I’ve called this series on social media for lawyers “To Friend or Not to Friend.” That makes perfect sense when you think of the subjects I’ve covered: Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and other sites for lawyers to reach out, make connections and network. JD Supra is the focus of my next article. As with my coverage of YouTube and blogging, the question really might be: “To publish or not to publish?”
The answer, without a doubt, is: yes. But with a twist: JD Supra offers a very social and far-reaching type of publishing. As the company’s director of communications, Adrian Lurssen, wrote to me in an e-mail: “This is where what you know connects with who you know.”
Not Just an Online Portfolio of Expertise
JD Supra allows lawyers, law firms and legal professionals to post documents online to “reach new clients, colleagues, and the media.”
The site includes work from solo attorneys in every practice field; firms such as Manatt, Morrison & Foerster, Lane Powell and Mintz Levin; academics; paralegals; consultants; law practice support providers; and nonprofit organizations such as EFF, CATO and EPIC. Contributors upload all kinds of documents such as newsletters, briefs, articles, alerts, court filings, favorable decisions and other substantive legal work.
JD Supra’s homepage asks the question: “Thousands of legal documents, the professionals who created them: what are you looking for?” All the information is free to everyone.
Your written work is collected in a public portfolio that includes a professional profile listing practice fields, academic qualifications, contact information and a description of service offerings. Unlike Linkedin, your JD Supra profile does not link to other people, but to your work.
In other words, Lurssen says, “Every piece of useful information you distribute via JD Supra is connected back to you. And that’s the point: Give content. Get noticed.”
“Distribute via JD Supra” is the other key phrase in that sentence, according to Lurssen. Since their launch, the JD Supra team has been “opening channels to get this work in front of the people who should see it.”
A recent blog post, Where Does JD Supra Distribute My Work, describes many of these “channels” – including everything from third-party news providers such as Newstex to pretty innovative ways of delivering legal content to targeted audiences on Twitter and Linkedin. For example, Lurssen showed me a Twitter feed of Real Estate law alerts followed by more than 1,200 real estate professionals -- and an HR-related group in Linkedin with more than 100,000 members that receive JD Supra’s daily feed of labor and employment articles and alerts. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are, for example, Twitter news feeds for every subject on the site, with audiences to match. This brings us back to the importance of the convergence of these social media platforms (discussed in Blogging for Lawyers).
“The Web is one giant, open platform and content is porous. We are connecting the dots wherever we find a targeted audience for this top-quality, extraordinarily useful legal information,” said Lurssen.
Attorney Aviva Cuyler conceived of the site late one night a few years ago, while writing a complicated brief. She says, “The idea behind JD Supra is that an attorney’s written work is one of the best examples of his or her expertise. By sharing your documents online – making the work freely available to anyone who needs it – you are effectively marketing your expertise and service in an online landscape characterized not only by enormous reach but also by extraordinary noise. When you place substantive information in the mix, you cut through the noise.”
JD Supra contributor Ronald Coleman agrees. A litigator specializing in commercial law and trademarks, Coleman says: “The most valuable thing I have is my work. It's something I take pride in and something I do very well. I have a whole career worth of it to put out there. JD Supra helps people understand exactly what kind of lawyer I'm going to be by showing them my work."
A quick search of the Web showed me that others agree. California defamation lawyer, Adrianos Facchetti, wrote last year in a guest post at Carolyn Elefant’s My Shingle: “My clients can even view documents that I’ve prepared and filed in similar cases on JDSupra … a recent client told me that he loved the fact that he was able to view some of my work-product before hiring me.”
Just a week ago, Scott Wolfe Jr., founding partner of Wolfe Law Group, announced on Twitter: “… got a referral today from someone who found us on JDSupra.com” and was able to see his work.
I asked Lurssen about the concern some lawyers might have sharing their clients’ court filings online. He wrote back:
“1. These are already public documents. We feel – and many lawyers seem to agree – that there is tremendous public relations value in being the primary source of the court filings. You get to control the message when you describe the documents; but also, if the decision is favorable, you get the credit. 2. You can always redact before posting; attorneys do that regularly. 3. Filings are just one part of the whole JD Supra-sphere. We’re also seeing people upload newsletters, articles, press mentions, repurposed blog posts, presentations, and legal alerts – the full range of work showing what you know and what you are good at doing. Lately, this also includes an awful lot of legal analysis of what’s happening in Washington.”
Lurssen was an early employee at Yahoo! (from 1996 to 2001). We’ve connected personally on Twitter and Linkedin – he loves to talk about all things social media, especially when they relate to what’s happening on JD Supra:
“When we launched a year ago someone wrote that we were the YouTube of law. A flattering analogy – implying, I suppose, that we are a user-generated platform that aggregates content from many sources and makes it available to everyone. As YouTube is to video, we might be to legal documents. What I like more about YouTube is that it’s also a hosting platform that makes content entirely portable. You can share and embed it practically anywhere. More importantly, you can take it to your audiences, rather than waiting for them to come to you. That’s something we take very seriously.”
Lurssen explained what this means to lawyers interested in social media:
“Yes, JD Supra profiles and documents tend to rank well in Google – we help people to be found in Search. And yes, we distribute the work widely online. There’s tremendous value in both of those things; you can just upload documents on the site and be done with it. But we also provide tools for people using JD Supra to take their work with them after they’ve uploaded it. Using RSS, widgets, and various plug-and-play applications, we allow users to connect their portfolios to other platforms, including blogs, Web sites, Linkedin, and even Facebook.”
JD Supra’s Facebook application (JD Supra Docs) was well received when it launched late last year. Attorney and author Bob Ambrogi said at the time on Twitter: “This is the kind of innovation that other legal vendors should emulate.” The application streams your portfolio and documents from JD Supra to Facebook. In another recent blog post (How Does JD Supra Help Me Distribute My Work Online) Lurssen lists all the other ways you can connect your JD Supra portfolio to other online platforms.
In my book, "Everyday Public Relations for Lawyers," I explain that strategic marketing and PR is often like building a house. Every house needs more than one entry point (see an earlier reference to this in my Linkedin article.) It makes good sense to understand online marketing in this context: every worthwhile presence online is one more door into your house. (For example, JD Supra professional profiles rank well in search, just like Linkedin profiles.) Funny thing though – when I wrote the book, JD Supra was still in it’s concept phase and many of the social networking tools used by lawyers today were in their infancy.
Lurssen describes the “front door” strategy as “planting a flag” in any of the places where prospects might gather.
He says: “A sound online strategy is one in which you plant a flag in any places you can find and build an audience – or, where you can claim ownership over your name. Then, as much as you can, you connect the dots between the sites. How? By feeding it content, lots of it. It takes less work than it sounds, because once each presence has been established they tend to run themselves.”
Lurssen contends that social media and search engine optimization connect at this point. “You get to make real connections with your audiences because you are providing meaningful information (and even engaging in actual dialogue, as on Twitter). And, the search engines begin to notice your content, too. You begin to take possession of your online resume (one of the most important resumes you have): the top search results in Google.”
I asked Lurssen how JD Supra makes money, since all of the content is free.
“We’re a subscription business,” he said. Contributors pay for premium accounts – which have all of the features of a standard account (profile and unlimited document uploads) as well as other benefits, such as promotion throughout the growing JD Supra network; direct links to Web sites, blogs, and e-mail; monthly traffic reporting; a document uploading service (JD Supra uploads documents for you); online marketing support; monthly tips, tricks, and strategies for online optimization; and more. Firms are also able to pay to get all of their attorneys on the site with individual profiles and practice group profiles all connected to one firm presence.
When pressed whether contributors are seeing value in the premium offerings, Lurssen sent me this single line from Robert Kahn, director of business development at Fenwick & West: “… one of our best online marketing investments.”
In Part 8 of this Social Media for Lawyers series, I will talk about Martindale-Hubbell Connect. Stay tuned to The Legal Intelligencer’s Lawyers and the Media blog.
Gina F. Rubel, Esq.
Furia Rubel Communications, Inc.