Over the last several months, Twitter has become the most talked about and fastest growing social media site in the United States. A free, web-based service, Twitter allows anyone to join and start “Tweeting” micro-blogs posts of 140 characters or less.
Many of our clients have asked us recently if Twitter is a good idea for attorneys, and if so, how they might go about participating.
Our answer is always, it depends.
There is no inherent harm in and of itself in participating on Twitter. It can be a great place to network with colleagues (and therefore generate referrals back and forth) or to be seen as a thought leader in your legal niche.
As a direct source of clients? Maybe. But there are several caveats to keep in mind.
First, if you are responding to a direct question, there is always a danger that your answer could be perceived as legal advice. Since your feed can be seen by all of your followers, it is possible that you could expose yourself to a malpractice claim if someone relies on your Tweets to their detriment.
It has been suggested by others that it would be worthwhile to periodically post to your feed a disclaimer that you are only providing legal information, not giving advice, and that a lawyer should be consulted if someone has a legal issue.
Second, when inviting followers to make contact with your law office, you want to be sure that you don’t run afoul of ethics guidelines pertaining to solicitation of legal business. Since every communication with prospects in your feed will be written, public and discoverable, the State Bar may have transcripts to use against you should they decide that you’ve crossed a line.
Finally, although Twitter is at heart a very casual way of communicating with large groups of people, you want to ensure that the tone and subject matter of your Tweets won’t cause any harm to how potential clients or colleagues might perceive you. Tweets that are spammy-sounding, unprofessional or boring are all big turn offs. You should also be willing to participate in the give and take of the Twittersphere by following others and commenting on their Tweets. With all that said, if Twitter sounds like something you would enjoy doing and might benefit from without taking away from other activities that are more effective in generating new business, then yes, it might be a good idea for you.
On the other hand, don’t feel obliged to jumped on the Twitter bandwagon — a tremendous number of people don’t participate on Twitter and have no intention of ever doing so.