Social Media for Lawyers, and Real People
I have put some thoughts to paper regarding Social Media (Or, more properly, Internet Marketing for Lawyers, and Technology). Here they are.
Social media must be considered with all the other technical marvels we now enjoy. Some of my favorite tech tips are:
1. The Toshiba ScanSnap 1500 desktop scanner which comes with a $250 program, Adobe Acrobat Basic 9.0; just $400. Our office has seven and we now scan everything into the clients file and return to the client virtually the entire hard file. Wish I had that 5000 cases ago! It can scan to PDF, to Word, to E-Mail, and to a folder as a “searchable PDF”. Just think, type in a search word and find any document in you system in seconds, for $400!
2. Pathagoras document assembly software. The only program you are likely to buy where the Author/Owner Roy Lazris gives you an hour online tutorial/phone conference. I have created 30-50 templates I would be happy to share.
3. Having my Calendar, Tasks, Contacts in Outlook “in the cloud” using Microsoft Exchange Server, so I can see the same information from my 2 laptops, my desktop, my Blackberry, My I-Pad , (And, now my iPhone 4s. The loyal Blackberry Curve has been retired. 2/27/2012, J.B.H.) and, since I am a sole practitioner, from every staff member’s computer.
Thanks go to HMU Consulting of Columbus Ohio, Barron Henley, who presented a whole day of valuable tips at the State Bar Annual meeting and his assistant Brian Cluxton for number 1 and 3 above.
4. The CaseSoft suite of litigation support products, although this has become much more expensive since selling out to Lexis/Nexis.
5. My new Apple I-Pad, soon to arrive, with its hundreds of “apps”, downloadable magazines and books, (a magazine I just bought includes the texts of 200 “classic” books at no extra charge), and near “instant on”.
Back to Social Media; I think LOTS of time is going to be wasted with social media. And, on the “social” side, your family and friends tend to “intrude” into your life during the day with posts of the grandkids, their favorite sunset photos, their causes, political beliefs, religious and inspirational messages, etc.
And, if you get “into” Facebook or something similar, only half of your regular correspondents will choose to participate, with the result that Aunt Elsie may hear from you much less frequently (she’s 90, .committed to e-mail but not happy with the “new fangled” Facebook, Twitter, etc.) I have countered this with a “FullFamily” Outlook e-mail group, “FullColleague” group, and a WVWC (WV Wesleyan College) Related Group. I write to each group periodically with a “newsletter” of sorts. The fullcolleague one must result in lots of head scratching. “Why does he keep writing me??” I am blessed that so few people have demanded that I stop writing them.
Picking up the telephone to collect those who don’t have internet or e-mail at all or who I just have to speak to is usually an every other Friday eve. thing. And, to think I used to write lots of “real letters”! I wonder where they are now, if anywhere?
I have a few books to recommend for anyone who wants to “come up to speed” with the internet and social media:
1. Small Pieces Loosely Joined (a unified theory of the web) by David Weinberger. This book is eight years old but very helpful in understanding what the world wide web is. I am in the process of rereading it.
2. The Myth of the Paperless Office, author forgotten, is not about the web but it helped me understand the daunting, and currently impossible, task of becoming paperless. Less paper? Maybe.
3. Scrolling Forward (Making Sense of Documents in the Digital Age) by David M. Levy is one of the best books I ever read. It is a history of documents, including a one word “letter” by his 3 year old sister; she wrote “did” on a paper bag, thus confessing to a dereliction and begging her father’s forgiveness. David was a computer programmer who moved to Europe to study calligraphy and learned some profound things about written communication. I search Amazon for other books by him and was surprised that he writes now about Jewish religious studies. Scrolling Forward makes clear so much we take for granted in human written communication.
4. A ridiculous number of science fiction novels, historical novels, archeology, anthropology, and natural science tomes that would be difficult to duplicate in an adult’s lifespan.
5. Facebook, The Missing Manual (The book that should have been in the box), which is your basic “how to do stuff in Facebook” book.
6. The Facebook Era by Clara Shih which is finally getting to the point; “Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, Reach New Audiences, and Sell More Stuff”. This was the first book I had that gave me insights into using “Social Networking” and “Social Media” to market myself and help assure I won’t disappear under the avalanche of T.V. advertising coming from my competitors who are astride the I-79 Corridor. Their advertising budgets are robust, and they are physically within that market, while I, on the periphery, would have to spend 2-5 times as much to reach the same number of potential clients.
7. The Social Media Bible, 800 pages! (Tactics, Tools, & Strategies For Business Success) by Lon Safco and David K. Brake; This one gave me the full breadth of “Social Media”, which includes a. The internet and web we have come to know; b. Facebook and MySpace social connection services; c. Dating services; d. Photo sharing; e. Video production and sharing, YouTube, etc. f. Blogs; g. The Wiki community; h. Self Publishing; i. Podcasting; j. Twitter; k. R.S.S feeds; and l. Gaming; this one worries me and perplexes me but it consumes vast mental energy and includes gambling, Sims, Fantasy Sports, and virtual worlds. People spend $5000 on ultrafast desktops just so they can play their games.
8. Twitter Power 2.0 (How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time); This is a highly entertaining book, but I still doubt I can make it work. I just don’t know if divorce, personal injury law, and civil litigation, can generate enough interest to generate “followers” to my tweets. But, I think it is the combination that may work in time. I have 255 Facebook Friends. It could be 1000, but I have been very careful. I backed off at 120, below 100, and started anew. I accept or request people I really know, sometimes a close relative of someone I know, some of my children’s friends, who I have road bowled or socialized with, virtually any relative, and people known to the larger world such as Author Steve Coonts, former Buckhannon attorney and son of Gibb Coonts, dec’d., my Linsly Military Institute classmates, 24 out of 43 class members, college friends, and people we know in the local community.
Please keep in mind that some areas of practice have to track social media; IT’S WHERE OUR DIVORCE CLIENTS AND THEIR SPOUSES LIVE. It is where I have located 4 of my client’s wife’s dirtbag boyfriends, where I learn of their criminal history, and where they brag about their “availability”, while denying these things to their lawyer and the Court. Today a client advised me her husband stated, “Well, she beat me last week, but I made her work for it.” He did, to the tune of $12,000, and you can bet that brag will be attached to our motion for attorney fees!
“For a sole practitioner”, I am very proud of my professional website. I had one creative graphic design artist, at Findlaw, give it its initial look and feel, and have had to fight her successors to keep it intact, but the “Findlaw Team” spent 10 hours or so with me on the phone, and I took 100+ hours to cull my 40 years of family photos, to produce my own video FAQ’S (frequently asks questions), and to create biographical and personal narratives.
But, my professional site, www.hunterlawfirm.net, is rather static; once the “team” helps you create the site, they prefer you to send in your $1200/mo. and not bother them. My rep. Matt Kloos, has been most kind to me. They keep trying to send me to another guy, but having found Matt, I send my updates and questions to him, and he helps me.
So, I began on Jan 1, I started my own blog email@example.com . I have 52 articles to date on all manner of subjects. I vent about the idiocy of shortsighted attorneys, about my perception that the WV Sup Ct., State Bar, and Disciplinary Counsel are anti-sole practitioner and small town. I also think they want to get lawyers out of family law entirely. At a recent mediation seminar a lawyer/mediator said, “The only reason lawyers come to mediation is to run up their client’s fees.” Well, that’s not why I attend all my clients’ mediations, and I told her so. Tom Patrick declared it a perfect time for a break! But, she made it onto my blog. I have not large readership to date, but more people keep telling me of things they read and agreed with. I guess the detractors and critics have yet to find me, or are too busy to read it.
Facebook allows you only one account, and so far most of my “friends” are there as individuals. I am picking up more WV politicians and judges, and have been invited to their campaign Facebook sites. My professional page, J. Burton Hunter III and Assocs, PLLC, is open to everyone. I post my Tweets to my Facebook. I announce each blog article by Tweet, by Facebook post, and by a post to my Professional Facebook site.
My Findlaw site has a “tell me about your case” portal on every page and a red button portal to my blog on every page. I am getting more and more “firmsite” e-mail inquiries. I try to respond as I get them and to provide something of value. If I don’t do that sort of thing, I usually know who does.
I have added to my website that I now take credit cards. I had to find a company that would let me sequester my trust account deposits from my general checking. That is beginning to catch on.
For some good Facebook sites, I suggest you check out NPR’s Facebook page. Their posts are helpful. Nuance Software has a good site for Dragon Naturally Speaking “fans”. When I tried to order an upgrade to Dragon, my credit card data got compromised, so I will live with Version 10 for awhile.
Lawyers are communicators and professional writers, so you would think social media would be a perfect match, but we can also be a humorless and unoriginal lot, living by cited authority and doing things the way we always have done it. I got another one of those “family law code books” I get each year; another $75 or so for a book that probably didn’t change by 5%. Now I have to move my index tabs from the grey one to the green one. AGAIN! On the Internet, change is the norm.
I needed a lawyer in the Rockingham N.C. area. I suggest you Google Rockingham Lawyer and see what you get. The one site I found had closed the satellite office whose photo it shows, TWO YEARS AGO!
Then try Buckhannon, WV Lawyer. True, Google prominently displays many of us, even the dead ones! But I think you will find my site. Lawyers in my town appear to be despondent; there is the “real estate guy”, the few family law lawyers, and lots of folks living off of the court appointed system. They can’t afford staff and they can’t afford to advertise, but with Social Media, their own blog, and other things readily available for free, they can increase their footprint, just like B and B’s, motels, resorts, and every other kind of business has.
How do I do it? As I have to 35+ years, I hit the sack by around 9:00 p.m., read, and get up at 5:00-5:30 getting to the office between 6:30 to to 7:00 a.m. I work like a dog through lunch, and later of course when I have to, but a couple times a week, maybe more, I come home early, get online, view my webinars, research software, post to my sites, and write my blog articles. I like what I do, and I am interested in people. I keep in touch with my 3-5 grade seatmate, who is now a prominent psychiatrist, kindergarten classmates, who are lawyers, doctors, pilots and a parole officer. My h.s. classmate David Farer is a professional writer who lives in Sderot Israel, where the missiles come down. He always has something interesting. And I still write to my 90 year old Mormon Aunt, my Dad’s first cousin Lark Hunter, who has located 1100 of our ancestors and travelled to Europe searching for them (no Hunter/Wilds in Wildhaus Austria!)
But, I won’t send you a sheep for your farm! I will NOT forward that chain message that will give me bad luck if I don’t. I will only occasionally be dragged into a political or religious discussion, and I will not gamble online, join a fantasy team, or do ANYTHING THAT I THINK IS A WASTE OF TIME. I go where I can learn about something I want to know more about, and I correspond with people who are interesting and funny.
I hope the WV Bar will not be policing the social media, slapping down the inartful, the impudent, the irreverent, or, God forbid, the funny, lawyers. Perhaps WV College of Law CLE could have a seminar on this stuff. Barron Henley has been “worth his weight in gold” to me. Mr. K..? from the ABA was also very interesting.
And what about Facebook? I enjoy the process, love to write, love to communicate, and find other people very interesting. And I love to post my photos. How else would I know that “Ma D____” had a rough week-end, that “friend” Steve “D____”, seems a bit down, that my cousin’s granddaughter just got married, baby one month old, and that cousin Cathy became friends with her cousin Cindy’s daughter Mandy? I love knowing this stuff.
This post was written by Burton Hunter