Twitter and the Virtual Law Office

I’ve been using Twitter on almost a daily basis since last summer as @StephKimbro.  I started using it out of curiosity and am at over 1400 updates.  I have met many new people both in the legal profession and in other industries through Twitter.  Like anything else online, it requires savvy filtering skills.  I use TweetDeck to help search and filter tweets. 

Many blog posts have gone up about attorneys using Twitter for networking, marketing and client development.  I’ll list a few below for reference.  Since my virtual law office clients are online and more likely to be using Twitter themselves I wanted to give the application more time before blogging about it to see how it could have an impact on a virtual law practice.

So far, no new online clients as a direct result of using Twitter.  The difficulty is in narrowing in on my online client base here in North Carolina.  My Twitter network knows no jurisdictional boundaries which I am held to by my law license.  While I have a good number of North Carolina followers, the number of Twitter users is still not touching the general public enough that my posts about my law practice are reaching potential consumers of the online legal services that I provide.  Of course, I am not directly advertising my services through tweets, just posting about what I am working on at the time on my VLO.  I use other forms of online advertising that are targeted more towards my NC client base, but Twitter is just not able to tap into that base as easily— not yet.  

That said, if I were able to connect with a prospective client through Twitter, I would immediately have to send them to my VLO to continue online communication.  Even the use of direct messages through Twitter conveys via unencrypted email and would not be a secure method of conveying sensitive attorney/client communications.  I would worry that a less sophisticated client might send a tweet with confidential information to me and the rest of the online world before I would have the chance to warn them.  I know other attorneys have written about these concerns and some refuse to use Twitter at all for that reason, but I still think the benefits for the legal professional outweigh any risks.  I’m keeping my eye out for a state bar ethics or advisory opinion to specifically discuss the use of Twitter.  Clue me in if you’ve read one.

The value of Twitter for the virtual law practice is obvious — connecting with a network of other legal professionals on a closer level.  I have gotten to know many attorneys, virtual assistants, legal software providers and law practice management advisers through Twitter. Sure, I have a LinkedIn, Facebook and other social and legal networking accounts, but Twitter lets me get a glimpse into the daily lives of these people and likewise, they occasionally see tweets about my family and my daily musings.  Tweets help to humanize the online networking process.  

For some attorneys operating a virtual law practice may seem isolating if they are working from a home office or other remote location on their VLO.  Twitter helps them stay connected to legal news and the opinions of other legal professionals across the world.  I have asked my Twitter followers for general advice on law practice management in the past and received useful insights.  Likewise, I have been able to share tips about VLOs and virtual law practice with others. 

The network of virtual attorneys and virtual law firms on Twitter is growing which is helping to spread the word about VLOs and the delivery of legal services online.  Here are some VLOs on Twitter:

@Olea_LLP

@TimFerraris

@FrameLegal

@PattiSpencer

@Debrina

In conclusion, I don’t think using Twitter has much of a benefit of pulling in clients directly to a VLO.  However, it is a great tool to use for networking and learning from other legal professionals and a way to continue to grow the online presence of a virtual law practice.  As more of the general public joins Twitter, it is possible that the general advertising of a VLO website and services through tweets will over time help an attorney to grow his or her online client base.  

Here are a list of some popular blog posts that have gone up about the use of Twitter by legal professionals:

Twitter 101 For Lawyers, Nicole Black (@nikiblack)

145 Lawyers (and Legal Professionals) to Follow on Twitter, Adrian Lurssen (@jdtwitt)

Lawyer Marketing with Twitter, Steve Mathews (@stevematthews)

Lawyer Marketing with Twitter has Arrived, Kevin O’Keefe (@kevinokeefe)

How to Use Twitter as a Lawyer, Grant Griffiths (@grantgriffiths)

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