DEACONS currently has 332 followers, while Blake Dawson has 20. So are the most recent figures of social networking site Twitter, an online, global site in which individuals, and more recently law firms and other businesses, post “updates” for the world of Twitterers to see.
No longer is social networking the exclusive domain of tech geeks and the internet-obsessed. Businesses are using sites like Twitter to reach an audience interested in the up-to-the-minute updates from those they “follow”. Deacons and Blake Dawson have both dared to venture into this online world as way to better access clients.
“Different people use Twitter for different things. For us, at the moment, it is largely a tool to engage with people about legal issues that affect their business. In a sense, the reasons for using Twitter are not all that different from the reasons law firms have websites,” said Nick Abrahams, Sydney chairman and leader of Deacons’ technology, media and communications group.
“It is a mistake to always presume that someone looking for information on a given legal issue will know to come to the Deacons website. Social networking tools like Twitter allow us to reach out to people and take our ideas to them – bringing the mountain to Mohammed, you might say," Abrahams said.
Twitterers are restricted to concise 140 character updates in which they can offer “followers” any news, links to websites or gossip. “It’s about providing added value service to clients. But Twitter provides a different, and arguably more personal, way to interact,” he said.
Twitter is the fastest growing and third largest social network site, behind Facebook and MySpace.
“These are still early days but the initial response [to our Twitter account] has been positive,” said Abrahams.
“We were the first large Australian law firm to have a presence on Twitter and one of the first in the world,” he said.
Exclusive law networks already exist but none have taken off in an international sense. LawLink, established in 2007, claims to the first and largest social network for attorneys and includes separate law student and law professional networks. It currently has more than 5,000 members with “a handful” from Australia.
Steven Choi, founder and CEO of LawLink said: “Online social networks are becoming more specialised. LawLink was the first social network exclusively for attorneys. It most definitely is a growing market.
“Attorneys are notoriously slow at adopting new technologies. I should know. I’ve been an attorney for 25 years,” he said.
The rise of social networking in the legal profession comes as courts also embrace new technologies. In December last year the ACT Supreme Court allowed a default judgement to be served on defendants through Facebook.
A recent international survey suggests they are keen for a lawyers-only network as well. The study, commissioned by Martindale-Hubbell and conducted by Leader Networks, canvassed 673 lawyers from 22 countries.
“More than 40 per cent of all corporate counsel and private practice attorneys report an interest in joining an online professional network for lawyers,” the survey found. “This is comparable to the percentage of counsel who are currently subscribed to a social network.”
Nick Abrahams, from Deacons, says that while the firm uses Facebook, LinkedIn and Flickr internally to share photos and keep in contact with alumni, Twitter is all about the clients.
“We are a commercial law firm, so the primary goal in participating is to provide an added value service to clients or potential clients. But, though it's had a lot of recent attention, these are still early days for Twitter and it has a long way to go before it might replace other tools for doing that.”
“I think that Twitter has more potential for commercial purposes than Facebook. I have secured one new client as a result of Twitter, but who knows how it will develop."
The New Lawyer is on Twitter. “Follow” us here.