In my last post on this topic I argued that the introduction of Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) does not have to entail the destruction of the smaller firms in the legal profession, although it undoubtedly poses a very severe challenge.
High Street firms without a recognised “brand” of their own haven’t got the financial resources to compete with the massive advertising budgets of the banks and supermarkets. Firms or, more particularly, individual solicitors themselves, have only their own skills and personality to sell. Word of mouth recommendation is well recognised as the best form of business development and that will never change. What will change is that social media will allow firms and individuals to promote themselves beyond the confines of the spoken word of mouth networks. In particular it is likely that websites will develop which will allow users to rate their solicitor; think TripAdvisor, but for lawyers. It must only be a matter of time before such a site develops.
Alternatively networks will (and are) appear which act as umbrellas for “quality-checked” firms – we’re seeing that with QualitySolicitors.com, Contact Law (who are ”badging” their service via the Daily Telegraph) and TakeLegalAdvice.com to name three.
It will then be very important for lawyers to control their online identities and to promote themselves in the virtual world. We all know how “googling” has become a verb and not just a proper noun. This trend will continue as the general population becomes more tech-savvy. All practitioners will require a digital media strategy (Tesco law will have one). Anyone reading this blog probably has a pretty good idea of web 2.0 and social media but, for the sake of completeness, this is what I think a digital media strategy is;
- A good website, properly designed, utilising SEO techniques.
- A blog – probably a personal rather than a corporate one displaying wisdom and personality (like this one really!)
- Use of Facebook et al. Facebook has “Pages” that allow businesses to promote themselves. It also has about 245 million users worldwide. Facebook has overtaken MySpace in importance.
- Twitter! Play with it for a while and you will see its uses.
- Linked-In et al – of most use to recruitment consultants at the moment but that will change.
None of this will replace good old-fashioned networking in the real world or will surpass the joys of an old-fashioned lengthy lunch (some of us still do it and I’m always open to invitations) but it will complement it.
As usual, all comments welcome.