have answered ‘Yes’ to one, some or even all of the above questions. What is important is to have a firm fix on which goals are important to you and whether they have any priority order.

Minding Manners

If you chose to use social media as part of your professional development, it is critical that you do not leave your social graces and manners behind. Social media has brought traditional networking to the online platform. So while you may easily remember your manners in face to face situations and even in emails, there is little upfront education on social media etiquette. Always be polite. Do not alienate your fellow social media participants.

So depending on the platform/s you adopt, make sure you understand the common dos and don’ts. There is plenty of literature you can find generally and most FAQ sections within each platform also help throw light on best practices.

Content

In LinkedIn, it is not how you post, but what you post. Likewise with Twitter, it’s not how you tweet but what you tweet. Finding the right content to stay active within any given platform is perhaps one of the biggest challenges young lawyers face in using social media for the professional space. Saying the wrong thing or saying it in the wrong tone can lead to negative consequences. Making derogatory comments or statements that display bias may also lead to potential defamation suits or reputational damage.

Make sure you also share original content from time to time. This is critical to your development as an independent thinker and effective contributor to your area of practise. LinkedIn for example allows you to post publications and we have seen some lawyers using it to present case analyses. If you have to use someone else’s content, always give credit to your original sources. Similarly, if you use media and images belonging to others, acknowledge your sources or use only licensed content.

The rule here is simple. Think before you hit that ‘Enter’ button.

Commitment

Strategy is pointless if it never gets implemented. Whichever platform/s you have identified in helping you reach your accomplishments, always remain committed. There are no quick fixes. Building credibility and trust requires a lengthy organic maturation process. You have to maintain stamina to stay for the long haul as losing your momentum will equate with losing your audience.

It is also important not to swing to the other extreme and over post or be seen to be online obsessively.

Conclusion

There are several ways to boost your career and to establish your credibility as a young lawyer. Social media is only one of the tools that is available and goes hand in hand with other efforts such as traditional networking, training and educating, being mentored, publishing articles and getting hands on experience with transactional work.

What is clear is that social media is here to stay and its importance in helping fuel your professional career will only grow. Instead of shunning it or using it in a lacklustre way, it is best you embrace it and use it correctly to harness all its possible benefits.