Archive for the ‘Social Media For Lawyers’ Category
[This article was originally published on www.SLAW.ca in January, 2011]
Lawyers frequently lament to me that they wish they could focus on the practice of law, rather than being perpetually barraged with new and un-billable marketing and technology demands. There is a palpable longing for the halcyon days when such a pure life was allegedly attainable. The fundamental approach to marketing in the golden age — still deeply rooted in many lawyers’ DNA — was “Do good work.”
Full-stop. Put another way, the prevailing ethos was “by one’s expertise shall ye be known.” Smart lawyers excelled. Smart lawyers who also happened to have a way with people were superstars.
Against this backdrop, any activity specifically directed towards marketing felt ancillary, somewhat impure, and utterly accretive, like barnacles attaching themselves to the underbelly of the mighty vessel that is the law. Given a choice between steering the ship or attending to barnacle management, most lawyers naturally gravitated above-decks to the wheelhouse.
Those of a certain age will remember that one of Dr. Leonard (“Bones”) McCoy’s most oft-quoted phrases on the original Star Trek series ran something along the lines of:“Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not a magician!” uttered in an exasperated tone when the good doctor was being asked to do the impossible for the umpteenth time. I can almost hear McCoy shouting at me: “Dammit Doug, I’m a lawyer, not a marketer!” when having a “law vs. these new distractions” discussion with lawyers.
For those who feel similarly under siege by the ongoing assault on their ability to actually practice law in the course of their legal career, I offer what I hope is at least a modicum of good news: a shift is occurring in marketing circles – and in this “New” Marketing, expertise is once again moving squarely to the forefront.
At a recent Legal Marketing Association conference in Toronto on the changing face of legal marketing, I was struck by the comments of keynote speaker Mitch Joel. In Joel’s view, the steak-less sizzle of traditional marketing is being usurped by something more substantive online. His position is that digital channels are the first places in marketing that facilitate real interactions between real people. As Joel himself put it:
”I’m thrilled to be out of a world where marketing is whiter, brighter, and 20% off.”
There is no question that the online world increasingly reins supreme from a legal marketing perspective. And in this new environment, the object that now shines brightest for lawyers “shilling their wares” is good old-fashioned expertise.
Perhaps the most obvious example of this shift is the rise of legal blogging. We have seen blogs definitively hit the legal mainstream over the last few years. Fundamentally, law blogs are online demonstrations of the author(s) legal knowledge, rich in detail and practical information about niche areas of practice. Frequently they are also geared to specific client industries, and can become important industry connection points as a result, acting as a sort of online commons (Slaw itself being a prime example of this in my view). The best blogs also tend to reveal something of their authors’ personalities, making the blogs more engaging for readers, and their authors analogous to the legal superstars of old.
But it’s not just blogs. Digital channels such as twitter and other social media have exploded in popularity in both the legal world and the broader population. The growth of legal document portal JD Supra is another case in point. In the legal context at least, it is substance over style that is winning converts – and clients – in these new arenas. There is an authenticity to digital marketing done well that is perfectly aligned with lawyers’ natural inclinations.
Recently I have been speaking with lawyers about the concept of transparency. In a marketing context, this means finding ways to make the knowledge that you have, and the legal thinking that you are already doing, more readily visible to the outside world. It involves using the new media tools that are now available to show interested audiences the nuts and bolts of what you know, what you do, and what you think, rather than being something separate and apart that is awkwardly appended to your practice after the fact, like the barnacle-laden firm brochures of old.
For lawyers, the challenge now lies in incorporating at least some of these new digital tools into the fabric of your regular workday in a minimally invasive way. If the classic lawyer marketing mantra was “Do good work”, then the “New Marketing” approach can perhaps best be described as “Do good work – visibly.”
For many, this pendulum swing in marketing focus towards showcasing legal expertise represents a welcome step back to the future.
I am arriving late to the party with my 2010 Clawbie nominations, but wanted to add my voice to the choir nonetheless.
First and foremost amongst my reasons for doing so is to take the opportunity to extend a very heartfelt and public thank you to both Steve Matthews and Jordan Furlong of Stem Legal, who have spent many hours crafting, organizing and judging the Clawbies for several years now. Because the Clawbies are their baby and they are the judges, they will not be winning any Clawbies themselves, but in any parallel universe where they were not the organizers, you can rest assured that both the Stem Legal Strategy Blog and Jordan’s Law 21 would be multiple award winners. Both blogs are an indispensable part of my online reading and I recommend them to you unreservedly.
With that, I turn to the business at hand – my picks this year:
Dye & Durham is a well-known entity in the BC legal market providing a wide array of legal support services to the profession, and their BC Law Watch blog and twitter feed are wonderful examples to me of where good marketing is going in the years ahead. Rather than using these tools as a blatant self-promotion exercise, Dye & Durham has chosen to focus on their audience’s needs, by aggregating a wide variety of BC practice-related news announcements, bulletins, event notices etc. from the courts, law schools, courthouse libraries, and other relevant sources in one place. It’s an incredibly helpful information feed in my opinion, it aligns very well with the company’s role in the market, it’s easy on the eyes with extensive use of graphics in blog posts, and it elevates the brand by educating me rather than selling to me. All good.
I had the opportunity to meet Garry in person during a recent business trip to Toronto at a beer for bloggers event and was left with a very positive impression of the man. That led me to take a closer look at his blog upon my return, and blog posts like this have only confirmed my initial instincts. A practitioner’s blog done right, it showcases how blogs can be successfully used by solos and small firms to bring a personal touch to the practice of law that the big firms are not structurally suited to match.
In addition to visiting our fair country on a regular basis to speak on blogging, social media and technology to Canadian lawyers, Kevin’s company Lexblog has also developed a fair number of the blogs on behalf of larger Canadian firms. A former trial lawyer, Kevin is an innovator and an educator, and his blog provides valuable insight on where technology trends for the profession are heading next. He walks the walk, talks the talk, and is worth the read.
There you have it – three that made a difference for me in 2010. Good luck to all the finalists – the bar keeps getting higher every year which only benefits us all. Have a safe and happy new year’s everyone!
Tuesday November 30, 2010 marks the first full-day conference for the Toronto Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association.
Themed as “The Changing Face of Legal Marketing” (click the logo above for the conference program and details) the morning sessions are focused around social media with two highly recognized speakers, Mitch Joel and Adrian Dayton, while the afternoon is a diverse looking multi-track program including PR, managing RFPs, creating innovative client experiences and more.
Skunkworks is very pleased to be participating as a sponsor of morning coffee (an area of particular expertise as those who know me personally can attest). I hope to see you there.