Twitter celebrated its 10th birthday this week and the press have been reflecting on its significance to all of us, whether it’s keeping up with celebrity news or the use of Twitter for political campaigning.

For those in the legal industry it has probably only become mainstream over the last five years.  Law firms were naturally sceptical at first, with Twitter seen as a mysterious thing that only ‘young people’ understood, with limited value for professional services.  That is now changing and most firms have come round to the importance of Twitter as another channel  of communication, giving the opportunity to demonstrate expertise and raise brand awareness.  The majority now have a corporate Twitter presence, pushing out news and links to legal updates and blog content.

Although these accounts serve their purpose, where I have seen Twitter work most effectively is when individual lawyers or teams with specialist expertise and strong opinions, build up a following of those who share their area of interest. Building up these kind of networks where peers, journalists, referrers and potential clients interact and discuss the issues of the day, builds reputations and can directly result in new business leads.

As a PR, Twitter has now become fully integrated into how we work and any PR campaign will always look at how to best use social media.  It is also an invaluable tool for keeping up to date on news, making it far easier to jump on a breaking news story and issue timely comment from clients as well as keep track of what our target journalists are writing about.

Of course Twitter also brings risks and we have seen countless stories of employees saying the wrong thing, with big consequences for their firms’ reputations and in some cases their careers.  For PRs this means having proper social media policies in place and anticipating and monitoring the social media fall out from big stories.

So Twitter is now part of the furniture in the legal world and despite speculation about its future, will no doubt continue to create opportunity and cause controversy for some time to come.