Survey: Social networks show some gray

By John Flynn Rooney
Reprinted by permission from the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

While there are a growing number of lawyers using online social networks, a surprising trend is that older lawyers are flocking to such networks, a recent survey shows.

More than 70 percent of the lawyers responding to the survey indicated they are members of an online social network — with 30 percent growth reported among lawyers 46 and older in the survey conducted this year.

The survey showed that 66 percent of the lawyers who responded above the age of 46 are members of social networks like LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, Xing and MySpace.

The 2009 Networks for Counsel Survey of 1,474 lawyers in private practice and corporate counsel was commissioned by LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell. The survey was conducted in May and June by Leader Networks a Massachusetts-based consulting firm that helps businesses in cultivating online social networks. The results were issued Wednesday.

Vanessa J. DiMauro, president of Leader Networks, said Thursday that social media is moving more into the mainstream, which has led to more senior professionals using online networks.

“Due to the rise in professional networks … there’s now an effective place for collaboration, knowledge-sharing and more professional level activities” for senior professionals, DiMauro added in a telephone interview.

More than half the survey respondents indicated that online networks could change the business and practice of law.

Two Chicago area lawyers over the age of 50 who have joined LinkedIn within about the past year, said Thursday they didn’t join that site expecting to generate business.

Chicago plaintiff personal injury lawyer Bruce R. Pfaff, 55, joined LinkedIn several months ago and now has 55 “contacts” through LinkedIn. Pfaff accepted an invitation to join LinkedIn from a business colleague who is not a lawyer.

“It was to me, a simple offer to join,” added Pfaff, a principal of Pfaff & Gill Ltd. “It didn’t do anything to portray our firm in a negative light.”

Pfaff added, “It is a way to stay in touch with people.”

Potential clients locate the firm through other online means such as conducting Google or Bing searches for product liability lawyers in Chicago, according to Pfaff.

Richard K. Means, 66, an Oak Park sole practitioner, joined LinkedIn within the past year to 18 months. He also is a member of Facebook.

Means, who represents political candidates in election law matters, said many of his clients use social networking sites.

“It seemed like a way to get easy access to potential business contacts and clients,” Means said Thursday of joining LinkedIn, where he has 23 contacts. “It’s kind of an automated way to expand the modern version of a Rolodex.”

The survey is in its second year. This year’s survey showed the number of lawyers who are members of an online network is up almost 25 percent from the 2008 survey. Also, 65 percent of the lawyers responding this year indicated a high interest of joining an online professional network designed specifically for the legal profession. Martindale-Hubbell Connected, that company’s online network, is the preferred network followed by LinkedIn, according to the survey.

“Having done this for the second year, … I am surprised at the extent of change in one year and the extent of adoption and embrace of social media tools just in one year,” Laxmi Wordham, vice president of LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell, said in a Thursday telephone interview.

“I think the economy has something to do with that,” Wordham added. “Lawyers are exploring alternative means that are less expensive and more efficient.”

A total of 764 lawyers in private practice and 710 corporate counsel from 33 countries participated in the 2009 survey. The survey results are available at http://www.leadernetworks.com

A third of corporate counsel and nearly half of the private practitioners who use public networks for business purposes do so at least once a day, according to the 2009 survey.

A meager 6 percent of responding lawyers reported that they engage in microblogging, such as Twitter, and about 70 percent of them do so at least once a week, the survey found.

“While Twitter seems to be all over the news, the survey results reinforce that more collaborative environments, those where there are strong peer networking and a variety of features of knowledge exchange are the preferred social media,” DiMauro said.

The Law Bulletin Publishing Co. hosts a social networking site for lawyers called the Chicago Lawyer Network.

~ by CDLB on September 10, 2009.

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