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My Avvo Talk: 6 Start-Up Tech Trends That Start-Up Lawyers Need to Connect With Clients

by Carolyn Elefant on May 10, 2012 · 3 comments

in Marketing & Making Money, MyShingle Solo, Trends

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I’ve uploaded my slide deck from my talk at Avvocating Avvo presentation (with some glitches in the translation) – and you can see my slides (hopefully in better format) and those by the other speakers at Avvo’s Lawyer-nomics Blog. Videos will go up over the next few weeks as well.

Unlike many speakers who do the same drill over and over, I like to shake things up with new content. Keeps things interesting, but the challenge is to come up with new content , create the presentation in timely fashion and leave enough time to practice since you can’t just deliver on auto-pilot. All things considered, I think my talk went well and now that I have the material, I’m interested in other opportunities to present the material.

But at least, let me summarize my key points here. As I’ve said many times, I’m not a marketer. I don’t want someone telling me, nor do I want to tell others, what to do; I’m more interested in why certain techniques work. So in reflecting on many of the ways that I find clients, I realized that they are — not surprisingly — consistent with many of the trends we see in the techno-start-up world. And so, I described six tech trends that apply to lawyer marketing which is, honestly, TMI for a 50 minute talk, but what the heck – I’m a fast talker!

You’ll have to watch my opening (which involves a power strip) on video. But my presentation begins with a brief history of the web and how we’ve gone from the days where eyeballs and traffic mattered to web 2.0, characterized by customization, content and connection. That transition away from the static web, to one based on social media and mobile apps is important to understand to create and maintain an effective online presence.

Briefly the six trends, and examples are:

Search to Discovery Pinterest, of course, is the example of the increased desire to discover rather than search online. I’ve written about that topic before and expanded on it in my presentation, discussing ways to be discovered (ebooks and yes, ratings systems).

App-ification of Law Practice OK, so I know that I didn’t originate the concept of niche practice. But it’s one I’ve been discussing for years and now every solo guru is following suit. Since I hate to be part of the crowd, I’ve re-branded the niche as the app-ification of law practice. After all, what are apps – a program that does one thing really well, just like a niche lawyer. The limitations of apps aren’t deterring consumers from buying them; in fact, they’re loving the flexibility of being able to pick and choose a suite of tools. So consumers are accustomed to lawyers who can be an ideal fit and don’t mind going to several different shops to meet their needs.

Affiliated distribution/integration and FB Connect These days, you can sign up for the NYT for Facebook, or log in with Google to comment on blogs. The integration benefits both parties in the transaction – FB or Google become even more ubiquitous while other businesses can tap into those superstars’ pre-made community and tools. Yet in law, we hardly ever see solos of different practice areas co-marketing or even more rare, lawyers and non-lawyers teaming up. One of my most productive relationships has been my work with area lobbyists; we frequently team up on projects (no, we don’t split fees) or refer cases back and forth.

Freemium I’ve done a talk on this entire topic – essentially, the premise is that consumers are accustomed to services of great value, like Google, FB, Youtube et. al. being available for nothing. So how do you explain that lawyers need to get paid? My view is that you give away even more. Not saying to offer free consults (lawyers are so unimaginative that’s the only thing they can think of that might be free) – but free forms (that are already available online) and free educational content so that prospects will be ready to pay once they need you.

Innovator’s Dilemma I’ve blogged about this topic before. The theory is that big companies won’t spend money to defend undesirable pieces of their turf and instead, will easily cede them to disruptors. Over time, disruptors can take away an incumbents’ business piece by piece. Legal Zoom is a great example in our profession; LZ took the cheapskate or financially strapped clients that lawyers never wanted and built a multi-million dollar empire which they’re now using to pay for lawyers to give advice on some matters. The lesson: don’t take on incumbents directly, instead mine the scrap heap for treasure.

Back to the Future When Instagram hit it big, observers wondered why. Was it that Polaroid was a behemoth or Instagram was fun and allowed customization – or was it just a fluke? All of these points have merit, but to me, Instagram appeals because it evokes a sense of nostalgia – the faded worn pictures connect us to our past and each other. And that’s what we want desperately from the web – to connect, to discover, to pick and choose and build communities. If we look at the web as a brute force, where all that matters is SEO and numbers and eyeballs, we miss out on what the web can be. And if we look at our clients as keyword strings and targets and prospects and not real people with real problems, we miss a chance to become the trusted advisors that we lawyers have been in the past.

If you like this presentation and are interested in hearing it live, or others like it, please contact me at carolyn.elefant@gmail.com for more information about my speaking and other programs.

  • Guest

    You should write a post about 7th Circuit Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, expecting and tolerated low quality briefs from solos, but not from big firms:

    http://abovethelaw.com/2012/05/inside-straight-breakfast-with-easterbrook/

  • http://www.mylawyer.co.uk/ Mylawyer legal documents

    On the issue of Legalzoom, at Mylawyer we are the UK equivalent – it’;s amazing how hostile so many law firms are. In fact, we compliment what lawyers do, and if lawyers understand that start ups simply can’t afford big legal fees, and find solutions for a possible client, that client will come back with bigger instructions in the future … !

  • myshingle

    I am neutral to nonlawyer providers like Legal Zoom. I oppose lawsuits to shut it down because consumers should have an option. Besides, as I’ve always said, LZ and similar operations are handling clients that lawyers never gave a passing glance.

    What I do think is unfair, however, is that here in the US, non-lawyer providers are not apparently subject to the same restraints on advertising as lawyers. So while an attorney who’s handled probate and trust matters for 30 years can’t say that he “specializes” in this field or is an “expert,” I have heard ads from non-lawyer providers on the radio encouraging people to speak with one of the company’s “specialists.” Lawyers are also barred from deceptive communication on pricing. So a lawyer can’t offer a “FREE CONSULT valued at $10,000″ when the lawyer doesn’t charge for consultations anyway. But nonlawyer companies can say “Pay $69 for a will that a lawyer would charge $3000 to prepare.” Truth is, any lawyer could prepare an LZ type will just as quickly as those companies (maybe even faster) – but the lawyer charges because he/she will advise on whether the will is appropriate. Even so, it is unlikely to cost $3000. If the advertising playing field were equal, I think that you might see more legitimate competition and better service to consumers all around.

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