This entry is going to be closely related to my next blog post which will go into detail about search engine optimisation (SEO) and the way it also may not be being used properly by some law firms (although I’ll briefly look at online presence here too).
This blog will look more generally at modern technology and its use by law firms. I advise you to read both entries in conjunction so you can get a complete picture of what I believe to be the technological deficit some firms face.
The technological deficit
I remember one of my friends telling me about the firm he worked at a few years ago. He was doing general admin / clerical work there. To my surprise he told me that the firm had only just recently (during the time he was working there) decided to switch from a paper based system to a computer based system. They also had limited knowledge of resources like WestLaw and LexisNexis.
I have also had a few experiences lately where the lack of understanding of how technology works has resulted in solicitors taking a more inefficient and time consuming route than they should. The reason for this is usually based on fear of doing something wrong. In one personal experience an older solicitor was afraid of accidentally sending a sensitive email to everyone in his address book rather than just to his colleague (who was located elsewhere). For this reason he decided to post a letter rather than email.
In another experience it became apparent the partner of a small / medium sized firm didn’t know the first thing about the value of websites. He seemed to think it was like the yellow pages but with pictures. He had no idea that with a little effort a website could reach hundreds, or even thousands of new clients every day.
The individuals in these experiences were brilliant solicitors – obviously very talented. It wasn’t really their fault they didn’t know these basic truths about the use of technology. I’m not saying everyone in the legal profession should be expert computer users, or that all small firms have the problems stated in this blog. I want to make that very clear. This is just what I’ve experienced, I don’t mean to generalise.
But to me it’s quite shocking that firms (especially the smaller ones with older solicitors) don’t invest more in basic technology training. It’s also surprising that the partners of firms don’t fully grasp how with a little time and effort, online marketing can be invaluable. Quite simply, if everyone in a firm fully understands the basics of modern technology then it can save them a ton of time and therefore make them more profitable.
Obviously I’m not talking about large international firms based in a major city here. I’m talking about medium / small firms. To me it seems that technology training and learning more about how it can assist a firm is not a high priority with firms of this size. The reason that it’s not a priority is perhaps again because of fear. Fear of something going wrong or fear about stepping out of the comfort zone into something they are not familiar with. Or perhaps they perceive IT training as too hard or expensive. None of these factors should stop a firm from potentially increasing their efficiency tenfold.
I had a quick look at a selection of firms located at a random location in the UK to see what their online presence was like. The firms were located around a smallish town area so shouldn’t have more than 15 employees.
Has a one page website with contact details. No social media, no other news stories visible.
A website with the areas of law they specialise in and a list of solicitors. Minimal content. No social media to be found.
A great website with a blog updated at least every two weeks. Blogs are on a range of legal matters. A good amount of content on each page. Has a twitter and linked in account.
No website or online presence apart from legal directories by the law society.
A website which looks like it was designed in 1995. Being outranked in google by a non law company with the same name.
These firms apart from “solicitors 3” must have solely been promoting through word of mouth or newspaper advertising. I get the impression that they don’t seem to think that promoting online is necessary. Or that an online presence is a luxury that they don’t need right now. Unfortunately in this case standing still is moving backwards. With the change in legal services meaning that supermarkets and banks will be able to sell legal services, this could mean that firms who don’t improve their online presence will fall further behind.
Obviously these legal services providers will have a very strong online presence. Since people often google a certain service they require this means that the new legal service providers will have the first chance to “sell” to a prospective client via their website. Or will have a better sales pitch due to their superior online presence. The fact that a lot of firms have a poor online presence is hardly surprising – if some don’t even have a good general understanding of IT & technology how can they be expected to understand something more advanced like online marketing?
To conclude; smaller firms need to adapt. Online promotion I believe should already be a massive part of any firms marketing strategy. That goes for big and small firms. Too many firms simply do the bare minimum. Why pass up such a fantastic client source like the internet. They tick the “let’s get a website” box and move on.
It is this lack of understanding of perhaps the most important piece of technology today – the internet, which could cause firms to fail. As mentioned before a lack of technological knowledge, especially in small firms, seems to be a reoccurring theme in the legal sector (I actually looked at a range of accounting & insurance businesses in the area above too; they all seemed to have an online presence similar to solicitors 3).
Perhaps in a future blog I’ll write about some historical reasons I believe this to be the case. But In my next blog I’ll look at what firms can do to boost their online presence with minimal effort. I may also look at apps which could benefit law firms and what the future holds.