They are largely quiet lurkers on social media, but when it comes to connecting with the profession, Canadian in-house counsel are embracing online tools such as LinkedIn and lawyer blogs and bios, according to a survey released today.
In fact online is where in-house are doing much of their information gathering these days with 83 per cent saying they use the Internet to consume legal information on a daily or weekly basis. And 75 per cent said lawyer-authored articles and speeches influence their hiring decisions, according to those surveyed as part of the 2015 Canadian Legal Digital Interaction Survey, conducted at the end of 2014 by fSquared Marketing in Vancouver.
However, the No. 1 factor influencing in-house when they need to hire a lawyer remains referral from a trusted source, with 100 per cent saying that was the most important criteria.
The focus of the research was traditional digital interaction, web, and social media engagement and related areas such as content marketing, client feedback programs, electronic billing, client portals, and directories.
Of those surveyed, 68 per cent of participants (41 counsel responded to the in-house survey of 500 invited to participate) were from corporations with more than 1,000 people, and 61 per cent were with companies that have annual revenues of more than $1 billion.
When asked if they are using LinkedIn for professional reasons, respondents said they use it to connect with colleagues and outside counsel whether they work with them or not, and as a platform to share news and information.
The findings resonate with Julia Shin Doi, general counsel and secretary of the board of governors with Ryerson University.
“LinkedIn and Twitter have both been instrumental in my connecting with the legal community about corporate counsel events, sharing news, and celebrating special moments,” says Shin Doi who is active in a number of associations including the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association.
“I also think LinkedIn is a wonderful way to build a connection with a new acquaintance and maintain a connection with old friends and colleagues. I know that connection is real when I see them live and there is already a shared sense of what’s happened, what’s new, and what’s important.”
Shin Doi says lawyers who regularly post on LinkedIn or tweet on Twitter, stay “top of mind when one is grappling with an issue.”
LinkedIn is the social media platform of choice for in-house with 24 per cent of respondents using it daily, while just under 50 per cent use it at least once a week. Specific uses include connecting with other in-house colleagues (39 per cent) and connecting with business or industry leaders (41 per cent). Following much further behind was Twitter (10 per cent) and Facebook (seven per cent).
About 40 per cent say they find legal news, and business and industry information from LinkedIn and 20 per cent pointed to Twitter.
When it comes to social media, in-house counsel don’t necessarily post information, they choose instead to “listen” as a way to stay informed of the latest news and conversations on topics of interest.
All total, 75 per cent of in-house counsel are using social media in their professional life and 54 per cent access content from their outside counsel firms through new media tools including Twitter feeds, blogs, firm-branded mobile apps, LinkedIn and Facebook pages.
New media services are gaining credibility with 54 per cent of those surveyed saying they read legal blogs, and 54 per cent use online lawyer listing services.
The research showed that 54 per cent of in-house counsel use lawyer-authored blogs to research potential outside counsel.
• Lawyer bios rule – 78 per cent use lawyer bios to research potential outside counsel.
• Client feedback programs are lacking — More than 50 per cent of the in-house counsel who responded reported that few or none of their law firms had asked them for feedback. Only 68 per cent of in-house counsel who were asked felt their feedback was heard and acted upon by their outside legal counsel.
• Electronic billing is not the norm — 46 per cent said their counsel offers little or no electronic billing options. Of those that do have the option, 41 per cent only use it to a limited extent.