How TikTok Can Revolutionize Your Legal Practice

By Cecillia X. Xie

How TikTok Can Revolutionize Your Legal Practice

10.3.2022

By Cecillia X. Xie

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Jane[1] was nervous. She had recently opened up her own law firm and switched practice areas. Whereas her peers seemed to have extensive networks to leverage for referrals, Jane had none. Wracking her brain for what to do, she came up with an unconventional but brilliant idea. She would start a TikTok account.

TikTok – isn’t that just a teens’ app for dancing and lip syncing? Well, yes and no. While the platform certainly has its fair share of dancing and lip syncing, it is also home to numerous educational videos, including about the law. The #lawtok hashtag alone has 1.6 billion views, and lawyers have been seeing unprecedented success on the app. Kevin Kennedy, who is the face of The Kennedy Law Firm on TikTok,[2] only started making videos on TikTok in February and has now grown his audience to 484,500 followers. Limor Mojdehiazad,[3] a family law litigator in Los Angeles County, covered the Amber Heard/Johnny Depp trial on her account, growing at least 200,000 followers over the course of the trial alone.[4] She now has 476,400 followers on the app.

Clearly, there is an appetite for legal content on TikTok, but lawyers are often already swamped by their to-do lists. Adding TikTok to one’s legal marketing strategy seems like a large ask. Jane toyed around with the idea of more traditional attorney advertising – billboards, print ads and the like – but was drawn to TikTok because of how personal and authentic she found the app. Plus, it was free.

Jane’s leap of faith paid off. While not every video went viral, the ones that did helped her not only build her fledgling legal practice but also build her online community. She got more eyeballs on some videos than she would ever have hoped for on a billboard or print ad. She started receiving business inquiries and meeting with potential clients. She continued posting, and the inquiries began flowing in. To date, two of her biggest cases have come from TikTok.

While unconventional, TikTok is fertile ground for attorneys exactly because it is unconventional. Being one of the first lawyers on TikTok gives you incredible first-mover advantage – early adopters of any social media platform tend to reap outsized rewards when compared to later adopters. New creators join the app every day, and the number of lawyers on the app today is much larger than two years ago. By taking advantage of TikTok’s relative nascency, you can propel your personal brand and legal practice by leaps and bounds – just like Jane did.

Below are five tips to help guide you in your #lawtok journey.

Treat the Invisible Audience as if They Are Already Your Clients

What are the most frequently asked questions that you get from clients and prospective clients? What do you wish your clients and prospective clients knew before they sat down in your office? These topics are prime fodder for TikTok content.

Your existing clients and prospective clients are a great sample for what the broader world is curious about with respect to your legal practice. If they had a question, many others on TikTok also likely have the same question – they just don’t have you (yet) to answer them. The more you’re able to demonstrate that you’re an authority on a legal topic, the more trust you’ll build with your audience in that area and more generally. Just as you would research and prepare for a panel or pitch, research and prepare for your videos in the same way – after all, a TikTok video has far more potential reach than most panels and pitches.

When crafting your video, remember to avoid legalese and jargon, unless you plan on dedicating the video to explaining those terms (another great category of content!). Pretend like a friend of a friend has reached out to you about something, and be sure to utilize titles and storytelling techniques (i.e., who, what, when, where, why, how) to engage the audience, particularly in the crucial first three seconds of the video. A simple “What NOT to say to cops” immediately engages the viewer, tees up the rest of the video and offers informational value to the viewer that will keep them coming back to you for more.

Stitch, Duet and Innovate

One of the aspects that makes TikTok different from other social media platforms is the ability to easily react and build upon existing videos through the “Stitch” or “Duet” features. “Stitch” allows you to cut a five-second excerpt from someone else’s video and then record your own addition after it; “Duet” permits you to record yourself in parallel with another video playing and is often used to record real-time reactions.

As you watch videos, think about if there’s anything you could add to the discussion. Do you think someone’s take was incomplete? Missing key facts? When popular trials are being litigated, particularly involving celebrities, take advantage of the subject’s popularity to give your own take on the proceedings (being mindful of legal ethics and professionalism) and establish yourself as an authority. You don’t have to limit yourself only to legal videos either. If someone’s doing a story time about how they got fired from their job, you can give your legal analysis of the situation (but be sure to clarify that it’s not legal advice!).

For more inspiration on how legal content can translate successfully on TikTok, see what similar law practices are posting in terms of information, style and trends. Once you have a few successful videos of your own, innovate on those successes – perhaps “What NOT to say to cops, part two,” or the opposite, “Three things to say to cops during a traffic stop.” Let your creative juices flow!

Cause Controversy

Like it or not, law is a controversial profession. A lot of people have preexisting conceptions of lawyers as being money-hungry or callous and uncaring. Be prepared for negative comments, but also don’t be afraid to use those negative conceptions to your advantage. Debunk the myth that all personal injury lawyers are ambulance chasers. Challenge the traditional notion that attorneys are boring. Ask yourself whether any of the stereotypes that you have faced in the real world or online can be teaching moments for your online audience. Sure, it might stir the pot, but controversy drives engagement.

Controversial topics work well on TikTok because they are more likely to prompt other creators to Stitch, Duet or otherwise innovate on your video as well, which drives more traffic to your content. The goal isn’t to be controversial for the sake of controversy – rather, the goal is to generate questions from your audience as you think through a controversial topic together. Was it appropriate to exclude certain evidence from the Heard/Depp trial? Walking people through a legal decision and being a legal translator for the public is an invaluable skill.

Don’t Forget To Be Human

Remember that at the end of the day, you’re human before you’re a lawyer. Viewers want to be able to feel like they can connect to the person behind the law firm. What other passions do you have? What other information do you want to put out into the world? Building a strong personal brand enhances your legal practice, and the two go hand-in-hand on a platform like TikTok.

You don’t even have to get wildly personal. Even simple things such as telling the story of your favorite case or the first mistake you made as a lawyer can be impactful and humanizing. Be authentic – don’t just follow the crowd or the trend, unless the crowd or trend actually resonates with you. Viewers can tell the difference. The idea is to be a real person in the eyes of viewers, with a real backstory, so that viewers remember you and keep you on the top of their mind as they go about life. And when they do need legal representation, you’ll be the first lawyer that they think of.

Disclaimers and Attorney Advertising

TikTok can feel casual, but legal ethics are anything but. Always add an appropriate disclaimer when posting about a past case or case result.[5] If making a video about a general legal tip, make sure to convey to viewers that the video is attorney advertising and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship.[6] When in doubt, add a disclaimer. Familiarize yourself with the layout of TikTok posts to ensure that the disclaimer is easily seen, whether on the video itself or in the caption for the video.

As you build your audience on TikTok, users will also start tagging you in videos of creators in potentially thorny legal situations. It may be tempting to comment to offer your services or let them know that you’re there if they have any questions – but don’t do it! Legal ethics rules prohibit solicitations through real time or interactive computer-accessed communication unless the recipient is a close friend, relative, former client or existing client.[7]

Cecillia Xie is a writer, content creator and lecturer at Yale University. She is a former associate at Morrison & Foerster and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and has over 400,000 followers on TikTok.

[1] Jane is a pseudonym.

[2] https://www.tiktok.com/@kennedylawfirm.

[3] https://www.tiktok.com/@lawyerlimor.

[4] Lindsay Dodgson and Charissa Cheong, The Depp v. Heard Trial Has Propelled Legal Experts Into TikTok Fame, Turning Them Into the Internet’s Go-To Lawyers, Insider, May 20, 2022, https://www.insider.com/depp-v-heard-trial-lawyers-experts-tiktok-media-fame-2022-5.

[5] N.Y. Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 7.1(d)-(e).

[6] See Rule 7.1(a).

[7] Rule 7.3(a).

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