The Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association (SYLA) held their annual conference on 24 June 2011 at The Corinthian Hotel in Glasgow.
The conference featured speakers expert in many areas of the legal profession, with the programme as follows:-
Innovation in Commercial Practice: the future of commercial legal services
Professor Stewart Brymer (Brymer Legal); Philip Rodney (Burness LLP); Valerie Surgenor (Macroberts LLP)
The Future of Rights of Audience in Scotland
Representatives of the Faculty of Advocates and the Society of Solicitor Advocates
The Future of the Law in Scotland: a UK and International Perspective
Richard Susskind, Legal Commentator and Author of The End of Lawyers
Progressing your career in challenging economic times
Jim Moser, Director of Learning and Development, Dundas & Wilson CS LLP
New technology, social media and the law: how to develop, and not destroy, your career
Brian Inkster (Inksters Solicitors); Gavin Ward (WardblawG); Philip Knight (Biggart Baillie LLP)
The Future of the Law in Scotland: The Perspective of the Law Society of Scotland
Lorna Jack, Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland
While these presentations spanned a day’s worth of information and discussion, this blog post focusses mainly on the presentations and discussions on how and why young lawyers can use social media to advance and not hinder their careers. As I note below, for a feed of all of the updates from the SYLA conference see the Twitter hashtag #SYLAAnnualConference
Social Media for Young Lawyers
I was invited, alongside Philip Knight of Biggart Baillie and Brian Inkster of Inksters, to speak on social media and how it can help young lawyers advance their careers. Unfortunately I missed the morning’s speakers, the reason being that I had a conflicting meeting to attend that morning with a lawyer, which meeting was coincidentally brought about because of Twitter.
Philip Knight, Biggart Baillie
Phil Knight of Biggart Baillie presented on how Twitter has allowed him to develop a strong personal brand and network within the Scottish legal profession. He reported, also, on some lucrative results for his firm, with a measurable amount of fees coming directly from his own activities on Twitter in the past year, mainly from referrals from other contacts.
Not only did Phil explain the benefits of using Twitter for his career, he also took the audience through the basics and some of the more advanced features of twitter, in addition to making reference to a list of top 100 legal tweeters in Scotland which was helpfully prepared before the event.
Reference was also made to his firm, Biggart Baillie, which currently has over 50 of its lawyers tweeting in addition to 19 specialist legal departments delivering legal updates. With such a vast presence on twitter, a social media policy is a good idea. Philip discussed some of the various methods of control, with best advice being:-
“Participate online in a respectful, relevant way that protects business reputation and of course follows the letter and spirit of the law.”
For further discussion of social media policies I would highly recommend David Morgan’s Linkedin group Employment Law for Human Resources in Scotland, where David of Burness LLP has recently been sharing his thoughts on how a professional social media policy should be drafted.
Phil rounded off his presentation by looking at some useful examples from the Scottish legal twitterati, concluding by wondering how many people in the audience will increase their own social media efforts. He asked this question publicly on twitter the next day:-
Brian Inkster, Inksters
Brian Inkster of Inksters then spoke about his firm’s experiences, together with some of his own tips on how lawyers can use social media effectively. Brian has already written about the event with commentary on his own presentation on the Inksters website which is well worth viewing.
Noting that Inksters were the first Scottish Law Firm to tweet, Brian explained how various other Twitter accounts have been set up for niche areas of law that Inksters cover, with each lawyer having their own Twitter account. It’s always great to hear Brian explaining the theory of Tweeting in Convoy, as Jon Bloor named it. The following extract from Jon’s site sums it up well:-
“I think it makes sense to see the firm’s Twitter account as the giant battleship at the centre of a convoy. What is really needed is some more nimble destroyers, which are perhaps less powerful, but can dart around and engage the enemy where needed.
There are firms who are using this type of approach. Inksters (the first Scottish firm on Twitter!) have a corporate Twitter account backed up by founding partner Brian Inkster’s personal Twitter account which he uses for less formal Tweets (see Brian’s full comment on my recent post).”
Through various slides, as per the above SlideShare presentation, Brian then led the audience through a chronological display of some of Inksters’ most significant tweets and other online developments. One of the interesting comments Inksters have received is that they are perceived by some to be a much larger firm than they are because of their powerful online presence.
Brian outlined the consequences of Inksters tweeting and compared the main social networks, with LinkedIn being seen as more professional and perhaps, as a result, more boring than Twitter, with FaceBook being for old friends rather than new connections.
Given that Brian is the founder of The Time Blawg, he gave some useful insights into law blogging, advising the young lawyers how easy it was to set up and publish a blog using the likes of WordPress, which is the platform used by The Time Blawg and this, WardblawG, among many others.
Brian concluded with a pertinent quote from Betsy Munnell commenting on Law Firm Twitteratigate at The Time Blawg:-
“Clearly, and the data in your post makes this point many times over, young lawyers need to teach themselves how to use social media for their careers. They cannot wait for their firms to catch up–not if they wish to build self-sustaining practices, not if they wish to survive this economy and the coming revolution in the delivery of legal services.”
Gavin Ward, Moore Legal Technology
Following this, I presented on some of my own experiences of using social media.
First, I explained my own path from qualifying as a solicitor at Maclay Murray & Spens LLP in 2010 to becoming engaged in blawging in order to share some of own legal knowledge and engage more with the legal profession, which all resulted in me becoming a search and social media consultant to law firms at Moore Legal Technology.
I then presented 10 tips on how lawyers can use Linkedin effectively. The illustrations can be viewed within the powerpoint above, which will become the subject of another blawg post. Essentially, I explained that young lawyers should learn how to do the following on Linkedin:-
Tip 1: Create a Solid Profile
Tip 2: Join Relevant Groups
Tip 3: Engage in Group Discussions
Tip 4: Find Relevant Contacts
Tip 5: Connect with relevant contacts
Tip 6: Start Recommending
Tip 7: Connect your website and twitter account(s)
Tip 8: Select a unique URL
Tip 9: Promote your linkedin profile to your social networks
Tip 10: Monitor who is viewing your profile
The main benefits of Linkedin for lawyers were explained as being greater online presence particularly through search engines, the ability to build and develop a professional network, generate new business directly or via referrals and also with the opportunity to scope out competition.
I then presented on the top five reasons for young lawyers and barristers to get blogging.
I also suggested that if lawyers are interested in blogging, they would be more than welcome to register on my sister site Youblawg, which is currently housed at http://wardblawg.com/youblawg. After registering for free via the upper right section of the site, they will get access to post blogs or see how other blog posts look before getting published, at least from a WordPress perspective. If looking to set up a standalone blog, please get in touch with me at @GavWard on twitter and I can answer any queries.
My final piece of advice was:-
“DO NOT Stick your head in the sand when new business is sitting waiting for you”
Brian, Phil and I were then involved in a Q & A session, facilitated by Martin Raymond of Cloudline, with interesting discussions generated regarding, amongst other things, What not to tweet, Twittiquette and conflict within law firms between the partners and younger tweeting lawyers, with additional discussion regarding the regulation of social media both at firm level and on a more global level.
SYLA Annual Conference Tweets
For a full feed of all the updates from the SYLA conference see the hashtag #SYLAAnnualConference or #SYLAConference. As Brian suggested, next year’s conference should probably use the hashtag #SYLA2012 – the shorter the better.
The event was concluded with a keynote speech from the Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, Lorna Jack, leaving us with an optimistic outlook on the future of the legal profession in Scotland:-
To round up, I’ve selected some memorable tweets from or about this year’s event below:-