Social media is here to stay. This guide is good at explaining the issues and drawbacks when using it.

Author: David Laud

Publisher: Ark Group (£295)

I was far from convinced that social networking is much more than a gimmick as far as law firms are concerned. If you get it wrong, the risks are high. It is probably expensive, takes a lot of time – and who believes what you say? I know someone who keeps getting endorsed for toxic torts, whatever that is. Neither the endorser nor endorsee knows – but it looks good.

When I first received a text from a client, I hesitated about replying. I wondered how professional it is, but that is what people do and want. Clients want to communicate rapidly and cheaply; they do not want to be limited by office hours.

The reality is that all advertising is potentially expensive, time-consuming and risky if you get it wrong. Probably the best advice is for any firm to have a marketing policy, no matter how informal. Keep your eggs in one basket. If radio advertising works, then do that well. Social networking is probably no more risky or expensive than anything else. It is flexible and immediate.

One of the case studies in Social Networking for Law Firms contains the comment ‘your average client expects a company to have an online profile and… an online dialogue with businesses’. In terms of raising and describing your own profile, social media is excellent and offers that directness and exchange of ideas which are absent from other advertising.

It is, however, astonishing what people put on the web. There is little boundary between private and professional life. Yes, it is useful for communicating between members of the firm, recruiting and for blowing your own trumpet. But does it help sell your services? Probably ‘yes’ when it is done well. It is a way of presenting a certain picture of your firm. You can post what you like. Would people believe me if I say I am an expert in camel litigation in Mongolia? No, but all advertising is potentially good – misleading or inaccurate.

This is not a cheap book. Yes, that is the price; I checked and rechecked, though I suppose it is about half the price of a commercial course, and if you get one private case it would pay for the book (or 295 legal aid cases). The book is good on explaining the different types of media, and considering the issues and drawbacks.

The case studies of firms that use social media are interesting but, perhaps understandably, are a little short on detail.

Like it or not, social media is here to stay. Lawyers have to communicate in the way their clients talk to each other. Most of us do not have the time or the expertise, but this book goes a long way towards remedying that. And you can always rope in the children or grandchildren to help.  

David Pickup is a partner at Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott