Digital Marketing for Lawyers

The Wikipedia defines digital marketing as an umbrella term for the marketing of products or services using digital technologies, mainly on the Internet, but also including mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium.

In 2017, digital marketing is a must, and this applies to lawyers, too. The following statistics, updated for 2017, explain why this is the case:

  • 96% of people with a legal issue use the Internet first to find answers with regard to their problem.
  • 38% of people looking to hire a lawyer turn to the Internet first. (29% ask a friend or relative, 10% go directly to the local bar association, 4% rely on business directories like the Yellow Pages).
  • Once legal consumers have narrowed down their search to one or more potential lawyers, 74% of all legal consumers will visit that lawyer’s or law firms’ websites first, before taking action.
  • 74% of all legal consumers end up contacting a lawyer they found on the Internet, and of those 74%, 87% end up hiring that lawyer.
  • 72% of people looking for a lawyer hire the first lawyer they speak to.
  • 70% of law firms have generated new cases through their website in the last year.
  • Potential clients for law firms spend on average 16 minutes per hour on various social media platforms. (In other words, people looking for a lawyer spend just over a quarter of their time doing so on social media).
  • More than half of interviewed law firms grew their number of clients due to increased social media engagement.
  • When legal firms use video content for marketing purposes, web traffic from search engines increases by 41%. The current prediction is that by 2020, video will make up 82% of all consumer internet traffic.

In other words, legal consumers are increasingly using digital media to find and hire lawyers, and you are missing out on potential clients if they can’t find you on those digital media.

So, what tools does a lawyer have, to engage in digital marketing? The most important ones are:

  • A website,
  • A blog,
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization),
  • Social Media, and
  • Reputation Management

Let us explore those briefly.

Website: in a previous article we pointed out that websites must have a quick load time, be mobile-friendly, contain relevant imagery, and have a modern design, and easy navigation. To convert visitors into content consumers and clients, the texts on your site must be client-focused, and must convey clarity, trust, relatability, and differentiation (i.e. they must explain why a potential client should choose you over others). Adding personal information helps build trust and relatability.

In 2017, having high quality video on your website dramatically increases your chances of receiving traffic, and of making a good first impression. Websites should include a ‘call to action’, i.e. encourage visitors to do something (subscribe to a blog or newsletter, follow you on social media, etc.). Make sure you can easily be contacted: have your telephone number and email address clearly visible, and include a contact form.

Blogging: in one of our previous articles, we showed how to start your blog. One of blogging’s biggest advantages is that it accelerates relationships and helps establish your reputation. Develop a strategy for your blog: write about items that are you passionate about, define your niche, and know who your target audience is. For lawyers, it is generally recommended that your blog is independent from the website of your law firm. (If it’s part of the website, it’s often perceived as a sales gimmick). Listen to your audience and engage with them. Remember to write to the medium, i.e. the writing style for a blog is typically informal. And make sure to build social media equity: your blog needs to be published or promoted on social media.

SEO: Search Engine Optimization is the mystical holy grail of success in reaching your target audience on the Internet. How does it work? Search engines scan your website and blog, etc., then create an index, and finally rank the results. There are many factors that influence that ranking. Some of the most important on-page factors include the URLs and the site architecture, the title tags, the body content, the internal linking structure, as well as page load speed. The most important off-page factor consists of the backlinks to your site, which include the backlinks on social media. For lawyers, local ranking is important, too, as people typically look for a lawyer in the neighbourhood. NAP information, i.e. Name, Address, and Phone, must be easy to find. Other factors that influence ranking are mobile-friendliness, and having a disclaimer, a privacy statement, and a site map.

Social Media: in two previous articles, we first explained why social media matter, and provided a short introduction on how to use them. Using social media to attract clients by engaging with them is fast, free, and it works. Find out where your audience is and where your messages will carry the most impact, and focus your efforts there. Using social media can be a balancing act, where you don’t want to come across as merely promoting your business: discuss general legal content, but also discuss firm activity outside of legal representation, and reveal something about your personality.

Finally, Reputation Management is an often-overlooked aspect of digital marketing. A first piece of advice would be to build a ‘wall of content’: provide enough information that potential clients want to retain you. Provide not only testimonials but also customer reviews, and allow clients to give online feedback. (Make a habit of asking your clients to give you a review. Online feedback is free research into how your clients perceive you). It also vital to learn how to respond to negative feedback: done correctly, a response comment communicates responsiveness, attention to feedback, and strength of character.




AI and Contracts

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the way law is being practiced. One of the areas where AI, and more specifically Machine Learning (ML) has been making great strides recently is contract review. The progress is not even limited to reviewing contracts: automated contract generation, negotiation, e-signing and management are fast becoming a reality.

Using AI for contracts is the result of an ongoing evolution. Ever since lawyers started using word processors, they have tried to automate the process of creating contracts. Using advanced macros allowed them to turn word processors into act generators that used smart checklists to fill out templates and add or remove certain clauses. But now the available technology is sufficiently advanced to take it all a few steps further.

Some years ago, commercial lawyer Noory Bechor came to the realization that 80 percent of his work was spent reviewing contracts. As a lot of the work involved in reviewing contracts is fairly repetitive in nature, he figured the service could be done much cheaper, faster, and more accurately if it was done by a computer. So, in 2014, he started LawGeex, which probably was the first platform for automatized contract review. Users can upload a contract to, and, within a reasonably short period of time (an hour on average), they receive a report that states which clauses do not meet common legal standards. The report also warns if any vital clauses could be missing, and where existing clauses might require further attention. All of this is done automatically, by algorithms.

By now, there are other players on the contract review market as well, and the technology is evolving further. At present, AI technology is able to scan contracts and decipher meaning behind the text, as well as identify problem areas that might require human intervention. This technology can scan millions of documents in a fraction of the time it would take humans (think ‘hours’ as opposed to ‘days’ or ‘weeks’). As a result, AI contract review has reached a point where it can already do 80% of the work a lawyer used to do. For the remaining 20%, it can, at present, not reach the level of skill and comprehension of a human attorney. AI contract review, therefore, focuses attorneys’ efforts on higher-level, nonstandard clauses and concerns, and away from more manual contract review obligations.

The progress made in Machine Learning algorithms means the usage of AI is not limited to contract review. Juro is a company that tries to automate the whole contracts workflow. It has developed an integrated workflow system that allows companies to save time on contracts through automated contract generation, negotiation, e-signing and management of contracts. For this, it relies on machine learning algorithms that try to understand the data within contracts and learn from it. This can be done, e.g., by analyzing all the contracts in a company’s ‘vault’ of historical contracts. Based on these contract analytics, Juro can also provide so-called ‘negotiation heatmaps,’ where customers can see at a glance which of their contract terms are being most hotly negotiated. Knowing what other customers have negotiated can help you (based on data) decide what the contract terms should be and what you should agree to in negotiations.

Another interesting evolution is the idea of ‘smart contracts’. Stephen Wolfram, the founder of Wolfram Alpha, believes contracts should be computable, and that a hybrid code/legalese language should be developed. One of the main advantages of such language would be that it would leave less room for ambiguity, especially when it comes to the implications of certain clauses. Computable contract language becomes more valuable to the legal sector, once we start using ‘smart contracts’ that are self-executing. There is also already some interesting work in this area, namely by based in Singapore. If law is going to be made computable then the world needs two things: lawyers who can code and a legal computer language that is an improvement on today’s legalese.

The next step would then be to move from ‘smart’ contracts to ‘intelligent’ contracts. Smart Contracts resemble computer code more than typical legal documents, relying on programing to create, facilitate, or execute contracts, with the contracts and conditions stored on a blockchain, or a distributed, relatively unhackable ledger. Intelligent contracts would not just be smart, but also rely on artificial intelligence (hence ‘intelligent’ contracts). In the words of Kevin Gidney, intelligent contracts would use an AI system that “is taught to continually and consistently recognize and extract key information from contracts, with active learning based on users’ responses, both positive and negative, to the extractions and predictions made”.