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With internet innovation happening so fast these days, some will argue that predicting the future is a questionable exercise. I disagree, and point to our collective “web” history for my reasoning.
Looking back five years, we can see that most of the major online services and web tools that we use today were already in existence. Adoption rates for the legal industry were far from substantial, but the major technology platforms that so many firms are now struggling to adopt – content management systems (WordPress), search engine integrations (Google Places, Analytics), and social media networks (Facebook, LinkedIn) – were indeed available, and more importantly, setting a foundation for what the web looks like today.
Looking forward then, we can rationalise that some of what exists today will be magnified in its importance tomorrow. In some cases, this situation is caused by law firms being slow adopters. Just as there were fewer firms writing blogs or sharing materials on social media five years ago, there will be firms adopting some of today’s technology tomorrow.
Here are three current “web trends” which I feel are important, but are not currently receiving widespread adoption by lawyers:
(1) Cloud service adoption – Beyond the biggest sub-market here – cloud-based practice management systems like Clio – law firms have still been slow at adopting cloud technology. Only 31% reported use of the cloud in this year’s ABA legal technology survey. As other markets adopt more rapidly, it’s likely that law firms are going to play catch-up in this area over the next five years.
(2) Social Media – A handful of LinkedIn accounts doesn’t translate into law firm engagement on social media. Most firms have no clue about participating in social media, and are clearly in their infancy period of using this technology. What should happen over the next few years is a change in focus. Firms will begin to take a closer look at their client base, getting to know the groups that matter to them. This transition will take time, but once firms take the spotlight off themselves and start contributing to their core communities, we can then expect social media participation to mean something to law firms.
(3) Law firm self-publishing – The biggest online trend today is the absorption of social web participation into larger web platforms – Facebook and Google being the largest. What so many firms are missing is the importance of their role as a publisher outside of
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Steve Matthews is the Founder of Stem Legal Web Enterprises,
a web development, publishing and strategy company, working exclusively
for clients in the legal market. For almost 20 years, Steve has
conceived, developed and marketed law firm websites. In particular, he
is recognized as one of the leading authorities on search engine
optimization (SEO) strategies for lawyers and law firms.
Steve has been an editorial board member for the ABA’s Law Practice magazine co-founded the award-winning group blog Slaw,
and is frequently quoted throughout North America on topics and trends
related to legal web technology. In 2011, Steve was inducted as a Fellow
of the College of Law Practice Management.
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