FellSoft Blog Tools for Professional Services CRM & Social Networking


Social Networking Metrics for Law Firms – Without the Spin

I'm something of a sceptic when it comes to social networking metrics such as follower counts and influence scores. On the plus side, they do provide some objective means of measurement and comparison over time. But on the negative side, they can be subject to "gaming" and more importantly, they can distract attention from the reason people engage with social media in the first place: real communication.

For law firms, this area became a hot topic last week. Some research on social networking metrics was published on thelawyer.com that was subsequently exposed as being of rather dubious quality by Brian Inkster on his blog, generating much comment on both sites and on Twitter itself.

As a technologist what struck me most about the debate was that whether you think the data is useful or not, all of it is public and readily available. There really ought to be very little scope for selective reporting or spin. To remedy this, today we're launching a new web site that aims to provide comprehensive, unspun social networking metrics for law firms. It includes data from Twitter, Klout, PeerIndex and LinkedIn.

Before you go and take a look, some caveats. To start with, the current list is focused on firms, rather than individuals at those firms. That's a little contrary to the essence of social media, and hopefully in the future we'll be able to include data from individuals as well. We've started with an initial list of entries for 150 or so UK law firms(** UPDATED - SEE BELOW **). The list is not complete, and does include a number of international firms with operations in the UK. The firms included are very different and are using social media in very different ways. They range in size from less than a dozen staff to more than 6,000. Some of the larger firms have multiple Twitter accounts, focused either regionally or by practice area (in those cases we've picked what appears to be the main account, even if it's less active). Some firms use Twitter only for specific practice areas. Some firms don't appear to have an official Twitter account, but do have individual lawyers at the firm who tweet and use the firm's name in their profile (in those cases we haven't included them, unless they are clearly the firm's owner). In short, it's a complex picture that makes it very hard to provide an "apples to apples" comparison.

We'd welcome feedback on the contents of the list - both the metrics themselves, the accounts for the included firms, and especially any omissions or errors. With regard to the scores from Klout and PeerIndex, both services are still officially in beta and presumably still refining how they generate their scores. Currently we're just showing the basic scores they provide, but both services provide much more detailed information which we could make available in the future as those services mature. Please send feedback to snmetrics@fellsoft.com.

Metrics data like this has a short shelf life - we'll keep it updated automatically, so check back regularly - the data is available at http://apps.fellsoft.com/SNMetrics.

View the Social Networking Metrics for Law Firms data


And if all these numbers are getting you down, you might enjoy this article by way of contrast: In Praise Of Vagueness.

(** UPDATED 15th Aug **): We've now expanded the list to 270+ firms operating in the UK, USA, Canada & Australia. If you know of any that we've missed, email snmetrics@fellsoft.com


Are social media metrics really useful for professional services firms?

Anyone engaged with any kind of business development activity for professional services will be well aware of the pressure to demonstrate ROI. When it comes to social media, and Twitter in particular, that can be a real challenge. Web based tools such as Klout and PeerIndex claim to provide a way of measuring effectiveness, but the "scores" they present are generated from the mechanics of the social media platforms themselves rather than from any real measure of success. There is a danger of focusing on the score alone as a measure of effectiveness - just because something can be measured, doesn't always make it actually useful to measure it.

However, that doesn't mean it's not worth paying attention to such statistics. With a relatively small investment of effort and no direct costs, Twitter can be a very effective communication channel. If one firm is using it more effectively than another then (all else being equal) that will make the firm more distinctive and the firm's brand will become more prominent online than their competition. Social media metrics do at least provide some comparative objective measure of how effectively the channel is being used, but it's important not to lose sight of their limitations.

It's still not easy to directly quantify the results from social media - but many firms have spent significant sums on websites in recent years with very limited ways to judge results, and it's been quite a while since anyone seriously questioned the need for a firm to have a website.

To me, it seems intuitively obvious that a firm with an engaging online presence including a web site, high quality LinkedIn profiles, blogs and other social media channels such as Twitter will have a competive advantage compared to an otherwise similar firm that is less effectively engaged online. And that advantage will only increase as the "Facebook generation" work their way up the career ladder in professional services firms and their customers.

Klout scores have attracted a good deal of attention in recent days, with a report published on thelawyer.com that was subsequently roundly deflated by Brian Inkster on his blog - both items attracting a considerable amount of occasionally vitriolic comment. Look out for a new service coming soon from Fellsoft that will provide comprehensive Klout scores and other social media metrics for UK law firms (with no spin!).

And if you're still not convinced Twitter is becoming an increasingly useful business communication tool for professional services, you might find this item from Kowalski and Associates and this item from The Guardian interesting.

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Law firm presence on LinkedIn up significantly in the last 3 months

Recently we re-ran our analysis on usage of LinkedIn by the largest law firms in the UK and USA that we first carried out in March this year. Social networking has been much in the news in the intervening 3 months, and in particular LinkedIn's IPO in May certainly raised its profile even further (whatever you might think of the elevated stock price). We were interested to see whether that had translated into increased activity by law firm employees - and indeed it has.

Our figures for June show a big increase in the number of profiles at both AmLaw 100 firms in the US (up 4.5%), and the top 150 firms in the UK (up a little over 7%).

The average size of a fee-earner's network is also up a little under 20% over the period - which suggests that users are actively using the site rather than just creating a profile and then forgetting it.

UK Top 150 Firms March 2011 June 2011 Change % Increase
Number of profiles 30929 33210 2281 7.4%
Average fee-earner network 34 40 6 18%


US AmLaw 100 Firms March 2011 June 2011 Change % Increase
Number of profiles 82393 86166 3773 4.5%
Average fee-earner network 47 56 9 19%
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LinkedIn: Law Firms Fall Behind Their Corporate Customers

Back in March, we undertook some analysis on the extent to which professionals at top law firms in the UK and US were using LinkedIn. The report generated a high level of interest and debate with over 300 downloads to date. In the weeks after releasing that report I had the chance to speak to business development managers at some of these firms. The overwhelming view they expressed was that LinkedIn was the most appropriate social network for legal professionals, and that it was proving to be a useful tool in building and strengthening relationships with clients. Many commented that they were aware of clients looking up their lawyers' profiles on LinkedIn, and several firms commented that meetings had already been arranged directly as a result of activity on LinkedIn. Although anecdotal, this does fit with previous evidence that real business can be generated from social networking activity. Of course, it's a new medium and is very far from a silver bullet - success requires initiative, time, and creativity. But the evidence is growing that an effective presence on LinkedIn really can deliver a competitive advantage.

Also in March, LinkedIn announced that they had reached 100 million members worldwide with some great infographics, and some other analysis produced by Vincos showed that the legal profession appeared to be relatively poorly represented compared to other professions. This led several legal business development commentators including Tom Matte and Larry Bodine to remark that lawyers looking to engage with clients and prospects in social media should take this as a sign to "go fishing where the fish are" and start engaging actively with LinkedIn.

For our latest piece of analysis, we wanted to shed some additional light on this apparent disparity between the legal profession and their corporate customers. To do this, we compared the LinkedIn profile connections of fee-earners at top law firms in the UK and US with those of nearly 30,000 executives and legal staff from companies in the FTSE350 index (the 350 largest publically traded companies in the UK), and 16,000 executives and counsel at NASDAQ100 companies in the US.

Average LinkedIn Network Size UK & US

The results are illuminating, and clearly show that the legal profession is lagging behind their clients in engaging with fellow professionals through LinkedIn. In the UK, a particular highlight is that the average number of connections for corporate executives is very nearly twice that of legal professionals. In the US, the average number of connections for NASDAQ100 Counsel is double that for law firm professionals.

Group Networks with at least 25 connections Average number of connections
FTSE350 Directors and Managers 57% 66
FTSE350 Counsel and Lawyers 56% 53
UK Top 150 Law Firm Fee-Earners 42% 34
Group Networks with at least 25 connections Average number of connections
NASDAQ 100 Executives 76% 146
NASDAQ 100 Counsel 77% 100
US Top 100 Law Firm Fee-Earners 48% 47

Network Size Distribution UK & US

Later in the year we'll re-run our analysis to see how the picture has changed, but it's becoming clearer by the day that social networking in general - and LinkedIn in particular - will form an important part of how law firms will attract and maintain clients in the future, because their clients are already there.

Filed under: LinkedIn 3 Comments