To kick off Social Media Law Resource Month at the Harris County Law Library, we're highlighting a couple of very helpful resources. The first is a Pocket Guide published by the Texas Young Lawyers Association called Social Media 101. The second is a white paper, recently published by Thomson Reuters and FindLaw, called From Novelty to Necessity: Pragmatic Social Media for Law Firms.
TYLA's Social Media 101 provides an excellent review of electronic communication as regulated speech and the requirements that all attorneys must meet when advertising online. According to the State Bar's Advertising Review Committee (ARC) and the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, any content posted to social media for marketing or solicitation purposes must be filed with the ARC. However, according to an exception in Rule 7.07, content that is not "prepared to secure paid professional employment" is exempt. Communications that inform potential clients about the law (such as an article you might write for your firm's blog) and content that is more social in nature (photographs on Facebook of your firm at a charity event, or a link on Twitter to an inspiring TED Talk, for example) need not be submitted. Even so, the TYLA Pocket Guide advises that, when in doubt, it is best to file any electronic content that can be construed as advertising to the ARC.
From Novelty to Necessity, covers a different aspect of social media, namely the imperative that all lawyers maintain a digital presence. Based on data that show the advantages of using social media to market services and build professional networks, the authors assert that having a digital presence is no longer optional. They also discuss how to use social media effectively. Identify the factors that set your firm apart, they say, and develop a marketing strategy that differentiates your brand. Spell out the qualities that make your firm unique, including the benefits of retaining your services, and present them in ways that resonate with potential clients. Then, communicate the benefits consistently across all social media platforms. Try to achieve a sort of "calculated authenticity" so that clients and potential clients see you as approachable, open, accessible, and willing to interact. Community-based lawyers, in particular, must be willing to share part of themselves before clients are willing to share their personal needs. When executed in accordance with the State Bar's requirements for electronic communication, the benefits can be substantial.