Business of Law

Facing the Future: Kickoff Event Features Old and New in 6-Minute Bites

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New technology will drive the future of law back to the customer-service era of your grandfather. But clients of today and tomorrow are being aided by Facebook, Twitter, blogs and online reviews as they seek to establish more personal relationships with their attorneys and increase communication—and even collaboration—on matters. This return to a time when customers formed personal relationships with shopkeepers and service providers was a dominant theme at the ABA Techshow’s kickoff event, “LexThink.1: The Future of Law Practice.” The fast-paced program was an alternative to traditional panel presentations: Twelve speakers had six minutes each to make their points with slides flashing beside them at 18-second intervals. (Click here to watch videos of LexThink.1 speakers.)

“The more important you are to the circle of commerce, the more you are going to get sucked into the information web,” said Mark Britton, the Seattle-based founder, CEO and president of Avvo, an online directory that rates lawyers and doctors. “People want to know about you, your practice, your partners and the services you offer. Consumers want lawyers to interact with them and have a conversation.”

In fact, 97 percent of consumers expect companies to have a robust Web presence, and many look to videos posted on YouTube and Vimeo as ways to get to know lawyers and make hiring decisions, said presenter Roe Frazer, managing executive of Digome, a Nashville, Tenn.-based company that designs Internet marketing campaigns across social media platforms.

Those lawyers who fear or fail to embrace social networks and blogs will see their business leave them for Web-based legal services companies or their peers who do embrace the Net, Frazer said.

The dominance of LegalZoom—the country’s largest online legal document service company—in the solo and small-firm marketplace was the elephant in the room addressed by speaker and ABA Journal Legal Rebel Richard Granat. “In the last 18 months, I’ve seen dozens of [document automation startups] coming out of the woodwork, and the technology is getting better,” Granat said, adding that 57 percent of solo lawyers don’t have a website. Granat is the Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.-based founder of DirectLaw, which he describes as “a virtual law firm in a box.”

“[Lawyers] have to lead, be distinct, be competitive and incorporate all strategies to define what is unique to [their] credibility and trustworthiness,” Granat said. “Our profession is endangered in terms of solos and small firms. LegalZoom is going to eat their market share for lunch.”

Other presenters included Phoenix-based flash mob lawyer Ruth Carter and ABA staff counsel Will Hornsby, who presented five outdated ethics rules that “should be incinerated.”

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