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.”

The Legal Sector and “FREE”

Free ticket How should solicitors and law firms compete with the availability of free legal information on the web? How might it impact current business models?

In the IT industry, we have been grappling with this issue for a number of years… lots and lots of free information and advice on the Web, free open source software, and many, many free websites. Observations from the IT industry are that traditional paid-for software providers are still doing very well. The radical change that we thought open source software would bring hasn’t been as radical as we originally thought, and there are still plenty of well-paid jobs for IT consultants. Free open-source alternatives now with co-exist paid-for products and to varying degrees are embraced by the likes of IBM, Sun and even Microsoft.

Lessons for the legal sector (and indeed any professional service firms)

  • Get close to your clients. Understand their business and become their trusted partner. Show you provide real value. Good consulting fees will remain for people who can do this well
  • Look at low value-add services that you provide. These could easily become cannibalised and commoditized by free alternatives. Consider acting first and making them free before your competitors do (the Sun Open Office approach). Alternatively look at what else you can add to make your offering unique and worth paying for (the Microsoft Office approach)
  • Look how you can use free products and build on top of them to lower your product/service costs
  • Think about how it is possible to create packaged product offerings that can effectively compete with free, rather than simply an hourly service
  • Think how you can create and distribute free offerings yourselves to introduce people to your brand (And perhaps if a free product is one step to far right now, you could consider starting by using free tools to help in your marketing)
  • Consider getting involved and contributing to free information forums in order to build your brand recognition and reputation.  The idea is essentially to build credibility, trust and brand recognition so that when people do need to purchase legal services, they will think to come to you