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Social Media – The Power of FREE

Unlearn what your have learned.

Consign to the history books your idea of marketing.

Understand that in Web 2.0 nothing is sacred – law or the packaging of intellectual capital is or will become a commodity.

You have kept a lid on everything you hold precious but how much of your knowledge bank is unique to you or your firm’s brand?

If there is a trick it is to understand that the longer you resist the temptation to unleash your best stuff on the market, the more likely it is that someone else will decimate your space.


Or do you think I am talking gobbledygook?

You wouldn’t be the first to tell me that I was living out a fantasy: the idea of law firms (deliberately) giving anything away for free was pure fantasy. Just imagine a situation where you spoke to your supervising partner about your latest write off and said “Oh, didn’t I tell you, that bit was free”. Pure madness.

But what you need to understand is that when clients come to select you they will (a) need to find you, (b) understand why you are different to the competition and (c) believe that they are getting supreme value for your premium service. If you all say the same thing and your website looks deceptively the same, then how will that decision be made? Not I would suggest based on some smug bios “Look at us” but rather working on the principle of providing consistent value beyond what they expect. They will want to feel that you have given away something of real value, which has applicability to their factual scenario.

Most firms will look at a White Paper, e-Book or give-away of some description, but however you package it up it must feel real, genuine and something that you take pride in. This is not rocket science. When you put together on your website a Q/A page or a step-by-step guide to the ‘XYZ’ process, why don’t you go further and invest time and money in providing something that can be passed around and feels genuinely special.

I have Tweeted on a number of occasion about Seth Godin’s book The Idea Virus which I understand is the most download, free e-Book on the Internet. Is this beyond all law firms?

If you can earn attention by producing something that is remarkable, then, who knows, you might find that clients or referrers start talking about you as something other than the usual band of solicitors who want to charge for every single moment of time. I am not suggesting that one document will go that far in dispelling the rather odious notion that solicitors are only interested in making as much money as possible, but it might just make a small dent in the perception of the profession.

There are lots of books out there which give huge insight into the Free paradigm, and the point of this post is not to pray in aid a whole raft of material – it has, unfortunately, been done to death on many, many sites – but to raise it up the agenda for discussion.

Don’t be surprised if the majority of partners throw up their arms in horror and call you a lunatic but ask them why if they are so opposed to the idea of Free do they continue to offer free half-hours, write off time which they hope to earn Brownie points for and offer a discount on their fees. It amounts to the same thing: they are trying to demonstrate value.

What I am postulating is something that happens earlier in the life cycle of the client engagement, and, hopefully, gives you an edge in the market.

If you remain unconvinced then the only way to test the market is to produce something which you might otherwise charge for but then remove the price tag and mark it FREE. It has to be your best stuff. There is no point in holding back.

I would suggest that rather than create something in a vacuum before launching it on your unsuspecting market that you do some market analysis. This can be as simple producing a mock up and inviting your best clients to comment, or start small and see if you get a massive number of hits of version 1 which should bolster your confidence that mark 2 will be even bigger.

Here are a few ideas that might help:

~ Employment: Produce an e-Book with your top 10 tips for employers to avoid Tribunal proceedings;

~ Dispute Resolution: a series of videos of no more 1 minute in length talking about funding, costs, witness statements, disclosure and the trial process. You might rope in the odd retired Judge or two; or an expert. What you are trying to do is humanise and elide the mystique around litigation;

~ Private Client: what about an e-Book on the administration process. OK you might have a queue of people who elect the DIY model but may be a few of those will turn to you when it gets too complex;

~ Property: perhaps not ideal but I would think about a series of MP3 downloads or videos talking about the conveyancing process. Perhaps this could be packaged up for first time buyers. You could include a Slideshare presentation, showing the importance of the forms and, briefly, what they mean.

And I could go on. But the point is that you are trying to earn attention for your brand by creating something that has a value.

Once you move out from your website and think about the other ways that the material can be syndicated horizontally via the social media platforms – Twitter, iTunes, YouTube, Slideshare and Scribd – then you may just find that an aperture opens up to a new seam of work.

Free is here to say, and isn’t to be dismissed because of the moribund system of time recording. It needs careful consideration, particularly around the culture of the firm but done sensitively it has the power to revolutionise your brand and firm identity.

~ JS ~