Make Money Monday:  Should Lawyers Use TikTok?

In the past four years, the social media platform TikTok grew exponentially, now boasting a billion users a month averaging 850 minutes on the app.  Interesting data, but should lawyers be using Tiktok? You might be inclined to respond “hell yes!,” particularly after seeing these examples of early adopting lawyers who’ve gone viral with several hundred thousand followers or more.  But before you add Tiktok to the laundry list of other platforms that you’ve got on your to-do list, you may want to think about why you want to join before you dive in.

My cautionary words may sound odd, given that I’m an enormous fan of the medium. I scroll through daily, consulting the app for everything from recipes like the viral salmon bowl sushi to tech tips like changing a video background to makeup how-tos like learning the basics of applying eyeshadow.  I marvel at the infinite number of different takes on TikTok trends where users take a voiceover or scenario or popular song and adapt it to their message.  And on top of all that, TikTok is crazy easy to use with robust editing tools available right from your phone.  Inspired, I started my own Tiktok experimental account, with the highly original (ha! ha!) eponymous name where I post on a potpourri of subjects from starting a law firm to preparing for oral argument at the DC Circuit to widowhood.  So let me share what I’ve learned in my time on TikTok and whether solo and small firm owners should give it a try.

1.         What’s your reason for wanting to put your law firm on TikTok?

            Do you want to put your firm on TikTok just because you feel that you should be on it?  If that’s the reason, you’re probably wasting your time.  I’ve seen a number of firms simply recycle other social media content from Instagram reels or Youtube on TikTok just to stake out a presence and it doesn’t really play well.

            Alternatively, do you think you have content that may be useful to clients? Or do you enjoy the community and want to engage in a fun medium that highlights your sense of humor or shares your honest frustrations with certain types of clients or the legal system.  Or maybe you just want to improve your video presence by recording and posting short snippets without the hassle of setting up a studio and a full-blown YouTube channel.  Experimentation and education are great reasons to start a TikTok account so long as you’re willing to be patient in seeing where your work leads and not expecting an outpouring of new clients from the get-go.

2.         Are your law firm’s target clients on TikTok?

            TikTok can help generate clients for your law firm – assuming that your target clients engage the medium.  If you practice in consumer-friendly areas like estate planning, bankruptcy, family law or criminal law, there’s a good chance that folks needing advice may see your TikToks and connect.  Likewise, if you do trademark work or counsel creators and influencers, TikTok is a target-rich medium.  On the other hand, lawyers who serve larger businesses, universities, and educational organizations, or even (as in my case), clean energy and environmental justice communities (which are often very people-focused) may have less immediate business success on TikTok because the clients aren’t there.  Yet.

3.         Does your law firm have something unique to share?

You may be thinking that as just another divorce lawyer or estate planning lawyer that you don’t have anything unique or interesting to share.  But that’s not true.  You probably have a unique spin on the law in your state, ongoing court cases, or a personal backstory that other users may find interesting.  Posing and answering a common legal question or busting a myth can make good TikTok fodder as can sharing your observations on trends you see in your practice that others might not be familiar with.  Another good standby is posting a news story heading and explaining the legal issues behind the headlines.  Of course, you may not even figure out what to say until you take the plunge – I’ll confess that I had some trouble coming up with content until I just started talking.

4.         Even if you don’t engage TikTok, can your law firm learn something from it?

After thinking it over, you may decide that posting on Tiktok won’t benefit your law firm.  And that’s fine.  But even if you don’t personally participate, there’s much that lawyers can learn about other lawyers on TikTok by scrolling through.  As a young lawyer, you may find a lawyer mentor.  As a lawyer practicing in a certain city or state, you may get to know another lawyer through TikTok and reach out and make a connection.  Plus, as I said at the outset, you can use TikTok to quickly pick up all kinds of hacks to make your professional and personal life easier.

Granted there are already too many places to hang out on social media, but TikTok is another one to consider adding even if you’re only a passive user.

If lawyers decide to engage TikTok, what’s the best path to success?

So if you decide to use TikTok, how can you engage successfully? A couple of beginner suggestions starting with posting consistently as TikTok’s algorithm will build on frequency and user engagement.  Next, latch on to TikTok Trends – which lawyers should be good at in theory since we’re natural followers (at least when it comes to precedent). I’ve never been one to shadow the crowd, so trends aren’t my thing but they’re a great way to breed virality. Third, comment on other user posts and support them sincerely and not just to gain followers.   Fourth, recirculate your TikTok content on other social platforms like YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.  Finally, just have fun with it – you know you’re doing TikTok right if you’d continue playing with it regardless of whether you have ten followers or ten million.

Some Tiny TikTok Examples of Lawyers

If you’re seriously considering TikTok, you can certainly look to lawyer influencers as inspiration.  But it can also be intimidating to try to catch up to lawyers with hundreds of thousands of followers who tapped into the medium early on or brought traffic from followers on other platforms.  What’s more interesting to me are Tiny TikTok lawyers who are slugging it out every day gaining traction and building followers.  Here’s a list that I compiled back in November 2021 of TikTok Lawyer accounts of 15k or fewer followers (note: some have grown beyond that just in a short six months) – several that haven’t even cracked the 5000-follower mark.  But we all start somewhere, right? When will you?