Web Favourites Feb 22 2010

This post is part of a weekly/bi-weekly roundup of things that I read and found interesting. There won’t be a lot of comment from me, but hopefully you will find the links useful. Enjoy!

Interesting stuff I came across this week:

The Business Case for Giving Away Your Best Work for FREE! – 10 reasons to give away your work for free.

The “Free” Dilemma – Bits vs. Atoms – “…understand one of the differences between atoms and bits:
Atoms don’t scale. Bits do… Your free strategy should be mostly based on bits… Use the atom-power to create remarkable bit-based free stuff that spreads”

Law firms and Newspapers – Same or Different? – “what the newspapers are suffering heavily from now is what many smaller law firms are beginning to suffer from and will undoubtedly suffer heavily from in the future – their primary product being available for free on the web.”

Google Social Search

Well excuse me if I only just noticed this (it seems like Google announced social search back in Oct) but this is simply the best innovation in Internet search in years.

Here’s what my search results included today when I searched for Knowledge Management:

Google Social Search Results

What you can see here is personalised search results based on my social network as Google sees it. Google looks at your Twitter network, GMail contacts and profile links to figure this out.  Strange it doesn’t seem to look at blogs I follow in Google Reader, but hopefully that will come soon.

Great idea!

Legal Opportunities #1: Speed

‘It’s almost impossible as a consumer to be able to differentiate one law firm from another. I can’t tell you the number of websites I’ve looked at which describe the firm as “modern with traditional values, forward-thinking with a focus on customer service…” .’ That sort of stock phase was ‘repeated ad infinitum’. ‘If you’re a member of the public it’s almost impossible to choose between firms and that is why they start thinking: “If I can’t tell the difference, I might as well just get the cheapest.”’

Craig Holt – QualitySolicitors.com, The Big Bang Report.

How can solicitors stand out from the crowd to build a distinctive and thriving business? In this first post of a series I am going to look at opportunities for law firms to create a distinctive niche for themselves, so that they can compete effectively in the post Legal Services Act market.

Opportunity #1: Speed


Countless of successful businesses have been built on the premise of doing things more quickly than the competition:

  • DHL took international parcel delivery and guaranteed next day delivery
  • Snappy Snaps took photo processing from days to hours
  • Kwik Fit built a brand out of being fastest for tyre changes

The nice thing about all these is that time pressed customers will typically pay a premium for rapid service. If I were a law firm I might be thinking about offering 30-minute wills, 15-minute lunchtime speed appointments, and for businesses, maybe things like contract reviews with guaranteed same-day turnaround.

What do you think?

Windows Phone 7 Series – SharePoint Integration

Windows Phone 7 Series Office Hub

Yesterday Microsoft announced the successor to their current crop of Windows Mobile phones, to be called Windows Phone 7 Series. Interesting in the announcement was built-in SharePoint integration, shown in the image above. I wonder… might it just start to make an impact on Blackberry’s dominance in big business?

Neat demo of the phone’s capabilities here:

Legal Services 2020

Foxtons branch - future of retail legal services? How will the legal services market look in 10 years time?

I’m placing my bets now:

  • Four or five big players dominating the retail market. Some will have a high street presence. Some will be virtual-only operations, serving clients via the Internet and telephone. Most will provide 24-hour service, and there will be an almost exclusive focus on legal products, as opposed to one-to-one consultation and hourly billing used primarily today. There will be a huge range of products at varying price points to suit every pocket.
  • The middle market will be decimated. The midsize, generalist, regional law firms of today will be hit savagely. Most if not all will be gone. Any that do survive will be struggling along, fighting for a diminishing client base of OAPs and technological refusniks.
  • A booming market of boutique law firms – niche players that have found an area in which they can become ‘famous’ as experts, or areas of law too small, or too risky (from a brand and image point of view) that will make the big players avoid them. Some smart firms are starting to head down this path today. Lots more will spring up as many laid-off ex-middle market lawyers use redundancy payments to start their own boutique firm.

Do you agree? One thing is for sure – the future will not be boring!

Who Will Save Us?

Who will save book publishing?

What will save the newspapers?

What means ‘save’?

If by save you mean, "what will keep things just as they are?" then the answer is nothing will. It’s over.

We need to get past this idea of saving, because the status quo is leaving the building, and quickly. Not just in print of course, but in your industry too.

This recent Seth Godin’s post struck me in sharp contrast to the Legal IT Show last week. where the mood seemed to be ‘if we ignore the Legal Services Act, maybe it won’t happen’. Indeed at least a couple of people I spoke to seemed to be pinning their hopes on a future Conservative government changing the legislation. Really? Since when have the Tories been in favour of less competition and against free markets?

The similarities between legal and publishing industries have been pointed out before. The publishing industry is in disarray. But law firms have an advantage… they can look back at what has happened to the publishing industry, and learn from their mistakes.

The reality is that the Legal Services Act is coming. More competition is coming. And there will be both winners and losers.

Seth finishes his post:

Every revolution destroys the average middle first and most savagely.

How will you avoid being average? What can you learn from the publishing industry? How will you make sure your firm is a winner?

What does Knowledge Management mean to your firm?

Knowledge Management for me should be about enabling employees to make better, more informed decisions, more quickly.

What that means specifically will depend on how it is applied to your business, but for example could mean things like:

  • Faster response times to client queries
  • Lower skilled/paid staff are able to answer simple client queries freeing up more of the senior staff’s time to add real value
  • Service delivery is of a consistently high standard as best-practices are captured and followed
  • The firm’s risk profile is reduced as staff are less likely to make poor decisions
  • Staff can demonstrate, and be recognised for, their expertise across the whole firm, encouraging staff loyalty and a sense of belonging

Are you getting those benefits from your KM system?

First Impressions from Legal IT Show 2010

Just back from Legal IT Show 2010… Here are my first impressions:

  • Number of stands down around 30-40% on last year.
  • Visitor numbers seemed low. I think there were more staff on the stands than visitors walking around the exhibition space for most of the day.
  • Where were the thought leaders? Conference sessions/keynotes were simply uninspiring. Example quotes from IT Directors on stage:
    • “We are looking at alternatives to the billable hour… but only because we have to” – huh? so much for being client centric. Sounds more like clients are seen as an inconvenience!
    • “Don’t see the business value in Social Media” – Try listening to what Brian Inkster or Chris Sherliker have to say about how their firms benefit from social media. (If you want to know more about social media for law firms, check this out)
    • “Biggest problem facing us this year is getting budget” – Where’s the business focus, the understanding of the market place? Stop thinking of IT as a cost centre and start thinking of of it as a strategic resource to drive your business forward for the next 10 years.
  • Most roundtable sessions were empty. The exception was the Legal Services Act roundtable, but vendors outnumbered legal folk 3:1 there. Not sure what to make of that. Heads in the sand or not interested because strategies are all already in place?

Did you go to the Legal IT Show this year? What did you think?

Legal IT Show Tweetup

The Elk in The WoodsIf you tweet, are interested in Legal technology, and are in London on Wed 10 February, come and join the Legal IT Show Tweetup. We’re hosting an informal gathering of tweeters starting from 5pm at The Elk in The Woods, right opposite the show venue. (And you don’t need to be coming to the show itself to join in).

The Elk In The Woods
39 Camden Passage

[Click image for larger map]

P.S. We’ll be tweeting using the hashtag #LITS on the day and in the run-up to the event.
P.P.S. I know other hashtags have already been suggested, but we think #LITS will give us more room to put useful content in our tweets.