When Law Firm Social Media Goes Bad.

I was reading through my LinkedIn updates a few moments ago and read the following;

  • Craig Holt
    Craig Holt Unexpected events such as the shootings in Cumbria can leave loved ones in unexpected legal and financial… http://fb.me/By6ukJw9 via Twitter
  • My poor taste alarm bells were ringing in a flash.

    The link did go through to a Facebook page which looked like this;

    Now, I do not know what is going on here.  I have tweeted what appears to be the Quality Solicitors twitter account to ask whether they are being attacked by mischievous sorts and will let you know if I receive a response.

    But given that there appears to be a concerted effort to spread this rather surprising selling message across LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, I would be surprised if that were the case.  It’s on their website as well, so I have to presume this is sanctioned.

    At the moment it looks as though Quality Solicitors are genuinely putting out this message.  I hope they prove me wrong.

    What lessons are there to be learnt from this?

    Think very carefully about putting edgy stuff “Out there”.

    Is it going to offend anyone?  If it is, that in itself is not automatically a reason not to do it, but how is that potential offence going to impact your law firm?

    Secondly, think about who you are teaming up with.

    The Quality Solicitors brand is a national service that has high street firms sign up to benefit from the collective name, brand and profile that Quality Solicitors can offer.  Bearing that in mind, how many of those firms will approve of this message and how does it reflect back on the component firms?

    I suspect this story has some way to go, but let me have your thoughts below, especially if you are one of the subscribing firms.

    As Johnny Ball from “Think of a Number” might have said, social media can be a lawyer’s best friend.  It could also be their worst enemy.

    UPDATE

    Having just revisited the Quality Solicitors website I see that the comments seem to have been deleted from the Twitter feed.  Hopefully this might indicate that this was not a sincere attempt to sell but was a malicious event.

    I am aware that I had previously blogged favourably on Quality Solicitors’ initiative.  I want to see them succeed for the sake of the profession and all their subscriber firms. Here’s hoping they haven’t dropped the baton.

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    9 Comments

    Filed under Law, Lawyers and Social Media

    9 responses to “When Law Firm Social Media Goes Bad.

    1. Hi Neil,

      Actually – the tweet was simply a reference to an article from last week’s Times entitled “Most adults don’t have a will. Do you?”. The article is here:

      http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/law/article2557367.ece

      Since The Times began charging for subscription many people will not be able to view the article but it is starts as follows:

      “Shots fired by the taxi driver Derrick Bird in Cumbria left 12 innocent people dead and families and friends stunned as well as grieving.

      Precisely because these shocking events were so unexpected, those left bereaved may face legal and financial difficulties at the same time as coping with their sorrow and anger.

      It is a fact of life to lawyers that, even among those who might have been expected to have made a bare minimum of arrangements, there will be people who will not have taken even the basic step of making a will.

      Even a rational and intelligent person who has been given bad news by his or her doctor often remains reluctant to act, as Dr Mark Morgan, a GP and medical adviser to http://www.lastingpost.com, can confirm.

      Scott Devine, at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, says about 280,000 grants of probate are taken out each year in England and Wales, a third of which are intestate estates.

      The discrepancy between this and the number of deaths (500,000) is because probate is not needed for very small estates or property that passes automatically to another person.

      Backing this up, a survey by the National Consumer Council in 2007 showed that 64 per cent of respondents — or 27.5 million adults in England and Wales — did not have a will, but 15 per cent, equivalent to 5.1 million adults, either had personal experience of intestacy problems or knew someone who had. And one million people said that in their opinion at least part of the estate went to the wrong person.”

      It continues.

      So far from this being the opinion of QS or something conjured up by ourselves it is simply us forwarding an article from The Times law supplement. Our legal journalist is expected to post to Twitter any relevant legal news stories which then automatically populate on our website, Facebook and Linkedin.

      That said, my personal view for what it is worth, is that the article in The Times was, itself, in bad taste and lest people think that by tweeting about it we are somehow endorsing it (or they also mistakenly think this is some attempt by QS to sell wills), I have removed the tweet and its associated references. I would be grateful if you could clarify this to those to whom you sent the initial email about this that it is, in fact, a Times article and not some action on the part of QualitySolicitors. The impression given that this is article is the creation of QualitySolicitors is not accurate.

      Thanks,

      Craig

    2. Thanks Craig for commenting with a very full response and explanation, it’s greatly appreciated.

      Thank you also for now linking through to the Times article which you were referring to.

      Not sure what happened with your internal systems before as the links I followed did not go through to the Times article but only to the Facebook message seen above.

      As you can see there was, unfortunately, no mention of the Times previously.

      I think there are lessons for all here. If we are recycling or referring to other material that is out there, then we need to make that clear.

      There is a risk that we, or our brands, become associated with what we link to unless we make this perfectly clear.

      I hope your explanation provides reassurance and clarity.

    3. I agree Neil. I have reminded our legal journalist of the importance of attributing sources when linking to or referencing other articles or opinion pieces. It would seem the actual link to the Times article itself wasn’t posted which contributed to the confusion.

      Anyway, as I mentioned, I personally think the original Times article itself is in (unusually) poor taste and wouldn’t want QS to be associated with it in any way, hence I have removed the references/links to it from all QS associated sites/profiles.

      Best wishes,

      Craig

    4. This whole blog post seems to demonstrate some of the interesting opportunities that social media can offer law firms.

      Whilst there is no denying that, if they believed that The Times article could be perceived as in bad taste, they should never have posted this tweet in the first place… Craig has done a wonderful job of turning negative social media comment into positive.

      First, we have to hand it to QS for actually using Twitter in a really pro-active way. Ok, they haven’t got it all right but at least they’re getting out there and sharing information in a way that will add real value to their clients.

      Second, Craig responded to the negative comment professionally and with real intelligence. There are a number of really great case studies that demonstrate how companies have used social media to address negative criticism. This is another example (ok, perhaps not as impressive as Dell but the theory is there). By jumping in and demonstrating that they care, by posting a response, QS have gone up in my estimation. I’m not saying I’d use them but I’ll remember the name. Comments on negative press, in the public domain go a long way and allow you to monitor and deal with negative comment before it turns into scandal.

      Finally… what this does demonstrate is the need for a really well thought out social media strategy. For so many years the profession has been terrified of commenting and sharing opinion in case they offended anyone. Most firms felt (or feel still) it was better to display faceless drones than risk voicing an opinion… and it is taking time for firms to find their confidence with social media. You have to hand it to those who are at least brave enough to give it a go.

      Admittedly, if you go in to “just have a go” you’re likely to get tripped up like QS (on this occasion, but I suspect this will be the last time)… but with a bit of planning firms can make a real success of it and use it to great effect.

    5. Hi Helen and welcome to the blog.

      Good comments I think. The real big social media faux pas stories are the ones where the protagonist goes to ground and doesn’t commnet – ride it out. Craig and I have exchanged tweets and comments before and in happier circumstances, and I hope that relationship of sorts came across in my original posts.

      We are all learning as we go with this social media. The fact that I nearly called the post “There But For The Grace of God…” speaks volumes.

      Outsourcing social media, or delegating it to another department can work, but you need clear communication and a clear brief.

      Thanks again for stopping by to contribute.

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