FOR LAW FIRMS ON THE WEB? SPEAK OUT
Branded HTML E-mail
Law firms will eventually wake up to the reality that even the most impressive Web site is still a passive marketing vehicle—it must sit around waiting for clients to visit, sort of like artwork in a museum. With "branded" HTML e-mails, on the other hand, a firm can become proactive in its marketing efforts by regularly sending select "pieces" of its Web site, such as legal alerts, to clients—and then tracking in real-time, which clients opened and read the content delivered. It’s also worth considering that most clients check their e-mail several times a day, if not every five minutes. For all these reasons, I think branded HTML e-mails will soon emerge as a widely used "push" marketing tool for delivering valuable content directly to client desktops in a format that maximizes branding opportunities, reinforces a firm’s expertise and drives qualified traffic back to the primary Web site.
Joshua Fruchter (firstname.lastname@example.org) is President and co-founder of eLawMarketing, based in New York, a provider of branded e-mail services for law firms and bar associations. www.elawmarketing.com.
Weblogs, commonly called blogs, will become the de facto standard among law firms for sharing knowledge throughout the firm. These sites are exceedingly simple to learn, yet contain a remarkable sophistication in facilitating the capture, publication, archiving and distribution of—and collaboration around—critical information inside the firm. Unlike existing technologies, which are rigid and labor-intensive, blogs let users focus on simply annotating what they know. Sharing that information and distributing it to the right people is handled in the background. And by and large, it works. Firmwide blogs are in place today at the CIA, Fortune 1000 companies and academia. Individual blogs have already taken off among lawyers, with partners, tenured professors and senior technologists all sharing their observations on a daily basis. But the real value to the legal profession will be when firms commit to the internal capturing and sharing of information. Two years from now, I predict we will be surprised when we hear a firm is not using a firmwide blog to manage information.
Rick Klau (email@example.com) is Vice President of Vertical Markets at Interface Software, Inc., in Oakbrook, IL, and co-author of The Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing on the Internet, 2nd ed. (ABA, 2002). www.rklau.com/tins.
Lawyers as Media Outlets
Gregory H. Siskind
Lawyers are increasingly realizing that the Web as a publishing mechanism has allowed millions of people around the world to become their own media outlets. But no matter how much time and money a firm spends publicizing its site, many people will never find it. Now, more and more firms are learning that they can leverage the effort they spend developing their site content by getting third-party Web sites to republish their articles. For example, I serve as the immigration law expert for Monster.com and, in addition to hosting a Q & A forum each week, I submit articles for publication on this site regularly.
Lawyer Web sites will also begin to incorporate chat features that allow one-on-one real-time conversations with clients across the world. Many potential clients are too intimidated to pick up the telephone, but want to have a real conversation rather than rely on e-mail. Furthermore, lawyers and clients will have written transcripts of conversations that could later prove helpful in ensuring that everyone is reading from the same page.
Greg Siskind (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a principal of Siskind, Susser, Haas & Devine in Cordova, TN, and co-author of The Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing on the Internet, 2nd ed. (ABA, 2002).
Kent M. Zimmerman
The most important Web trend is that the concept of a stand-alone site is disappearing. Web sites, intranets and extranets are deeply integrating with one another. At the same time, other existing systems (CRM, DM, HR, finance and so on) are increasingly key to the general health of law firm IT architectures. For example, there is the ability to have updated, highly accessible and searchable lawyer experience, representative matters, contact information and relationship history in an integrated intranet portal—in which meaningful relationships between data from disparate systems are combined with carefully developed business rules. This ability is giving a major competitive advantage, on the business development front, to firms that are investing in their Web applications. Kirkland & Ellis is a prime example of a firm successfully taking this approach with its intranet portal, K&E Connect. It may not sound as sexy as the front-end creative work, but putting a solid application framework in place before focusing on the presentation layer is key to maximizing the value of your Web applications.
Kent M. Zimmerman (email@example.com) is Vice President of Hubbard One, a Web site developer for law firms, based in Chicago.
John C. Tredennick, Jr.
"Paperless, right." I see you shaking your head, but bear with me. It is happening and will continue to happen. Solos, small firms and even some larger firms are routinely scanning documents—letters, memos, pleadings and deal drafts (that don’t come in digital form in the first place). In the next few years, we’ll all do it. It just makes sense. Early adopters are storing the scanned images as Adobe Acrobat documents. They access their files through shared folders on a hard drive or in document management databases. They like the fact that their files are accessible from their desks at the click of a mouse. Rather than faxing or express-mailing documents, they e-mail them to their clients.
Secure Internet repositories are the natural home for these documents, along with their electronic counterparts. Files will become accessible from home, the road and even the courtroom. Warehouses of paper will be full-text searchable. Teams of lawyers and clients will be able to work on common files together. We never thought that books would go, but libraries are quickly disappearing. Paper files will be the next to go. If you don’t think that’ll be a marketing edge … you’re nuts.
John C. Tredennick, Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org), is Chair of the ABA Law Practice Management Section, a partner at Holland & Hart and CEO of CaseShare Systems,LLC, an Internet company.
A few firms (mainly in London and Sydney) are gambling on a future built on commoditized legal services delivered through Web-enabled technology. The investment is huge, the payback uncertain. Few North American firms have the appetite or the imagination for such investments. Yet the Internet I see is not just the shop window through which potential clients view our wares. It is becoming the entire enterprise. Firms that are experimenting with portals as ways to organize practices sense this. Firms that build extranets are eliminating barriers between clients and lawyers. It is no greater leap than we have made to date to see that the Internet may become our operating system, our way of talking to one another and, ultimately, our primary way of delivering professional services. Our work in advising clients and persuading judges will be through enriched documents that exist on the Internet of the future.
Living, working and communicating in markup languages. Embracing the Internet as the backbone of the enterprise. Rethinking client service around Internet paradigms. Pity that your pretty but passive marketing-focused site is history. Welcome to the law firm of your children.
Simon Chester (email@example.com) is a partner in the KNOWlaw Group at Toronto’s McMillan Binch.