Are in-House Lawyers Influenced by Social Media?

The results of the 2013 In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey conducted by GreentargetInsideCounsel and Zeughauser Group in February 2013 reveal that among the 379 in-house counsel who responded, social media use and consumption of information on mobile devices are on the rise.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the results and what lawyers can do to get the attention of in-house counsel online.

Most Popular Media for In-House Counsel

LinkedIn, the “professional network,” is the one in-house counsel turns to most to obtain information and to expand their professional contacts. Two thirds of all respondents indicated they had used LinkedIn for professional reasons during the past week, while 40% used LinkedIn in the past 24 hours. Although Facebook and Twitter are popular for personal use, among respondents, they were far behind for professional use.

Sixty six percent use LinkedIn to connect with business and industry leaders, 61% use it to get news and information, and 60%use it to connect with outside counsel with whom they work, while 39% use it to connect with outside counsel they do not work with.

Wikipedia use is on the rise, second only to LinkedIn. Sixty five percent of respondents said they use Wikipedia to conduct company and industry research; 24% said they use it to research prominent business professionals; and 8% said they use it to research outside counsel.

Blogs were the third most used new media tool among in-house counsel; 55% read blogs written by lawyers and 54% read blogs by professional journalists. Fifty-three percent said they can envision a future in which a well-executed blog influences hiring decisions, and this response has been consistent across all three years (2010, 2012, and 2013) the survey was conducted.

A majority of respondents (55 percent) said they access law firm websites and YouTube channels to “some degree” to access substantive video content, but they do so infrequently. It is unclear at this time whether the lack of frequency is due to a lack of good quality substantive video content or lagging adoption of video as a source of information. However, the survey did uncover that almost ¼ of respondents do turn to YouTube weekly for professional reasons. YouTube is extremely popular and frequently used for personal reasons.

Industry and legal industry trade publications are still popular source of information for in-house counsel, as are daily print publications such as the Wall Street Journal and local business news. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they still read the print version of a daily general business publication, and even more (74%) read legal industry trade publications weekly or monthly. These more traditional business media are most accessed on a PC, and information is received via email alerts.

The survey showed that in 53% of responding in-house counsel read general business media on their smartphones, while 39% do so on tablets and 23% use mobile apps.

In-house Counsel Are “Lurkers”

Just because you don’t ‘see’ your clients or potential clients actively using social media doesn’t mean they aren’t there watching what you are doing and saying. According to the survey, 74% of respondents use social media in ‘listen only’ mode; they’re watching and consuming information, but they may not be actively posting themselves. Only 27% of survey respondents said they did not use social media all, which means that means the vast majority do use it.

How In-House Counsel Choose Outside Counsel

Recommendations from trusted sources still carry the most weight with in-house counsel when making hiring decisions (97% said it was “very” or “somewhat important”), followed closely by biographies on law firm websites (91%). Articles and speeches and blogs published by lawyers on topics relevant to their business were also important, at 79% and 70%, respectively.

Peer-driven rankings were less influential than any of the above; 48% said peer rankings such as Best Lawyers were somewhat important.

Forty nine percent of respondents said a lawyer’s connections or endorsements on LinkedIn were somewhat important, while 63% said a lawyer’s LinkedIn Profile was somewhat important or very important.

What Lawyers Can Do to Get The Attention Of In-House Counsel:

  1. Continue doing excellent work and servicing your existing clients – referrals from trusted sources are still the gold standard.
  2. Lawyer bios and “about” pages must be kept up to date and provide valuable information about you and your firm – they are frequently referenced and highly influential.
  3. Lawyer-produced content, including LinkedIn Profiles and blogs are being seen by in-house counsel as credible sources of information, just as more ‘traditional’ media, such as newspapers, are. Produce quality content that will be of value to in-house counsel and their companies, and make sure it is on a platform that will be easy to view on a mobile device.
  4. The survey results suggest that the majority of in-house counsel will expect their outside counsel to use LinkedIn as a means to stay in touch and that many use it as an information source. Your firm should have a LinkedIn Company Page that is frequently updated with information that would be useful to your potential clients, and it should contain complete information about the services your firm offers. All of the firm’s lawyers should have completed profiles on LinkedIn and should be actively using it as a tool to keep in touch with their networks and expand their reach.
  5. Consider creating a Wikipedia entry for your law firm and your individual lawyers. If you already have one, make sure the information contained in those entries is correct – and complete. In-house lawyers are using Wikipedia as a tool to research the industry and outside counsel. Survey results suggest that the focus should not be on the firm’s entry, but rather on the entries of the individual lawyers.
  6. If your firm has a blog or blogs, write with your clients and potential clients in mind, post consistently and integrate the blogs into your overall marketing strategy. If you have multiple blogs written for the same or similar audiences, make a plan so individual firm bloggers coordinate with one another on blogging strategy and content. If you don’t have a blog, you might consider adding one if you can create consistent, quality content and become a resource for in-house lawyers.
  7. If your firm isn’t producing video content now, this may be the perfect time to do so – in-house counsel are using law firm video content as a resource, yet many firms are not producing any video content at all, or the quality of that content is low. Excellent video content may be one way to make your firm stand out from the crowd.
  8. Watch what you do on social media channels – you never know who might be observing your online behavior. You may also be surprised to learn who regularly trusts and references your posts and links.
  9. Peer rankings have some influence and if you receive them, you should take advantage of them and publicize the results, but they shouldn’t be the main focus of your resources.
  10. Lawyers who seek to do business with in-house counsel may not be able to use social media effectively as a means to find out what in-house counsel thinks is important or what their concerns are. Although in-house counsel may be present online, they are likely to be silent (“lurking”). Similarly, “traditional” methods for measure social media effectiveness – looking at comments, likes and other engagement – may not be appropriate measures if your audience is comprise of in-house counsel; engagement is more likely to take place offline. Instead, focus on creating compelling, useful, substantive content and building reputation and influence online. Integrate these efforts with offline marketing and business development to increase your chances of getting hired.

For another take, see this infographic on the survey results.


  1. Great data. Thanks!