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February 17, 2015 article

How Lawyers Can Stand Out (for Now) Without Using Social Media

By Mitch Jackson

The Internet, social media, and wearable technology have forever changed the practice of law. Savvy lawyers using wearable tech (think something like Google Glass) can or will soon be able to instantly access databases activated by facial recognition during voir dire. They'll use similar wearable real-time tech and video to communicate with consultants on the other side of the world during depositions and cross-examination. Confidential feedback will be displayed on private floating flat screens at eye level and through audio shared in bone conductive headphones.

Marketing and building relationships with people on social media is now limited only by your imagination. No longer do large law firms with big budgets have the advantage. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, you're now a media company sharing helpful content with the consumer in the form of blog, video, podcast, and other social media posts.

For many lawyers, these new innovations have overly complicated what was once a rather straightforward profession. These lawyers continue to believe that Google Glass, Vine, and Twitter are things you should drink from, swing from, or hear coming from the beak of a bird. A majority of legal practitioners are overwhelmed by social media and technology. Because of this, they push it aside rather than embrace all the upside long-term benefits.

If you're one of these lawyers who would prefer to have his or her fingernails pulled out by a hostile judge rather than engage others on social media, all is not lost. There is something you can focus on right now that will help keep you in business. Something that most lawyers really miss the boat on, and something that will help you keep a leg up on the competition.

Create an Exceptional Client Experience

In his book What's the Future of Business, Brian Solis explains businesses that understand and appreciate the importance of providing an exemplary client experience and building relationships are the companies that will still be around in the next decade. Applying Solis's thoughts to the legal profession, I believe that lawyers who strive to create personal and memorable relationships with their clients are the lawyers who will thrive in the future.

Digital platforms and social media have created new expectations by your clients. Building trust and rapport with clients has never been more important. Creating quality relationships is a mandatory obligation of every single lawyer and team member in your office. Failing to do this on- and offline will guarantee your future irrelevance.

One hundred years ago, the average person had an attention span of about 20 minutes. Today, according to author and speaker Sally Hogshead, it's now about nine seconds, the same attention span of a goldfish. Lawyers who fail to immediately engage and blow away client expectations with exemplary service will find themselves substituted out of a case by a lawyer who is known for doing a great job and keeping clients happy. Eventually, because of how quickly word travels on social media, lawyers who don't appreciate the importance of the client experience will not have any clients to ignore in the first place.

Creating trust, rapport, and an exceptional client experience is something you can and should still do offline. I recommend that you use the online platforms to compliment this effort. However, if you're not comfortable with blogging and social media, you can still focus on your offline efforts and you'll be miles ahead of your competition.

So how can you do this? What's the best way to create the right customer experience? I'd start off with improving your people skills. You're in the business of helping people, so start treating your clients like they're the most important person in your life. Teach and show your staff how to do the same thing. Every conversation you have with a client should be focused on the client. Ask open-ended questions and listen more than you talk. Seek to understand and offer solutions. Have empathy. Smile when in person or talking to the client over the phone. It makes a difference.

Keep clients updated on their file. Return client phone calls and emails immediately. Send handwritten notes and even snapshots taken from your smartphone of their pleadings sitting on your desk or a short video of you walking into defense counsel's office to take a deposition. Get the client involved in his or her case. Use whatever tools you're comfortable with, but just make sure to get this done.

One of the things we've done over the past year is add a 24/7 private client portal (MyCase) to our cloud-based case management system. What this means is that clients can access their designated case documents and calendar events when it's convenient for them. They can upload and download documents to the case file and communicate with us through the portal. Great service is all about keeping the client informed and making access to a client's case easy. Lawyers not interested in using the Internet or social media can include a client portal without too much effort. This is something our clients really appreciate. Few lawyers know about cloud portals, much less use them. Now you do.


Whether they realize it or not, lawyers who are not using social media and technology are becoming irrelevant. If you're not building the right kind of digital footprint on the various online platforms, you're positioning yourself for failure. Just like the printing press and telegraph fell to the wayside long ago, eventually your practice will too if you fail to embrace the Internet and social media.

Having said that and for the time being (and I'm talking about only the next three to five years), you can make up for a lack of digital presence by providing an exemplary level of client service. You're in the business of helping human beings, and you'd be amazed at the relationships that can be created with clients who are treated like family instead of a case number.

Pay attention to your clients. Provide to them a quality of service substantially higher than what they expect. Use client portals to keep clients who do use the Internet informed and happy. Use your smartphone to shoot and send pics and short videos of activity on your client's file or have someone in the office do this for you. When communicating offline with a client, listen more than you talk and focus on (1) making it easy and convenient for the client, (2) keeping the client updated, (3) building trust and rapport, and (4) providing exceptional client service.

Doing these things when interacting with your clients will help you stand out in a very noisy legal world. Get your entire legal team to do the same thing and eventually incorporate social media into your practice and you'll be positioning yourself for amazing long-term success.

Keywords: litigation, solo practitioners, small firms, Internet, social media, client relationships, client experience, client portal

Mitch Jackson is with Jackson & Wilson in Laguna Hills, California.

Copyright © 2015, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).