How and why Lawyers use Twitter

clip_image001This time last week the Corporate Counsel Forum Europe hastag #ccfe filled my screen. Tim Bratton, General Counsel of the Financial Times, was giving a talk about social media for lawyers and was tweeting live while on stage. Thanks to Twitter I felt like I was there…

As the event kicked off it seemed that Tim, who tweets as legalbrat, had a tough audience:

· kilroyt: Tim has just exposed some of us tweeting in the room. People look suspicious #ccfe

· strong_tim: Being watched curiously by colleagues… #ccfe

· toyboxstudio: I imagine there’s a combination of childlike excitement (@bazv / @legalbrat) and “plausible deniability” (the old guard) at #ccfe now

But was presenting a compelling case for social media:

· chrisdaleoxford: World has changed. @legabratshows video about news, its immediacy and effect on markets, politics etc #ccfe

· chrisdaleoxford: FT using social media channels as channel for subscribers, to create content, to source stories #ccfe

· kilroyt: Tim explaining tangible benefits of social media (legal romanettes here): (i) Network (ii) Know-how (iii) crowdsourcing (iv) blogs #ccfe

If you see value in networking, you should see value in social media:

· chrisdaleoxford: Everyone here sees value of personal networking at conferences. Social media, @legalbratimplies, is that value multiplied #ccfe

· kilroyt: If you turn up for 2 days here in person, why not listen to expertise from the same community on social media? #ccfe

· HelenJThomson: Sounds like @legalbrat is on the money at #ccfe – if you see the value in personal networking, surely social media is a logical extension?

Why lawyers use Twitter

Tweeted responses to Tim asking the question as legalbrat:

· New business opportunities
robertcumming: I picked up some instructions via Twitter for a global client last week #ccfe #smug
law4mumpreneurs: for me twitter is an essential business tool enabling me to gain 70+ clients in just over a year of working part time #ccfe
saysitstraight: I have written for The Lawyer, Estates Gazette and Daily T as a direct result #ccfe

· Network and community
bazv: greatly expanded network. Have met friends and colleagues in US & UK wld never have met otherwise. #ccfe
saysitstraight: it’s a community and the usual lawyer posturing not generally present #ccfe
chrisdaleoxford: Where else can you chat with a QC, journalist, partner, trainee [or] CG anywhere in the world #ccfe
in_house_lawyer: #ccfe It saves time. I’ve received helpful advice in minutes to my SOS tweets which would otherwise have taken hours of research

· Keeping in touch
jcasalmir: Critical legal developments are starting to break first on Twitter before other places
Oxfordlawyer: #ccfe good source of knowhow and good insight into clients
jon_bower: it’s the most effective way to keep up to date with breaking news across a number of areas both legal (and social!) #ccfe
dieterdelarue: because it’s fun, keeps us up to date, lets us keep clients and peers up to date, and because @allenovery encourages it #ccfe

Managing Confidentiality

Responses to kilroyt asking “do people observe the boundaries?”:

· _millymoo: if lawyers or other professionals are tweeting confidential info, the problem is in the chair, not the channel #ccfe

· HighlandLawyer: If the client could identify themself from what you’ve said, you’ve gone beyond the boundaries… #ccfe

· LegalBizzle: But how much genuinely confidential info can you fit in 140 chars? #ccfe
kilroyt: @LegalBizzle Less than on the phone and we’re not monitoring all their calls #ccfe

· rht73: don’t think lawyers are the concern for Tweeting confidential information, same rules as for any comms #ccfe

· danversbaillieu: Lawyers make good tweeters because we’re trained to be discreet and respect confidentiality #ccfe

Closing Remarks

· kilroyt: Tim summarizes benefits as “Network, Knowledge and Sharing” #ccfe

· LegalWeek: If just 5 percent of us started blogging think of all the expertise that would be out there available for free #ccfe

· robobooth: Is fact #ccfe has just moved to joke telling sign of just how varied use of social media can be? From serious to jokes in mins. No bad thing

And when I tweeted to ask “What do the colleagues who were watching on curiously at the beginning now think?”:
strong_tim: Mostly unconvinced… fun to try… some will have got the message… Anyway, don’t want everyone from my line of work on here just yet. I want to be a legal pioneer for a bit longer!

Lex2011tweetup: All the leading tweeting lawyers in a bar. How could it not be fun?

I don’t have a voice this morning and memories are hazy, but this is what I do remember…

Matching faces to avatars

imageWhen I first started work, networking events were about putting faces to the voices that I’d heard on the telephone. Last night was about putting voices to avatars.

With social media for lawyers really taking off, we had nearly 80 RSVPs for the event. I’d thought about making name badges for everyone with Twitter names and avatars on them. As @ljanstis tweeted: “Time to find out who else is using an avatar photo that is five years out of date.”

I was worried that I might miss @colmmu, @clarinette02, @JohnAFlood et al who have cryptic avatars, but I needen’t have worried. It was fun watching reactions during introductions: “Catrin, this is Chris”, or “Steve, this Neil” generated puzzled looks, but “@lawyercatrin, this is @London_Law_Firm” and “@MotoringLawyer, this is @Legalfutures” would led to warm recognition and immediate chatter!

How far people had travelled

It was lovely to see the effort people had made to join #Lex2011tweetup – after all, there were no speakers, no agenda, just informal drinks.

image@GavWard travelled from Glasgow and @jonathanlea from Truro, and they both decided to make a London break out of it. @IkenCEO came specifically for the event, proudly tweeting “Now that I have a senior citizens railcard I shall travel 1st class by train to #Lex2011tweetup”.

But a special mention has to go to @valentilaw who changed his flight from Chicago to arrive in time!

Expectations versus reality

imageOne of the best things about the night was how up for it everyone was! People commented on not knowing what to expect and how odd it was not to have the formality of a date and venue months in advance. But as @jeanyvesgilg said “what’s the worst that could happen? It’s not in fee-earning time!” There was an amazing atmosphere with lots of laughter and banter – as if it was a reunion of people that had known each other for years, when at best, most would have only met a handful of the people in the room before.

The Venue

imageThe venue was a little crowded, but in defence of @BrianInkster and I, we had no idea so many would come along! @ChrisOxfordDale tweeted “Good turnout at #lex2011tweetup but too noisy to hear. Thought of sitting outside and tweeting to them but went home instead”. Other complaints were from those who were unable to join. @TMT_Lawyer tweeted “Was gonna say “Hi” to all tweeps at #Lex2011Tweetup, but bastards are all TALKING to each other. FFS, what’s wrong with tweets? RL, pah!” and @lancegodard felt he’d “missed event of the year”. My ‘bah humbug’ with the night is that @BrianInkster and I didn’t get to have our long planned chat!

Successes

imageAccording to @HeatherTowns there are five levels of engagement, with the fifth being powerful and effective relationships. From what I understand most of us would have been around level 2 at the beginning of last night. We must all be at least at level 3 now Heather?

I know that a couple of individuals won new work last night and many are planning follow-up meetings.

From conversations and subsequent tweets it seems everyone had a great night Smile with @BrianInkster and I receiving numerous requests to host another soon. I’ve not had a chance to check in with Brian yet, but my slight hesitation is that I do have the small matter of trying to launch a social CRM startup!

It was really great to meet everyone last night – thanks for making it such a good ‘un.

Please do add comments if I’ve missed anything. As I said, my memories are hazy…

Looking back on 2010

imageAt this time of year it’s traditional to look back, so we thought we’d share our most popular content from the past year, just in case you missed it.

  1. The Best Law Firm Website is… – We name the best law firm websites and explain what makes them stand out from the crowd.
  2. Top 100 Law Firm Websites in Pictures – PowerPoint slide deck of all the top 100 law firm websites. Feel free to go download it and give it to the partners in your firm and ask them to pick what they think is the best
  3. Communicator 14 to Integrate with SharePoint Activity Feed – We were a little surprised this one came in at #3. News piece about how Communicator (now Lync) and SharePoint combine to create a Facebook-like status feed for the intranet.
  4. How UK Lawyers are using Social Media – Thoughts from early adopters on the use of (primarily) Twitter in the legal sector, what works and the ROI.
  5. SharePoint Explained – Our 101 introduction to SharePoint.
  6. Shoosmiths Access Legal – A brave new world of law firm marketing – A look at the marketing approach of Shoosmiths consumer arm, AccessLegal.
  7. Cloud Computing Explained – Our 101 introduction to cloud computing
  8. Legal Services 2020 – Our view of what the legal services market will look like in 10 years time… oops that’s nine years now.
  9. What Will Be the Business Model of the 21st Century Law Firm – A look at the similarities between the publishing and legal industries and what we can learn from their current malaise.
  10. Office Communicator 14 to Become Microsoft Lync – News about the name change in Microsoft’s real time communication and collaboration product in 2010.

If you like the stuff we write, remember you can sign-up for updates in your RSS reader, or subscribe for email updates.

And with that we’d like to wish you a happy new year, and we’ll see you all again in 2011.

Law Firm Innovation

Blackboard with innovation written on it Source: flickr.com/thinkpublic

People say lawyers aren’t innovative — but we have found some that are really changing the rules of the game…

  • There’s the lawyers using Twitter and LinkedIn to reach out, engage and sell to potential clients
  • The law firms going paperless, ditching PAs and giving clients direct dial access to staff
  • The law firms growing their business exponentially with fixed fee, capped fee and subscription pricing models
  • The law firms using Search Engine Optimisation, microsites and iPhone apps to generate more business than they can handle
  • The virtual law firms using technology to avoid having expensive city offices and give their staff a great lifestyle
  • The law firms creating niche sub-brands to target specific markets

One of the things we do, is educate solicitors, accountants and other professional services firms about how technology is changing business today – the new opportunities, the risks and the techniques that work.

For the past nine months we have been exploring how solicitors practices and law firms have been preparing for the Legal Services Act 2007 and the introduction of Alternative Business Structures (ABS) in October 2011.

We are now ready to share our findings with the rest of the world…

For a limited time we are offering a one-hour telephone consultation in which we will:

  • Take you through each of the innovations listed above
  • Discuss with you how they might apply to your firm
  • Share our thoughts on what we see happening next
  • Answer any questions you have

The price of this consultation is just £50. If you’d like to take us up on this offer, simply click on the button below. But one word of warning: Be quick. We are only able to schedule a couple of these sessions per week, and we are taking bookings on a strictly first-come, first-served basis. Good luck!

image_thumb[5]

The Best Law Firm Website is…

Did you take a look at the Top 100 Law Firm Websites? What did you think? Did any stand out to you as class-leadings sites?

For me there was one that did… and I’ll tell you which one in a moment… But first, those that have it wrong, the honourable mentions, and why.

So you say you’re client focussed, huh?

The problem with most of the websites we looked at, probably as much as 95% of them, is that they are just not client focussed. The majority start with a pitch about themselves. They typically say they are innovative, experts in their field, and client focussed. But if they are client focussed, why doesn’t the website illustrate that?

Solicitors tell me all the time that their job is to solve client’s problems. So assuming I am a client coming to your website for the first time, how can I easily map my problem onto the services you offer?  Most websites we looked at structured their content based on the practice areas of the firm. But guess what? Clients don’t care about the internal organisation of law firms, and it’s no good hoping they will learn. Instead think about how you can present your business in the way that clients think. Make easy access to answers your top priority.

Honourable mentions

Mischon de Reya has a minimalist home page with a Google-style search box front and centre.

MIschon de Reya

Client focussed? Yes. Helping me map my problems to solutions? Not a bad start… We tried a few search terms and came up trumps two thirds of the time.

Russell Jones & Walker have gone for a best of both worlds approach – a similar search box takes priority, with practice areas on the right.

Russell Jones & Walker website

Sadly the search didn’t quite hit the spot when we tried it. It seemed to prioritise news stories over explaining how Russell Jones & Walker could help solve my problem. Nevertheless, they deserve an honourable mention for avoiding all the usual home page trumpet blowing, focussing on the client and providing the Expert Guide PDF downloads shown on the right of the screenshot.

And the winner is…

The CubeSocial Law Firm Website of 2010 award goes to Browne Jacobson for putting clients right at the heart of the website, providing simple clear navigation based on the client’s need and using the client’s language rather than internal law firm boundaries to structure content. Go on, click through to the Browne Jacobson website and have a look. Not only is it very functional, it’s also beautifully designed and interactive. Congratulations to all involved.

Browne Jacobson website

Don’t agree with us? Think your firm’s website is better? Leave a comment below and let us know why.

Top 100 Law Firm Websites In Pictures

When Craig Holt of Quality Solicitors was recently quoted saying all Law Firm websites were the same, we thought we would put his thesis to the test. We decided to take a look at the websites of the Top 100 UK law firms and see who stood out from the crowd. 

So here they are…

Just looking at the homepages, for me, there is one website that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Can you spot the one I am thinking of? Are there any that you would commend or decry?

I’ll post up my thoughts on the stand-out sites and my reasons tomorrow. Meanwhile leave a comment below…

Update: See our verdict on the top Top Law Firm Websites

Law Firm Branding: Can you serve all markets from a single brand?

Brands

A thought occurred to me the other day: Assuming the Susskind vision of the future is true, can law firms continue to serve all their clients from a single brand? In most other sectors, companies use brands to target a specific market segment.

  • RBS have the Direct Line, Churchill and Privilige insurance brands.
  • Intercontinental hotel group have Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express.
  • In food retailing, many companies have a healthy eating brand, a ‘value’ brand, a mainstream brand and a luxury brand.

If more legal work becomes productised or commoditised and so becomes a ‘value’ based purchase, what impact does that have on your brand and your corporate and prestige clients’ expectations of cost?

It seems to me that the problem with trying to be all things to everyone, is you end up not standing for anything at all.

That’s one reason why Access Legal from Shoosmiths is so interesting: An attempt to create a brand for a specific market segment, but still keeping the parent brand to suggest quality and years of legal expertise.

Are Shoosmiths the only ones doing this? Are there any other law firms out there doing the same?

I’d be interested to know your thoughts. Let me know in the comments below…

Referral Opportunities Between Solicitors, IFAs and Accountants

JP Morgan has published a briefing paper on opportunities for closer links between Solicitors, IFAs and Accountants in a post-ABS world.  There’s a whole bunch of stats and charts like this one, a few nice marketing and cross-selling tips and some interesting findings on Solicitors’ attitudes to ABS-based multi-disciplinary practices.

image

You can download the full report from the JP Morgan website.

The Facebook Places Opportunity

Facebook Places iPhoneIf you haven’t been paying attention Facebook announced Places* last week (see here for background and explanation).

Online checkin has become increasingly popular for NetGen users recently, with Foursquare leading the way. But now that Facebook has added this capability for its half a billion users, the dynamics of this market suddenly change.

Research shows that consumers trust recommendations from friends 2-3x more than other forms of online advertising. What this means is that there is an opportunity here for smart professional services firms to tap into Places for marketing purposes: Each time someone checks in at your business they are telling their friends about you. That’s free advertising for you!  So, think about how you can encourage that behaviour – perhaps you can just ask, or perhaps you could provide special offers to clients willing to do that. Then the next time someone exchanges contracts on their dream property, you’ll know that they have told all their Facebook friends about you!

(*) At the time of writing Facebook Places is a US only service, but Facebook has plans to roll it out globally as soon as possible.