Social Media for Barristers’ Chambers – Friend or Foe ?

This is my recent article in Clerksroom Magazine, a monthly publication for barristers’ clerks distributed to all chambers in England and Wales.  The magazine can be downloaded (free) in its entirety here

When someone mentions social media, the normal reaction is for the eyes to glaze over, with thoughts of Facebook and teenagers exchanging holiday snaps, or one of a thousand “friends” enriching our lives with profound insight into the production of a cup of tea or having some “me time”. You wonder as to its usefulness for anything other than needlessly wasting time. Certainly, it seems of little benefit to the business of running chambers.

Many clerks are becoming active users of LinkedIn, an online platform with similar functionality to Facebook but focused on business networking. There seems however to be little sign of any proper engagement between users, making its main focus simple lists of who knows who, with the only real value being to enable users to see where their competitors are setting their business development sights.

And then there’s Twitter. Only a handful of clerks seem to be using this platform, although many barristers, solicitors and legal journalists have been prolific users for some time. Outside the legal sector, there are many high profile users including MPs, celebrities, journalists and sportspeople (some of whom have captured attention for the wrong reasons).

The benefits of Twitter are easier to see and derive mainly from its simplicity. Users communicate with “tweets” of up to a maximum of 140 characters, just like a text message. Tweets are displayed to a user’s “followers” in their “timeline” (home page). You can choose to follow anyone you like, with no mutual agreement required. This freedom enables you to build your own news feed from those users whose tweets interest you. If you find them of little value then you are free to “unfollow” at any time. Because tweets are so short, they take very little time to read and encourage concise and incisive communication.

Twitter is growing dramatically across the globe as a credible business networking tool, as it enables you to reach out to potential clients in a unique way, both individually and as an organisation. As well as the knowledge that you have a captive audience (your followers have actually chosen to receive your information, which may not be the case with your chambers newsletter mailing list) you also have the opportunity to engage in dialogue with others and give some personality to your online presence, rather than simply churning out faceless marketing blurb.

The credibility of Twitter and its value to chambers is emphasised by the strong presence of organisations such as the Bar Standards Board, the Bar Council, Ministry of Justice and the Judicial Communications Office as well as all of the mainstream legal press.

Against this background, there really seems to be only one way to go with social media.

As ever, it is just a matter of time and there will be those who gain an advantage by moving swiftly.

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