The Social Media Practices of Rural Attorneys
By Gayle M. O’Connor – Last week on Wednesday (May 17), I spent a day in rural Louisiana giving a CLE program titled Authentication of Social Media Evidence to the Lafrouche Parish Bar Association. I drove west from New Orleans to Thibodaux, home of Nicholls State University. Thibodaux truly is a nice, small town of about 15,000 people nestled along the banks of Bayou Lafourche; even the original courthouse, built in 1856, is still in use.
The CLE was held at Fremins, a lovely restaurant, which used to serve as the town pharmacy. About 35 attorneys attended, some whom didn’t even need the CLE credits but were simply interested in this fascinating topic.
I like to poll my audience when I speak and when I asked the room of attorneys who had business Facebook pages for their firm, I was surprised when only three raised their hands. Similar question on LinkedIn…only one attorney raised her hand. That same attorney raised her hand when asking about Twitter. In my experiences speaking to attorneys who practice in both small rural areas, this is not an unusual survey. Most of these rural attorneys practice “door law.” That is, they’ll take any client that walks through the door. In rural areas, rarely do you have the big city type cases, like M&A, IP, and Finance Law. Instead, you’ll firm solos and small firms who practice a mixture of Family Law, Criminal Law, Bankruptcy, and Personal Injury.
However, when I asked how many attorneys were dealing with social media in their cases, I saw about seven hands go up. Interesting times indeed! When I asked the attendees why they didn’t have the social media tools that the “outside world” considers basic, I received comments such as “I don’t need all that newfangled stuff” and “We just don’t have that out here.”
Yet, because of the prevalence of social media in litigation, some of them are beginning to realize that this is a reality and need to ensure the social media becomes a regular part of the discovery process – that’s why they were here: to learn about how to use social media in litigation. Perhaps they don’t need social media for marketing purposes, but today’s rules of court and evidence are forcing them to learn about it and use it in their practice in order to better represent their clients. After the session, I had many good comments, lots of thanks and questions on where they might start their trip down social media lane. The room felt, well… energized.
When I got back home to NOLA, I decided to spend a little time online researching the question: “Why don’t attorneys who practice in rural areas use social media in their practice?” I personally am hooked and don’t know of any of my colleagues who don’t rely on social media as well.
Apparently, for rural practices, marketing and building a practice in a small town without the use of social media is, for the most part, the norm. It is truly a differentiator from practicing in the big city. Most rural attorneys have a web site, a few may blog a bit, but for the most part, stay off the big three of social media – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.“
In the city, it seemed to me to be all about having the best reputation, the best price,” says Laura Mann, a New York City lawyer who left Manhattan to open her own practice in a quaint New Jersey town of about 26,000 called West Milford. She further stated that “the most effective marketing is getting to know people, becoming part of the community and being someone those seeking a lawyer they feel they can trust.”
Oh, right, talking over coffee…without checking your phone. I DO remember those days. And maybe in more rural areas people still LIVE those days. In a city of 15,000 people, I imagine that everyone DOES now each other so the social part of social media is not as big a need.
But the evidentiary need is still there. One attendee came up to after the luncheon and said, “Wow, I could have used this presentation before a recent case I had. You talked about something that was exactly my fact pattern.” Hopefully presentations like this will get the word out that social media is not just for big city attorneys.
Gayle O’Connor is a legal technology consultant with 30 years’ experience specializing in legal marketing, particularly social media, blogs and websites. She is currently working as the Marketing Manager at Social Evidence, a cloud-based application designed to discover, organize, analyze and authenticate specific social media evidence. Gayle was previously the Marketing Manager at Degan, Blanchard and Nash, a large law firm located in New Orleans. Gayle is also a former trial technician for the federal public defenders, a marketing director for numerous legal software providers and has taught legal research at law schools. Additionally, she has been a featured speaker at American Lawyer Media LegalTech Events, ABA TECHSHOW, Online World, Special Libraries Association, Washington State Paralegal Association, National Business Institute, ABA Litigation Section Meetings, local Bar Associations throughout the U.S. and international organizations such as the Law Society of British Columbia and the New Zealand Law Society. She can be reached at email@example.com, www.social-evidence.com or @gaylemoconnor.
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