Firms’ “New Normal” Digital Strategy Will Be Permanent

The race for an approved COVID-19 vaccine continues to engross the world, and while there’s no debate about the ultimate distribution of medicine providing a return to a more recognizable society, the way in which businesses operate, especially law firms, have been forever altered. As a matter of fact, effort by any law firm seeking to return to a pre-pandemic operation would not only be met with resistance, it would be detrimental to success looking ahead to 2021 and beyond.

Prior to COVID-19, the legal industry, and law firms in general, were able to choose the level in which they embraced technological change. In fact, many would argue that the field itself has been notoriously slow to do so. Despite this, as the novel coronavirus infiltrated our economy, law firms were left with no choice but to re-evaluate and change the manner in which they practice law, conduct business and implement digital strategy.

While there’s nothing unusual about law firms seeking a marketing refresh in the approach to the final quarter of any given year, there has, historically, never been a time when doing so could have such a significant impact on the future of the business of law for a firm. And, there are several items that law firms need to be prepared for now in order to handle an influx of clients, an acceleration of legal proceedings and new public-facing expectations from clients once a vaccine does finally arrive.

Improvement of online presence will define new, virtual business

Just as law firms check social media accounts of prospective new hires, clients are increasingly paying attention to what attorneys post online, and whether they have active accounts at all, prior to making a hiring decision.

Now that we’ve regularly experienced conducting business virtually, the days of meeting new clients or referral sources in person will be significantly limited compared to pre-pandemic times. While in-person sessions and collaboration will always be beneficial and needed, not every meeting needs to be conducted face-to-face and clients are going to continue to gravitate toward virtual options as well as be more intentional about the events they attend.

The experience has taught us to be more strategic with our time. As such, lawyers will need to embrace a strong online presence aligned with their practice area and showcase timeliness and relevance in order to stand out among competition, and perhaps more importantly, more actively get in front of referral sources. Additionally, spotlighting a law firm’s strengths, expertise, as well as company culture will be key to making recruitment and retention strides the next several years.

The winners, looking to 2021, are going to be the law firms that find ways to significantly elevate their online presence while providing personalized and positive experiences. Law firms need to work with digital media experts to analyze social media presence and determine how it could better support clients and prospects.

Stop underestimating the responsiveness of your website and an effective landing page

When was the last time you handed out a business card? Chances are, it’s been quite some time. A law firm’s website, including an attorney or practice group’s specific page, are the 2021 business cards.

The number of law firms that still lack responsive, user-friendly and intuitive websites is abundant. What’s more, law firms could be winning over more new business by simply ensuring that a website is easy to navigate, concise and that the benefits of working with your firm compared to competitors are clear.

After all, hiring an attorney is stressful enough. Combine that with the build-up of anxiety over the actual issue the prospective client is hiring an attorney for with, say, not being able to easily book an appointment — that will no doubt increase the chance the person exits a page. So, while there’s already focus on bringing prospective clients to websites, ultimately keeping them there long enough to click ‘contact’ should prove to be a firm’s improvement area.

Embracing client intake automation means better opportunities to build stronger relationships

Most attorneys realize, despite the fact that they aren’t getting paid for time before they’re retained, initial relationship building and establishing a level of trust is imperative. At the same time, especially moving into the post-pandemic world, technology focusing on client intake automation must be embraced so the chance of an attorney being able to establish new relationships rises continuously.

Beyond boosting efficiency and optimizing costs, automating tedious and mundane types of work allows attorneys to focus on what’s valuable to the firm and its cases.

In law school, lawyers learn to practice law, but not how to run a law firm. They’re experts in all things examination, yet unfortunately, many are not taught how to run a forward-thinking business — that has put them at a disadvantage. In fact, online automation is a trend that many lawyers had to learn during the pandemic and it certainly shouldn’t be anything to dismiss post-pandemic.

In the digital age, clients expect one-click assistance, email confirmations and updates, as well as ongoing notifications that advise on the status of their business and case. Attorneys must adapt to this same process, and savvy ones already have and will continue to outpace competition.

Bottom line, when lawyers aren’t overwhelmed in clerical work, they can spend time on client relationship building, strategic planning, and complex problem-solving. What’s more, for the client, it creates a customer-centric experience that generates positive reviews and referrals that ultimately allows for additional revenue growth.

In an age of growing cybersecurity threats, understanding social engineering tactics is imperative

Many law firms are vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks, and while many have IT specialists that work to prevent them, those employees are not typically directly engaged with a firm’s social media accounts. Increasingly, as seen during the pandemic, identity fraud hackers are employing new social engineering tactics to collect personal data on an individual from social media. They are convincing businesses to provide information on a target — and they’re getting good at it, too.

Lawyers would never want to be in the position of potentially exposing personal information about clients, let alone any confidential information about cases.

For that reason, law firms need to ask their digital marketing agency some tough questions: what are they doing to discern the shortfalls of a law firm’s online presence? What prior experience do they have mitigating potentially sensitive or challenging conversations that often begin on social media? What are they doing to add extra layers of protection when it comes to instituting processes and protocols for answering all online inquiries?

By having the right third-party social media firm to act as a partner and respond adequately to questions, attorneys are distanced from the interaction and much less likely to make rash or emotionally-driven decisions or responses.

When push comes to shove, authenticity wins

During the pandemic, the best performing content that has also generated the most leads on all law firm social media accounts are photos and videos from attorneys and team members, as well as stories about clients.

We may be moving more and more online in every way shape or form, but that doesn’t mean the human, authentic factor disappears. In fact, it should be that much more evidently on display.

Everything from messaging and coaching of attorneys and their social media pages to the creation of inviting and informative websites that win new business, the pandemic has highlighted a number of opportunities and has proven that the right content earns relevance online — and that relevance will be key to securing a successful next year when this the pandemic is said and done.

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