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With the pandemic shifting business online and changing consumer behaviour, traditional small law firms can no longer depend on high street traffic to bring in business.
This year’s Bellwether Report found 61% of law firms viewed attracting new business as a significant threat. As such, firms now need to think about their digital presence, not as a “nice-to-have” but as a matter of urgency.
While, to many, moving online is seen as an opportunity, it can be seen as a chore. One lawyer explains: “Previously, it was probably an advert in the paper. Now we’re all forced to update our websites and social media.”
However, attracting new business online can be a straightforward process. From setting up social media pages to updating your details on Google, business leaders can’t afford to be offline.
Social media isn’t just about cat photos or dance trends. With a wide variety of tools available to get your business up to speed online, it’s the easiest way to digitise your firm.
Facebook is a great and affordable place to start. The platform has a dedicated page for businesses with a suite of business tools. After you’ve set up a free business page, you’ll be able to use powerful tools that can make your firm easily accessible for prospective clients.
This includes making bookings that sync with your calendars and using advertising tools to reach new clients. If you want to go the extra mile, you can even use automated messaging to let people know about your services without lifting a thumb.
LinkedIn and Twitter are also great places to start discussions or share news from your business. Avoiding these platforms makes it harder for prospective clients to find you, raising the barrier to new business.
In short, social media is already being used by a sizeable portion of firms. 59% of small and SME firms have or will develop a social media strategy. Those that continue to ignore the benefits of an online presence are likely to fall behind the competition.
Another way firms are going digital is through developing their websites. 65% of firms have implemented or will implement website development. While this can sound like a daunting (and expensive) task for some, it doesn’t need to be.
Platforms like Wix and Squarespace have easy-to-use website builders that don’t require writing a line of code. Businesses can quickly set up a website from a range of templates and customise these to their needs.
As an added bonus, many platforms have commercial tools available. These pre-built pages let clients place orders and pay invoices online, neatly storing this information for record-keeping.
While these aren’t free, they’re an investment. Clients want to be able to learn more about your business and correctly assess if you would be the right fit. Not having clear, accurate information about your firm and its staff risks pushing prospective clients away.
Of course, going digital means setting time aside to build and maintain your online presence. If you’re a fee earner, this means less time earning. As a result, some firms have decided to take on new staff. One lawyer explains:
“We have just taken on a marketing executive because it is taking up too much of mine and partners’ attention that could be focussed on fee earning. The pandemic has made us realise we just don’t have enough time.”
Taking on someone dedicated to marketing or business development not only frees up lawyers’ time, but also injects a fresh skillset into your company. While there’s nothing wrong with going it alone, hiring a specialist can help your business grow while not taking time away from clients.
With firms once again listing salaries as their number one expense, this doesn’t need to be a full-time hire. There are a range of part-time or freelance creatives available on sites like Fiverr who can advise on or run your online presence.
There are also some quick fixes firms can make. Make sure search engines and mapping providers have your information correct. Google and Apple both let you take control of your opening hours, address and links to social media pages or websites.
When searching for a law firm, most people are likely to use Google or a maps app. If a prospective client can’t find you on there, it’s unlikely they’ll find you at all.
It’s also worth setting some time aside to get up to scratch with digital tools. Learning platforms like LinkedIn Learning and Coursera are great and cost effective, with many having free trials. Even if you’re hiring someone to handle your digital presence, it’s useful to be able to speak their language and assess if they’re living up to their promises.
For the full picture on what’s next for small law, read The Bellwether Report: The good, the bad and the new.
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