Law firms may want to invest more in marketing individual lawyers, versus practice groups and the law firm as whole.

Pursuant to the latest GC Excellence Report, an individual lawyer’s reputation ranks first by general counsel in selecting a law firm. And it’s by an almost ten to one margin over the importance of a law firm’s brand.

From the Global Legal Post reporting on the study:

The reputation of the individual is the single most important factor when deciding which law firm to use, according to the latest benchmarking research. Three in four general counsel (74 per cent) say this was the top factor when selecting a law firm compared to 39 per cent who opted for price. It is the first time in the GC Excellence Benchmark report research, which has been conducted over five years, that reputation has topped the bill.

Personal relationships and reputation eclipsed law firm brands and global presence, items firms appear to be emphasize in their marketing and business development efforts.

The research, conducted in association with TerraLex, revealed that both the individual and team reputation scored high above that of the firm’s brand as the most important factor – only seven per cent chose the law firm brand as important whilst 61 per cent valued the reputation of the law firm. Clients were less impressed with a global presence with only 18 per cent valuing this, down from 22 per cent two years ago whilst personal relationships with the external team was valued by 40 per cent.

It may be a challenge for firms to set individual lawyers apart, but it’s becoming increasingly important.

The cult of the individual has been growing in recent years, according to PR strategist Geraldine McGrory of McGrory Communications. She pointed out that personal profile was now a key differentiator for private practice lawyers and taking steps to ensure they were seen to be top of their league was key. It presented a challenge for law firms, however, as developing a firmwide brand and managing individual profiles had to be carefully handled. She said this meant law firms had to reassess how they dealt with both to maximise the R-Factor.

It’s long been said that people pick lawyers, not law firms. This study seems to confirm that in the case of general counsel.

Also important to note is that a lawyer with a strong reputation may not be as suspecptible to pressure on price. The study found reputaton being more important than price for general counsel – by about a two to one margin.

With the Internet — blogging and social media — acting as accelerators of reputation and relationship growth, an investment in marketing/business development here could be a wise move for individual lawyers and their law firms, on behalf of individual lawyers.

ALM (p/k/a American Lawyer Media) upgraded the user interface of its digital publications this week.

From Gina Passarella, the Executive Editor of The American Lawyer:

Our improvements will deliver the same breaking news and in-depth analysis of core U.S. and international business of law trends, but in a more visually appealing, intuitive and user-friendly fashion.

The new design, including the vastly improved mobile experience, puts all of ALM’s news at your fingertips. You can still start your day at The American Lawyer but also easily access ALM’s broader offerings across publications, topics and geographies.

And from Zach Warren, Editor In Chief of LegalTech News:

Just like many of the legal technologies out there, we decided to do our own user interface upgrade, and we hope that the result is a more reliable, streamlined, and ultimately enjoyable experience. If you’re browsing on the Web, you’ll notice a more up-to-date looking home page and intuitive taxonomy, which allows for easier navigation to get to the types of articles you want. And if you’re browsing on mobile, as so many of our readers do, then you’ll get the same upgraded experience with a brand new, from-the-ground-up mobile site.

ALM has about twenty legal publications that are curated into the law.com site. I believe each of the publications ran on separate sites and separate domains until now. Each publication is now running on the law.com domain – though the user experience may not be effected by that as each publication is running as folder or subdirectory, ie, www.law.com/legaltechnews and the RSS feeds remain separate.

In addition to the interface, it appears ALM is going to blend news from its sister publications into other sister publications – or least make it easier to navigate the curated news on law.com. From Passarella:

Our reporters and editors talk to lawyers every day. We know it’s more vital than ever that you stay abreast of developments across multiple areas of interest in addition to business of law, including your practice areas, industry developments, your local professional community and your professional networks.

A lawyer who practices IP law as a partner at a large firm in New York needs to know what’s happening in Texas courts–and Texas Lawyer can provide that. That IP practitioner will also want the latest on big IP cases before judges in Delaware or California or at the Federal Circuit–so easy access to Delaware Law Weekly or The Recorder is helpful. Readers also benefit from insight into how other large firms are handling rate pressure, or the evolving thinking around compensation practices, topics we at The American Lawyer explore daily. The new law.com platform makes navigating all of those areas of interest easy and intuitive while still allowing you to keep The American Lawyer accessible and better than ever on mobile and your desktop.

ALM hasn’t said whether they’ve upgraded or changed their publishing platforn.

Pages do appear to be loading faster, both directly and on my news aggregator, Feedly (I subscribe to a feed of all publications through law.com). If so, that’ll make for a much improved user experience. I have been frustrated by slow load times to the point that I often just skip reading and sharing stories from ALM reporters. Improved speed would also make for an improved user experience for viewing ALM stories shared on social media.

No question the mobile interface is a big improvement. Some quirks remain with the “responsive breaks” on my iPhone being off on images, borders and some ad presentation. My guess is they’ll be worked out.

I’m not sure who runs products and tech at ALM. It would be interesting to getting their take on the upgrades and what they’re continuing to work on. Also makes for good social media dialogue with users.

Despite all the money law firms spend on Internet marketing, more people choose a lawyer by a referral from a friend, relative or another lawyer than any other method. By far.

This from the 2017 Legal Trends Report, just released by Clio, a leading practice management solution provider.

When it comes to looking for a lawyer, consumers indicated that they sought referrals from friends/family (62%) and from other lawyers (31%). Online search (37%) and directory listings (28%) trailed. TV ads (13%), online ads (13%), radio ads (7%), and billboard ads (6%) had a much lower influence among respondents.

How do consumer find a lawyer?

Clio releases its annual Legal Trends Report to help lawyers make smart decisions about the future of their practice. Using anonymized data from 60,000 users, supplemented by large-scale surveys, Clio was able to make numerous findings, including where lawyers spend their time and where their concerns lie.

Business development, for lawyers, is the near the top of the list on both fronts. 33% of lawyers’ non-billable time is spent on business development. 41% of lawyers said they would spend even more time, if they had it, getting clients.

While data has become the world’s most valuable commodity, lawyers make their decisions in the dark. Lawyers go with what they think versus what they should know, based on data. Often it’s just “do what other lawyers do.”

Client procurement fits that mold perfectly. Survey results showed that 54% of law firms actively advertise to acquire new clients, yet 91% of firms can’t calculate a return on their advertising investments, and 94% don’t know how much it costs them to acquire a new client.

The data also shows that advertising is not the best use of a lawyers money – whether the ad is online or offline. Putting time and money into generating referrals is what the data shows lawyers should be doing.

Fortunately for lawyers, the Internet enhances a lawyer’s ability to get referrals from friends, family, business associates and fellow lawyers. Referrals are all about relationships and having a strong reputation. The Internet accelerates relationships and the building of a name.

Lawyers have the time for business development. 33% of their non-billable time is going into getting clients. The problem lies in spending their time doing the right thing.

Lawyers need to move away from promoting themselves on the Internet. That’s advertising.

Lawyers need to put their time into networking online. Think listening to the online discussion/writing of their target audience, including influencers and engaging that audience where they gather.

This comes from using a news aggregator or Twitter for listening, a blog for engaging in the “conversation,” and the use of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for further engagement and networking.

Sure, it takes time to learn how to blog and use social media, effectively. It takes even more time to do it.

But it’s time lawyers actually have, according to the Legal Trends Report. A third of a lawyers non-billable time is going into client procurement.

It’s data that’s been lacking. Lawyers put their time and money into things that don’t work and have no idea how much time it cost them to acquire a new client.

No more. With the Legal Trends Report, lawyers know that their time is best spent in activities that generate referals.

With the Internet, that means building relationships and a name through blogging and social media.

I’m headed back to the Midwest this week to speak to another law school class. I have to tell you, nothing gets me more jazzed than speaking to law students about the opportunities they have to use the net to learn, network and build a name.

Little question that some law school students are using social media and blogging to build a name for themselves. I shared the stories of a few law grads a couple weeks ago.

But how many law students are blogging and using social media for learning? How many law professors and law schools are promoting its use for learning?

Sadly, not many — and that’s a loss for the students and possible malfeasance on a law school’s part for failing to do so.

ZDNet’s Dion Hinchcliffe recently reported that though technology has long been used to improve how we learn, today’s digital advances, particularly with social media, have taken learning in a powerful new direction.

[The digitization of learning] allows learning — for better or worse, depending on the critic — to be far more situational, on-demand, self-directed, infinitely customized, even outright enjoyable, depending on the user experience, all of which leads to more profound engagement of learners.

In addition, the rise of social networking technology has allowed people with similar learning interests to come together as a group to share knowledge on a subject — and perhaps even more significantly — to express their passion for an area of learning. This can create deeper, more intense, and more immersive educational experiences within a community of like-minded learners.

“Social learning” is more than theory, the use of digital platforms and social networks to bring together communities has proven to work.

The early numbers from social learning make interesting reading. Initial studies have shown that there’s as much as a 75:1 return-on-investment (ROI) ratio for the approach compared to traditional Web-based education. As a result of such insights, this year fully 73% of organizations are planning on increasing their investments in social learning.

How would social learning work in law schools? What media would be used?

  • First recognizing that social will not be for everyone. People learn and teach in different ways.
  • Get students and professors using, for learning, the social media that are readily available and already being used, en masse, by the public.
  • Create a first year class on the use of social media and blogging, just as legal writing and research are taught. Social media, in addition to building a name, enables students to learn from a nationwide network of students, law professors and practicing lawyers. Make sure the professor or teacher — maybe they come from tech or the law library — are credible users of social media and have had personal success in social learning.
  • Teach Feedly as a news aggregator for following sources and subjects, blogging on WordPress (already used by 70% of content management systems), Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Most law students, law professors, law school administrators and lawyers using these media have not a clue what they are doing and have a poor experience as a result.
  • Cover the big picture of what blogging and social media are all about — listening, engaging, relationships, sharing insight, building a network — not search rankings, self promotion, noise, and followers.
  • Review the concept of algorithms and influence. The more you use social media the more valuable it becomes as a network’s algorithms surface information and people who will add value to your life — advertisements and junk are eliminated.
  • Have a social media “resource desk” where students and professors can get ongoing information and questions answered. Maybe it’s part of the library reference desk.
  • Get the faculty and law school leadership using blogs and social media for dissemination of information and engagement with students.

These are my thoughts. Law schools will know more about the ins and outs of what can work for teaching and on-boarding a social learning program. Schools will differ in what will work best for them.

After speaking with authorities, Hinchcliffe suggests organizations lay a foundation for social learning. In the case of law schools, a foundation means creating a positive environment for social media and blogging.

Do professors and the dean use social media? Are they demonstrating, by example, that social is important for learning and networking.

In many cases not only are these folks not using social, they’re scaring students from using social. “Writing unedited content is danergous. Blogging is not professional. Everything you put on the net will remain there forever. Divide your personal lives from your professional lives as a lawyer doesn’t let people know them personally.”

If the law school’s dean and influential professors aren’t on board, forget it. And if they’re not, you have to ask yourself whether they’re fit for the job.

No one is expecting every dean and professor to start rampant blogging and social networking. But an acknowledgement that the stuff is legit and represents a learning opportunity for students is key. Better yet, they should learn social themselves through a little trial and error.

In 2012, the CEO of Mayo Clinic, calling social media not an option but a requirement, launched the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media to coordinate and focus the Clinic’s various social media initiatives for among, other things, the education of patients, students and employees (doctors and in-house counsel included).

The healthcare industry, which was facing a world of problems, and the clinics employees were skeptical — to say the least. The doctors and lawyers at Mayo Clinic weren’t social media users, let alone users for professional purposes.

Mayo now dominates social in medicine. Their patients, students and employees are learning more and are more engaged — through their personal and professional use of social media.

Change takes time, but law schools and law school deans need to say, “Yes. Social learning is important. Social is something we need to learn and something we need to teach.”

Students — and professors are owed it.

The much-anticipated Clio Cloud Conference kicks off on Monday in New Orleans. As an official media partner, LexBlog used the week leading up to the conference to shine a light on some of the speakers for the event. We were even fortunate enough to feature guest posts from Clio employees who offered unique insights on the company, and the Clio Cloud Conference. Below you’ll find links to all these features, as well as links to connect with each of the speakers.

An interview with Haben Girma, a disability rights advocate and the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School. She’ll be giving the opening keynote speech on Tuesday morning, and can follow her on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

An interview with Doug Edmonds, the Assistant Dean of IT for University of North Carolina School of Law. He will be speaking on Tuesday with Andrea Stevenson, Mirriam Seddiq, and Chris Heslinga on “Access to Justice: Technology and the Justice Gap.” You can follow him on Twitter @doug_edmonds and on Linkedin.

A guest post from Erin Hall, a Customer Support Specialist at Clio. Erin will be speaking on Monday from 3:30-4:50 in Bolden 1, on “Staying Sane and Keeping your Firm on Track.” You can find her on Twitter @eriinh and on Linkedin.

An interview with Nicole Abboud, the founder of the Generation Why Lawyer podcast and Abboud Media. Abboud will be speaking on Monday from 11-11:30 in Empire Ballroom D on “Millenials: Understanding Your New Clients and Colleagues for Law Firm Growth.” You can follow her on Twitter @nicoleabboud and on Linkedin.

A guest post from Andrew Gay, Clio’s Manager of Strategic Partnerships. He’ll be running a workshop from 1:50-3:30 on Monday in Bolden 6, for Clio Certified Consultants. You can find him on Twitter @ahlgay and Linkedin.

An interview with Andrea Evans, an attorney who runs her own intellectual property law practice. She will be speaking on Monday from 3-3:30 in Empire Ballroom A & B, on “The ‘Refrigerator’ Social Media Method: Cool, Modern & Connected.” You can contact Andrea through her website, or on Facebook or Twitter.

A guest post from Joshua Lenon, Clio’s Lawyer in Residence. He will be speaking with Joshua Browder on Monday in Empire Ballroom D on “Innovation in Legal Tech: The Chatbot Revolution.” You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaLenon or connect with him on Linkedin.

 

Twenty years ago, I terminated my firm’s Westlaw subscription and outsourced our legal research. How so? Law clerks attending law school whom I met on AOL message boards.

A clerk did the research, using free Westlaw, drafted a motion, memorandum or brief, forwarded it to my assistant to be put on a case caption and reviewed by my associate.

In a contingency fee case, a big savings of time for us. My associate could work on more valuable things. On hourly work, clients got a bill for a clerk’s time at $40 an hour while we paid them $15 an hour. Clients loved the savings and the innovation.

Without the Internet and a willingness to be different, none of that would have been possible.

Now I hear that a friend of mine, Attorney Steve Embry is doing a little bit of the same — except on a much larger scale that is likely to have a lasting effect on large law.

For years, law firms have defended mass torts the same way. Put an experienced mass torts lawyer on the case to lead strategy and execution and have legions of younger lawyers and in house staff do most of the work.

By leveraging the hourly rate, the defense of mass torts became wildly profitable for law firms, while terribly expensive for clients.

I should have known that Embry was onto something different when I first met him hanging out at legal tech and innovation conferences, even conferences dedicated to small law. You don’t see guys from large law (Frost Brown Todd) who have been defending mass tort cases for years at these conferences.

Embry was in fact out noodling on ways to be innovative in the defense of mass tort claims.

The problem with how mass torts have historically been defended is that, while the client can get great value and a great defense where there is an experienced lawyer engaged in what he or she does best, that is such things as strategy, handling and creating joint defenses, negotiations and even trial, most of the underlying work has been done by those who frankly are over qualified for what they are doing. There are better and cheaper ways to get most of the work required by mass tort cases done.

The answer, talking to Embry, is unbundling services. Unbundling legal services can be a dirty word to some bar associations and regulators, who would like to require a lawyer do all the work from beginning to end – and perhaps maintain the lawyer mononopoly while limiting services.

But Embry believes that the work in a mass tort case can be “unbundled” so that much of the commodity type work is done by alternative legal service providers at flat fees. The more creative work is best done by a seasoned lawyer.

To make this work — and get over any unbundling issue, Embry says that the lawyer must remain in charge of and responsible for all the work and that there needs to be a partnership between the lawyer and any service providers.

The lawyer and the insurance provider have to trust each other, work together and have each other’s back. This can only be done on if there is a long term relationship between the two.

Embry is now walking the talk, something most lawyers would be scared to death to do. He reached out to Elevate, an alternative legal service provider employing lawyers, engineers, technology and medical professionals to study the idea. If viable, Embry wants them to help propose it to insurance carriers.

Elevate suggested getting my friend (small world) Dan Linna, a law professor and director of LegalRnD at Michigan State University College of Law, involved. Elevate had worked with Linna and LegalRnD on other projects over the past few years and Embry was familiar with Linna through legal tech events.

Linna likes the idea – and sees it as a bit of self preservation for large law.

Law firms need to proactively work with clients to disaggregate legal matters. Why wait for clients to disaggregate matters and tell you, the law firm, what’s left for you—if they keep you around? Law firms need to demonstrate how they can provide greater value to clients. Greater value goes well beyond efficiency and lower costs. By creating a culture of innovation and continuous improvement, improving processes, getting the right people doing the right tasks, becoming data driven, and embracing technology, law firms can improve work quality and obtain better substantive outcomes.

Linna’s a bit like author, speaker and adviser, Richard Susskind, who finds it hard to convince a room full of people making a million dollars a year that they have a problem that needs correcting.

Most law firms cannot get beyond short-term thinking. They’re get stuck on the idea that improving legal-service delivery likely means less revenue in the short term. But they’re missing opportunities to become more profitable while at the same time generating greater value for clients. Going down this path strengthens relationships with existing clients and creates opportunities for law firms to differentiate themselves. It positions them to land more work and develop new ways in which to provide value for clients.

The team has already secured the agreement of one of Embry’s insurance carrier clients. The carrier is intrigued by Embry’s approach and is looking to be a case study that Linna will do so that differences in results and costs can be measured.

As he should be, Embry’s optimistic.

I think we will find that the case could be handled just as well if not better and the transactional cost less using this model.

The group recently spent a day at Frost Brown with lawyers, paralegals and other professionals to map out getting work to the right people, improving processes, using data, and implementing technology. Linna tells me that rather than being defensive and territorial about the work, as I have personally seen in large tort claims with multiple parties, the group realized the benefits of collaborating to identify opportunities to improve the value provided to clients.

Embry was concerned his firm would see this approach as a threat, the firm acknowledges it as the new reality.

The practice of law is changing. While clients don’t mind paying for bespoke work, they are no longer willing to pay top dollar for commodity work that can be done cheaper someplace else. If we don’t accept that reality and try to meet our client’s needs, we risk losing the whole ball of wax.

Embry’s firm may have less work in the short run. But Embry believes that clients will see the benefit of the model and engage him and Frost Brown for future work.

Now we just need to have Embry out blogging what he’s learning and doing along the way — soon.

We’re all familiar with Michigan State University’s athletic prowess. As a Notre Dame graduate, I’ve seen on TV any number of football losses at East Lansing. Basketball Coach Tom Izzo has kept the Spartans near the top nationally for what seems like twenty years.

Michigan State’s Law School though, which I am sure has received national recognition in the past, has not been discussed historically with the likes of Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Michigan.

No longer. The Spartans are getting known, and known in a big way for their law graduates who have harnessed the power of the Internet to learn, to network and to build a name for themselves.

Law firms and other organizations are seeking out Michigan State grads because of what they have learned on the innovation and technology front – and in a good number of cases seeking out particular law students and offering them jobs.

You got it. Students and law grads being offered jobs by companies and firms seeking them out. Not students and grads applying for jobs as is the customary way students are taught it’s done.

What happened?

The law school recognized what the rest of the country knew. The Internet was a powerful tool for learning and networking – and that everyone and their brother was using it. Why not a law school’s students?

First there was ReInvent Law (video channel in absence of site) launched by then Michigan State Law professors, Dan Katz and Renee Knake. When you put on conferences featuring legal innovators in Chicago, Palo Alto, New York City and London, folks take notice. Especially when you’re selling out large venues packed with practicing lawyers, legal tech executives, law students and law professors.

Then Dan Linna left nine years of large law practice to become Assistant Dean for Career Development and a professor at MSU Law, along with serving as an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan Law School.

Without putting words in Linna’s mouth, he saw what was bubbling up at MSU Law. An opportunity to expand the curriculum to include the business of law in ways not taught before – the use of technology, innovation, project management and lean business processes to change the way legal services are delivered by major law firms.

You add guys such as Ken Grady as an adjunct professor and now a full time professor, and you have a real force. Grady, who’s known internationally, in large part through blogging and social media, for transformation in legal and has worked as general counsel, large law partner and CEO of SeyfarthLean.

About this time MSU Law students started using the Internet. Blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, About.me and Facebook, all on professional matters. These kids were bringing it.

So much so that MSU Law students starting citing my blog and sharing items I posted to Twitter. As a result, I heard them and got to know them – from 2,000 miles away. I started spreading the word, online and offline. Other influencers did the same.

These students invited me back to East Lansing to share my thoughts on blogging and social media – as well as to judge a social media contest the law school was conducting for students.

I went. What an incredible afternoon, I was welcomed and introduced by then Dean, Joan Howarth.

I discovered that social media and blogging was not only taught at the law school, but that students needed to use what they learned over a semester or more. The contest was an opportunity to share the results – not just a beauty contest with followers, but in internships gained and invitations to speak in San Francisco.

I asked Dean Howarth, “Why? How?” She said what else was she to do, stand by and watch what was happening to law grads and law students. Howarth, who had yet develop her Facebook prowess (came with her attending a day long MSU Law social media bootcamp), empowered change and the use of social media – as a gift to the law school and its students – whether she knew it or not.

I was at a legal technology meetup earlier this year when a lawyer heard me talking about Michigan State’s tech, innovation and social media bent. He said that his firm, a large one, looks for Michigan State grads because of exactly that.

More powerful than MSU Law’s reputation, or maybe the cause of its reputation, is its students’ use of social media itself.

Pat Ellis, who graduated two or three years ago, landed a job on graduation at the second largest law firm in Detroit, in part because of his blogging and social media use.

Ellis left within two years to accept another opportunity. Someone suggested to him on Twitter that he apply for a position with the general counsel’s office at General Motors. He got the job.

I met Ellis on Twitter, as then, @spartylegal, and via his blogging. I had the pleasure of joining him in a presentation to MSU Law students, with Dean Howarth and faculty attending.

Ellis advised students that what they thought was important no longer was. A tier one law school, top grades and law review were no longer what separated you from others. The Internet enabled students to blog, with posts seen in a day by a law professor across the country, versus never for a law review article. Social media democratized things for the little guy. Opportunities awaited, per Ellis.

Ellis is not alone.

Irene Mo, a recent MSU Law graduate took innovation classes, participated in blogging and social media bootcamps at the school and served as an innovation assistant for the school’s LegalRnD program.

She’s now an ABA Innovation Fellow developing tools to reduce privacy and data security risks for low-income people. An associate position at a leading Chicago privacy and security law firm awaits – this based on MO’s Twitter exchanges with the managing partner.

Samir Patel came to MSU Law planning to be a sports agent – and why not, with the Spartan’s athletic prowess. But he attended a MSU Law social media bootcamp.

One thing led to another and Patel was clerking for a leading blockchain law firm in London because of identifying a niche he could get after with Twitter and blogging – the use of blockchain in professional athletes’ contracts. Patel didn’t ask for the clerkship, the firm asked him on Twitter.

Then, it turned out that someone Patel was interacting with on Twitter was a practice group lead at Holland & Knight. Patel, who just graduated, is joining Holland & Knight in Miami as a result.

Linna has brought real structure to it all launching, two years ago, LegalRnD, MSU Law’s Center for Legal Services Innovation.

LegalRnD is dedicated to improving legal-service delivery and access across the legal industry. It accomplishes this through research and development of efficient, high-quality legal-service delivery tools and systems — heavily relying on the net and social media/blogging for learning and networking.

LegalRnD brings together professionals from a broad range of disciplines. Students are trained in established business concepts and study them with partners, including: legal aid organizations, solo practitioners, corporate legal departments, law firms, courts, and entire justice systems.

Its curriculam, harnessing the powers of networking through the net via blogging and social media, covers:

  • Artificial intelligence & law
  • Delivering legal services, the new landscape
  • Quantitative analysis for lawyers
  • Information privacy and security
  • Litigation data and process
  • Entrepreneurial lawyering

Young people choose law schools for a whole lot of reasons. Usually based on the school’s name and rank.

If I am looking to understand what’s possible, achieve extraordinary things and have employers ask me if I want to work for them in areas of interest to me — all because I’ve learned to used the Internet to learn, network and build a name I’m looking for a law school which can deliver on that front.

MSU Law ranks number one in that poll.

In the last week I’ve had exchanges with a couple law schools that made me wonder how serious law schools take professional development of their students.

I’m basing this on my belief that a law student’s understanding of how to blog and use social media to build a name and network is serious stuff. As they used to say, “as serious as a heart attack.”

In one case, a law school was appproached a year ago by one of the their law students suggesting the school hold a social media bootcamp for law students. The student who had good success using the net for learning, networking and building a name wanted to learn more — and wanted to help his fellow students.

The student, who would organize it, was told that things were awfully busy at the school and maybe it could be discussed in the spring. Nothing happened.

I approached the school earlier this year, was told the idea sounded good. When I heard nothing, I emailed back and like the student last year, was told things were awfully busy this fall, let’s look at the spring.

I can take the hint that we don’t value helping our students, professionally. Or, just as bad, we don’t take seriously learning how we can better help our students, professionally — we’re going to do what we have always done.

The second exchange, and actually much more positive, came when it was explained to me that the law school is pushing social media but is meeting resistence with students who question its value.

The problem may come when you begin by pairing up students and asking each student to look at the problems that may be presented by their follow students Internet identity. The focus rather than what’s great and what can be done is “let’s look at where you can get in trouble.” I can imagine skiing lessons starting with how you are likely to tear your ACL.

Rather than look at trouble, why not begin with the positives and tell students that there probably isn’t a lawyer a year, out of the million of them, who gets into trouble, professionally through the use of social media and blogging. And that there are lawyers coast to coast who are building careers and practices from social media.

Tell law students where they can go by using social media now. Tell them of Pat Ellis, three years out of law school, who is now reporting to the General Motors GC — because of blogging and using Twitter while in law school.

Every student has a networking machine in their pocket. Introvert or extrovert, I bet 99% of your incoming 1L’s use Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook for networking with friends and relatives. They just need a little guidance as to using this machine for learning, networking and building a name.

If you, as a law school, don’t know how it’s done, you just have to care enough to find out how — and to find out today. Otherwise what are you going to tell your students struggling to get a job, we’ll start trying to help you next Spring or the Spring after.

People today communicate via social media. It’s where they get their news, information and damn near everything else. It’s where people build relationships – over two billion people use Facebook.

At least as much time, if not more, should be put into teaching students how to use the net to build a name and to network than into getting firms into the law school for interviews, clerking opportunities and postings for postitions students are supposed to send off a resume. Knowing how to use the Internet is much more likely to help students — and unquestionably, more students.

The second exchange was much more positive as I am headed out to that law school next week. ;) Like with other law schools, I’m getting calls from out the blue to visit and talk with the students. I’m no savior, the schools need to have programs teaching the stuff and I’ll only vist a dozen schools a year.

I’m just afraid there are many law schools who are not taking professional development seriously.

As reported by the ABA Journal’s Debra Cassens Weiss, another large law firm is laying off a number of administrative staffers as it changes its staffing model.

Apparently this is nothing new as a survey (PDF) by law firm consultant, Altman Weil found that forty-eight percent of law firm leaders are cutting staff to increase profits.

Taking the firms at their word, layoffs are often coming from increased efficiencies and modernization. I’m sure in other cases staff layoffs are coming for exactly the opposite reason – a lack of efficiency, tech advancements and innovation.

In any case, I wonder what companies selling services and products are doing to help law firms on the cost front.

After all, these companies should have declining costs with innovation and efficiencies, in large part driven by their own technology. As a result, their costs of production and their own staff needs may be declining.

By turning the design and development into a “software” driven system (SAAS), we have been able to decrease production time on “sites” to about twenty percent of what many of them used to be. This also reduces staff time that used to be tied up in more project management.

As a result, we have reduced costs significantly, and in turn prices. We are now working on some things to further automate what we do, not to reduce the quality of what we deliver, but to deliver better solutions to customers in ways that they expect it and want it.

It’s not always easy to “right size” pricing when it means decreasing prices, but it’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also sound business. It turns out that many customers want levels of “concierge” service that command higher pricing.

For law firms, I’d be looking at how innovate your service and solution providers are. What are they doing with technology to bring innovation and efficiencies? Is the technology they are using today and the people working on it likely to drive greater value, while at the same time lower prices — or at least right sized pricing for what you want and need?

Times are a changing dramatically. Technology and innovation doesn’t wait for anyone. Law firms are going to see continued cuts because of multiple factors — some driven internally by innovation and some driven externally by their clients and the way people use lawyers.

Service and solution providers should feel the same pressure as law firms – the answer is innovation to bring better services and solutions at reduced costs.

Are you focused on the easy numbers (clicks, views, likes) when it comes to Internet marketing?

Rather than focusing on something easy, widely respected marketer, author and speaker, Seth Godin suggests that you ask:

What is it that you hope to accomplish? Not what you hope to measure as a result of this social media strategy/launch, but to actually change, create or build?

Focus on the real goal – where do you want to be at at the end of the day – not on numbers.

An easy but inaccurate measurement will only distract you. It might be easy to calibrate, arbitrary and do-able, but is that the purpose of your work?

I know that there’s a long history of a certain metric being a stand-in for what you really want, but perhaps that metric, even though it’s tried, might not be true. Perhaps those clicks, views, likes and groups are only there because they’re easy, not relevant.

Law firm business development and marketing will always be measured by growth in business.

  • What business have we retained from existing clients?
  • What new business have we realized from existing clients?
  • What business have we realized from new clients?
  • What business have we gleaned from new industries or areas of law we have not worked in before but developed a strategic plan to get after?

These goals can be and are measured by the bottom line, revenue. Lawyers developing business do not have a hard time knowing where their business is coming from.

Rightfully so, law firms and lawyers use blogs and other social media, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. These mediums, used effectively, build relationships and build a name, the two linchpins of business development in law.

However, lawyers and law firms take the easy way out in measuring success. They look at analytics – subscribers, web traffic, followers, connections, likes and comments.

Analytics are the golden calf worshipped by marketers and lawyers spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on websites and other Internet marketing. It’s as if their budgets and jobs depend on these numbers.

Every law firm claims to be different, while all focused on the same metrics. From Seth:

“System innovations almost always involve rejecting the standard metrics as a first step in making a difference. When you measure the same metrics, you’re likely to create the same outcomes. But if you can see past the metrics to the results, it’s possible to change the status quo.”

No question there are lawyers and a few law firms measuring the difficult — and the real goal, but sadly too many measure the easy numbers.