After six years in the highest office, President Barack Obama finally opened a Twitter account on Monday, a reminder that many of the country’s most influential leaders remain skittish about the popular social media platform.
There are about 300 million Twitter accounts, but many of the top law firm leaders have resisted the pull of the Twittersphere. None of the chairmen or managing partners from the top 15 most profitable law firms, as ranked in The American Lawyer, appear to maintain active Twitter accounts.
Marketing and communications experts cited numerous plausible reasons for the silence, from most law firm leaders lacking the time to keep a fresh Twitter profile and fear of saying the wrong thing to simply failing to see the business value of tweeting.
“The main reason is a lack of education on the value of Twitter,” said Guy Alvarez, a marketing expert who studies law firm social media practices with Good2BSocial.
Alvarez argued that Twitter would hold value for law firm leadership; and it could serve as a platform for lawyers to demonstrate knowledge in their given fields, keep in touch with peers and deliver internal and external messaging around their firm’s mission to employees, prospective clients and new hires.
“For law firm leaders that think that that isn’t important, from my perspective, they are missing a huge opportunity,” said Alvarez.
Some managing partners, however, seem to have already heard Alvarez’s call to action. Just last week, Stephen Poor, chair of Seyfarth Shaw, a law firm branded around innovation and well-known in the labor and employment space, launched his own Twitter handle to comment on changes in the legal profession.
“It’s really no more complicated than trying to use social media in a creative way to be part of the conversation about what the industry should look like, and what are the challenges and opportunities,” said Poor, who also created a Medium page dedicated to the same mission. “It’s not some master plan to try to do more marketing and business development or anything like that.”
Poor said that he plans to tweet about the implications of technology to the legal industry, as well as the changing nature of general counsel’s buying patterns, and new entrants in the legal market. He said his tweets will come from his own fingers, not from a communications person.
“It’s me, for good or for ill,” he said. “I believe if something goes out over your name, you ought to be the one to write it.”
Perhaps the most active Twitter user of Big Law chairmen is Mitch Zuklie , chair of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, who has been on Twitter since he came into his role as chair in 2013, using tweets to update firm employees, clients, and others in the industry about Orrick news.
Zuklie’s Twitter feed includes notable victories his lawyers have achieved, events Orrick has held, and even the announcement of major news, like the firm’s April closure of two offices in Germany — Frankfurt and Berlin — amid a strategic pivot to grow in Dusseldorf and Munich.
“I’ve certainly met people in a business context over the past two years and we have started following each other, so in that sense, Twitter has helped strengthen connections,” said Zuklie in an email. “Very often, in meeting someone face-to-face, they will mention a tweet.”
In the past month alone, Zuklie sent out 25 tweets which garnered 9,547 impressions, he counted. One of the most popular tweets came when he announced a generous parental leave program earlier this month that got 15 retweets and 22 favorites. He has more than 1,000 followers.
Some managing partners often find it difficult to keep up their accounts, though, given their busy schedules. John Quinn, name partner of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, said that he stopped tweeting regularly about two years ago after a November 2009 launch , and James Rishwain, Chair of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, acknowledged that despite having a profile , he hasn’t “leveraged it as much as I’d like.”
Rishwain does see value in it though, he said, particularly as a way to communicate his values and strengths of Pillsbury to help build a profile in the legal community.
“Twitter takes time,” said Cheryl Bame, a law firm media relations consultant, who often tweets about legal marketing events. “If you’re a litigator or a corporate attorney involved in a big deal, it takes you away from your work.”