Denise hired a trust and estate attorney to help her create an estate plan. After their initial communications, the attorney — a partner at a small law firm — became frustratingly nonresponsive. What should have taken only a couple of months to complete dragged on for more than a year. Denise often had to send several emails and text messages to get a response and then would only receive one after threatening to take her business elsewhere.
The estate plan and trust may be legally sound and comprehensive — but you can bet Denise will not only go to a different firm if she needs further assistance, but she will also certainly not recommend the firm to others.
That partner hurt the firm’s brand because he damaged its most valuable commodity: client trust.
A law firm’s employees, both attorneys, and staff, are the collective “face” of its brand. How employees behave impacts the firm’s ability to attract and retain both business and job candidates. Whether it’s their client service approach, how they discuss the firm publicly, or even how they conduct themselves online — a law firm’s employees reflect, for better or worse, on the law firm’s brand.
Social Media, Employees, and Branding
There are two areas where an employee’s social media use may be impacting your law firm’s brand: their personal online presence and how they manage the firm’s online persona.
Employee’s Personal Social Media Use
Alyssa is a secretary at a personal injury law firm that represents clients injured by environmental contaminants. It is clear from Alyssa’s social media profiles where she works. When her state proposes legislation to hold corporate polluters accountable, Alyssa posts a series of tweets about governmental overreach and how her state is unfair to business owners.
A man researching attorneys to hire for a contamination case follows the trail to Alyssa’s tweets. Meanwhile, a job candidate vetting her potential new colleagues online also sees Alyssa’s comments.
The First Amendment protects Alyssa’s right to say whatever she wants on her personal feeds. Unfortunately, though, her publicly posted opinions contradict the firm’s brand persona of fighting for the injured against corporate polluters. Both the potential new client and job candidate question if this law firm is truly what it says it is and if it’s a fit for their needs.
In this situation, you decide if you need to have a discussion with Alyssa regarding how and what she shares online. You can’t tell her what she can and can’t say, but you can decide if she is a right fit for your firm. Either way, it behooves supervisors to know what their employees are saying publicly about the firm and to consider employee policies regarding social media.
Employee Management of the Firm’s Online Persona
When businesses first started using social media, oversight of these online platforms was often delegated to interns and entry-level employees. Businesses didn’t take social media seriously and saw it as easy to do. Plus, older generations viewed it as a tool the younger generations understood better. That approach backfired for many businesses that found themselves in a public relations crisis based on something posted online under their name by employees who didn’t understand the brand or the messaging.
For example, your bankruptcy law firm has a no-nonsense, formal-in-tone brand that resonates with small and medium-sized businesses. However, the junior marketing coordinator handling your social media profiles posts things like: “OMG! Did you see what the bankruptcy court said in this ruling? WTF?!” He adds an image with animated sad-faced emojis.
In this situation, the employee, taking on the business or the firm’s persona, is damaging its brand. Fortunately, this is an easy fix. Be sure the employee handling your firm’s social media accounts understands:
- The firm’s goals for using social media
- Who the firm’s target audience is
- The types of information they should and should not be sharing
- Any changes to the firm’s brand, messaging, focus, etc.
How Employee Experiences and Interactions Shape Your Law Firm’s Brand
A law firm employee that truly enjoys their job and believes in the firm's work is likely to emote positive messaging publicly, both online and off. A client who is satisfied with the service they received from a law firm’s employee, regardless of the matter’s outcome, makes for a great brand ambassador. Both this employee and the client can influence the law firm’s ability to build business and a talented workforce. Positive experiences build trust and loyalty — key ingredients to a law firm’s growth.
The Employee Experience
Rex is a family law firm employee who feels completely overwhelmed by the amount of work he is assigned. He works long hours and feels underappreciated. In fact, a partner yelled at him about a recent assignment — work he did over the weekend instead of attending a family member’s birthday party.
An attorney friend contacted Rex because he saw Rex’s firm had an opening for a divorce attorney that he is considering. “Don’t do it,” Rex warns. “This firm treats people terribly.”
In a neighborhood Facebook group, Rex belongs to, people often ask for referrals to family law firms. Not only does Rex not refer people to his own firm, but he also trashes it when given a chance.
Employees who feel respected and valued by their employers can be a law firm branding asset. Likewise, those who feel mistreated can be damaging to the firm’s brand. Given the many online platforms available for employees to air their grievances, from their own social media feeds to sites like Avvo and Glassdoor, law firms should be aware of what their own employees are saying about the firm publicly.
With both potential clients and new hires reportedly doing more to research law firms before hiring or applying for a job, it would be wise for law firm employers to ensure their clients feel appreciated.
The Client Experience
A law firm’s client services abilities lie solely with its employees. When a client has a positive experience with a law firm, they are a great brand ambassador and a likely source of repeat business and referrals. But when a law firm attorney or staff member treats a client poorly by not returning calls, failing to explain things, or just being generally unpleasant to work with, that client will likely not promote your brand and — worse — will ensure others know where your firm failed to perform.
How a law firm employee is treated and how he or she treats others can greatly impact your law firm’s brand. Clear communication with the employee about their expectations while also listening to their concerns can go a long way toward turning a brand antagonist into a brand promoter.