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Celebrity Lawyer Explains How to Find Your Voice on Social Media

[Source: Legal Marketing 2.0 Podcast]

https://legalmarketing.libsyn.com/podcast-episode-149-finding-your-voice-on-social-media

Top family law attorney Christopher C. Melcher explains how to find your voice on social media in the legal field.

 

Guy Alvarez:

Hello, and welcome to the Legal Marketing 2.0 podcast. I am your host, Guy Alvarez from Good2bSocial. And today, we’re going to talk about finding your voice on social media. Our guest today is celebrity lawyer Christopher C.  Melcher. Chris is ranked as one of the best family law attorneys in California and is a partner at the top family law firm of Walzer Melcher LLP.  Chris has worked with business owners, celebrities, and trust beneficiaries across California when these people need assistance protecting their most valuable assets in high stake divorce cases.

Chris has deep experience in complex family law litigation and premarital agreements, and he provides tactical representation in the most challenging family law disputes. Chris understands the need to keep sensitive family matters private, having represented noteworthy clients in the largest divorce cases in California. And as I mentioned, some of Chris’s clients include A-list celebrities, executives, and tech company founders. He is frequently hired by other family lawyers as a consultant and expert, or as co-counsel on significant divorce cases in California. Welcome to the show, Chris.

Chris Melcher:

Well, thanks for having me, Guy. I really look forward to talking about social media.

Guy Alvarez:

Excellent. Before we get started on the topic, tell us a little bit more about yourself. How did you get started, started in practicing family law and what led you to start using social media?

Chris Melcher:

Well, family law was by accident. I never intended or wanted to do this area because I felt that it was, it would just be too toxic. And I wanted to do corporate securities law when I got out of law school, but in 1994, the economy was really bad. There was no hiring, so I did criminal defense, I did some civil litigation, whatever else kind of came in the door. And there was a point at around 2002, that a guy down the hall from me was a solo practitioner in family law handling big cases. And we got to know each other and he convinced me that this would be a good or better practice area.

Chris Melcher:

And through just having lunches with him. And he gave me some contract work and I saw, wow, this is really sophisticated. I had no idea. I just thought people fought over a couch or something like that. But when you have these wealthy clients, we’re dealing with every aspect of their life, their business interests, their investments, their pensions, their homes, their kids, psychological issues that are coming up that make it hard for us to settle. So you can never be bored as a family lawyer. And I’m really happy that I switched over.

Guy Alvarez:

Excellent. So tell us a little bit about finding your voice on social media? Let’s start with, how do you determine who your audience is on social media?

Chris Melcher:

Well, and I think maybe take us step back from this so people understand the quick progression that I came into.

Guy Alvarez:

Yeah.

Chris Melcher:

Social media. Because in March of 2020, pre-lockdowns, I was one of the few humans that was not using social media. I had no need for it. I was bringing in more business that I could handle. People kept make fun of me or telling me that I needed to be on social media, but I just didn’t understand it. And I kind of felt like this would maybe harm my reputation because I would be on social media.

And so I just ignored it. And I was getting all my work from doing seminars to other family lawyers, everywhere that I could get invited to speak at and serving on bar committees with these other lawyers and going to networking events. And all my business is referred basically by other family lawyers through those means. And that was this hand to hand marketing that I was doing that worked really well. But when the lockdowns happen, I couldn’t connect with that audience.

So I started looking at social media. And of all the platforms, LinkedIn matched my sensibilities the best because there were other professionals on there. And so I dove into that really in April of 2020. And so this has not been that long of a journey for me. And so I think if you’re listening to this podcast and you’re a lawyer that’s, is in the same boat as I am like, do you do this or not? I think, yes. And we’re going to kind of walk through how it’s worked for me.

Now LinkedIn was a great place to start because there are all these professionals on there.  It’s a little bit better audience, I think, for a lawyer.

But it’s also a bit boring because, it is kind of professional.  You don’t have the raw commentary that you’re going to see on Twitter. And so that’s basically how I got into this was essentially by necessity.

And then once I started using social media, I realized that, wow, I really missed out. I should have been on this a long time ago. There is absolutely a need for lawyers to be on it. I’ve met tons of people all across the world that do family law, relationships with those folks. I’ve referred a lot of work out to these people. I’ve gotten work referred to me and it really made 2020 one of my best years.

Guy Alvarez:

Something you just said really brings a smile to my face. And that is you’re using LinkedIn and social media to build relationships. And I think most lawyers don’t get that. They think that social media is just another place to distribute their press releases. But in reality, if used properly, and it sounds to me like you are using it the right way, you can use social media to build new relationships, as well as to strengthen those existing relationships. Would you agree?

Chris Melcher:

That’s right, Guy. And that’s the part I didn’t get before. I thought people on social media were just posting stuff. And I see lawyers doing that and it really harms them. Like on LinkedIn, they’ll use it as a billboard.

Guy Alvarez:

Yeah.

Chris Melcher:

And they’ll post something on there that is not inviting a discussion. It’s just look at me. I did this, or I handle these cases. And those lawyers would be better off not using social media because they’re just advertising and no one wants to do that.

So what I realized is that this is like a virtual cocktail party and you would not just walk up to two people that are at a cocktail party and just say, “Hey, I’m Chris. I do family law and you should hire me.” They would think I’m insane and not want to talk to me.

Guy Alvarez:

Yep.

Chris Melcher:

So you have to be invited into the conversation or you have to start a conversation that people are interested in. And it’s two way. So this is not a broadcast.

And that’s what I’ve also realized, because I’ve done a ton of media commentary for television news and print media for years. And that’s one way. There was no interaction. I mean, sometimes my mom would say, “Hey, I saw you on ABC.”

But there was no interaction at all from those.

But social media, it is a conversation. And yes, we’re all trying to get business and make money, but that isn’t the goal of being on there. The goal for me, is to have a conversation with other people, to learn from them or to answer questions that they have, to share information that’s happening in my industry that I believe they would be interested in and then to build a relationship with them. And if the need arises for me to refer to them, I want to refer to them and hopefully they would do to me.

Guy Alvarez:

Fantastic. So tell us a little bit more about your progression? So you started on LinkedIn, you realized that this was really about relationship building, what kind of content were you sharing or how did you find the people that you wanted to build of relationships with?

Chris Melcher:

Sure. So if somebody’s just starting out, I would suggest on LinkedIn to start searching in your practice area. So for me, it’s family law. And I do international interstate cases, so any family lawyer in the world is part of my target audience.

So I would search for family lawyers on LinkedIn. And then you can see their profile and understand, are they active?

So that’s the first thing is, are they in my practice area, target group? Number two, are they active? On LinkedIn you can see when they’ve posted or commented on anything.

And if it’s been a year, then I wouldn’t bother because they’re just not using it. Same with Twitter and other platforms, you can see are they an active user. So if they’re in your practice area, they’re an active user, then we have an opportunity to connect up with them. So some people just go direct for the, “Hey, I want to connect with you.” … And I started doing that. But I learned is that people who are really on this platform and using it regularly, they don’t really want to have connections that they don’t know.

…When I’m investigating this and I would see their feed and they made comments on some family law case or development, I would comment on their posts. So I would say, “Hey, I read your article” or I saw this case that you posted about. Super interesting. In California, we do it the same way, or we do it differently. And to then show that I’m interested in family law. I’m also interested in them.

Guy Alvarez:

Yep.

Chris Melcher:

And then if they respond back, then it’s, hey, we’ve now created an opening here to say, hey, I’d like to connect up with you, learn more about your practice. Sometimes people want to have a conversation, direct messaging. But basically, what I found is that we’re not wanting to sell to other of people. And that’s one of the things that’s kind of offensive about LinkedIn sometimes is you’re getting bombarded with a bunch of messages that people just want to sell to you and they’re not trying to build a relationship. So people are wary about that.

So I think the starting in to say, Hey, I’m in the same field as you are. Maybe I’m a different state or country, but the same field. We have the same interest. And to show that you are genuinely want to know more about them and then hopefully they’ll want to know something about you.

Guy Alvarez:

I love it. You’re a hundred percent right.

It does require an investment of your time to do a little bit of research, find who you’re all audience is and then see who’s active and then spend some time reading what they’re posting and find the right way to begin a conversation and offer some feedback perhaps or some assistance perhaps. Or just as you said, just say, “Hey, I read what you wrote. I found it very interesting, like to little and more,” something like that.

Chris Melcher:

And that’s the easiest part. And the most effective part of social media, especially LinkedIn is commenting on other people’s posts.

And that’s when I’ve talked to other lawyers about this. They’re obsessed about the posts. Well, what would I post about, or I want to post about this, but I can’t get the post written in time, too much work or my colors off brand. I got to do this thumbnail. No, we don’t need to do that.

And honestly, I don’t even like creating my own posts a lot because it’s work and we don’t always get a lot of great engagement on these posts. So it’s not a great payoff. And every content creator is going through the same thing. So if there’s a lawyer that’s posting about their case or accomplishment or industry development, they spend a lot of time on that.

Guy Alvarez:

Yeah.

Chris Melcher:

And then when they hit the post button, they’re looking to say, wow, I just spent like an hour creating this post and nobody’s paying attention to it. If you come along and you’re, Hey, and not the thumbs up. The thumbs up is meaningless.

Guy Alvarez:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Chris Melcher:

Meaningless engagement. But if you come along and you’re the one person now that said, “Hey, I read your blog that you posted,” or “I watched your video,” or “I read that case that you talked about,” and then I’ll even put a quote in there so to kind of prove or show that I actually did this. And I’ll say, “I really found this part insightful.” And now all of a sudden you are their favorite person in the world because somebody actually paid attention.

They’re not just posting out into nothingness and you are now in their sites and they appreciate you because you took the time rather than just giving them a thumbs up to actually read their content and start a conversation or engage with them. To me, you could do that.

If you want to spend an hour a day on social media, you could do 10 of those a day. And I guarantee it’s going to be much, a hundred times more effective than spending an hour creating your own post.

Guy Alvarez:

I love that. I think that’s really, really great advice. So let me ask you a question. I talk to a lot of lawyers and obviously help a lot of lawyers with their social media. And a lot of times when I start to help them they’ll be, “Well, I don’t really have the time for this. I’m too busy.” How do you make time for social media? I mean, you’re an extremely busy guy, but yet you’re finding the ability to make time. Talk a little bit about your process.

Chris Melcher:

Yeah. That would involve not sleeping. This is hard. This is really, really hard. And it’s what holds lawyers back. Because if you’re like how I was and most lawyers when they’re starting out, you’re just all about billable hours. You’re in court every day, depositions, you’re doing your thing and there’s no time for anything else. And that’s the life of an associate. But if you want to progress and start building a book of business, so you’re now originating work, so you can call the shots, not only make more money, but be secure in your profession, you need to do business development.

Now whether that’s hand to hand marketing or social media, maybe doesn’t matter, but you got to do it. And then the question is how much time or you willing to invest in yourself to get those results?

And so I would think, Hey, if you’re going to work all day, one hour, let’s just carve one hour out a day and maybe that’s going to be like me, getting less sleep. But one hour a day commit to social media. You will find as I did, that this is enjoyable.

Because rather than spending that hour doing the legal work, which we’re probably all bored to death of doing, you’re now being social, you’re interacting with people, you’re learning from people, you’re building connections with folks all over the world. And so that’s invigorating and it’s actually helpful for you because now you’re building a network of people that you can refer to or ask questions about because you might get a case that involves a different state or country.

And you’re, who do I ask? Well, gee, I’ve been talking to this person and I can just now ask them.

So this is research to you, a resource to your clients. You can refer to them, they can refer to you. One hour a day, do that for a couple months, you’re going to be hooked on it and you’ll see the benefit of it. So to me, where I’m at now in my career, I’m one of the major originators for the firm. And my job, my highest use is bringing in the work and then doing high level supervision of those cases.

And so for me to spend eight hours billing on a case is not my highest use. I get more benefit to the firm to spend, which is probably now half my day doing business development.

Guy Alvarez:

Excellent. So you started on LinkedIn and have you just focused on LinkedIn or have you gone beyond LinkedIn and used some of the other social platforms?

Chris Melcher:

So LinkedIn was my thing last year in 2020. And it was working really well and brought in a lot of business, but also kind of found in the last six months that the engagement dropped off. And it might just be for me, I don’t know if it’s a platform wide thing, but it just seemed like there was less engagement. And maybe as people got back to work more and that they kind of dropped off because social media was on fire for professionals year, because the reason that I got into it, the lockdowns.

Guy Alvarez:

Sure.

Chris Melcher:

So I think as people started getting back to work, they just didn’t have that time to spend on LinkedIn. Everyone was super busy. And to me, it seemed like the engagement dropped off. I would spend a lot of time and we get very little back from it, it seemed like. And then I started using Twitter. And the reason why I started that is because I am doing all this media commentary and there’s a lot of reporters on Twitter. So I figured, okay, let me fire up Twitter and start using it.

And that is a completely different thing. And it’s like, I use the cocktail analogy for LinkedIn. This is like a raging house party.

Guy Alvarez:

Yeah.

Chris Melcher:

And it is… You have to get used to it because…

You’re going to get some really raw comments. So I’ve kind of been using Twitter mostly now. And the engagement is incredible. I’ve also created a YouTube channel where I’m doing legal commentary, not to attorneys, but just to general audience on kind of breaking legal issues. And there’s a ton of engagement on commentary for my YouTube channel. So whereas before I would create a post on LinkedIn and if I was lucky, I mean a big really successful post, I would get maybe 40 comments. That would be amazing.

Guy Alvarez:

Right.

Chris Melcher:

Well, now I could get thousands of comments and responses to tweets and YouTube videos. So the engagement rate is incredibly high in these other platforms, but my audience is not on target.

Guy Alvarez:

Right.

Chris Melcher:

But LinkedIn is a highly targeted audience. Other family lawyers that I have these relationships with across the world, whereas on Twitter and YouTube, there are probably no family lawyers that I’m connecting with on those platforms. So that’s where I’m at in my progression. And kind of looking at your firm, good to be social where you’re having a much more targeted approach to this thing where you’re really understanding, I think, what is this audience and what is the purpose, and then trying to measure it.

Guy Alvarez:

Right.

Chris Melcher:

Is the next level that I need to get to. Because I’m out there, I’m making connections, but I’m not sure that I’m getting the traction that I need to.

Guy Alvarez:

I agree. And that is definitely something that we do for a lot of our clients is exactly what you just said is help them in their progression so that they can have a more strategic approach to social media and generate a significant return on investment.

At the end of the day, it’s great to have conversations and to get engagement, but if it’s not driving to new business, then it’s not necessarily the best use of your time.

Chris Melcher:

I have kind of a two reasons for being on social media and on these other platforms. So the LinkedIn is mostly just to converse with other family lawyers, but Twitter and YouTube is for a general audience.

Guy Alvarez:

Sure.

Chris Melcher:

Where I’m working a lot on this Free Britney conservatorship commentary, and in other cases. And that’s just more of a passion for me. So I’m not expecting to get any business from doing that work. And it has been fulfilling personally to me. So I’ve got kind of two reasons why I’m on social media.

Guy Alvarez:

That’s great. And that also helps with raising your profile. As high as it is now, being a thought leader and speaking about these topics that are in the news a lot. And the Free Britney stuff’s been on a lot, obviously. That’s a good use of social, for sure. So what’s next for you? What are the things that you’re interested in looking at over the course of the next year?

Chris Melcher:

So I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and I think where my passion lies is these social justice, legal justice issues that have nothing to do with my practice area. But I am seeing the benefit of that to the community, not only the legal community, but at large. I am representing USA Today in a case against the LA superior court for shutting down audio access to its proceedings, and particular in the Britney case. And so that’s now under consideration by the California Supreme court. So I may do more of that media advocacy, first amendment advocacy for openness in our courts, as.

Guy Alvarez:

Excellent.

Chris Melcher:

As a kind of pro bono practice area, because it’s just so important and I’m passionate about it. The personal branding that I’ve been doing over the last few years has really helped build, like you say, awareness or exposure to me. And I had to be careful about that and I’m monitoring this because I’ve seen other lawyers get a lot of exposure, but also lose whatever reputation that they had for doing quality legal work. Because people see you in the of media and they think you’re just out there trying to get cases and there’s no substance to you. So I don’t want to be that person.

So I’m trying to maintain the substance by continuing to do legal writing seminars, thought leadership in my profession and continuing actually practicing law so I’m not just out there commenting on other people’s cases.

What I’ve also found is that in talking to other lawyers about this stuff, there is an age divide. So generally, they’re the older, the lawyer, the less they understand why I’m doing this. And they’re not even aware of it. They’re just, I don’t even understand what Twitter, YouTube or LinkedIn is and it’s meaningless to them…

Guy Alvarez:

Yeah.

Chris Melcher:

…But there’s this group of people that obviously much younger that are looking primarily to social media. And they don’t go on websites, they don’t trust the traditional media. They’re going to look directly to social media to check you out. And what I have seen is, is that lawyers have long careers. We could be in this job for 40, some have been in for 50 years. And so if you’re in your fifties or sixties and you’re thinking, how am I going to continue drumming up work?

Well, eventually your peers are going to die or retire and you’re not going to get referrals from them and it’s going to be this other class of folks who are the up and comers who are going to be calling the shots and referring out cases. And you’re going to be left behind if you’re not operating in the environments that they are. So that’s why there’s some self-preservation to being in social media because the lawyer that’s successful now getting referrals from other 60 year olds is going to have a problem if they’re not keeping up with the times and also building relationships with those people who can refer work to them in the future.

Guy Alvarez:

I couldn’t agree more. I think that’s an excellent, excellent point. And I think I saw a statistic recently that I think the majority of business executives now are millennials and it’s definitely trending in that direction. So you’re right, decision makers at all levels are getting younger and younger. And if you don’t have those contacts and develop those relationships, then yeah, your practice is going to dry out, for sure.

Chris Melcher:

Yeah. And social media is a record of your thoughts and comments. And this is what scares a lot of the attorneys.

Guy Alvarez:

Right.

Chris Melcher:

Because they’re, “I don’t want to record all my stuff out there.” And this is eye opening for me because I had to find a lawyer two years ago in this gigantic international case. And this was a really important role. So I started as basically a consumer going, looking around because I didn’t know a lawyer in this field. So I’m looking at their websites and every one had these dry, boring bios, what school they went to, where they worked. Why do I care about that? Meaningless information. I can’t tell anything about them.

And so had they been on social media, had they had some video available, then I could see, Hey, can I use this person? Because this was a big role that I was looking to fill.

And that’s what got the spark in me to think, Hey, I need to get my comments out there, my video, my audio out there as much as possible so that people don’t have to waste their time paying for a consult and being disappointed or not knowing if I would be the right fit.

They’ve got hundreds and hundreds of hours of content out there that people can see about me.

And that’s what every lawyer should have is, Hey, this is what I do. This is how I speak, and they can then evaluate you. But they can’t do that by knowing what school you went to.

Guy Alvarez:

I a hundred percent agree. And what I tell our clients is, think about each post or each piece of content that you create as a building block. And when someone is looking at who you are they can see all the things that you have built or all the things that you have published. And that gives you credibility and that enables you to position yourself as a thought leader.

But before I let you go, would you have some word of advice for lawyers out there that perhaps haven’t really dove into social media or haven’t decided to do it, or perhaps they tried and really didn’t get the return that they were hoping for?

Chris Melcher:

Yes. And that’s, start now.

I would start with LinkedIn because that’s safe. I would look at this as, how am I going to meet other people, share ideas with them, build relationships, provide value to them. And start slow like that, but you got to start.

And that’s for the folks that are kind of on the edge of the pool and don’t know whether they want to get in or not.

And then if for people who are using it more heavily, like myself is to be looking at the strategy here. Why are you on this platform? What do you hope to get out of this? How can you measure this success? Maybe working with a firm like yourself to see how do we be more strategic or intentional about this? Because it is a big investment of time and just being on these platforms, isn’t good enough. There has to be a purpose.

And so that’s the advice for the heavy social media user.

Guy Alvarez:

Fantastic. All right. Well, thank you so much for being on the show today, Chris.