By John D. Barber
Special to the Legal
Big law firms can be slow to react to changing technological landscapes. There are many reasons for this and every firm has its favorites: security, time, aging support staffs, time, fear of change and time, just to name a few. And, more times than not, as a young lawyer, your only real option is keep your head down and soldier on. This is not the case with social media. A small effort on your part to build and maintain your presence now could help set you apart from your peers in 10 years.
As I'm sure you know perfectly well, for the rest of your legal career, time literally equals money. Every unaccounted-for six minutes equals some specific dollar amount that you are losing your firm. But remember that becoming a successful partner will require more than just meeting your deadlines with acceptable work product and billing hours. As a partner you will also have to demonstrate the ability to manage relationships and develop business.
In this, today's young lawyers have an advantage that generations of associates before them have not. Social media networks allow you to make and maintain ties to contacts of all sorts in a time-effective manner and should not be neglected because you need to get your monthly required hours in. In fact, using this technology effectively and responsibly may be the difference in forging a successful career.
At this point in your life, you have probably logged thousands of hours using social media and it is most likely already second nature to you, even if you don't realize it. Use that! Those countless hours have allowed you to develop skills and a comfort level that your more senior counterparts will likely never have.
You never know where a weak tie today will lead to tomorrow. Think of those Facebook friends you've had since your freshman year at college. Maybe you don't speak to them now, but they are definitely more likely to take your call in 10 years than someone with whom you have no connection. And what about those entry-level folks working for your boss’ big client that you met at that networking function? Will they stay entry level for the rest of their lives? These are relationships you can easily maintain thanks to social media.
There is one simple step you can take to strengthen the ties with those connections that you may not regularly contact. Through well-timed sharing of quality, interesting content, relevant to your practice, you can accomplish two goals with social media: keeping your name present in the minds of those you are connected to and building a reputation for being at the forefront regarding developments in your practice area.
This isn't to say you should expect every connection or relationship you make to turn into business someday. You shouldn't be insincere in the relationships you cultivate and social media shouldn't be your only business development activity. But it is an extremely useful tool. If you treat every relationship like it could one day turn into business, then when the possibility is there, you will be prepared and positioned well for success.