Like butterflies in the Amazon, virtual and crowd-based professional services firms ('NewLaw') are starting to disrupt
A brief, but handy, guide to aspects of the Law of the Time Lords and other cosmic civilizations
I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear yesterday morning that Elizabeth Miles had passed away over the weekend.
Elizabeth was one of my very early connections on Twitter – way back in the pioneering days of 2009. She was an active participant in the Virtual Twitter Parties organised by Chris Sherliker and when those turned into Real Life Tweetups she would travel down to London from Bristol whenever she could to be there. She was at the first big Twegals Tweetup (Lex2011 Tweetup) where I first had the privilege to meet her in person. I last saw her at The Trial of Charon QC in November. We had attempted to meet up when I was in Bristol in February but it did not prove possible to do so. At the time I expected that I would soon see her again at a Twegals Tweetup in London. Sadly that was not to be.
Over the short time I knew Elizabeth she became a true Twitter friend. We had fun exchanges on Twitter and more serious chats about legal IT. We would sometimes have more indepth discussions via LinkedIn messages. She made a generous donation to Habitat for Humanity when my wife and I undertook the Global Village Challenge to Argentina in 2009 and supported our endeavours through tweets and retweets on Twitter. Elizabeth participated in Inksters Christmas Hat wearing including an out of season photo in September having uncovered the hat when moving to new offices. In 2010 I tweeted to all of my followers: “A word of wisdom please for Trainee Summer School. Preparing talk on IT use by Trainee Solicitors. What would you tell them ?” Elizabeth did better than a 140 character tweet in response – she wrote an entire blog post!: 9 Things To Tell Trainee Lawyers About IT. That ended up forming a good part of my lecture to the Trainees and essential reading in the homework I prescribed for them. Elizabeth and I sat on a park bench together in a Jon Harman JibJab #FollowFriday video and danced the Monster Mash in another one.
Elizabeth liked a good debate and would truly engage on Twitter in a way that social media was meant for. She was thoughtful and caring and never used Twitter to directly advertise her company or its products. By just being @IkenCEO she did that without trying.
She no doubt had many other talents that those who knew her better than me could tell you about.
The name of Elizabeth’s company, Iken, is derived from the Scottish verb “to ken” meaning “to know”. The word is related to the adjective “canny” which describes someone who is wise, perceptive and incisive. Elizabeth was certainly one ‘canny’ lady who I had the pleasure ‘to ken’. She will be sorely missed and I extend my condolences to her family, who Elizabeth loved “to bits” [Twitter Bio], including Andrew, Edward, Tiddlyompompom and Alice.
Update – 17 April 2013
Elizabeth’s daughter, ‘Tiddlyompompom’, has created a page on her blog to list and link to tribute blog posts to Elizabeth: Mum
A service celebrating the life of Elizabeth will take place at Victoria Methodist Church, BS8 1NU at 2pm on 26th April 2013. All are welcome.
As a tribute to Elizabeth, her family are raising money in her memory for two charities close to her and the family’s heart: SANDS and St Peter’s Hospice. Donations can me made via Virgin Money Giving
I remember enjoying the TV series The Tomorrow People. It gave (in the 1970s) a glimpse of a possible future where the next stage of human evolution (Homo superior) had emerged. Now, with Tomorrow’s Lawyers, Richard Susskind does that for lawyers. Although, Richard does not, as yet, envisage those lawyers having psionic powers such as telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation like the Tomorrow People had!
Richard has, of course, been telling us what the future holds for some time now with The Future of Law (1996), Transforming the Law (2000) and The End of Lawyers? (2008). His predictions have often been spot on.
This latest book, as Richard acknowledges, condenses many of the thoughts that appeared in The End of Lawyers? into a more manageable form. I certainly found it an easier and quicker read. As a result the messages it contains are perhaps conveyed more forcibly.
Richard sees efficiency and collaboration as two winning strategies to help cope with the more-for-less challenge facing law firms. There is no doubt that in most law firms there will be more efficient ways of doing things. Creating such efficiencies is a constant process in my own law firm (Inksters) and we still have a long way to go before we are as efficient as I know we could be. Collaboration by clients coming together to share the costs of certain types of legal services is an interesting concept. Whilst Richard gives examples of banks and in-house legal departments he thinks that this philosophy could equally extend to small businesses and individuals. We will have new look legal businesses serving communities of legal users rather than individuals or organisations on their own. On the topic of collaboration I think much could be said for more and better internal collaboration within law firms. Lawyers are notoriously bad for the lack of collaboration and cross-referrals within their own four walls. This is not what Richard means when he looks at collaboration but I think the concept can and should be widened by law firms who are serious about their future to include internal collaboration.
Richard Susskind does not see much of a future (beyond 2020) for most small law firms in liberalised regimes. However, later in the book we are told that two kinds of traditional lawyer will still be in play for the foreseeable future. These will be the ‘expert trusted advisers’ (whose bespoke work cannot be standardised or computerised) and the ‘enhanced practitioners’ (who are skilled and knowledgeable rather than deeply expert but enhanced by modern techniques of standardisation and computerisation and often the legal assistant to the expert trusted adviser). Therefore presumably those small law firms who concentrate on providing legal advice in areas that require expert trusted advisers and enhanced practitioners will prosper. John Flood has written about this in The rise of Boutiques? So perhaps we should not write off the small law firms just like that. But many will have to look at what their offering consists of and possibly adapt or die.
Richard tells us about the new jobs for lawyers that we will see emerge: The legal knowledge engineer, the legal technologist, the legal hybrid, the legal process analyst, the legal project manager, the ODR practitioner, the legal management consultant and the legal risk manager. Renee Knake has perhaps recently suggested a ninth: the lawyer as trusted curator. Although that role as curator could be an add on for some of Richard’s expert trusted advisers. I certainly see a role in a law firm for a legal journalist to produce content for the law firm’s websites, blogs and social media channels. Some law firms (e.g Pinsent Masons) already have employees in such dedicated roles.
Concentrating on short term profitability rather than long term strategic health is a problem Richard Susskind sees in law firm management. We just need to look at recent casualties in both England and Scotland to see the reality of the situation. But will we see a shift in philosophy to senior partners regarding themselves “as temporary custodians of long term and enduring businesses rather than short-term investors who want to bail out when the price is right”. We might need to if the closure (in some cases of merger, effective closure) of law firms is to halt. In any event there is also no real opportunity anymore for many to “bail out when the price is right”. The problem of law firm partners siphoning off all the profits (in some cases, especially in the past, sums in excess of the profits as assisted by a bank’s willingness to provide excessive overdrafts) and reinvesting little if anything in the firm’s future leaves many firms unmarketable. As Richard comments elsewhere in his book “for much of the legal market, the model is not simply unsustainable; it is already broken”.
Richard mentions the use of generic services such as LinkedIn or legal tools such as Legal on Ramp for collaboration between say a client and their panel of law firms. I wonder whether Yammer could be a good fit for this purpose.
Online legal services will, Richard believes, “liberate the latent legal market”. I am sure that this is correct but in addition to that latent legal market online legal services can and will, I believe, fire up and provide services to the existing legal market. Lawyers can and should be using online for the benefit of (and to retain) existing clients and not just for ones that they thought they might never have had otherwise.
IT enabled courts are discussed by Richard. As I recently blogged the use by the Scottish Land Court of fairly basic but effective technology is perhaps something for other courts to take a leaf out of.
With regard to video conferencing in courts, all of the Scottish Sheriff Courts are fitted with such technology. At my own law firm we use Sheriff Court video conferencing when we can. However, one of the difficulties we have experienced is the reluctance of some Sheriffs to use it. ‘Irrational rejectionism’ again perhaps! It probably needs the Scottish Court Service to remove much of the discretion on the part of Sheriffs and issue guidance on when and how the technology should be deployed.
Richard thinks that major legal publishers (such as Thomson Reuters) and legal know-how providers (such as the Practical Law Company) will be potential employers for tomorrow’s lawyers. It is interesting to note that since the book was written it was announced that Thomson Reuters are taking over the Practical Law Company. Thus we are already seeing law publishers becoming legal know-how providers!
Richard fears that we are training young lawyers to become 20th Century lawyers and not 21st Century lawyers. No doubt about it with, perhaps, little chinks of hope such as my lecture on IT and Marketing in the Legal Profession to the Business Ethics Finance and Practice Awareness course of the Diploma in Legal Practice at Glasgow University. That was two years ago and whilst well received by the students back then (one told me it was the most memorable lecture of the year) there has been no call by the powers that be for me to repeat it. Perhaps there is ‘irrational rejectionism’ at play again with it being seen as too radical by the current course providers.
I know that, in more recent times, the University of Strathclyde has introduced lectures on social media for their students and the College of Law produced video casts on that topic for their students. No doubt more is being done elsewhere but I rather think very much at the fringes.
Richard Susskind considers that tomorrow’s lawyers should perhaps study “other disciplines – such as management, computing and systems analysis – prior to embarking on a legal career”. Should, I wonder, we have courses that combine such disciplines with law?
One question Richard prompts tomorrow’s lawyers to ask prospective employers is “what is the formal process by which your firm monitors emerging technologies and evaluates their potential for various practice areas?” At the moment for young lawyers keen to secure a traineeship questions of this type may, unfortunately, raise a few eyebrows and possibly lead to being rebuffed by most of today’s law firms. Perhaps tread carefully with such questions unless research prior to interview shows the potential for receptiveness.
Richard finishes his book by telling tomorrow’s lawyers that their “elders will tend to be cautious, protective, conservative, if not reactionary. They will resist change and will often want to hang on to their traditional ways of working, even if they are well past their sell by date.” Richard goes on to point out that “in truth” tomorrow’s lawyers are on their own. He urges them “to forge new paths for the law, our most important social institution”. The difficulty, however, for most young lawyers in that environment is the inability to do so. They may have to put up with it for a few years to get a grounding in the law and then break free on their own.
Whilst aimed at tomorrow’s lawyers (presumably the law students and trainee solicitors of today) Richard Susskind’s latest book contains messages that it may not be too late for the older generation of lawyer to grasp and, if so, perhaps could induce change within their existing law firms before it is too late. However, with ‘irrational rejectionism’ prevalent amongst lawyers perhaps that is too much to ask for!
As I said about Mitchell Kowalski’s book, Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century, with Tommorow’s Lawyers don’t just read it and hope it never happens. Much of it is already reality and much more will become reality. If you want to be one of tomorrow’s lawyers read it, digest it and, most importantly, act on it. Richard Susskind hopes you will “want to be one of the pioneers” rather than respond defensively (“how can we stop this happening?”). I, for one, am in the pioneer camp. Join me for the ride if you dare.
Buying the Book
I recently spent three days in Shetland at a crofting law hearing before the Scottish Land Court to determine the boundaries of a croft. This was the first time I have seen a court use modern technology (other than video conference links) to aid the presentation of evidence and speed up the court process.
Productions (or at least some key maps of the 101 documents ultimately lodged with the court) had been scanned and were held on a small laptop. This was connected to a projector with a large screen forming the back drop to the Court which had been set up in the Town Hall in Lerwick. The Land Court is a peripatetic court and when it is not sitting in Edinburgh goes on circuit around Scotland to deal with its business. The surroundings of the Town Hall in Lerwick being much grander than many of the places that the Court has sat in.
As evidence was led key productions were projected onto the large screen for all parties involved and the Court to see. With the aid of a laser pointer the solicitors, witnesses and members of court could point out relative features on the maps. This made it much easier to understand the evidence quickly and clearly than just relying on verbal descriptions in relation to paper copies sitting before all concerned. I was impressed by the foresight of David Houston, the member of the Land Court who has introduced the use of this technology to the Court. Very simple to implement but very effective in use.
With the advent of the new Crofting Register and the possibility of an increase in boundary dispute cases (as highlighted in No Ordinary Court: 100 years of the Scottish Land Court) the Land Court may find itself using this technology on a more regular basis.
Moncrieff v Jamieson may have ended up a little shorter than 39 callings of the case at Lerwick Sheriff Court, including 10 days of evidence and 4 days of closing submissions, had that Court utilised such technology.
It made me think about how this technology could be extended to further benefit the workings of the Land Court (or indeed any other court). Perhaps all productions could be scanned in by the Court as a matter of course and stored on a secure web server enabling parties to the action to access these without the need to copy productions between one another. An online inventory of productions that was continually updated would give parties clarity as to the numbering of productions (often a matter of confusion with agents giving their own referencing, the court adding a unique reference and there also being a running production number).
Perhaps this could result in solicitors and the members of the Court sitting with iPads or, in my case at least, a Surface before them and accessing the documents when in court without the need to leaf through large ring file binders. This could also avoid the surcharge made by Flybe/Loganair on oversize hand luggage when flying to remote parts of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
I will keep you updated at The Time Blawg should the Scottish Land Court take up my suggestions! In the meantime if you have any experiences of any courts anywhere using technology in any way then do let me know.
Law firms need to be run like a real business is the main message expertly conveyed by Canadian lawyer Mitchell Kowlaski in Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century.
The book is written as a story about fictional law firm Bowen, Fong and Chandri, PC. It follows General Counsel of Kowtor Industries considering outsourcing legal services to the firm, the induction of a new recruit, solicitor Mark Reynolds, to the firm and tells us about the make up and role of the external Board of Directors.
The style of the book reminded me of business development books such as The Go-Giver, Millionaire Upgrade and The monk who sold his Ferrari (to name but three). To see a business development book written in this style by a lawyer for lawyers is refreshing. The ideas conveyed in it are not necessarily revolutionary (I had been reading about them and implementing some of them at my own law firm, Inksters, before now) but will be to many and are now condensed into a readily digestible and entertaining format.
Unless you have been hiding in splendid isolation or burying your head in the sand (many lawyers do) over the past few years you could not avoid being at least vaguely aware of legal services outsourcing (in the book carried out in India and the Philippines), cloud computing (which my law firm adopted over a year ago) and value pricing. These were perhaps the main three advantages over competitors seized by Bowen, Fong and Chandri. The book also hints at the possibility of Alternative Business Structures in North America (something that we are all too aware of, or should be, in the UK).
Mitch considers that the traditional law firm partnership model is doomed to failure. This is due to “the collective action dilemma”. This is where you have a group of people all acting in a perfectly rational way for their own interests in the short term. This is all too clear to see in many law firms and the difficulties that many have found themselves in during recent recessionary times. The solution that appears to be adopted by many such firms, when in difficulty, is to merge with a law firm more financially stable but who operate in exactly the same way as they did rather than reconstituting themselves in the style of Bowen, Fong and Chandri.
Mitch thinks that value pricing is the way forward. Most law firms in the UK do have fixed prices for various services (e.g. domestic conveyancing) but there is still an adhesion to time and line charging in many spheres such as litigation and executry (probate) work. I do, however, wonder whether a complete move to value pricing should not retain an element of time recording from a management perspective. Might it not be a good idea to monitor the time spent on a job to see if you can maintain the time involved within the value you priced it at? Time recording should not necessarily be all about the billable hour but also ensuring time is spent on important non-chargeable activities such as marketing and professional development. Mitch, however, reckons that a complete freedom of tracking time creates a cultural shift for the common good of the firm.
Bowen, Fong and Chandri do not hire student or junior lawyers. They see this as a costly and unproductive exercise for law firms to undertake. They “do not hire reams of lawyers to see which ones sink or swim. That is a stupidly inefficient and ineffective way to do things and yet firms continue, like lemmings, to follow the same practice year after year. No other business runs that way”. There could be some truth in this. However, if every law firm adopted this policy there could come a time when there are no trained lawyers with experience to employ! I also believe that law firms can gainfully employ law students whilst they are still at University, glean their ability to swim at an early stage and, if appropriate, provide them with a traineeship. That trainee could become a great asset to the firm as an assistant solicitor further down the line in a way that a lateral hire (not accustomed to the forward thinking ways of their new firm) may never be.
The new recruit at Bowen, Fong and Chandri gets virtual training using a computer simulated game in which he is an Avatar. However, no mention of Bowen, Fong and Chandri using social media or the internet to market themselves and gain new business. Perhaps it was taken as read that a firm like this would already have that well covered. Alternatively, perhaps Mitch does not see such activities as being fundamental to avoiding extinction as a legal practice. Many social media Gurus see it as a paramount consideration in our ‘always on’ age.
However, all in all, Mitch gives lawyers plenty of food for thought. Even small firms (and that includes sole practitioners) can take a lot from this book which tells the story of a big law firm. Whilst you might not be about to open your own outsourcing centre in India or the Philippines there are perhaps areas of your work or administration that could usefully be outsourced to third party providers.
I commend the book to any lawyers serious about their future. But don’t just read it, act on it. In his preface Mitch refers to Richard Susskind’s book The End of Lawyers? being “politely received by many lawyers in Canada, then promptly put on their bookshelves – unread. The lack of innovation and thoughtfulness in Canadian law firms continued without a step”. I rather fear that the same fate may unfortunately await Mitch’s book. Or is the timing of this book more apposite?
Buying the book
Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century by Mitchell Kowalski (ISBN: 978-1-61438-298-0) is published by and available from the American Bar Association. It is also available in the UK from Amazon.
On 1 January 2011, The Time Blawg materialised.
One year ago I looked back at the first year of The Time Blawg – One Year On.
Last week I looked back at what went on during the second year of The Time Blawg with specific reference to Social Media: The Time Blawg – Two Years On (Part 1: Social Media) and then Blawging: The Time Blawg – Two Years On (Part 2: Blawging) and in each post give my thoughts on what 2013 has in store for social media/blawging and lawyers. Today I will do the same but with specific reference to Legal Technology. Part 4 will follow on what might be left, which would appear to be last year’s posts on QualitySolicitors.
2012 was the year of the Legal Technology Conference. At least for me as I attended a few. But not for most law firm partners who were not seen anywhere near them. Charles Christian at LawTech Futures 2012 referred to getting law firm partners to attend as the “holy grail of legal technology conferences”. This gave me the title of my blog post on that conference: LawTech Futures 2012 Reviewed: The Search for the Holy Grail of Legal Technology Conferences has Begun!
Next up was Lex2012 Reviewed: Legal Innovation and Technology Conference reveals ‘Camel’ Computing. That title refers to a presentation by a law firm of their cloud computing solution that involves keeping the servers on your own premises although owned by the supplier and leased by the law firm. In my view this is not cloud computing as it should be but a hybrid designed by a committee of lawyers. Indeed at times I was shaking my head at the presentations at these conferences and thinking it was perhaps best for law firm partners not to be in attendance to hear the bad practice being espoused. Only 5% of delegates at Lex2012 were law firm partners.
Don’t get me wrong though. It was not all bad. Some of the presentations made you think and indeed some introduced me to legal technology that I was unaware of.
The most interesting legal technology conference of the year was LawTech Camp London. As I blogged in LawTech Camp London 2012 Reviewed: Time to Push it stood out from the rest by being somewhat unique in its format and content. Adopting the BarCamp or UnConference style this conference was shaped by those who wanted to talk and not by a programme designed solely by the organisers or influenced by sponsors. The use of six minute Pecha Kucha style sessions spiced things up a bit. This even inspired me to do a Pecha Kucha presentation at the Crofting Law Conference in September – a first!
The LawTech Camp London highlight was Michael Bossone’s ‘PUSH: A Spoken Word Poem about Law, Technology and Fear’:-
In a subsequent post I highlighted tweets from the conference: LawTech Camp London 2012: In Tweets.
In 2012 I was Speaking about Cloud Computing for Law Firms (my experiences of taking my law firm, Inksters, into the Cloud) and Reviewing Cloud Computing for Lawyers (the book by Nicole Black). Both (if you can excuse my lack of modesty) giving more insight into cloud computing than was evident at any of the legal technology conferences mentioned earlier.
My last legal technology post of 2012 was Is the Surface any good for lawyers? Part 1: First impressions.
The Future of Legal Technology
In 2013 I expect there will be as many legal technology conferences as last year. Whether I go to as many remains to be seen. LawTech Futures will be back (on 30 April 2013) bigger than before:-
With three presentation stages including a 400 seat conference room delivering multi-stream conference sessions, keynote presentations, panel discussions, interviews, debates and interactive demonstrations, ‘LawTech Futures 2013 – The Future of Legal Technology’ promises to be the biggest legal technology conference and exhibition outside of the U.S.A.
No word on Lex2013 as yet. LawTech Camp has been renamed ReInvent Law with a conference in Dubai in December 2012 and one scheduled for Silicon Valley on 8 March 2013. No word yet on a ReInvent Law London 2013 but hopefully that will happen. The one to watch out for in 2013 could well be Law Hack Camp London (the first law hackathon in the UK) organised by Amanda Bancroft and Jon Harman. Originally scheduled for the end of this month it is now planned for April 2013 (exact dates still to be confirmed).
Jon Busby tweeted during LawTech Futures 2012 “this is same people saying same thing as last year and year before that, nothing new which says it all really.” The challenge for legal technology conference organisers in 2013 will be to not fall into that category. Law Hack Camp London might just achieve that.
I predict that cloud computing will become more mainstream for law firms in 2013 and beyond. There will still be those that caution against it but pay no attention to them as they probably have never used it.
I will be blogging more about my experiences of using the Surface in 2013 (Part 2 of the series will be on connectivity). Lawyers probably will not take note of Windows 8 in 2013 given that most have yet to even experience Windows 7.
In previous years I have mentioned video and also legal documentation online when making legal technology predictions (e.g. Future Law: IT Predictions for 2011). There has been a bit of movement on both since 2011 but nothing major. However, with Legal Zoom (NB link is to US website as no UK one yet but apparently coming soon) and Rocket Lawyer both making the transition from the US to the UK that may be about to change so far as online legal documentation is concerned. Perhaps I will blog about that on The Time Blawg in 2013.
On 1 January 2011, The Time Blawg materialised.
One year ago I looked back at the first year of The Time Blawg – One Year On.
Two days ago I looked back at what went on during the second year of The Time Blawg with specific reference to Social Media and give my thoughts on what 2013 has in store for social media and lawyers: The Time Blawg – Two years On (Part 1: Social Media). Today I will do the same but with specific reference to Blawging. Part 3 will follow on the topic of Legal Technology and Part 4 on what might be left.
Very early in 2012 Flawging lawyers came out of their Chambers. I had blogged a lot about flawging in 2011 but there seems to have been less commotion around this subject in 2012. Perhaps it has been well and truly flawged
In February I highlighted What Blawgers can learn from Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. The bottom line is if you want clients to read your blawg don’t be boring, turgid and bombastic like Sherlock Holmes but produce great content which is of interest to potential clients as Dr Watson does.
In May I decided to start a new project on The Time Blawg: Travels through the Blawgosphere: A New Series Materialises. The idea was to have an occasional review of blawg posts that had taken my interest. I started with Travels through the Blawgosphere #1 (Innovation in Law). So far #2 has not materialised but hopefully it will in 2013!
In that first review I looked at a few blog posts on Innovation in Law including one on Stephen Allen’s LexFuturus Blawg. This had fast become one of my favourite blawgs of 2012 with regular incisive posts on the state of legal practice laced with a good dose of wit. But, unfortunately, on 1 July Stephen decided to call it a day. Taking a look at The Big Picture Stephen realised that time is better spent with those he loves. It would, however, still be nice to see the occasional blawg post from Stephen. A blawg/life balance may be difficult at times to find especially if you do blawg daily or several times a week. The key is to do it when it takes your fancy and you have the time to do it. You don’t have to blawg daily anymore than you have to tweet daily. My comments on Why lawyers can take breaks from Twitter apply equally to taking breaks from blawging.
In February Scott Greenfield, another prolific Blawger, appeared to call it a day after 5 Years of blawging at Simple Justice. An uproar in the blawgosphere ensued. I don’t think that made Scott return but I reckon he simply liked blawging too much and missed it. After a short break he was back blawging as often as he used to. The blawgosphere is much richer as a result.
Another Blawg that started in 2012 that caught my eye was Base Drones by Malcolm Combe. This blawg is of particular interest to me as it looks at Rural Land Law in Scotland and includes crofting law posts (not many blawgs out there that do that!).
Two years ago I predicted that UK blawging was just about to mushroom. Last year I accepted that it had not mushroomed as such:-
Some new blawgs may have arrived but on the whole the old stalwarts kept law blogging going in 2011.
The same was probably true of 2012. Mentioning old stalwarts brings Charon QC to mind. He is keeping blawging alive and kicking by taking it around the country with his UK law tour (in a jag rouge). I am looking forward to his arrival in Scotland in 2013.
In May 2012 Charon QC did a bumper UK Blawg RoundUp in 4 parts. The latest (Christmas) edition of UK Blawg RoundUp is by Michelle Hynes: UKBlawg Roundup 12 – Christmas Edition: There once was a Lady who lived in a Shoe. Do keep an eye out for the quarterly UK Blawg RoundUps (initiated and curated by Michael Scutt) as they are a great resource on UK law blogs.
The Future of Blawging
So what does 2013 have in store for Blawging? I predict nothing major. There will be no blawging mushroom. Scott Greenfield and Charon QC will still be at their posts (but with Charon QC touring in his Jag). New blawgers will come and go. Some old stalwarts may retire and some slightly younger ones will step into their shoes.
Law firms that get into blawging in 2013 will, I predict, on the whole produce fairly uninspired material. Content but not necessarily Valuable Content. For law firms in need of inspiration I would point them, as I normally do, in the direction of a couple of other blawging stalwarts: Tessa Shepperson and Paul Hajek both of whom know what works when it comes to blawging and business development. Check out the Landlord Law Blog and the Clutton Cox Blogs.
My last post on ‘Tweeting less but meeting more‘ has generated some debate with Brian John Spencer posting ‘A letter to Inksters: just because it’s winter it doesn’t mean that you can put your Twitter into hibernation‘.
This is an interesting topic and one worthy of some debate and consideration. I do, however, think that the other Brian has got hold of the wrong end of the stick and is missing what social media for lawyers is really (or should be) all about.
I am often referred to as a pioneer in the use of social media by lawyers and almost 4 years later my enthusiasm for and interest in social media has not dwindled. The fact that so much is still being written on the topic sometimes bemuses me though. Whilst Brian John Spencer appears, on the face of it, to be knowledgeable about my tweeting pedigree he actually only started following @BrianInkster and @inksters this past week.
Inksters tweeting had apparently always impressed Brian John Spencer, despite the fact he was not a follower, but suddenly they have fallen out of favour as a result of taking a 16 day Twitter break in November. What the other Brian does not appear to appreciate is that this was not Inksters’ first Twitter break and, in fact, it is consistent in Inksters’ history of tweeting for breaks to be taken from time to time. Indeed Inksters have had longer breaks from Twitter over the years than 16 days. This year alone there have been breaks of 17 days and 24 days and several breaks of between 7 and 10 days (when Brian John Spencer considers “you’ve entered into “dormant” territory”). I see no harm in such breaks and if anything (like taking a holiday) they are possibly a healthy thing to do. Indeed the 24 day break I referred to coincided with my own 14 day holiday to India this year during which time I did not tweet personally at @BrianInkster. We all need to switch off sometime.
Been on holiday (and took a break from Twitter too) for the past couple of weeks. Did I miss much?
— Brian Inkster (@BrianInkster) October 16, 2012
Brian John Spencer thinks that “when you don’t Tweet for a week or more you’re projecting an image of laziness”. Lawyers are, generally, very busy people with deadlines to meet and client work to complete. If a lawyer is not tweeting it is probably because they are having to concentrate on other matters of greater priority in their busy schedule and are far from being lazy. I was recently representing a crofter in a hearing before the Scottish Land Court for the best part of a week. I didn’t tweet once during that time. My week was fully taken up with doing the best job I could for my client. Tweeting was the last thing on my mind. That is how it should be.
The Intendance Report on Tweeting is cited by Brian John Spencer as an example of others saying why you should tweet regularly. Brian John Spencer might not appreciate the lack of credibility that Report actually has but long time readers of The Time Blawg will recall ‘Law Firm Twitteratigate – The Whole Story‘.
Brian John Spencer also cites other blog posts suggesting you should tweet every three hours if resources permit, no more than 10 times a day or hit the “sweet spot” of 4-5 tweets a day. What nonsense. You cannot define, limit or measure twitter usage in this way. Engagement on Twitter is the key to its success. You may tweet 20 times or more certain days because there is a lot to engage about and people to engage with. Does exceeding the “sweet spot” or the 10 a day limit mean you are not doing Twitter correctly?!
As Charon QC would say “there are no rules”. Different people use Twitter in different ways. Who is to say one way is the right way to do it and another is the wrong way. There are extremes where perhaps judgment can be made e.g. setting up a law firm Twitter Account and never tweeting from it at all. But taking breaks from Twitter from time to time does not mean you don’t get Twitter or have lost your way. As Miriam Said tweeted:-
@thetimeblawg Absence often makes the heart grow fonder…:)
— Miriam Said (@miriamsaid) November 26, 2012
Brian John Spencer suggested that I had not been too busy during the 16 day Twitter break at @inksters to prevent me from tweeting personally at @BrianInkster. That is not quite correct. A quick look at my personal timeline reveals a 9 day break during that same 16 day one. When I am tweeting from that personal account I am still tweeting as a solicitor from Inksters. That account or others within the Inksters portfolio of 12 Twitter accounts will possibly be tweeting when @inksters is sleeping. The battleship does not have to fire daily when the destroyers remain active as we all know from Jon Bloor’s seminal post on ‘Tweeting in Convoy‘. However, even the destroyers deserve a rest from time to time.
Previously on The Time Blawg I have referenced the post on Legal 2.0 (@legaltwo) by Amanda Bancroft (@_millymoo) on Twitter for lawyers…what is it good for? Her blog post gets to the root of what tweeting is about and how it can work for lawyers (if you ignore the marketeers):-
My advice? Ignore the marketeers, I have so far not found one who knows even the beginnings of what they are talking about regarding lawyers anyway. Stop thinking about Twitter ROI. See it as fun, carry on making friends, widening your circle, and enjoy the referral work which flows from that. Learn how to deal with clients who are outside the geographical range of your office on a remote basis.
A final thought. If you have been on Twitter a while and are not getting referrals, you are, I respectfully suggest, doing it wrong.
I have been exploring the use of social media for law firms first hand for almost four years as part of the continual growth of Inksters. I know what works for Inksters. I probably don’t always get it right. But I have seen Inksters obtain opportunities that would never otherwise have come the firm’s way had it not been for social media and the way Inksters use it. Inksters will continue, in the words of Brian John Spencer, to be “a vibrant, forward looking and an ever-classy Tweeting law firm”. Taking breaks from Twitter, as Inksters have always done, will not take that away from them.