Employees–Just Rats In A Maze? What Really Motivates Your Law Firm Professionals

When evaluating patterns of human behavior, scientists often turn to rats that—it turns out—behave quite rationally.

However, even if the daily grind might make you feel like a hamster on a wheel, it turns out that people, while predictable, don’t respond quite as rationally as scientists expect.

“When we think about how people work, the naïve intuition we have is that people are like rats in a maze,” says behavioral economist Dan Ariely in a talk at TEDxRiodelaPlata, reports Jessica Gross for the TED Blog.

“We really have this incredibly simplistic view of why people work and what the labor market looks like.”

Humans don’t obey all the same rational, cognitive cues of rats. Instead, they are motivated by less obvious but equally measurable activities. As a manager, tap into any one of these things and you’ll find employees work harder, longer, and more passionately than before.

Here are a few experiments presented by Ariely that explain what motivates law firm professionals to become more productive:

1. Seeing the final product of hard work may make employees more productive

Set-up: This study, conducted by Airely at Harvard University, asked participants to build characters from Lego’s Bionicles series. Participants were divided in two groups, and each group was paid decreasing amounts for each subsequent Bionicles: $3 for the first character, $2.70 for the next, and so on. The first group’s figures were stored under the table and disassembled at the end of the experiment. The second group’s Bionicles, however, were disassembled as soon as they’d been built. “This was an endless cycle of them building and we destroying in front of their eyes,” explained Ariely.

Outcome: The first group made 11 Bionicles on average. The second group averaged only seven before they decided to quit the game.

Take-away: At law firms, associates often spend time on research or due diligence that doesn’t end up in the case. Employees may even know that their work will eventually be destroyed. However, as the study shows, watching your work be belittled or trashed before your eyes is de-motivating. Seeing the “fruits of your labor”—even momentarily—increases productivity. So, save those trial prep binders a few weeks longer. Ask your employees to take out and save documents that could be useful or reused in future cases.

2. The less appreciated employees feel their work is, the more money they may want to do it

Set-up: In another experiment by Ariely, this time at MIT, student participants were asked to take a piece of paper filled with random letters and find pairs of identical letters. After each round, participants were offered less money than the previous round. Participants in the first group wrote their names on their sheets of paper and handed them to the experimenter, who looked it over and said “Uh huh” before placing it in a pile. Participants in the second group didn’t write down their names on the paper, and the experimenter placed their sheets in a pile without looking at it. Participants in the third group watched their work shredded immediately upon completion.

Outcome: Participants whose work was shredded needed twice as much money to be motivated to complete the task than those whose work was acknowledged. Participants in the second group, whose work was saved but ignored, needed almost as much money as participants whose work was shredded immediately.

Take-away: “Ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort before their eyes,” Ariely explained. “The good news is that adding motivation doesn’t seem to be so difficult. The bad news is that eliminating motivation seems to be incredibly easy, and if we don’t think about it carefully, we might overdo it.” Lawyers are often in the “tough love” camp of mentorship. But, there is value to acknowledging hard work. It can be measured by the subsequent motivation of those employees you have rewarded.

3. Employees may derive more pride from projects that were difficult to compete

Set-up: In yet another experiment, Ariely gave participants (with no prior origami experience) origami paper and instructions about how to build a (pretty ugly) product. At the end, those who did the origami project, as well as bystanders, were asked how much they’d pay for the final origami piece. In a second round, Ariely hid the instructions from some participants, resulting in a more difficult process, as well as an uglier product.

Outcome: In the first experiment, the builders of origami paid five times as much as those who simply evaluated the origami product. In the second experiment, the lack of instructions amplified this difference: builders or origami valued the “ugly-but-difficult” products more highly than the easier, prettier ones, while observers valued them much less.

Take-away: Employees value their work based on the effort and work it required. In addition, employees (erroneously) think that others will attribute the same value to it. As a law firm manager, don’t forget to ask your employees about how much effort tasks took. It may help you understand what type of feedback to give them. For example, employees may be exceptionally proud of a project that required a lot of time and effort. As a result, they may expect a reward or acknowledgement by their superiors, who—for their part—may not have, previously, valued the work so highly.

4. Positive reinforcement about employee skills or ability may increase their real performance

Set-up: At Harvard University, undergraduate students gave speeches and participated in mock interviews with experimenters who either (1) nodded and smiled; or (2) shook their heads, furrowed their eyebrows, and crossed their arms.

Outcome: After their speech and mock interview, participants answered a series of numerical questions. Those who were positively encouraged with nods and smiles answered the questions more accurately than those in the second group, who were met with negative body language.

Take-away: Stressful situations are manageable—they depend on how employees are made to feel. As a law firm manager, if you provide positive reinforcement to associates, confidence in their abilities will lead to future success in performance. When you provide too much negative feedback, employees become discouraged and may fail at subsequent tasks.

Rats and mice may follow the cheese. But men and women respond to feelings of satisfaction, positive reinforcement for their efforts, and other non-monetary motivations.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Cyber-Attacks Increase, Threaten Banks, Law Firms & How To Terminate Them!

Of all the scenes in James Cameron’s sci-fi film “Terminator 2,” there’s one in particular we’d like acted out in real like. The one where young John Connor uses a high-tech device to steal money from an ATM.

Free cash being dispensed at your local bank branch as in “Terminator 2” may be science fiction, but ATM hacks are really happening.

This week, a security company claims it uncovered an “unprecedented” number of cyber-attacks on a reported 100 banks, reports the BBC.

The security company, Russian company Kaspersky Lab, claims that first, hackers accessed the banks’ networks by sending spam/spoof emails to staff; then, the hackers manipulated ATM machines to dispense stolen money.

Europol director Rob Wainwright told the BBC the agency had, “issued warnings and intelligence to national law enforcement authorities and European banks through the European Banking Federation.”

“Reported infections in the EU are unconfirmed at this stage, although we are continuing to work actively on the matter.”

Largely out of the limelight, this attack was patient and planned. News sources are trying not to rattle the money market, but the attack was certainly one point for theft, zero for the economy.

“This is likely the most sophisticated attack the world has seen to date in terms of the tactics and methods that cybercriminals have used to remain covert,” one of Kapersky’s directors told the New York Times.

Corporate data security risks are only getting more frequent and more severe. In fact, the news is full of stories about major organizations (Sony, Target, Google, Ebay, Westinghouse, Home Depot, Neiman Marcus) being hacked, with the perpetrators stealing the financial and personal information of clients, customers and others.

While the malicious reason for an attack may not be apparent, one thing is clear: counsel must understand that traditional network security approaches are no longer enough.

Attackers are getting more and more sophisticated and organizations (including law firms) must prepare as if a data breach is imminent. Because it is!

survey by the Ponemon Institute reports the average cost of cyber crime for U.S. retail stores more than doubled from 2013 to an annual average of $8.6 million per company in 2014. The annual average cost per company of successful cyber attacks increased to $20.8 million in financial services, $14.5 million in the technology sector, and $12.7 million in communications industries.

And, PriceWaterhouseCoopers found that this year is expected to see 42.8 million cyberattacks, roughly 117,339 attacks each day, after cyber-attacks skyrocked in 2014 by 48 percent from 2013.

It’s difficult to prevent cyber-attacks. Your law firm must get involved in prevention; developing good policies and practices to stop an attack once it occurs; practicing mock-breaches with your employees; and creating a public relations plan for your clients in the event your firm falls victim.

The threat may still seem like fiction for your firm, but it is already fact for others.

Try your best to avoid cyber-attacks by attending The Center for Competitive Management’s comprehensive webinar, “Mitigating a Data Breach: Proactively Planning For and Responding To a Cyber Attack,” Thursday, February 26, 2015, from 2PM to 3:15PM EST.

It explores real world data breach scenarios, practical tips for how to proactively plan and respond to a breach, discussion of regulatory enforcement activity and practical advice on:

  • Proactive measures to ensure that you (and your clients) are ready in the event that a data breach occurs
  • The kind of incident response plan that should be in place after a breach
  • What to include in the plan and how to execute it
  • How to apply the right blend of legal and IT responsibilities
  • Appropriate breach reporting to state attorneys general, insurance carriers, customers, etc.
  • The type of crisis experts you must have on file before a breach occurs
  • Best practices for company response to lawsuits and investigations that often follow a breach
  • Brief overview of a laws and regulations applicable to personally identifiable information – GLBA, HIPAA, State Laws on information security.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The 57th Grammy Awards & Benefits Of Blogging For Law Firm Professionals

These days people crave real-time reports.

This week, Beyonce, Sam Smith, and Pharrell Williams top the 57th Grammy Awards with six nominations each. But, the awards telecast has surprisingly little airtime. There are far more categories and performances in the Grammys than regular audiences will see. This is why some sites, such as Monkey See, Vox, and Entertainment Weekly, look to live-blogging during the ceremony.

Although it seems unlikely that law firm professionals will start live-blogging courtroom events (although, anything is possible), there are myriad reasons for lawyers to blog. It may not be as riveting a performance as Taylor Swift, but there are certainly other reasons besides entertainment from which you will benefit. Here are a few:

1. Productive Diversion. Angry birds and Pinterest can certainly fill up your free time. So will tracking this year’s film and music awards shows. However, a personal blog allows attorneys to make more productive use of their lunch hour.

Stuart Brown wrote in his book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul writes, “I have gathered and analyzed thousands of case studies that I call play histories. I have found that remembering what play is all about and making it part of our daily lives are probably the most important factors in being a fulfilled human being.”

When moving physical locations is impossible (law firms frown upon playground breaks for attorneys), briefly browsing the Internet for fun, diverting subjects, videos, or photos can substitute as “play.”

“The ability to play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative innovative person.”

Writing about your favorite sports team, commenting on news items, or reposting interesting videos are each great ways to maintain a positive personal attitude in an often stressful environment.

2. Hone Your Writing Skills. Lawyers write briefs and motions all day, but practice (so they say) makes perfect. In addition to honing your writing skills for legal briefs, a personal blog can also help lawyers to hone their skills in writing communications for clients.

Blogs, by nature, are more informal and cater to a different audience. Practice colloquializing legalese. Clients will be grateful to (finally!) fully understand the status of their case with your newfound informal communication.

3. Brush Up On News. Although many lawyers already watch the evening news or read the morning paper, a lawyer’s professional work benefits from being up-to-date on current events. Brushing up on recent news is fodder for elevator conversation with colleagues, and, now, it can be fodder for editorial content on your personal blog.

4. Discover A Different Area Of Law. Depending on your practice, the day-to-day legal work you are conducting may or may not be your primary interest. So, when you’re tired filing patent applications, use a personal blog as an outlet to read and research an area of law that attracts you most.

As a younger attorney, sometimes BigLaw dominates your time with pages and pages of doc review. A personal blog allows you to return to those challenging student days of mock trial and competition. Not every day at work will be intellectually stimulation. But, everyday of blogging can be.

5. Networking. Ever since the “good old days,” lawyers have had to rely on networking to boost their practice by reputation and name recognition.

Kevin O’Keefe, an avid law blogger, wrote about such old-school practices on his website Real Lawyers Have Blogs, “You went out and mingled. You left the marketing clothing behind. You entered into a conversation with the people you wanted to leave an impression with. You spoke at conferences. You networked at conferences and community charitable events to build trust, build relationships and to build word of mouth.”

A blog can continue this sort of personal interaction with the community. But, according to O’Keefe, many lawyers don’t understand that a law firm blog—more than a website or ad in the yellow pages—isn’t for marketing, it’s for relationship-building.

“Now we have lawyers and law firms who never understood that blogging was networking through the net, apparently giving up on the philosophy of that relationships and reputation build business.”

So, in addition to joining LinkedIn, online professional groups, and social media networks, give personal blogging a try in order to increase your online visibility. But, remember that a blog—much like attendance at a town council or a casual conversation with a neighbor—is meant to endear trust by your clients, not ensnare them in another poorly-disguised legal advertisement.

Need more tried-and-true, old-fashioned advice for lawyers operating in these techy times? Catch one of C4CM’s audio courses, live-streaming, here: http://www.c4cm.com/lawfirm/audioconferences.htm

There may not be as much music in them as the Grammys, but they will certainly be on-key when it comes to law firm management consulting.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Productivity On Planes? Ideas For Law Firm Professionals To Pass The Travel Time

Traveling these days has become a nightmare. But, it could always get worse. At least, that’s what two lawyers would have a federal judge believe when they appealed for an upgrade of their horrifying—dare I say it—coach seat.

Two defense lawyers for alleged terrorists requested an upgrade to business class from economy for their trip to an undisclosed country in Africa to attend a deposition, according to legal papers as reported by John Marzulli in the New York Daily News.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors also making the trip, say traveling in economy is just fine. In fact, prosecutors aren’t buying at all what the defense lawyers are selling. The feds think just one defense attorney—and in coach class at that—should suffice.

Why all the flight fuss?

Accused militants Ali Yasin Ahmed, Madhi Hashi and Mohammed Yusuf are charged with providing material support to the Somalia-based terror organization al-Shabaab, which merged with Al Qaeda in 2012 and has carried out numerous attacks in Africa against the United Nations and U.S. interests in the region, reports Marzulli.

To depose them, the feds are picking up the bill.

Yet, “Yusuf’s lawyer David Stern asked Federal Judge Sandra Townes to rule in favor of his upgrade request on the grounds that the depositions ‘are of critical importance… and the attorneys should be alert and rested to conduct them,'” reports Marzulli.

“Travel by coach will make it impossible for the attorneys to work and or sleep effectively upon our arrival.”

It remains unclear why the deposition couldn’t be conducted remotely (or why the attorneys plan to prepare a mere 17 hours in advance of the questioning).

What is clear, however, is that frequent travel for work—especially in law—has myriad downsides.

So, here are a few tips on how you can make better use of those hours for your client and your practice.

1. Don’t use the plane for work

This is pretty self-explanatory, and something the aforementioned defense attorneys should realize. Don’t use flying time for work. Travel is already stressful, and the last thing you want is to feel pressure in that pressurized cabin. Jet engine noise can throw off your concentration and make you make mistakes.

For long flights, if you must work, limit it to reading or listening. Download a few documents on your Kindle or e-reader, or a few audio books. Create a manageable list of work-related activities. If the flight is rocky or you get drowsy, you don’t want to count on completing that doc-review before landing.

Don’t forget to drink lots of water. The dry air of airplanes can cause dehydration and thus tiredness and lightheadedness.

The best plan is to sit back and relax (just like they tell you to) because it’ll help you hit the ground running once you touch down. In the end, your client won’t benefit from the inconsistent work you bill on-the-go.

2. Write a to-do list

Save your to-do list for the plane. If you’re attending a meeting, make a list of the documents you must bring. Organize your day’s itinerary. Write down the gifts you don’t want to forget to bring home for your family.

The to-do list will help you feel organized and excited for what’s in store.

3. Read a novel

Even as you’re preparing for a work meeting, it’s important to be refreshed with a clear mind. The best way to take an active rest is to read for pleasure.

Get out that John Grisham classic and you’ll find the flight flies by and your productivity post-deplaning soars.

4. Keep up on correspondence

Remember that holiday letter you wanted to write? Well, it’s too late for New Years, but consider drafting a Valentine’s Day letter for your nearest and dearest. Write your clients thank-you notes or just personalized correspondence. It’s a value-add to your practice, as well as your personal life.

5. Meditate

Meditation has been shown to improve focus and memory. Meditation is also a stress reliever. Meditation is very simple. Just concentrate on your breathing. Sit up straight, close your eyes, and focus on breathing in and out. If you lose concentration, bring your attention back to the sound of inhaling and exhaling. Keeping your mind cool in flight will help keep your head calm and collected in court after you land.

6. Pay to upgrade

Finally, pay to upgrade your layover to a business lounge.

So even when that federal judge denies your request for an upgraded seat (as they should on federal dollars), you still have the luxury of a lounge for on-the-ground productivity.

For the savvy legal professional, travel doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Plan ahead and don’t work on the plane.

Instead, prioritize working during a stopover. It will lead to more efficient and error-free product for your client, and better business practice for your firm.

Worried about your employees’ productivity? Learn time management tips and tricks with C4CM’s audio course, “Smart Manager’s Guide to Building a Productive Workplace: 10 Proven Strategies to Boost Personal and Employee Productivity.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Throw-back Thursday: Sumerian Syria & Serious Uses For Excel (For Lawyers)

How about another throw-back Thursday history lesson (and then some law). It’s about Syria—but long before the country was known for ISIS, it was valued for ideas.

Today, two days after news came out that ISIS had burned a captive Jordanian pilot to death, the small Middle Eastern nation hit back big. Jordanian fighter jets flew over the home of the slain 27-year-old pilot, Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh, in the village of Ay in Karak governorate after participating in air strikes over ISIS’ de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria.

Government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani told CNNThursday that Jordan’s response to the killing “will be strong and will be decisive.”

“We will not let this crime of killing our pilots with the horrific way it was done pass without punishment,” al-Momani said to CNN. “These people will be punished.”

As of today, the government certainly lived up to that promise.

If we go back in time, however, we can look to a small city—Mari—located on the border of Iraq and Syria, not far from Jordan, where civilizations used to come together, rather than clash.

Mari (modern-day Tell Hariri, Syria) was an ancient Semitic city located on the Euphrates river western bank. Thousands of years ago it flourished as a trade center and hegemonic state from 2900 BC until 1759 BC. The city was built expressly for the purpose of trade, based on its relative position in the middle of the Euphrates trade routes—a position that made it an intermediary between Sumer in the south and the Levant in the west.

Sumer is a civilization that existed slightly before that of Ancient Egypt and located in southern Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). By the late fourth millennium B.C., Sumer (or Ki-en-gir, ‘Land of the Sumerian tongue’) was divided into approximately a dozen city-states which were independent of one another and which used local canals and boundary stones to mark their borders, according to historians (read more about Sumer here).

Far before Iraq was coveted for its oil, it was celebrated for its inventions. There are at least four different translations (although they sometimes conflict) on the names of Sumerian rulers and their illustrious lengths of rule. It’s on one such document that an early Sumerian invention is described: the wheel, dating to circa 3500 BC.

You could perhaps claim that Iraq was forever—since as far as Sumer—destined to be a place highly influential in the creation of the car.

Besides the wheel, however, law firm professionals—people, in general—should be thankful for Sumer’s many crucial contributions to modern technology and language. For example, the civilization reminds us even today why there is no point, thousands of years later, in reinventing the wheel (although many people throughout history have tried).

Now, going back to the practice of law, think about how many new computer programs, tablet and mobile apps that organize case matter material, new-fangled software to organize all the details of your case.

Do we need it all?

When it comes to timesheets, timelines, case status updates, “to do” lists, and other casework assignments, Microsoft Excel has become a tried and true tool for lawyers and law firm managers.

And, its many features are available on the iPad, a favorite among attorneys.

Recently, when Microsoft Excel rolled out a bunch of new features for Excel for iPad, we were paying attention. This is a run-down of Excel for iPad’s new design additions (thanks to AccountingWeb):

  • Pivot table functionality. In the first incarnation, pivot tables were literally trapped under glass, meaning you could only scroll the data around on the screen. Now, although the workbook must already contain a pivot table before opening it using the app, you have the capability to expand, collapse, filter, and even refresh pivot tables, as shown in Figure 1.The caveat on refreshing is that the source data must be within the same workbook as the pivot table.
  • Email documents as PDF. Previously, Excel spreadsheets could only be emailed in their native format, but you can now email spreadsheets in PDF form. Figure 2 walks you through the steps.External keyboard support. Using an external keyboard allows you to use the same navigation and data entry techniques that you do in the desktop-based versions of Excel..
  • Flick to select. You’ll quickly wish for this innovative feature in the desktop versions of Excel. Flick a cell’s selection handle in any direction to automatically select all data in that row or column for a contiguous area of the spreadsheet. It’s a huge advance in using Excel on a touch-enabled device.
  • Third-party fonts. You can now access third-party fonts installed on your iPad in the Excel app.
  • Picture tools. Excel for iPad now supports in-app picture editing so your firm can, for example, update its very attractive blog site.

Not yet convinced of Excel’s application to your law practice? Here‘s a detailed account of how lawyers can use Excel.

Lawyers can use Excel to track (1) timesheets; (2) timelines; (3) case status updates; (4) casework assignments; and (5) financial reporting. These uses, and more, can be easily configured to sync with e-mail in Outlook and all your mobile devices (like the iPad, see above). More than that, Excel is a tried-and-true program that has been used for centuries decades throughout history to save time and money.

Instead of the ghastly air strikes, remember the history of Syria for Sumer. And, don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to (also, don’t add unnecessary conflict in your professional life over it, either).

Learn more about how your law firm can use Excel with The Center For Competitive Management (C4CM)’s guides and webinars:

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Funny Job Titles & How To Not Laugh Your Way Into A Labor Lawsuit

file.jpgWould you guess that an advertisement for an “information advisor,” is really a search for a university librarian?

What about internal communications coordinator, family protection consultant, or Process operative? These titles are for a fax-machine operator, insurance salesman, and chicken factory employee, respectively.

When job titles like “lifeguard” start to be replaced with “wet leisure assistant” (seriously, Ceredigion County Council hired for that post), companies need to start reconsidering their human resources strategies.

The problem with confusing job titles and descriptions is that they attract the wrong candidates. And, once employed, workers won’t know what’s expected from them if their actual duties differ from what they were hired, on paper, to do.

Typically, job descriptions include a precise job title, short summary of the responsibilities involved, the specific set of skills or experience required, and a salary range.

Things to avoid? Jargon, legalese, ambiguous list of duties.

If you don’t know where to begin, start writing down the description of your ideal candidate.

Among your employees of similar rank, what kinds of words do you associate with your most valued? Use those same adjectives to seek your future employees.

Most importantly, be precise. Use descriptive action verbs (advise, compile, report, etc.) instead of vague action verbs (be, do, work, assist, etc.). To be precise, you must write in complete sentences that leave no room for misinterpretation.

Prioritize the most important responsibilities of the job. If you are writing “occasionally” next to an assignment, consider leaving it off. Explain these more peripheral functions in the in-person interview.

In addition to explain what and where these job tasks will be completed, consider offering reasons why you need them done and how often. If you want to attract the right candidate for a job, they must be aware of your motivations behind hiring them in for this particular position.

Where does this position rank next to others in the same firm, and why is it so important? Your reasons for hiring a new associate or law firm professional should compliment their reasons for applying to the job.

Finally, every time you hire for a new position, you should take the opportunity to reevaluate the job descriptions for positions already in place. It’s important to ensure there is no duplication of responsibility within your firm. And, it will make hierarchies and reporting systems clear for both new and old employees.

Are your job descriptions accurate and up-to-date? Do they comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Family and Medical Leave Act? If not, your organization may be next-in-line for an investigation by a governmental agency or even a devastating lawsuit.

In fact, just one poorly written job description could leave your company exposed. Job descriptions are typically the first document looked at in legal disputes or during a regulatory agency’s inquiry.

And with the rise of disputes stemming from the employer-employee relationship, particularly claims arising under the FLSA, FMLA, and ADA, you need to take keen look at your job descriptions to ensure they’re legally compliant.

Attend The Center for Competitive Management’s “how-to” event, “Writing Accurate & Defensible Job Descriptions that Comply with the FLSA, ADA, and FMLA,” on Wednesday, February 4, 2015, from 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM Eastern.

You will learn easy steps to create job descriptions that are:

  • Accurate, clear, and defensible under the FLSA, ADA, and FMLA;
  • Written in a manner that clearly defines the responsibilities of employee positions; and
  • Consistent with best practices under other federal employment laws.

Before you start advertising for a “waste management and disposal technician” to empty your trash, think about whether or not it’s really your job titles and descriptions that should be thrown out.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Reach, Engagement & Shareability: Metrics That Matter For Law Firm Social Media & Attracting New Clients

The Internet age. Upside, you get to work from home when you don’t feel like going to the office. Downside, you have to work at home when there’s a blizzard.

Alleviate your workload through social media, if not through a snow day (due to Juno’s underwhelming presence).

Social media has empowered businesses and consumers alike. Individuals have never held so much influence in changing the world with just one click of a button. At the same time, businesses are empowered to advertise their products and services to a market much larger than before.

At first, law firms were a bit slow to take advantage of digital days. Not anymore. Now it’s necessary to task young associates with managing your Facebook page, Twitter account, and—hopefully—blog posts, or risk your bottom line by falling behind.

Here’s how your firm gets noticed:

1. Publish your posts on media aggregators.

Upside: Websites like Reddit, Shoutwire, and Digg allow individuals to submit links to websites, blog posts, or any Internet-based page. The community of readers then votes up (or down) the link based on a review of its content. Create flashy titles and you’ll likely see in a flash the rise of your readership.

Downside: Comments by readers can be harsh. The anonymity of the Internet allows people to wriste down criticisms (NSFW) that may end up permanently cached on the World Wide Web.

2. Add website sharing buttons.

Upside: Your firm’s website should have links to all of your social media accounts, as well as ways to share your posts. Programs like “Click to Tweet” make this easy.

Downside: Your firm may need a small amount of Internet savvy to create buttons on your website and restore broken links.

3. Create interesting content.

Upside: Remember to write thoughtful arguments accompanied with eye-catching photos. There’s so much competition already when it comes to online content, your firm’s additions must stand out.

Downside: Yes, this requires a little more time and thought to write captivating posts and tweets. Consumers would rather see the “Yeti Seen Prowling the Streets Near Boston” than your tips about hiring Of Counsel at your company.

4. Do your research.

Upside: If you know what time your readers are logging on then you’ll know the best time to publish your posts. Maybe you’re getting a lot of hits first thing in the morning. People are remiss to start work at 8am and decide to read legal news or browse the web. With this knowledge, you can now set your social media to publish at certain times to target your audience.

Downside: Due diligence on your casework is no longer enough. Time to do due diligence on your business development, too.

5. Crossover multiple social media platforms.

Upside: Happy you finally mastered the art of blogging for your firm? Time to summarize that blog post on your LinkedIn and Facebook page and compile a 140-character hook for your Twitter account. Don’t be afraid to repeat the same ideas on different mediums.

Downside: Now you’ll have to memorize more usernames and passwords. More social media means more potential backlash.

In the end, it’s possible to get your firm’s name and reputation out there. In fact, the Social Law Firm Index, developed by the Above The Law Blog has a formula that measures social-media metrics. It looks at:

Reach. Represents the total number of unique people who had an opportunity to see the firm’s content. Reach would include number of followers on Twitter and/or LinkedIn, company page likes on Facebook, and followers or subscribers on other social media channels (for example: YouTube channel subscribers or Slideshare followers).

Engagement. Measures the actual interaction with the firm’s content via social media. This would include comments or likes (for status updates) on Facebook, RTs or mentions on Twitter, and likes on LinkedIn.

Owned Media. An assessment of the firm’s own site (including microsites) based on, among other things, the proportion of non-promotional content, frequency of updates, and shareability of content.

So, what conclusions were drawn from this study?

First, size matters. If you’re a small law firm, it’s likely that your reach will never meet that of a Top-20 firm. See, for example, the Top 10 ranking in this Social Law Firm Index here.

But, there’s still hope for small firms. There was a much lower correlation between firm size and engagement. That means small firms can still have high interaction by potential clients in terms of likes (for status updates) on Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as retweets on Twitter.

It’s quality—not quantity—that matters.

The next finding is that from 2013 to 2014, the largest U.S. firms improved both the reach and audience engagement levels by more than 60 percent, on average. That means firms are getting more savvy about their social media and—more importantly—people are listening.

For law firms looking for reasons why they should spend time and money on social media, this finding is especially pertinent. Consumers of legal services are reaching out via social media. Facebook, LinkedIn, blog posts, and Twitter are helping reach new clients at an increasing rate.

Finally, the last important finding worth mentioning is that many firms that were lagging behind in 2013 moved to catch up with market leaders. And this was achieved at rates much more significant than the improvement among already active firms.

What does this mean for you? There’s still time to push social media at your law firm.

Your firm won’t regret that embarrassing Tweet sent out to its thousands of followers; it will only regret not tweeting at all.

How can you maximize the potential of social media while ensuring the appropriate use of intellectual property and customer information? What can counsel do to proactively protect brands from infringement by social networking website users?

As more and more businesses incorporate social media into the promotion of their products and services, they’re also finding that unauthorized use of their trademarks, service marks and trade names are emerging through these same channels.

In fact, a global infringement that once took weeks, months or years to occur, can now take shape as fast as someone can hit “enter” on their keyboard. And, once the infringement is out there in cyberspace, there’s no way of knowing if the offending material is ever truly deleted.

Take the Center for Competitive Management’s audio course, “Copyright and Trademark Enforcement in Social Media: Policing and Protecting Against Brand Infringement,” to learn more.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized