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July 29, 2009 3:29 PM

Should Lawyers Tweet with Clients?

Posted by Brian Baxter

Frank Taney

Twitter.

It's not just for celebrities letting their fans know when they're headed to the gym or Iranian dissidents trying to duck bullets fired by the Basij.

Lawyers might not be nearly as obsessed with social media as the rest of the world, but, here and there, a few have embraced some form of it. Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney IT litigation chair Francis "Frank" Taney, Jr., uses Twitter for business...and to discuss his beloved Phillies.

The Philadelphia Business Journal recently spoke to Taney about using Twitter as a tool to communicate with his tech-savvy clients. We asked the man whose handle is "Scary Lawyer" what Tweeting has done for his practice.

How long have you been on Twitter, and what got you started?

I want to say late summer or early fall of 2008. I'm on the board of a lot of entrepreneurial and technologically oriented nonprofits. One of them is the Philadelphia Area New Media Association, and they're into social networking and media applications because of their business. One of the other board members asked me to join and, not really thinking much about it, I did.

How did you come up with your "Scary Lawyer" moniker?

I picked an ironic name because I'm in the [technology community] and sometimes they look at me like I've got three heads because I'm the only lawyer in the room.

How often do you Tweet?

In the first few months I did more observing than participating. But I've come to use it a lot more as I realized that a lot of my clients are on there as well as some groups that I'm involved with.

What do you Tweet about?

It's an outlet for my professional activities. I can tell people I'm going to be on a panel doing XYZ on a certain night, so it's a good way to get it out there.

Do you follow your clients on Twitter? How has that affected the dynamic of your relationship?

Yes. I think that its enhanced the personal relationship. [Twitter] makes it easier for each of us to let the other know what we're doing on a real-time basis.

I've noticed your Tweets aren't just about business.

It's certainly also an outlet for self-expression and other things that are going on in my life that I don't mind sharing. I like to talk about music, the Phillies, and other things I find interesting. So it's a mix. I don't use it in a hardcore, professional way, but I'm pretty active.

Do you ever worry about being too personal on Twitter, knowing your clients are following?

I certainly make those decisions. There are things that I consider off-limits. I only Tweet about things that I'm willing to share. I'm not going to Tweet about things that I'm uncomfortable talking about.

Have you managed to get any of your partners from the firm on Twitter?

Not that I'm aware of. But they tend to look at me like the deranged uncle in the attic with all of the tech stuff that I do. So that doesn't surprise me.

Do you think more lawyers should Tweet with their clients?

I want to keep all of the business I get! But it may not be for everyone. It probably depends on a lawyer's practice. I think you need to figure out what kind of relationship you have with your clients. I personally tend to be close with a lot of mine. Some clients it'll be years before they're even aware [Twitter] exists. So I'd say know thyself and know thy client base.

I just happen to be getting a Tweet right now. Phillies get Cliff Lee.

Yeah, I just got back in the office and started seeing Tweets about it! And we're not giving up J.A. Happ so I've got to give two thumbs up for that deal.

Thanks Frank.

Anytime.

All interviews are condensed and edited for style and grammar.



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It is wonderful to see lawyers embracing social media, including Twitter. There is a vibrant community of attorneys, clients, friends and others interacting on Twitter for the world to see.

IMO the thing to understand about any social medium is that it is a personal branding vehicle.

You can choose exactly how to present yourself, and have the opportunity to be as multi-dimensional as you wish.

Some people post only work updates: great for them. Others interact mostly with personal friends: fantastic.

For me, the real fun is bringing it all together. I adore my work, my family, friends and my hobby of bicycle racing, and I try to make sure that all comes out in my online persona.

And yes, a client is one of my closest Twitter-friends.

@park3

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