Legal blogging – what’s the best ‘voice’ for a lawyer?
I read an article recently about ‘social media causing social anxiety for lawyers’ and I found myself challenging its core message.
I read an article recently about ‘social media causing social anxiety for lawyers’ and I found myself challenging its core message which was effectively advising EXTREME caution in all matters social media. It quoted a couple of eye wateringly bad social media interactions from lawyers, which to be objective, represented the more extreme and foolhardy end of career suicide.
The internet has already started to deliver an extraordinary democratisation of knowledge, just look at the limitless online libraries preserving orphan book titles to sites like Wikipedia and even Reddit! The internet loves dissecting, analysing and sharing peer to peer knowledge and legal knowledge is absolutely no exception, as LegalBeagles has proved over the last ten years helping consumers through legal battles, mostly fought without representation.
I follow various online blogs from lawyers and one could argue in some cases that their online ‘voice’ has only enhanced their professional standing, (Dave Allen Green) so good is their ability to compellingly explain the finer details of something complex and nuanced. Other lawyers I respect, like Paul Tilley who produces the marvelous ‘consumer credit litigation’ blog which is full of David v Goliath style consumer v bank showdowns, normally resulting in an ‘utter spanking’ for the opponent. Quite joyful reading for any consumer law fan.
Like myself, Paul Tilley has also spent many years helping consumers directly on various internet forums. He is straight talking, often swears and has an utter dedication to justice which comes through very clearly in his writings. This vast backlog of forum posts and blogs means that Mr Tilley does not need to advertise for clients ! (See this Legal Futures Article )
Generally speaking, the accepted tone on law firm produced articles is very neutral and measured. This can risk being seen as overly professional and perhaps cold for a consumer seeking help. Lawyers are not seen as approachable, so when lawyers break ranks and express themselves more freely and naturally online, they create a connection to consumers that is novel and compelling. A lawyer ‘being’ human is always welcome. Successful law firms have always encouraged staff to get involved in local charitable events, dress up in silly costumes several times a year to raise money, all of which is warmly welcomed by clients and the local public.
A little bit of honesty and vulnerability also goes a long way. Look at those wonderful moments on LinkedIn when some utterly despondent and broken young job seeker posts an honest shout for help, reveals their fear and somehow the online community responds in union to wrap that person up in support, ideas, introductions and chances.
When Paul Tilley and I worked together at Howlett Clarke, the vast majority of our clients identified us from our online posts on LegalBeagles. They were astonished that we were as happy helping for free, as we were when our clients were instructing us professionally. Many consumer credit cases were ill suited to legal intervention and were genuinely more cost effectively resolved, by ‘training’ the consumer how to prepare for a small claims track court case, what timescales to keep track of, and what could go in a witness statement. Whereas, those cases ideally suited for instruction due to a higher track or court were not only attracted to hiring our firm, but utterly insistent on being represented by no other!
Other areas of the forum however, present very real opportunities for lawyers to impress and display their compassion and knowledge. We have busy sections on family law, end of life issues, employment, property and general disputes. We have been trialling lawyers volunteering in these areas for some months and it has proved a very effective way for those lawyers to improve individual professional awareness, but also to generate organic SEO benefit for their firm, because their forum profile contains their corporate branding and link! It is such a simple and effective marketing tool for answering a few legal questions online, some firms are even trialling using trainees to consider the questions. In fact, the trial was so successful we had to introduce a limit on the number of questions to be answered weekly! This is one of the reasons why we have included branded assistance of 1 hour per week on the LegalBeagles platform, for law firms signed up to the JustBeagle platform, we know it works.
Going forward into this connected world, there are less and less places to hide from the onrush of online services and solutions. I don’t doubt that most ‘advice’ in future will be offered free and remotely. By humans initially but longer-term, chatbots could easily provide the correct initial signposting, cost considerations, alternative resolutions and immediate actions required. For instructed matters thereafter, I think face to face interaction will become rarer and many more lawyers will work from home, allowing more opportunity for cost saving. Thus, it is absolutely vital that lawyers learn to differentiate themselves in the new landscape opening up. That is before we even consider the disruption from unregulated and alternative business structures.
We all respect the need for professional distance and objectivity, but all the best lawyers I’ve worked with were those that DID dare to share their clients’ highs and lows with compassion, empathy and solidarity. The few lawyers I’ve worked with who always maintained frosty disdain were usually less successful. Despite the poor reputation, lawyers are handling some of the most important of life moments and most possess high intelligence and great people skills, but we are trained to be reserved from years of tradition. Perhaps it is time to be more human and realise that in this future battle for the survival of the profession in the digital skills, it might be our very personal qualities which enable individuals to flourish and gain respect and advancement.
Former consumer litigator Kate Briscoe is the CEO and co-founder of LegalBeagles.info and JustBeagle.com the fastest growing legal comparison site. JustBeagle is transforming legal services, giving law firms an alternative route to market, a cost-effective online advertising and display marketing platform to increase reach and deliver efficient services to their clients, while making legal services transparent and costs easier to understand for consumers.
Register now for more information: https://JustBeagle.com/