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Four Trends Managing Partners
Need to Know about Technology and Law Firm Marketing

Adam L. Stock

 

We are used to reading technology trend lists. But those lists invariably discuss how trends affect the much larger retail and consumer market. Although mobile shopping and electronic wallets are expected to grow significantly this year, neither will have any noticeable impact on law firms or the practice of law. What, then, are the technology trends that law firms should pay attention to and how will they uniquely impact the legal industry?

In evaluating technologies, law firms need to look at several issues:
 

  • Do the technologies help them win new clients?
     
  • Do the technologies help them increase business with existing clients?
     
  • Do the technologies help them build brand presence in certain sectors?
     
  • Do the technologies help them deliver better service?
     
  • Where do the technologies fit in with what other firms are already doing? Are they important enough to displace other activities?
     
  • Do the technologies have an “upside”? In other words, will the technology get firms more clients faster?
     
  • Do the technologies have a “downside”? In other words, will firms have to implement the technology just to maintain their current competitive position?
     
Personal Brand vs. Firm Brand

Over the last five years, we have seen an explosion of social media technologies that have helped individuals connect virtually in an effective manner. For example, some have likened Twitter to a global cocktail party where individuals can listen in and participate in millions of conversations.

The profile of an individual is sometime called a personal brand as opposed to the more traditional brand of a product, company or firm. In some sense, our LinkedIn profiles are a living resume promoting our own personal brands.

Unlike products – where brand and features dominate – clients say that they select lawyers not law firms. More accurately, perhaps, the law firm brand is important in the decision-making process, but ultimately the connection with the lawyer seals the engagement. This should not be that surprising as the concept of firm brand is relatively new. Firms traditionally were named for their partners – the collective brand of each partner’ s personal brand. Only when firms got too large to name all partners did the brand become impersonal. Large law firms today are more like sports teams that have the tension between promoting the personal brands of their star players versus the team brand.

Social media clearly promotes the individual brand ahead of the firm or company brand. The individual is the point of engagement and when the individual changes companies, the brand equity goes with the individual. It stands to reason that these technologies should help the legal profession even more that they help product-driven industries since clients ultimately hire an individual.


Platform Shifts Create Different Leaders

When broadcast TV was king, the three major networks – ABC, CBS and NBC – were the all-important brands. With the emergence and eventual dominance of cable, new players that capitalized on the new distribution medium – CNN, MTV, HBO, etc. – became important players. Similar outcomes will go to thContent Mose firms that learn to take advantage of the new online and social media that are becoming the dominant form of marketing and communication.

According to a recent survey conducted by Adrian Dayton, an AmLaw 200 attorney is nearly three times more likely to blog than an AmLaw 100 attorney. In the firms of the AmLaw 100, there are more than 84,000 lawyers and only 130 law blogs. The AmLaw 101-200 firms have fewer than 30,000 total attorneys creating 182 blogs.


An Integrated Existence

Some would say that the separation of one’s work day from one’s private life is an artifact of the industrial age. The reality is that we don’t leave work at home – we take it with us and fit it in when we can. While this is true from almost all work, it is especially true for lawyers who are “always on” and always accessible through smart phones and mobile e-mail. This mirrors the “always on/always available” existence that social networks on and online presence provide. Without judging whether this is a good thing, it stands to reason that these tools, that reflect the way attorneys work, should be helpful to attorneys.

Here, then, are the four trends that law firms cannot afford to ignore:


1. Social Networks – Legal industry relevance: A

For example, the recently launched Google+ acquired 10 million users in 16 days. It took Facebook and Twitter two years to get 10 million users. Nearly 845 million people have active Facebook accounts. For professions like the law, where personal brand is primary, all forms of social networks help. They make it easier to show who an individual is and what he/she does, and they make it easier to get referrals. Whether one uses Linked In, Twitter, Google+, Facebook or other social networking sites, these services are of high benefit to attorney marketing.

Recommendation: Use social networks strategically.
If you haven't started, 2015 is your year to get active. There is a huge upside.


2. Content Marketing – Legal industry relevance: A

Content marketing is increasingly important. Content marketing is the term for publishing information to get visibility. Because of improved indexing tagging and social networks, content — even if it is narrowly focused — is an increasingly important way of gaining online visibility. (At our law firm, a single blog is responsible for nearly 20% of our website traffic!) This trend helps law firms more than most professions because: 1) lawyers are good writers; 2) they have information that others need; 3) writing shows what they know; and 4) indexed and useful content that others link to leads to high search rankings.

Recommendation: Make sure your firm’s lawyers are blogging and writing.
It is easier than ever for people to find the content that reflects your area of expertise.


3. Mobile Devices – Legal industry relevance: B

More and more U.S. Web traffic is occurring from mobile devices. While this is important for location-based information like where the closest Chinese restaurant is, it doesn’t really help lawyers. Mobile technologies in the form of e-mail devices have already had a profound effect on the practice of law. Today, clients expect a response at any hour because they know lawyers carry smart phones and e-mail devices. The new growth of mobile computing and information has a slight downside for the legal profession. Most law firm websites don’t appear very well on smart phones. So, if a firm's site is not mobile friendly, it is at a competitive disadvantage.

Recommendation: Create a mobile version of your firm’s website. 
If you haven’t created a mobile version of your site, you have to now! This is work just to get back to where you were. 


4. Online Video – Legal industry relevance: B+

Video is an exciting medium that is growing at a fantastic rate. According to e-marketers, 95% of the U.S. population will watch video online this year. A video on mobile devices is surprisingly large. Video is an important medium because it has the ability to show attorneys in action. Where a written piece can demonstrate a lawyer’s expertise, a video can help show who the lawyer is — further hastening the connection that a prospect makes when selecting a lawyer. We’ve produced over 100 online videos and regularly have people tell our attorneys, “I’ve seen your video.” Furthermore, video is very favored in search engine results, so if you have created a video on a topic, chances are that it will appear higher in search engine results than your competitor's written legal alert.

Recommendation: Use video to tell your firm’s story. 
Explain those important, complicated matters simply. And remember to smile for your audience!



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About the Author



Adam Stock is Chief Marketing and Client Services Officer of Allen Matkins, a 200-lawyer firm based in Southern California. His legal marketing expertise was recognized as “best in show” at LMA’s 2015 Your Honor Awards. He can be reached at 415.273.7437 or astock@allenmatkins.com.