Category Archives: Legal IT

Articles on Legal IT

Digital marketing concepts you need to know

Digital marketing uses a terminology with many concepts that may sound confusing if you are not familiar with them. In this article, we will explain some core concepts by using a practical (but simplified) example to make things clearer. Imagine you want to do webinar, and you want people to sign up for it. From a digital marketing viewpoint, what needs to be done? The approach described below can be used for other digital marketing campaigns as well, e.g., to sell a book you wrote, etc.

People need to be able to sign up for your webinar, so you need a registration form. If it is a paying webinar, you will need to offer a payment option. So, you want people to get to that registration form and sign up. Before people will be willing to sign up, they will want to know more about the webinar, and they will have to be persuaded to do so. To accomplish that, you will use a landing page that provides them with the necessary information and invites them to sign up. And for them to find your landing page, you want to direct people to it by several means you have at your disposal, like social media, ads, an announcement on your website, a mailing to people who would be interested, etc. So, your digital marketing strategy looks something like this.

Conversion Funnel
Conversion Funnel

A first set of concepts you should get familiar with have to do with conversion. In the widest sense, you want to convert the people who see your ad or notification on your website, social media or in your email campaign into customers who sign up for your webinar. To get them to do that, we are using different steps, where each time we want them to take a specific action: click on the link that leads to your landing page, and then go to the registration form, and then sign up. The term conversion is also used for each one of these steps, when your prospect takes the action that you want them to take. (For convenience’s sake, we will use the term visitor below as a rubric term for all who visit your website, see your ad, see your social media posts, read your email campaign, etc.)

In electronic commerce, this approach is called conversion marketing. It is marketing with the intention of increasing conversions, i.e., converting visitors into (paying) customers. The conversion rate is the percentage of visitors that convert, i.e., take the desired action:

Conversion rate = (conversions / total visitors) * 100%

In our example, we have three successive actions we want them to take, and you want to guide them through that process: click on the link to the landing page, click on the link to register, and then sign up. Each time only a percentage will take the desired action. That is why this approach is often called a conversion funnel.

In this context, the concept of a bounce rate is relevant. The Wikipedia describes a bounce rate as “an Internet marketing term used in web traffic analysis. It represents the percentage of visitors who enter the site and then leave (“bounce”) rather than continuing to view other pages within the same site.” If we take our example, for this campaign you would have three specific pages on your website: first an announcement, e.g., in the news section or in your blog, then the landing page, and finally the registration page. If the visitor leaves your website from the page with your announcement, from your landing page, or from the registration page before they register, that would be a bounce. The bounce rate allows you to keep track of how each step performs.

So, in our example, we want three successive conversions, and we want to be able to track the conversion rate for each one of these steps (which is called conversion rate tracking). Keeping track of the conversions rates for each one of these steps is done for conversion rate optimization (CRO) purposes. Conversion rate optimization is often defined as “the practice of increasing the percentage of users who perform a desired action on a website. (…) Think of it as the process of focusing on understanding what drives, stops, and persuades your users, so you can give them the best user experience possible—and that, in turn, is what makes them convert and ultimately improves your website conversion rate.” (Hotjar.com).

It is worth noting that platforms that sell ads, as well as most social media offer built-in ways to track how your ad or post is doing. By default, websites do not have that facility built in, but is possible to install tools like Google Analytics or web log analyzers for tracking purposes. They, too, will provide you with the necessary information. (We will pay more attention to web traffic analyzers in a next article).

Crucial in this approach is your landing page. This is where you will provide your visitors with the necessary information to convince them to sign up. A landing page “is a standalone web page, created specifically for a marketing or advertising campaign.” It is where a visitor ‘lands’ after they click on a link in an email, or your ad, or your post in social media, etc. “Unlike web pages, which typically have many goals and encourage exploration, landing pages are designed with a single focus or goal, known as a call to action (or CTA, for short).” (Unbounce.com).

Typically, your landing page will open with a short, positive, and empowering statement about your webinar that focuses on what the attendees will gain. Then, you can provide a short text that provides the necessary information about what and why. It is important to not just offer this information in text, but also as well as a visual – either an infographic or a short (2 to 3 minute) video. Make sure to include some social proof, i.e., testimonials of existing clients and/or people who have attended previous webinars. Then lastly, you have your call to action, which on your landing page is a button with a link to subscribe. Again, it is a good practice to make this call to action an empowering statement (e.g., “Yes, I want to know how to …”).

So, a Call to Action is an invitation for your visitor to do something. In our example, we will have a CTA in each step: a link in the ads, social media posts, web pages, etc.; a link to the registration page, and a button to actually register on the registration page. For a CTA to be as effective as possible, all links to other pages than the one you want to direct your visitor to, should be avoided. If you want to provide some optional additional information, use a pop-up screen instead.

Another term that sometimes pops up in this context is Key Performance Indicators (KPI). You probably already are familiar with the term from the software you use to manage your law firm, where you can, e.g., define how many billable hours per month each lawyer must generate. That is one example of a KPI. In our digital marketing context, the conversion rate also is a KPI. Conversion rate optimization can then be seen as a way to improve your KPI scores.

To keep track of what works best to improve your conversion rate, you can experiment with different versions of an ad, or a landing page, etc. A common practice is to do some A/B Testing. “A/B testing (also known as split testing) is a process of showing two variants of the same web page to different segments of website visitors at the same time and comparing which variant drives more conversions.” (vwo.com).

In future articles, we will focus more in depth on landing pages and on the metrics that help you evaluate your conversion rates.

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Instagram for Law Firms

In today’s article, we have a look at Instagram and at how it can be useful for lawyers and law firms. Surprisingly, only 25% of lawyers use Instagram for marketing purposes, even though for most young adults, it is the most important social media network.

Let us start by explaining what it is, for those of you who are not familiar with it. Instagram is social network service for sharing photos and short videos (of up to 60 seconds). It was launched as an app for smart phones in 2010. What made the app stand out, was that it allowed users to easily apply predefined filters to photos they had taken, and then share them either publicly or with their followers. It works with hashtags and locations, and users can browse other users’ public content via these hashtags and locations. Just as is the case with Twitter, hashtag topics can be trending. Users can like photos and videos, and they can comment on them. The app quickly became very popular and was bought by Facebook in 2012.

Why would a law firm consider having an Instagram account? The main reason is for marketing purposes. Instagram is the world’s third most used social media network, with over one billion monthly active users. (Only Facebook and YouTube have more, with 2.8 billion and 2 billion respectively). To put things in perspective, LinkedIn only has 260 million monthly active users, while Twitter has 187 million. More importantly, Instagram is the most used social media platform for consumers between the ages of 18 and 35. And with geolocation tagging, it is an easy way to reach local target audiences.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, which are text-based social media, Instagram is primarily a visual medium. And that is one of the main reasons for its popularity: visuals are more appealing than text. And they also tend to evoke more responses: Instagram posts get more engagement than any other social media platforms. Furthermore, it is possible to link your Instagram account to your Twitter, LinkedIn and/or Facebook account, so photos on Instagram are shared on those platforms as well.

Also worth mentioning, is that Instagram can effectively be used as a recruitment tool, as well. (As mentioned above, young adults are far more likely to be on Instagram than on LinkedIn).

So, what services does Instagram offer? It started as a service to share photos and short videos, and that still is what it is mainly used for. But it offers other services as well. Let us start with Instagram Stories. In his article for rankings.io, Chris Dryer explains that “Instagram Stories are photos and videos that you can share throughout the day in a vertical, slideshow format. Unlike regular photo and video posts, these do not appear in the regular Instagram newsfeed or in the grid on your Instagram profile. Instead, they appear at the top of the newsfeed for those who follow your Instagram account.” Important to know is that stories remain available for only 24 hours.

Next, we have Instagram Live. Instagram Live is technically a part of Instagram Stories, and allows you to broadcast a live stream from your phone. These livestreams can last up to one hour. Mind you, as they are a part of the Instagram Stories, they are by default only available for 24 hours after the livestream. It is however possible to save a livestream as a ‘highlight‘, which means it will be added to your user profile.

Another video service Instagram offers, is Instagram TV, usually shortened to IGTV. Whereas Instagram Live videos do not appear in a newsfeed and do automatically disappear, Instagram TV videos are posted to your newsfeed, where a copy of them – with its own URL – remains available. Videos of up to one hour can be uploaded if done so from a web browser. If directly uploaded as a video recorded on your phone, the length is limited to 15 minutes of video.

Instagram also offers Business Pages / Business Profiles. For these, a professional account is needed, but that is as simple as activating the account as a professional one in the settings. Once that is done, the option to fill out a business profile becomes available. Now, if your law firm already has a page on Facebook, it is possible to link your Instagram Business and Facebook pages. This has to be done from within Facebook and will make the information you have on your Facebook page available in Instagram too. It is also possible for the two to automatically share posts, meaning if something is posted on one, it appears on the other as well. So, this is the place to add all the local business details of your law firm. Especially if you know that more than 200 million Instagram users visit an Instagram Business Profile at least once a day.

An additional benefit of setting your Instagram account up as a professional account, is that you get access to Instagram Insights, which provide you with detailed engagement analytics. That makes it easy to follow up on Key Performance Indicators.

As is the case with other social media networks, Instagram also offers the ability to publish Ads. And just like in Facebook and LinkedIn, it is possible to very narrowly define the parameters to identify your target audience.

How do you get started? Setting up an account is easy, and can be done from a smart phone where you first have to download the app. Or you can just sign up using a browser. If you have a Facebook account, you can use your Facebook account to sign up and subsequently sign in. Keep in mind, however, that while signing up can be done from a PC with a browser, uploading photos and videos typically must be done through the app on your smart phone.

Then you start sharing photos. The aim here is to attract leads and to do that, you use your photos to build credibility, trust, and brand awareness among your followers. In her article for Law Firm Ambition, Becky Simms gives the following advice.

  • Build a persona, show your personality and the personality of your law firm. While doing this, focus on approachability.
  • Show the people in your firm, and make sure to post some “life behind the scenes” photographs.
  • Demonstrate community involvement.
  • Look for opportunities to illustrate your expertise, without giving legal advice. Post pictures of articles you have written, webinars you have given, conferences you spoke at or attended, etc.
  • Check whether your colleagues can provide content.
  • Avoid direct self-promotion.
  • Use the Instagram app on your mobile phone to take photos.
  • Aim for a relevant image with every social networking post.
  • Use hashtags on Instagram to make your images more visible / easier to find. Don’t be shy to use many hashtags.
  • Check what other lawyers are doing for inspiration.
  • Keep a watching brief to see how the Instagram platform develops.

In an article in Forbes Magazine, Jenna Gross recommends using the following marketing tactics:

  • Create a plan of action.
  • Elicit emotions.
  • Build a visual narrative.
  • Create conversations.
  • Simplify the path for potential clients to become clients.

Two more practical tips: there are third-party programs like Buffer and Hootsuite that allow you to schedule posts in advance. They both offer free and paying plans. You can start with the free version and upgrade if need be.

As mentioned above, uploading videos and photos must be done from a smart phone. There are mainly two solutions if you want to use your PC or laptop instead. The first one is to install Bluestack which will allow you to run Android Apps on your PC or laptop. Once Bluestack is installed, you install the Instagram for Android app, and you are ready to go. Alternatively, you can use the Vivaldi browser, which allows Instagram to run as a desktop application in a web panel from where photos can also be uploaded. (See https://vivaldi.com/blog/instagram-post-from-computer/ for an explanation).

So, go ahead, and give it your best shot.

 

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Using video in your law firm

Video has become the driving force of the Internet. While the actual numbers may vary from source to source, most estimate that 80% to 82% of Internet traffic in 2020 consisted of video, and that one third of online activity consisted of watching videos. In the US, e.g., 85% of people with Internet access watch videos online on a daily basis. In Saudi Arabia, that number is 98%. Most of the videos we watch are entertainment, which is not really a surprise. People love watching videos, and marketers have noticed. In 2018 already, 87% of online marketers used video content. What is important, is that viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text. The articles listed in the sources below provide plenty more interesting statistics.

The American Bar Association’s annual Legal Technology Survey Report for 2020 noticed that law firms are hardly using video for anything else than videoconferencing. Only 3% of respondents create videos that provide content, compared to 85% of businesses in general. The report rightfully points out that law firms are missing out on important opportunities by not producing video content.

Because of the pandemic, by now most law firms in the US routinely use videoconferencing. 88% of lawyers have worked remotely in 2020, and for 48% of lawyers working remotely has become their default mode of operation. Rather than have face to face meetings, they will use videoconferencing as long as a physical presence is not required. This sharp increase in videoconferencing also means the most law firms have the necessary setup to start producing videos.

So, what can law firms use video for, other than videoconferencing? Video is commonly used for testimonials, informational videos, explainer videos, storytelling, webinars, and podcast videos. Let us have a closer look those.

Testimonials: legal consumers are online consumers and will check out the law firms online that they consider hiring. Online social proof plays an important part in that. It is the second most important way for legal consumers to decide which law firm they will hire, after direct personal referrals. Potential clients relate to other people sharing their stories and experiences. The Social Media Examiner website suggests the following steps. Start by creating a testimonial questionnaire, with the questions you believe your potential clients would like to see answered. Scout for an appropriate filming location. Set up your shoot and record the Interview. If necessary, edit the video. Put it on your website in a section dedicated to testimonials. Use social media to frequently post links to your testimonial videos.

Informational videos and explainer videos: many law firms already offer a blog or articles on their website that provide potential clients with some free advice on specific topics. This could also be done using video instead of written articles. You can ask local residents to send in some questions, and answer those in short videos, ideally of approximately 3 minutes. You can also create short videos in which you explain some concepts, or how new regulations will affect people. One advantage that these short videos have over written articles, is that they are more likely to be shared on social media. And if you already have a blog, it is a good strategy to repurpose the articles from your blog as short videos. There even are AI solutions (like lumen5.com) available to automate that process.

Storytelling: people like to be able to relate to the people they consider hiring. So, they like to know more about the individuals, and they prefer hearing stories to reading dry exposés. You can create videos about your law firm, the lawyers and staff in it, past successes, etc. Individual lawyers can talk about themselves and, e.g., explain why they chose to become lawyers, or why they decided to specialize in specific fields. The goal of these video stories is to establish a personal connection between the lawyers and their potential clients and to humanize the law firm.

Webinars and video podcasts: whereas webinars are educational workshops on specific topics, podcasts are more of an informal conversation. They typically are more in-depth and last longer than the short informational and explainer videos. It makes sense to record your webinar or podcast and then post the video either on your website or on a hosting platform. Once this is done, they can be shared on social media. You can even release sections of the video as shorter clips.

The Content Marketing Institute gives the following tips for best practices:

  • Invest in the process, not just the product: the videos you post must be an integral pillar of your content marketing strategy, not a side-product. So, determine the role and goals of your video content, and plan your content strategy accordingly.
  • Keep your end goal in mind – and determine how you will know when you have reached it: what do you want to achieve with your video, and what do you want your viewers to do after watching the video?
  • Write a script your audience will want to follow. Use a conversational tone. Speak in short, concise sentences to emphasize key points. Avoid jargon. Do a “table read” test run where you read it out loud before recording to discover where the script may need tweaking.
  • Know when to host and when to post. You can post your videos on your own website, or you can host them on available platforms. For webinars and podcasts, you can consider live streaming platforms and apps. There are dedicated services, but most social media platforms also offer the option these days. And shorter videos can also be posted directly themselves on social media.
  • Set the right stage for social plays: you may have to perform several tests to determine what to post where and when. Some content will, e.g., work better on a platform like LinkedIn, while other content may work better on channels like Instagram, Snapchat, or TikTok.
  • Include a transcript: search engines are not good at finding content in videos, and your viewers may want to quickly reread something that was said in the video.
  • Tag your work: if you want your video to be found by new viewers, add the relevant tags, titles and descriptions to your videos.
  • Push your videos to influencers, subscribers, fans, and followers to expand your viewer base.
  • Track attention span to identify optimization opportunities: “Engagement data and other key performance indicators can provide important insights on your audience’s preferences and behaviors, which you can use to refine and customize your video strategy. For example, if you notice that prospects are dropping off 10 seconds into your videos, your intros might need to be trimmed.”
  • Monitor viewer reactions to gain additional consumer insights: on a platform like Facebook, e.g., you can not only keep track of the number of engagements, but also of the type of engagement: did they share your video? Did they “like” it, or did they respond with “love”, “sad”, or “angry”? Access to this type of metadata can help you determine whether you are getting the desired response to your video.

Keeping these best practices and tips in mind will help you optimize the success of your videos.

 

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Legal Technology Trends of 2020

In November 2020, the American Bar Association published its annual Legal Technology Survey Report, which gives an overview of trends in legal technology. Now, for 2020, it is important to keep in mind that while the report was published in November, most of the actual survey was conducted in early 2020, i.e., before the pandemic started. We know from other reports that have been published that the pandemic had a dramatic effect on the usage of legal technology. These effects are not yet reflected in the 2020 Legal Technology Survey Report. Below, we discuss some of the highlights of the report. A more in-depth thematic discussion of the report can be found on the Law Technology Today website. (URLs included below).

Demographics: In 2020, the responding attorneys consisted of 26% solo practitioners, 30% lawyers at firms of 2-9 attorneys, 17% at firms of 10-49 attorneys, 5% at firms of 50-99 attorneys, 10% at firms of 100-499 attorneys, and 12% at firms of 500+. The average age of the respondents was 58. Approximately 69% of them were male, while 31% were female, and on average they had been admitted to the bar for 30 years. Based on the income generated, the largest practice areas were litigation (27%), followed by estate planning (20%), and real estate transactions (16%).

Cybersecurity: The 2019 report warned that law firms score badly when it comes to cybersecurity. Unfortunately, while there are minor improvements in 2020, not that much has changed. And that is problematic as during the pandemic that number of cyberattacks, especially on lawyers who work from home, will have increased. The number of firms that have experienced a security breach increased from 26 to 29%, and the number of firms having experienced a virus, spyware or malware infection rose to 36%. Also notable is that the larger the law firm is, the larger the number of lawyers is who do not know whether they had security incidents.

Still less than half of the lawyers surveyed were using security tools: “43% of respondents use file encryption, 39% use email encryption, 26% use whole/full disk encryption. Other security tools used by less than 50% of respondents are two-factor authentication (39%), intrusion prevention (29%), intrusion detection (29%), remote device management and wiping (28%), device recovery (27%), web filtering (26%), employee monitoring (23%), and biometric login (12%).”

It also seems that, rather than addressing the actual problems, lawyers prefer to take cyber liability insurance policies. “36% percent of respondents, compared to 33% in 2019, 34% percent in 2018, and 26% in 2017.” And there also is improvement when it comes to incident response plans: in 2020, 34% of respondents indicated their firms maintained such a plan, up from 31% in 2019 and 25% in 2018.

Cloud computing: the area of the report that is most outdated probably is the one on cloud computing. The pandemic resulted in a massive increase in the usage of cloud solutions, but that is not yet reflected in the report. The report found the legal profession still dramatically lagging behind in cloud usage, at 59%, compared to 58% in 2019. Notable and surprising is that lawyers continue to use popular business cloud services like Dropbox (67%), Microsoft 365 (49%), iCloud (19%), Microsoft Teams (18%), Box (13%), and Evernote (12%) at higher rates than dedicated legal cloud services.

As was the case in 2019, the report is alarmed by the lack of security measures law firms have in place when using cloud services. “The 2020 (pre-COVID-19) survey results showed further slippage in the already lax compliance of lawyers with even the most basic cybersecurity practices. Although lawyers say that confidentiality, security, data control and ownership, ethics, vendor reputation and longevity, and other concerns weigh heavily on their minds, the employment of precautionary security measures is quite low. No more than 31% (down from 35%) of respondents were taking any one of the specific standard cautionary cybersecurity measures listed in the 2020 Survey question on this topic. Eleven percent of respondents (up from 7% in 2019) reported taking none of the security precautions of the types listed. Only 45% of respondents report that the adoption of cloud computing resulted in changes to internal technology or security policies. These are disturbing numbers.” (Law Technology Today).

Practice Management: surprisingly, the report found that overall, the usage and availability of practice management software has declined. The only exception is for small law firms with 2 to 9 lawyers. Conflict management tools do a bit better than practice management software, but their usage and availability has stalled as well. Again, the small firms with 2 to 9 lawyers are the exceptions.

With a worldwide increase in privacy protection legislation came an increase in the usage and availability of metadata removal tools. And even though the survey was largely conducted before the pandemic hit, the report sees an increase in remote access tools. Related to this, is that the primary workstation for most lawyers no longer is a desktop computer, but a laptop computer.

Only 45% of respondents said they were using legal analytics tools, down from 49% in 2019.

Technology Training: Lawyers understand that technology training is important: 82% of respondents agreed that it was important to receive training on the technologies their law firm is using. Yet, in spite of that, fewer lawyers – only 59% – had access to technology training at their firm than in 2019. The decrease in availability was largely in the segments of solo lawyers (27%, down from 28%) and medium sized firms from 10-49 lawyers (74%, down from 82%). Small firms of 2-9 lawyers, as well as large firms (100-499 lawyers), on the other hand did see small increases, with respectively 50% instead of 49.3%, and 96% instead of 95%.

The report also noted that 91% of solo respondents indicated that they were “very comfortable” or “somewhat comfortable” using their law firms available technology. It explicitly warns that these lawyers may be overestimating their abilities with regard to the technologies they’re using and underestimating their need for training. It explicitly refers to the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Websites and Marketing: Overall, most law firms (54%) still do not have a marketing budget. More specifically, for most solo and small firms having a marketing budget seems to be the exception rather than the rule: only 32% of small firms (2-9 lawyers), and 14 % of solo practitioners have one. For those that have a marketing budget, 26% responded it had increased in 2020; for 11% it had decreased; for 27% it remained the same, and 36% of respondents did not know. The marketing budget is mainly spent on sponsorship (48%), followed by LinkedIn (42%), email (41%), Facebook (33%), and print (21%).

When it comes to websites and blogs, 87% of law firms responded that they had a website. Among solos, the percentage is however far lower, at only 59%. Lawyers still seem to view the primary role of their website as an online brochure, where the website has information about the partners (98%) and associates (73%). Approximately half of the websites also focus on the cases the firm handles. And 56% of lawyers now also use their website for content marketing, where they publish their own legal articles, but only 27% uses a blog for it. Among solos, the percentage that publishes its own content drops to only 17%. Most of the websites these days are mobile friendly, with only 6% saying their websites are not.

When it comes to individual promotion, 77% of lawyers say they promote themselves on social media. Only 9% however uses other channels as well.

The 2020 Survey Report reveals there still is a big gap between solos and small firms on the one hand, and the larger firms on the other, when it comes to their marketing efforts.

Budgeting & Planning: by now, most lawyers understand that a technology budget is essential. Overall, 62% have a technology budget (up from 60% in 2019), but an alarming 59% of solos and 41% of small firms (2-9) still do not. A whopping 71% of solo firms also doesn’t have a training budget. When it comes to the size of the budget, it remained the same or slightly increased. Interestingly, it remained the same in mainly solo law firms, while it slightly increased in the larger ones. The report advises to spend time planning a budget, which includes technology training, and to measure usage and track what is working. This will allow them to prioritize accordingly and spend more wisely.

 

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The 2020 Social Law Firm Index

As usual, some weeks ago Good2bSocial (www.good2bsocial.com) published its annual Social Law Firm Index. If you are not familiar with it, it is study of social media marketing adoption, use, and practices within the legal industry. It analyses each firm’s presence on the internet and across social media and evaluates their social usage to extend thought leadership content and to engage with clients and constituents. It measures social media reach, engagement, and marketing performance on platforms that include Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Based on this information, the report also publishes rankings of America’s Top 200 law firms for best social media achievement.

Due to the coronavirus, 2020 was a different year, and this shows in the findings of the report. Here are the key takeaways.

  1. Firms bulked up their digital marketing strategies during the pandemic: In the olden days, lawyers mainly relied on ‘social marketing’ to gather clients through, e.g., person to person interactions at social events, etc. Even in this digital age, it was a quite common and important way to reach potential new clients. But in 2020 the coronavirus made sure that no longer was a viable option. As law firms had to shift their entire practice online, they also were forced to embrace digital marketing strategies to extents never witnessed before. In 2020, “we saw firms embrace webinars, write and promote content, increase their social media advertising budgets and launch podcasts. Digital marketing is here to stay and it’s great watching firms embrace it and learn from best practices and opportunities to grow.” (Guy Alvarez, CEO Good2bSocial).
  2. The year of the webinars: In 2020, webinars became one of the most important tools for law firms to continue marketing and providing valuable content for their clients and potential clients. Where webinars have always been an effective digital marketing tool for law firms, in 2020 they became a necessity.
  3. The rise of podcasts: 2020 also was the year law firms started embracing podcasts. An unprecedented 38% of the top 200 US law firms are producing podcasts, and that percentage is expected to keep increasing in 2021. Podcasts allow law firms to tell their story, demonstrate their expertise and subject-matter authority, while potentially reaching brand-new audiences.
  4. Increased interest in SEO: in 2019, Google made some fundamental changes to its search algorithms. The underlying idea is that people are looking for answers to questions. So, the algorithms were adapted to prioritize web pages that provide the relevant information to answer those questions. In other words, the focus shifted from key word search to relevant content search. This forced many law firms to re-evaluate the content they were providing and to shift their SEO efforts to emphasize the most useful, relevant and targeted content they are providing.
  5. Paid LinkedIn goes mainstream: law firms noticed that their advertising on LinkedIn was far more effective than on other platforms. “The platform’s major selling point for marketers is its ability to target an audience by their industry, job title and work experience and more, not just their demographics.” As a result, paid advertising on LinkedIn has become the new normal for law firms.

Apart from these key takeaways, the report also contains several predictions for 2021:

Technology adoption will be at an all-time high: the adoption of technology by law firms was spectacularly accelerated by the pandemic. Because people could not meet in person, they met in cyberspace, and the legal profession followed suit: not only did lawyers start having virtual meetings with clients, but court cases too were handled online. As a result, law firms have relied on technology like never before and that is expected to continue in 2021. As they are getting familiar with all these new technologies, they will continue to reap more benefits from it. Law firms started embracing creativity and incorporating artificial intelligence, which also became a tool for data-driven marketing campaigns. It also allows to extract the right insights from the data they already have collected in their different software platforms. All of this is expected to contribute to increased operational efficiency, and better risk management.

Greater adoption of account-based marketing: one of the shifts we are witnessing is the new focus on account-based marketing. Account-based marketing is also known as key account marketing. The idea is to identify key accounts and then customize your marketing strategies for each one of them individually, rather than having one general marketing strategy for all accounts. It is more effective, and makes it easier to track and measure goals, and identify a clear ROI. As it focuses on the client’s journey and experience, it also results in a boost in client loyalty.

Increased use of social media advertising: the pandemic has led to an increase in social media advertising and this is expected to continue in 2021. LinkedIn saw its market share among law firm increase, and Facebook wants to remain competitive and is modifying its offerings. The result will be that it will be easier and more effective to use social media advertising than before.

Greater emphasis on website seo + cro: as attracting new clients online is becoming the new normal, more attention will be paid to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Where websites used to be online brochures, they are now full-fledged tools for acquiring new clients. The conversion rate is the percentage of your website visitors or leads that become actual clients, and CRO focuses on strategies and technologies to optimize those conversion rates. It is a step-by-step process that includes looking for ways to engage clients, including Calls to Action (CTA) on web pages, etc.

In previous years, the report also included a list of best and worst practices. This year’s report is slightly different in that it still contains a list with worst practices to avoid, but no longer contains a list of general best practices. Instead, those best practices are now analysed per specific platform, which falls beyond the scope of this article. We do have the time to go over the list of the worst practices that should be avoided.

Websites aren’t optimized for conversions: the primary function of a website should be to attract new clients, and for that reason the focus should be on conversions.

No true clarity on target audience or business goals: a website should not be a mere presence on the Internet, aimed at the public at large. Law firms need to identify their target audiences and ideal clients, and they need to clearly define what they want to accomplish with their website.

Not using data/ technology to evolve: to effectively use your website to attract new clients, you have to keep track and follow-up on all kinds of metrics: what works well, and what does not, when it comes to standing out, attracting the attention of potential clients and ultimately converting those leads to clients?

Only focusing on the top of the funnel: CRO strategies use the analogy of a funnel, where at the top of the funnel, you have all the potential new clients, and at the bottom of the funnel, you have those that become actual clients. The CRO strategies are aimed at guiding the leads through that funnel. Many law firms make the mistake of only focusing on the first step, or the top of the funnel. They also need to pay attention to the next steps, or the middle of the funnel. “Middle-of-funnel prospects are already in the buying funnel and are perfect candidates for targeted marketing campaigns. They need attention that is unique and relevant to them. When law firms build a collaborative relationship with the prospect, they can acquire more data about them to better understand their problems and needs and offer them the personalized approach to close the deal.”

That concludes the quick overview of the 2020 Social Law Firm Index. 2020 surely was an interesting year from a digital marketing point of view, where the pandemic became an unexpected catalyst for faster digital marketing adoption. That evolution is expected to continue in 2021.

 

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Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Law

Every day, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more entrenched in our lives. Even cheap smart phones have cameras that use AI to optimize the pictures we are taking. Try getting online assistance for a problem you are facing, and you are likely to first be met by a chatbot rather than a person. We have self-driving cars, trucks, buses, taxis, trains, etc. AI can be a force for good, but it can also be a force for bad. Cybercriminals are using AI to steal identities and corporate secrets, to gain illegal access to systems, transfer funds, avoid police detection, etc. AI is being weaponized and militarized. This raises ethical concerns, and the possibility that legal frameworks will have to be implemented to address those concerns.

Let us first touch upon some of the ethical problems we are already being confronted with. The use of facial recognition software that is being implemented in airports and big cities raises both privacy and security concerns. The same concerns pertain to using big data for Machine Learning. In previous articles, we already paid attention to the problem of bias in AI, where the AI algorithms inherit our biases because they are reflected in the data sets they use. One of the areas where the ethical issues of AI really come to the forefront is with self-driving vehicles. Let us explore that example more in depth.

Sometimes, traffic accidents cannot be avoided, and those may lead to fatalities. Imagine the brakes of your car stop functioning, while you are driving down a street. Ahead of you are some children getting out of car that is standing still, in the lane for oncoming traffic a truck is coming, and on the far side of the road some people are on the pavement talking. What do you do? And what is a self-driving car supposed to do? With self-driving cars, the car maker may have to make the decision for you.

In ethics, this problem is usually referred to as the Trolley Problem. A runaway trolley is racing down a railroad track, and you are standing at a switch that can change the track it is on. If you do not do a thing, five people will be killed. If you switch the lever, one person will be killed. What is the right thing to do?

The Moral Machine experiment is the name of an online project where different variations of the Trolley Problem were presented to people from all over the world. It asked questions to determine whether saving humans should be prioritized over animals (including pets), passengers over pedestrians, more lives over fewer, men over women, young over old, etc. It even asked whether healthy and fit people should be prioritized over sick ones, people with a high social status over people with a low social status, or law-abiding citizens over ones with criminal records. Rather than posing the questions directly the survey typically would present people with combined options: kill three elderly pedestrians or three youthful passengers?

Overall, the experiment gathered 40 million decisions in 10 languages from millions of people in 233 countries and territories. Surprisingly, the results tended to vary greatly from country to country, from culture to culture and along lines of economics. “For example, participants from collectivist cultures like China and Japan are less likely to spare the young over the old—perhaps, the researchers hypothesized, because of a greater emphasis on respecting the elderly. Similarly, participants from poorer countries with weaker institutions are more tolerant of jaywalkers versus pedestrians who cross legally. And participants from countries with a high level of economic inequality show greater gaps between the treatment of individuals with high and low social status.” (Karen Hao, in Technology Review)

In general, people agreed across the world that sparing the lives of humans over animals should take priority, and that many people should be saved rather than few. In most countries, people also thought the young should be preserved over the elderly, but as mentioned above, that was not the case in the Far East.

Now, this of course raises some serious questions. Who is going to make those decisions and what will they be choosing, considering these different choices people suggested? Are we going to have different priorities depending on whether we are using e.g. Japanese or German self-driving cars? Or will the car makers have the car make different choices based on where the car is driving? And what if more lives can be spared if we sacrifice the driver?

When it comes to sacrificing the driver, one car manufacturer, Mercedes, has already made clear that will never be an option. The justification they give, is that self-driving cars will lead to far fewer accidents and fatalities, and that those occasions where pedestrians are sacrificed for drivers will be cases of acceptable collateral damage. But is that the right choice, and is it really up to the car maker to make that choice?

An ethicist identified four chief concerns that must be addressed when we look for solutions with regard to ethical AI:

  1. Whose moral standards should be used?
  2. Can machines converse about moral issues? (What if e.g. multiple self-driving vehicles are involved? Will they communicate with each other to choose the best scenario?)
  3. Can algorithms take context into account?
  4. Who should be accountable?

Based on these considerations, some principles can be established to regulate the use of AI. In a previous article we already mentioned the principles the EU and OECD suggest. In 2018, the World Economic Forum also had already suggested 5 core principles to keep AI ethical:

  • AI must be a force for good and diversity
  • Intelligibility and fairness
  • Data protection
  • Flourishing alongside AI
  • Confronting the power to destroy

An initiative that involves several tech companies also identified seven critical points:

  1. Invite ethics experts that reflect the diversity of the world
  2. Include people who might be negatively impacted by AI
  3. Get board-level involvement
  4. Recruit an employee representative
  5. Select an external leader
  6. Schedule enough time to meet and deliberate
  7. Commit to transparency

A deeper question, however, is whether the regulation of AI should really be left to the industry? Shouldn’t these decisions rather be made by governments? The people behind the Moral Machine experiment think so, as do many scientists and experts in ethics. Thus far, however, not much has been done when it comes to legal solutions. At present, there are no legal frameworks in place. The best we have is for members of the EU and the OECD who have put some guidelines in place, but those are merely guidelines that are not enforceable. And that is not enough. A watchdog organization in the UK warned that AI is progressing so fast that we already are having difficulties catching up. We cannot afford postponing addressing these issues any longer.

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Social Media for Legal Research

We live in a connected, online world like never before. This opens up new opportunities that are not always obvious. Have you, as a lawyer, considered using social media for research? Sure, you can use social media to check out what your competitors are doing. But there is so much more that you can do. You can use social media very effectively to stay up to date with what is happening in your field of expertise. You can also perform research that pertains to a case that you are handling. And if you are a litigator, you can research your client’s opposing party, witnesses, jurors and even – when warranted – judges. As the example of the judge suggests, there also are ethical considerations to consider. Let us have a look at all of these.

Ongoing research – staying up to date

Social media provide an excellent way to stay up to date with what is happening in your field. Personally, I use Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, and Quora for this constantly. In Twitter, you can follow the authors and publications that are active in your field. Look for key clients and service suppliers, thought leaders, industry heads, etc. I would recommend creating a list in Twitter that you add them to. That way, you just have to check your list to find the relevant tweets. Noteworthy, too, is that by default lists are public, which means you can follow other people’s lists.

You can do the same in LinkedIn. Even if a person or publisher is not a connection, you usually can follow them. And as is the case for Twitter, you can create custom lists that make it easy and convenient to quickly go through the relevant material. The same goes for Facebook, where you can follow people who are not friends, and you can create custom lists. Typically, though, LinkedIn and Twitter tend to provide more useful information, as lawyers tend to be less likely to put legally relevant articles on Facebook.

LinkedIn and Facebook both have a Group feature, where you can create your own group or join an existing group. Both have plenty of groups that are dedicated to legal topics or fields of expertise. Again, the LinkedIn groups generally outshine the ones of Facebook when it comes to the quality of the information that they are providing.

Quora is a social media platform that focuses on answering questions, but where authors can also publish links to relevant information. Quora has sections that are dedicated to legal topics, and you can configure the email notifications to receive notifications when new information or questions are available.

Medium largely is a blogging platform. Like Quora, it offers the possibility to subscribe to certain topics where you get notifications when new information is available.

Also of interest in this context is Pinterest. In Pinterest, users can create boards that they can ‘pin’ information or links to information on. You can also create sub-boards. If you are interested in legal technology, e.g., you could create a board legal tech, with possible sub-boards for artificial intelligence, office automation, social media, etc. What makes Pinterest even more interesting is that you can also follow other users and/or their boards. So, you can share the benefits of work others have done.

Legal research for a case

A second area where social media are useful is to look for relevant legal information for a specific case. One caveat is that a lot of social media content is not indexed by search engines. So, you may need to perform your research on each platform separately! Quora, Medium, and Pinterest are notable exceptions in that most search engines do index their content. So, for those, it is not necessary to perform separate searches. With LinkedIn, articles that are published on its platform typically do get indexed by search engines, but regular posts and the content of groups, e.g., are not.

Both Twitter and LinkedIn have advanced search features that allow you to perform focused keyword searches. In Twitter, one would typically use hashtags for that. In theory, it is possible to do the same on Facebook, but thus far in practice this has rarely yielded useful results.

Social media for litigation research

A third area where social media can be particularly useful is for research for litigation purposes, in several different ways.

A first way is that social media could be used for opinion mining, i.e. to measure the public opinion on a topic. This typically is useful in criminal cases, especially if a jury is involved. You may want to avoid basing a defence on a narrative that people respond negatively to.

Similarly, you can use social media for reputation research, either on your clients or on their opponents. Apart from profiling litigants and opposing counsel, you can also profile prospective jury pool members, as well as witnesses. Based on the information you find, you can excuse prospective jury members, or impeach witnesses.

You can also check whether the judge has any connections to the parties or their counsel. There have been several instances where a judge had to recuse him- or herself because they were Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections with one of the lawyers.

Furthermore, and importantly, social media are useful when gathering facts and evidence. People have e.g. been fired, lost insurance claims, and have been convicted or acquitted, based on evidence that was found on social media. When looking for facts and evidence, keep in mind that it can be spread over all platforms. You may have to spend some time going through accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, Vimeo, … There already are third party service providers who can do this for you.

Ethical considerations

Finally, there are ethical considerations to take into account. As a first rule of thumb, any information that is publicly available on the Internet for all to see can be used in court. As a second rule of thumb, it typically is not admissible to directly communicate with opposing parties or witnesses: do not send them friend requests, do not follow them or communicate with them on social media. It is wise to apply the same rule of thumb when it comes to judges, as it can result in their recusal or a ground for appeal.

In short, social media can be useful for research purposes in different ways. When researching facts and evidence for specific cases, they can offer a wealth of information, but there are ethical considerations to take into account. When in doubt, contact your local bar association.

 

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Legal Technology and Access to Justice

When we think about legal technology, we usually think of technology that provides solutions for the legal professions and the judiciary. But what about the legal consumers? How can they benefit from legal technology? One of the areas where legal technology can play another important part is Access to Justice (often shortened to A2J). In this article, we will have a look at what Access to Justice is, what challenges it faces, and then explore the solutions that legal technology can offer.

So, what is Access to Justice? There is not one singular definition, and the concept itself has changed over time. The Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre (ACLRC) distinguishes four different aspects, which each come with their own range of challenges:

  1. The Right to Appear in Court. The formal right of an individual to litigate or defend is a Human Right. This does not only apply to conflicts between individuals and/or organizations, but also to governments, or any body that can impose a sanction.
  2. Advocacy for Those Who Cannot Afford It. The focus here is on legal aid, especially for people who do not have the means available to get Justice. It is one thing to have the right to appear in Court, but it is another thing altogether to be able to afford it. A study published last year (2019) showed e.g. that in the US a staggering 86% of the civil legal problems that were reported by low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help at all.
  3. Reforming the Justice Systems. Money is not the only thing that can stand in the way of getting justice. One may be faced with all kinds of formal and procedural requirements that create unnecessary obstacles. So, a third aspect of Access to Justice focuses on creating equal opportunities by calling for reforms of the Justice System to make it more accessible. Part of that has to do with implementing mechanisms for group and third-party claims.
  4. Equality of Outcomes. Several reports keep on confirming e.g. that legal systems tend to be biased. There also can be geographical differences, and different judges may even rule differently. So, it is not enough to focus on equal opportunity, we also need to make sure we get equal outcomes. This can be done by remedies like reforming and streamlining many areas of the legal system, as well as reforming other social institutions with the goal of creating a more holistic model of service.

The challenges and the consequences are clear. Not having adequate access to justice can seriously impact people’s lives in a negative way. The good news is that in many cases, legal technology can be leveraged to improve access to justice, especially for low-income individuals. In 2019, more than 300 legal technologies were available in the US to assist legal consumers seeking access to justice. And while legal problems may be local, the technological solutions to assist with Access to Justice can typically be used internationally. (Think, e.g., of chat bots that collect the necessary data to generate legal documents: the texts for the templates will vary, but the same chat bot technology can be used to get the necessary information to generate them). The most commonly used solutions fall within three different categories. They are a) technology that provides information, b) technology that connects individuals to lawyers, and c) technology that automates and produces documents. Let us have a closer look at each of these.

Legal technology solutions that provide access to legal information. The easiest and most common way legal tech can assist is by providing key legal information, as well as self-help tools online. If, e.g., as a tenant you have a dispute with your landlord, chances are you will be able to find the relevant information online that clearly explains what your rights and obligations are, and how you can proceed. There even are organizations that assist lawyers in taking on pro bono cases by providing them with free legal online guidance.

Legal technology solutions that connects individuals to lawyers. There also are legal tech solutions that help legal consumers find – typically local – lawyers online that can assist them. This assistance can consist of legal advice and/or of legal representation.

Legal technology solutions that automates and produces documents. Another area where major strides have been made in recent years is with legal technology that assists in document automation. Legal consumers can, e.g., fill out a form online, and the required legal document gets created for them. Often, legal chat bots are available to guide the legal consumers through the process, making the procedure as simple and effective as possible.

Legal technology can assist in other ways as well. Digitalising courts and tribunals involves both making jurisprudence available online as well as automating procedures, thus makes it easier to find precedents and to start a procedure. One of the effects of the Corona pandemic is that far more courts have gone online, and sessions via videoconferencing have become far more common. Some law firms have started virtual practices where service delivery is automated and happens faster and cheaper. More and more legal aid clinics, which often are community based, have gone online as well. There also are more online learning tools available than ever before. There has been an increase too in online dispute resolution solutions.

It is worth pointing out that many of these new technologies rely on Artificial Intelligence. In previous articles, we already mentioned legal chat bots on several occasions. Joshua Browder started a revolution with his Do Not Pay robot lawyer that can handle a wide range of legal issues. Many others have followed, like the Hello Divorce bot that can streamline amicable divorces in California to the point that often no lawyers are needed. Chat bots have reached such a state of maturity that several bar associations are considering accrediting them as recognized legal solution providers.

So, legal technology can assist in access to justice in many positive ways. Still, there is much work to be done, as the 2019 report illustrated. One of the challenges for legal technology is to find solutions for Digital Exclusion. Not everybody has access to the Internet or has the required digital skills to use it properly, which means they lack the ability to take advantage of these legal technology solutions. In 2018, e.g., one in six inhabitants of the UK lacked the digital skills, and one in ten did not have access to the Internet. So, lower income households are effectively hit double since they lack the financial and technical resources to address their legal issues.

 

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Introduction to Twitter for Lawyers

The 2019 Tech Survey Report from the American Bar Association revealed that while on average 25% of lawyers uses Twitter personally, only 14% of law firms use Twitter. Which is surprising as it has a lot to offer. So, in this article we will have a closer look at the benefits of using Twitter, and how you can get started. First, for those of you who are not familiar with it, let us explain what it is.

The Wikipedia describes Twitter as a “microblogging and social networking service on which users post and interact with messages known as ‘tweets’. Registered users can post, like, and retweet tweets, but unregistered users can only read them. Users access Twitter through its website interface, through Short Message Service (SMS) or its mobile-device application software (‘app’)”. Apps are available from third party service providers as well. It was launched in 2012, and in 2019 had 330 million active monthly users. In May 2020, Twitter was the third most visited website in the world, after YouTube and the Wikipedia.

The word microblogging refers to the fact that tweets are limited in the amount of characters they can contain. Originally, in line with SMSs, Tweets were limited to 140 characters. In November 2017, that amount was doubled to 280 characters. URLs are typically not counted as characters. If the URL refers to a page that has the relevant tags in its header, a preview of the page will be shown. Apart from text characters, Tweets can have emoticons, often referred to as emoji, in the text. They can also have images and short videos as attachments that will be shown along with the tweet.

What are the main reasons to use Twitter as a law firm? A first reason is that it is a platform with 330 million active monthly registered users. On top of that, it gets a 200 million non-registered visitors per month. Chances are your law firm may have potential clients who use Twitter. A second reason is that Twitter is an excellent networking tool where you can interact with attorneys with similar practices. If you have a blog or publish articles, Twitter is a place to promote those articles. It also allows you to connect with members of the media. Twitter can be an excellent news source too (if you follow reliable sources) and it allows you to obtain information that will be useful in your practice.

A reason to use Twitter as a law firm that is often overlooked is for legal research. Apart from just following legal authors whose articles you’re interested in, you can also create lists in Twitter that you dedicate to one or more topics. You could, e.g., create a list for legal technology, and add the lawyers, researchers, and companies who offer relevant information to the list. Such lists offer a quick and convenient way to get an overview of what is going on and make it easy to stay up to date. When dealing with a specific problem, you can also perform searches on key words by using hashtags. (We dedicated two articles to hashtags in the past. You can find the links in the sources below).

Also noteworthy is that Twitter has been used to serve subpoenas. In August 2018, e.g., Wikileaks was served a subpoena over Twitter. And there also was the case in 2017 where a personal injury letter was allowed to deliver a spoliation letter (i.e. a letter to preserve evidence) to Uber via Twitter.

So, how do you get started? Signing up is free, and can be done at https://twitter.com/signup. You have to choose a unique username (or ‘handle’ as they are often called). Preferably choose one that makes it easy to remember or recognize you by. Some authors advise something related to your personal name, while others advise rather signing up with your law firm’s name. Online consumers typically want to get to know the personality of the person they are dealing with. So, my advice would be that if you set up only one Twitter account to go for an individual one, as it will be easier to relate to. Keep in mind, though, that usernames can only be a maximum of 14 characters long.

You can sign up with an existing email address (that stays private) or with a cell phone (the number stays private, too), and you will be asked to verify your account.

Once you have signed up, you will want to fill out the details for your profile. You can provide a brief Twitter biography. It is good to combine both professional and some personal information in there. You can mention your law firm, as well as some of interests and/or social activities. Remember that people want to be able to relate to you. Stacey Buke recommends a) using a high quality photo for your profile picture, preferably the same professional headshot as your website biography and other social media channels; b) a link to your law firm website to obtain a high value backlink and to drive traffic from the social network to your main digital asset; and c) to complete the information on your location so people know where to find you in case they want to hire you. You may also have a first look at the settings to add more information and to customize privacy and safety settings.

Next, you will want to choose who to follow on Twitter. There are several ways to do this. You can import your existing address book, or you can manually add accounts you want to follow. You can include people you know, clients and potential clients, attorneys with similar practices, service providers you are using or are interested in, people with similar interests, etc. You can also see who people that you follow, follow, and/or who they included in lists they may have created.

If you have more than one Twitter account, or more than one social media account, you could consider using a tool like Tweetdeck (for multiple Twitter accounts) or Buffer or Hootsuite (for multiple social media accounts). These tools typically have a user-friendly interface that allows you to manage several accounts at the same time. Both Hootsuite and Buffer work on a Freemium model, where basic functionality is free for a small number of accounts, and you must pay for the ability to manage more accounts and for premium functionality.

Then it is time to start tweeting. If you have a blog, you can put up links to articles on it. You can use tweets for announcements and news. You can tweet about things that interest you. Keep in mind that social media are not just for self-promotion. They are meant to interact with people. You can reply to tweets, retweet or like their tweets (it is a simple as pressing a button). One author recommends a ratio of 50% retweets or tweets to other people’s content, 30% interactions, and only 20% promotion. Make sure to include some humour in your tweets.

Stacey Burke suggests ten ways lawyers should use Twitter:

  1. Networking
  2. Content promotion
  3. Media coverage
  4. Sharing news of interest to you and your followers
  5. Getting a little personal
  6. Engaging with hashtags
  7. Sharing images and videos, as tweets with images get 150% more retweets than those without.
  8. Live tweeting events
  9. Joining in conversations
  10. Analyzing your competitive landscape

So, give it a go. In a future article, we will focus on how you can use Twitter for marketing purposes, and on how you can grow your own following.

 

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Accepting online payments

A while ago, a report was published that focused on what legal consumers want, and on how they choose the law firm that will solve their legal issue for them. One of the criteria legal consumers considered was whether law firms accepted online payments. So, if you are not already doing so, the time is right to start looking into it, as it offers a competitive advantage. And if your law firm management or accounting software can automatically process online payments, things are more convenient and effective for all parties involved.

So, how do you get started? When you want to accept online payment, it is important to know that there are several different payment modalities available. People typically want to pay with a service provider that they are familiar with. They may prefer a service like PayPal, or want to pay by credit card, or by wire transfer, and they expect your law firm to be equipped to handle all of these requests. Now, there was a time when all of this made accepting online payments rather cumbersome, but that is no longer the case. You can simply employ the services of a third-party solution provider that functions as an intermediary. They have all the payment facilities in place, and will accept the payment for you, and then transfer it to your account. There are several such providers available, like Stripe, Google Wallet / Google Pay, Apple Pay, etc. In this article, we will take a look at Mollie, www.mollie.com as an example.

Mollie is based in The Netherlands, and its services are available all over Europe. At present, approximately 90 000 European businesses use their services. Mollie can accept payments from all leading payment methods, locally and internationally. The way it works is that they accept the payment for you, using the payment method your clients prefer and/or are accustomed to, and in the currency of their or your choice. Once the money has been received, you can choose when you want Mollie to put it on your bank account. Whether you receive it the same day or the next working day may depend on your bank.

To get going with Mollie is easy and fast. They even claim you can start accepting online payments within 15 minutes. Once you are signed up, accepting online payments is easy to set up, as you can use any of their existing form templates, which are available for free. They offer plugins for existing platforms, like WooCommerce, Magento, NodeJS, PHP, Prestashop, Shopify, Ruby, Python, and others. (Their website gives a full list). If you are not satisfied with these existing forms or plugins, it is perfectly possible to create your own. Mollie offers a well-documented API, which makes it reasonably easy to program your own forms. If your law firm uses a Dutch of Belgian software program for its accounting or law firm management, chances are your service provide will already have its own Mollie compatible forms in place.

The question that next rises in any lawyer’s mind, is ‘What does it cost?’ The answer there is that it really depends on the payment option the client chooses. Different credit cards, e.g., charge different percentages and may or may not charge an additional transaction fee. Mollie offers a complete overview of the pricing on its pricelist. They offer volume discounts, as well as the option for recurring payments. Also good to know is that you only pay for transactions that are successful, and that payments are secure. Fraud detection and prevention is included in the service package.

Mollie also comes with a mobile-friendly dashboard. From the dashboard, you get a detailed overview of your payment reports, complete with graphs that allow you to compare payments at a glance. You can also decide who on your team you want to give what access to your dashboard so you can work together with other members of your team. The Dashboard also is the place to process and keep track of refunds.

In short, there are many benefits to using Mollie. It is easy and quick to set up, and customizable to your needs. You get your own personal account manager and have access to a full-fledged support service. And chances are it is already integrated in law firm management software.