Law Firm Twitteratigate – The Whole Story

Law Firm Twitterati

No need to Tweet to win!

The blawgosphere has been awash over the past week or so with posts concerning what has become known as ‘Law Firm Twitteratigate’. I have commented on many of these posts and thought it might be useful to do a Roundup of all the posts involved in one place.

It all started with The Lawyer’s (@thelawyermag) post: A&O most successful among law firm twitterati. This article looked at the Intendance (@intendance) Report: Focus on Twitter – An overview of Twitter use in the UK legal sector [PDF] and in particular made much of the top 10 ranking:-


The survey, published last month (December) by Intendance, gave A&O a rating of 99. The magic circle firm was followed closely by DLA Piper, which scored 98 and Eversheds at 97…

Despite having zero tweets Norton Rose’s account, which ranked number 10, scored 88 points in the survey, only two points below Olwsang, which has posted over 100 tweets. Other firms that made it into the top 10 were Withers (fourth place), Clifford Chance, DLA Piper (real estate group), Shoosmiths, (joint fifth place with Olswang) and Taylor Wessing (sixth place).

Providing a ranking which had in the top ten a Twitter account with zero tweets was going to be a red rag to a ‘real’ Twegal (a legal who tweets – see @Twegals).

One of the first off the blocks was none other than Charon QC (@Charonqc) who in his inimitable style posted: hahaha! Absurd nonsense:-

It is not often that I get to laugh when I read stories about major law firms in the legal press… but this report from The Lawyer must be a parody….surely?

Charles Christian (@ChristianUncut) summed up the actual Twitter activity of the Top 50 UK law firms neatley with his headline at the Orange Rag: Tweeting without a clue?

Steve Williams (@MotoringLawyer) is equally aghast on The Social Media Solicitor Blog where he asks Which Law Firm Ranks Top For Use Of Twitter?:-

Surely as soon as you see a firm in 10th position in terms of ‘Quality of Twitter account’ with no tweets at all that must say that the whole grading exercise is a joke. I would be embarrassed to put my name to this survey.

What this survey shows is that the big law firms do not use twitter to any extent at all, they don’t network, they don’t contribute and in some cases they do not tweet at all!

Tim Bratton (@legalbrat) at The Legal Brat Blog covered Twitteratigate well in his post: Twitter use in the UK legal sector. I particularly liked Tim’s observations on the lack of activity on the part of Norton Rose and Allen & Overy in the aftermath of The Lawyer’s article:-

I’ve just checked the Norton Rose and Allen & Overy Twitter accounts.  If I worked in NortonRose comms, I’d have made sure I’d Tweeted something by now about why I hadn’t Tweeted before.  And if I worked in Allen & Overy comms, I’d probably be Tweeting something self-congratulatory about the intendance research.  Twitter silence however in both courts some 8 hours after @lawyercatrin Tweeted the story.

Steven Mather (@smather21) thinks the Intendance Report “highlights how ALL of the big firms get social media, and Twitter in particular, so completely wrong”. Steven points out, in his post Why #Law Firms #Fail on #Twitter, that:-

All of the firms listed in the report simply use Twitter as an RSS feed, posting content (most likely automatically) from their website as and when it’s updated. Sure, it’s useful information at times, as are emails that the same firms send out occasionally.

I don’t think I’ve seen any of those firms be bloody social. I can just imagine going to a function with their nominated tweeter.

Me: “hi, how are you today?”
Law Firm: “JoeBloggs LLP acts on big deal link”
Me: “Well done you! So how was your Christmas?”
LF: “Bribary Act implications for corporate days act link”
Me: “yes I saw that on twitter, but in reality most businesses will ignore it anyway don’t you think?”
LF: [3 days later] “Why wills are important link”

The fact is you’d have walked off after round one. On twitter we lawyers all follow the big firms but that doesn’t mean they are good at twitter.

Laurie Anstis (@ljanstis) at Work/Life/Law expounds his theory that there are five stages of Twitter use amongst law firms:-

  1. Register an account
  2. Tweet your news stream
  3. Lawyers get involved in tweeting on industry issues/topics.
  4. “Engagement”
  5. Work

Number 4 is where many commentators on Twitteratigate clearly think the large law firms are failing. Laurie muses on engagement:-

The legendary quality that law firms are supposedly so bad at. At this stage, law firms actually get seriously involved in their “community”, with regular replies, RTs and comments. Although there are sole practitioners, small partnerships and individual lawyers that do this, I am not aware of any mid- or large-sized firm (say, >10 partners or equivalent) that has managed to do this.

It is very difficult to get “engaged” when you are sending tweets from behind a corporate logo. Twitter is essentially a form of networking, and networking works best when it is personal. You would not send someone along to an industry conference with their face covered with a paper bag with the firms logo on it – and in the same way an account works best when it has a human face on it.

The best way I can see this working for larger firms is using Jon Bloor’s concept of “tweeting in convoy” – the firm’s account(s) being supported by individual accounts operated by and in the name of individual lawyers within the firm.

Meanwhile back at The Lawyer they were perhaps rethinking how they should report on law firm tweeting with them doing a follow up article: Twitter ye not, Norton Rose:-

Maybe Norton Rose is making a sophisticated, situationist protest at the prevailing culture of instant gratification that has reduced human interaction to a series of illiterate 140-character rants about Charlie Sheen’s sexual proclivities. Or maybe someone just signed up one drunken Thursday night and promptly forgot about it.

Either way, apparently only nine firms are better Twitterers, which makes one wonder what those other firms are wasting their time with.

But A&O will be happy at least after being revealed as the nation’s top legal Twitterer, beating DLA Piper and Eversheds into second and third place respectively.

Still, if, as Norton Rose demonstrate, you can get into the top ten by doing tweet FA, you have to question whether this is a prize worthy of Wim Dejonghe’s mantelpiece.

Intendance gave us an Initial Response to ‘The Lawyers’ Misinterpretation of Twitter Report:-

To paraphrase Michael Winner “calm down people, it’s only an idea of quality”.

They agreed that Twitter Grader was not perfect, pointed out that this was to give an idea of quality and stressed that they flagged up the discrepancy relating to the Norton Rose Account. They also made clear that the whole point of the Report was to look at the top 50 UK law firms and not the smaller firms who may well be using Twitter better.

Intendance followed that up with another post: Everyone Agrees – Engaging is the Key to Twitter Success:-

What is interesting is the common theme to emerge from the criticism of the report: namely that many of these firms fail to interact with others, and simply use Twitter as another way of distributing news and press releases. We did point this out in the report, and it is clear that to be effective, Twitter users in a business environment must engage with others on a more personal and genuinely informative level.

Then The Efficiency Coach, Heather Townsend (@HeatherTowns), entered the fray with There are lies, damn lies and bodged PR…

Normally, I would stay well clear of a PR disaster. However, Intendance’s and The Lawyer Mag’s own goal is a gift for legal bloggers which just keeps on giving. There are just so many lessons to be learnt from this situation – which is still evolving as many legal bloggers get their teeth into the abundant material.

Heather tells us where she thinks Intendance went wrong:-

Their main mistake that they made was only looking at the top 50 law firms on twitter. Anyone who is familiar with the legal sector on twitter will tell you that the two legal firms who are making any noise or news on Twitter are Inksters and Silverman Sherliker LLP

The next mistake which the Agency made – and this was perhaps where they shot themselves in the foot using a sub machine gun was drawing up a league table of all the Top 50 law firm Twitter accounts, and bench marking them using Twitter Grader. I don’t rate Twitter Grader as a credible tool for measurement of influence on twitter, as I know from personal experience it puts too much of a weighting on absolute follower numbers. And anyone who has been around for a wee while on Twitter knows that absolute follower numbers are not a good measure of twitter influence or effectiveness. When you plug in the numbers and a twitter account which has NEVER tweeted (NortonRoseGroup), comes out at 88, and is 10th in your league, alarm bells should start ringing…

And then perhaps the biggest mistake the Agency made was to pitch the wrong story to the Lawyer Magazine. Allen Overy being the top law firm on twitter – as I have hopefully proved to you – is actually an erroneous story

This was the first of a series of four blog posts by Heather on Twitteratigate. The second in the series is Twitteratigate – what was the real story? Heather is of the view that Intendance should have actually looked at the key players on Twitter from the legal sector and noticed that the legal profession is active on Twitter – just not among the big firms:-

The Agency would have learnt about the 4 Cs  needed to build a meaningful social media strategy, and realised that it takes more than just content and connections to achieve decent results on Twitter. You need to have CONVERSATIONS.

And that is the key point. The top 50 law firms are all declining the opportunity to have CONVERSATIONS on Twitter. Which until they do, will stop them deriving any meaningful impact from their time and effort on Twitter.

Third up in Heather’s series comes: Is there a reliable way of measuring influence in Twitter? Heather mentions Twitter Analyser but tells us its effectiveness has lessened since Twitter changed the way it handles Retweets. Heather thinks that Klout is probably one of the most reliable standards of Twitter influence:-

To check that Klout is more reliable than Twitter Grader I plugged in @nortonrosegroup – an account which hasn’t tweeted yet, but made it into Intendance’s no 10 spot for its top law firms on Twitter. Klout told me that the account either doesn’t exist or hasn’t got a profile yet on Klout… If you are using Klout any score over 50 shows that the account is pretty healthy and tweets regularly and has a meaningful amount of influence.

However, forgetting Klout, Twitter analyzer and Twitter Grader Heather gives us some KPIs which she thinks are worth measuring, to see your effectiveness on Twitter:-

  • traffic to twitter from your website
  • clicks to your website
  • number of twitter followers who you have had a face-to-face or phone conversation with
  • number of people signing up to your mailing list who come from twitter to your landing page
  • enquiries arising from your presence on twitter
  • number of new clients who answer ‘twitter’ when you ask them, ‘how did you hear about us?’

Last but not least in the series of 4 posts Heather asks: Is your practice getting the right social media advice?:-

Out of the top 50 law firms in the UK, we don’t have any of them using Twitter effectively. To me that suggests that either these law firms don’t have the motivation to use Twitter properly, OR they are getting poor quality advice on effective use of Twitter.

Heather’s first post in the series was picked up by Craig McGill (@craigmcgill) at Contently Managed who blogged: Legal Twittergate spat shows value of social media goals – & danger to PRs. Craig gives an interesting perspective as a non-Twegal blogger:-

But even Klout is technically irrelevant because anyone – legal or otherwise – should have their own benchmarks and goals for social media usage. That should be the only metric that matters. Define your goals at the start and have everything aim towards them. That way, you know if your social media activity is successful or not. You may only have 10 followers on Twitter but if they are the right 10 followers then that beats 100,000 random followers.

How can lawyers use social media though? Quite simple – like social media for banks, it’s about having your best people on there, engaging (not broadcasting) in their field of expertise, offering advice and opinion on relevant matters. You’re giving to get. If I see online that someone knows their legal onions, you can bet I’m going to hire them (do any legal firms take payment by Paypal yet?)

Of course, we’ll know the tweagles have really taken to social media when we see their services appear as a Groupon discount offering!

Over at the Solicitors Journal (@jeanyvesgilg), in Birds of a feather, they highlighted what may be the flaw in the Intendance Report or perhaps in our expectations of it:-

Intendance’s research suffers from one standard flaw. It canvassed Twitter activity among the top 50 firms in an attempt to derive a wider sense of usage by law firms generally. Even though the research made this reasonably clear, detractors promptly accused it of providing a misleading picture of the market as a whole. But maybe the problem lies with our expectations, that we are still looking for the definitive analysis of Twitter usage in the legal sector and that we expected the Intendance research to fill the gap.

Mark Gould (@markgould13) pondered Should lawyers be ‘on Twitter’? A rant:-

Twitter is a two-way medium. It is a place for conversations. The lawyer who joins the golf club just to sit at the 19th hole and listen to other people talking is wasting their time. You need to get stuck in. Play the game, walk the course with people who have similar interests, and talk.

Back, once more, to The Lawyer where they continued to make amends for the article that triggered Twitteratigate, this time with Tweetie shy:-

Many of the lawyers leading the way here are from smaller firms that do not have quite the same corporatised fear of the disruptive potential of social media. While larger firms fear the loss of ­control the medium implies, that is to miss the point. The idea that a message can be broadcast and received as some sort of elegant soliloquy is outdated; social media, for all its faults, allows proper dialogue that ordinary email does not.

Of course, the larger firms that have ­institutionalised clients have no need to develop their business online in terms of chasing mandates. But in terms of getting involved in debates on legal topics it has an extraordinary potential. Given that so many firms are starting to think seriously about thought leadership, they should think about this.

At The Lawyer they were now getting the gist of how Twitter is being used and the sector of the legal profession that is actually using it well. With this enlightenment we can, I hope, now look forward to better balanced articles on Twitter from The Lawyer than the one that sparked Law Firm Twitteratigate.

Meanwhile at The Law Society Gazette (@lawsocgazette) a less inflamatory approach was being taken when covering the Intendance Report. In Twitter silence ‘hurts brand’ The Gazette highlighted that the Intendance Report suggested that some law firms may be ‘damaging their brand’ by failing to actually tweet anything:-

The study by web consultancy Intendance found that 66% of firms had set up at least one account on Twitter. However, of the 48 accounts, 19 had issued no tweets at all, despite some having hundreds of followers.

Intendance said the figures suggested ‘many firms have simply jumped on the social media bandwagon without putting much thought into how to use Twitter to their advantage. By neglecting potential followers, those with dormant accounts could even be damaging their brand’. It added that failing to tweet once an account was set up was akin to ‘inviting friends to your new flat, and not having any furniture or decorations’.

The Times (@TimesLaw) steered clear of Twitteratigate and instead published an article on Why it’s time to open a corporate Twitter account. As I am quoted in this article I know that it was being prepared just before Christmas and it was simply a coincidence that it was published in the midst of Twitteratigate.

I have no idea whether the fact that The Times published a list of the ten best legal tweeters on Twitter to accompany that article was also a coincidence. Their list is @Inner_Temple, @CharonQC, @RichardSusskind, @DavidAllenGreen, @RichardMoorhead, @in_house_lawyer, @copyrightgirl, @legalfutures, @LegalBizzle and @TheNakedLawyer.

On the whole these are excellent Twegals and the Top 5o UK law firms could learn a lot from following and more importantly engaging with them. I must, however, say that whilst I admire Richard Susskind he should not have been on this particular list. Richard is slightly better at Tweeting than the Norton Rose Group in that he has posted (as of today) 76 tweets. However, all of these are broadcast tweets. Richard has not engaged once with anyone on Twitter. Furthermore, he protects his tweets (goodness only knows why). He has, however, allowed me to follow him. I trust he will not now block me!

The Times also added a list of ‘Law Firms on Twitter’:-

Allen & Overy @AllenOvery with a separate account for jobs @allenoveryjobs

Ashurst @ashurst

Clifford Chance @CCPressOffice

DLA Piper @DLA_Piper_News

Eversheds @eversheds

Herbert Smith @HerbertSmithLaw

Linklaters @LinklatersGrads

Norton Rose @nortonrosegroup

A rather odd list of 8, not dissimilar to the Intendance top 10 and again including the non-tweeting @NortonRoseGroup! This list also includes another non-tweeting account: @HerbertSmithLaw, who have not followed anyone yet (@NortonRoseGroup on the other hand have managed to follow two – including their own Australian account, @nortonrose_au, which does actively broadcast).

Whilst The Times article didn’t directly reference Twitteratigate it did have a quote from my good friend Chris Sherliker (@London_Law_Firm) which is rather apt:-

The big firms just pump out a constant stream of heavily legal information, which is the surest way to kill off any kind of creative exchanges with people that might actually be of interest to them as a law firm.

Andrew Sharpe (@TMT_Lawyer) decided to check the other Top 50 law firm Twegals he follows and shout them out as #FollowFridays:-

Charles Russell: @Oxfordlawyer @rym86 @Basers87 @ShaydaY @JamesQuartermai Basers and Rym newish. Shayda and James not active.

Taylor Wessing: @glynmorgan63 (not active) @aligeary @andrewjbreeze (new – Hi!)

Field Fisher Waterhouse: @StewartRoom

Olswang: @rbratby

Berwin Leighton Paisner: @vanessabarnett

and lastly at a Magic Circle Firm (unless she’s TOTALLY fictional): @MagicCircleMinx

As Andrew Sharpe says “not many and only about 8 active”. I wonder if this explains the poor quality of the corporate accounts in the top 50 UK law firms?

Andrew also points out that no City Law Firm tweeps in his list officially represent their firm. Neither does he for Charles Russell. Is this also a ‘problem’ that the top UK law firms need to address if they want to achieve an effective Twitter presence?

Just before The Lawyer ran the article that sparked Twitteratigate a blog post by Amanda Bancroft (@_millymoo) appeared on Legal 2.0 (@legaltwo): Twitter for lawyers…what is it good for? The Intendance Report was not mentioned. I know that Amanda had read it before writing her article (I gave her a copy), but I believe  that she dismissed it as flawed. Her blog post did more than the Intendance Report, and many of the recent articles on that Report, by getting to the root of what tweeting is about and how it can work for lawyers (if you ignore the marketeers):-

My advice? Ignore the marketeers, I have so far not found one who knows even the beginnings of what they are talking about regarding lawyers anyway. Stop thinking about Twitter ROI. See it as fun, carry on making friends, widening your circle, and enjoy the referral work which flows from that. Learn how to deal with clients who are outside the geographical range of your office on a remote basis.

A final thought. If you have been on Twitter a while and are not getting referrals, you are, I respectfully suggest, doing it wrong.

What do you think?

What are your views on the Intendance Report? Do you think we need to measure law firm effectiveness on Twitter and if so how should we do it? Why do the smaller law firms appear to be managing Twitter better than the big law firms? What should the big law firms be doing to improve their lot on Twitter? Any other thoughts?

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