Use Social Networks for Legal Marketing
A recent survey revealed that almost half of the United States population over 12 years old has a profile on a social networking website. (Arbitron Inc. and Edison Research) Furthermore, 30 percent of users use the site (s) multiple times a day. This number is likely to increase as "smart phones" become more common, meaning that the internet is literally at the fingertips of millions of Americans.
It has become standard practice to search for a new college, friend, or acquaintance through social networking in order to learn more about them and / or remain in contact. Similarly, clients use it to securely and comfortably gather information when they are in the market for an attorney. Facebook and other social networking websites provide a personal view of attorneys that is not provided on attorney websites.
Not being on Facebook or LinkedIn may make a potential client disinterested in your services. This is especially true for younger generations and smaller firms. If you are not on Facebook, but another attorney is, then that attorney may have a better chance of being contacted by a potential client.
The major ethical concerns involve advertising, confidentiality, and attorney-client relationships. However, these concerns should be satisfied with common sense and simple precaution. First, ensure all statements that may be recognized as advertising comply with legal advertising rules. Second, do not engage in communication with a client through social networking that may create a presumption of an attorney-client relationship. An attorney in North Carolina recently was disciplined in regards to a situation that ruled from this. Third, do not share confidential information via social networking since it is often open, unsecure, and often available to the public. (youropenbook.org provides an entertaining example) These ethical rules are concerns, but they should not stop attorneys from using the free, growing, and useful services of social networking. As always, just be careful.