Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Law Firm's Dive in the Tech Pool


I have met a lot of great people lately.  One person in particular, a Director of Marketing at a major Chicago law firm, gave me some wonderful insights into the legal marketing industry and suggested I check out the Law Firm Marketing Portal to learn more.  Awesome advice because I stumbled across an article that leads me to this important question:

Q: What do a very prominent DC based law firm and Yelp! have in common?
A: They both have iPhone apps.

Some might shrug at this bit of news given the number of iPhone Apps to be had but I would reconsider.  As you probably know, law firms and lawyers tend to be more risk averse so being any kind of first mover (especially in what is a cost center for law firms) is pretty significant.  Arnold & Porter is first of its peers in the AmLaw 100 list to publish an iPhone app as a news and analysis outlet for its Consumer Protection and Advertising practice group.  The app essentially makes content from the practice's blog available on or offline with ability to save favorites and share news via Facebook and Twitter.

The article outlined the underlying reasons for creating the app which drove my desire to share this with you: 

  1. The firm wanted to reach out to clients and readers in ways that would be more meaningful and convenient to them.
  2. Given the nature of the practice, the firm wanted to mirror what many of their clients are already doing.
  3. The firm wanted to further understand phones as a platform for communication and interaction beyond the traditional phone call.

The desire to speak to clients and readers and share information with them on their terms is what caught my eye because it speaks to the desire to be flexible and nimble in what is an ever changing economic and technological environment.  Today's hot gadget is tomorrow's Commodore 64 so it pays for everyone to stay on their toes even traditionally risk averse law firms.  This move shows that ignoring these seismic shifts in how information is shared and the manner it which it is shared is at your peril.  

The other neat thing is that it speaks to the desire to have meaningful conversations and interactions thereby reducing psychological distance between the firm and its clients.  The tone of the posts (based on a cursory review) are informational but never professorial.  It's clearly borne of the sense of duty the firm has towards its clients.  When made available on the app, it gives the impression that the firm wants the client to have this information at the ready if necessary.  It wants to help.

Also, it promotes conversations and interactions between the app's users and their outer circles when they share or comment on blog posts and articles.  If you recall, I discussed the importance of user communities in my A1 and Kraft Foodservice post and just today, I joined an interesting Lithum webinar which showed how well run user communities and Word of Mouth by advocates/influencers can deliver positive ROI to a business (the white paper can be found here).  I don't think it's over extrapolating to say that Arnold & Porter may see some incremental business because of its new app.

This is clearly outside of the comfort zone of many law firms which makes me wonder what other things that we as marketers could be doing to push the envelope further regardless of our line of business.  Is our limit actually our limit?  When was the last time we asked our customers how they wanted to receive information from us?  How do we stay one step ahead of our customers so that we provide them with what they were just about to request?  What are creative ways in which we can engage our customers so that they talk about us to others without "leading the witness" (pardon the law pun)?

I know I said it previously... but truly hats off to Arnold & Porter for this app.  It's going to be interesting to see how other law firms adapt to this first move.  If you know of any firms who are "out there" with how they communicate with their clients, please do let me know.  I would love to hear about it.

Until Next Time,

Parissa Behnia

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