The Wall Street Journal (subs. req.) has now jumped on the social media bandwagon for lawyer marketing. "Young Lawyers Building Buzz Tweet by Tweet" says that "the old tools of branding—snazzy ties, confident bluster and gimmicky ads—are being replaced by a prominent web presence." And the story reminds us of how dramatic the evolution in lawyer marketing has been.
State bar associations, until the early 1970s, grappled with the ethics of legal advertising. Even handing out business cards was seen as a dubious practice that came close to breaching the prohibition against soliciting clients.
Now the bar associations themselves have blogs and twitter accounts and use them to help their members navigate these new waters effectively, and ethically.
The story's observation about business cards strikes a personal chord this week. Thursday I had the pleasure of meeting participants in the Just the Beginning Summer Legal Institute at a reception at Dickinson Wright's Detroit office. The program, brought to Michigan through Cooley Law School, is aimed at increasing diversity in the legal profession. It offers promising high school students from disadvantaged economic backgrounds a week's worth of immersion in the legal profession through classroom lectures and activities, logic and critical thinking exercises, writing and oral advocacy in mock trial environments, panel discussions of judges and attorneys, and field trips to law firms, corporations, government offices, and courthouses.
The Just the Beginning students were articulate, eager, and charming -- no surprise there. But, amazingly, they were armed with their own personal "business" cards. Self-marketing starts at a very tender age, these days, I guess. Alas, I hadn't brought my own business cards along. So much for setting a good example.