Three leading digital pioneers yesterday told law firms to “give clients what they want” rather than what they think clients want, whether that is a daily blog or free legal documents.
Speaking at the Legal Futures‘ NatWest mmadigital FROM CLICK TO CLIENT conference, Paul Hajek, principal of Clutton Cox in Gloucestershire, said the internet still had a “huge way to go” in the law.
Mr Hajek, the first solicitor to write a conveyancing blog, said his website now hosted 800 blogs and its conveyancing landing page had a 30% conversion rate, with a third going on to become clients of the firm.
“If you create great content for your site, it will be found, there will be an audience waiting for you and, particularly if you’re a small firm, you will be able to punch above your weight.”
Mr Hajek advised firms to be pragmatic, not to think they can do everything well, and be patient. “You won’t become an overnight sensation, despite what the snake oil salesmen say. You need passion – without it, don’t go there. It will be obvious if you’re just paying lip service to digital.”
Mr Hajek said he viewed Twitter as “primarily a listening medium” and the “world’s biggest cocktail party”.
However, he said a lot of firms were “bludgeoning their way in, with hobnail boots on” and should not be “pushing things down people’s throats” or telling them what to do.
He added: “Give clients what they want – not what you think they need.”
Tessa Shepperson, founder of the Landlord Law website, said she became fascinated by the internet as early as 1994, when she became a sole practitioner, and regarded it as heralding a “sea change in society” similar to the printing press.
She described how she had gradually pulled out of work as a practising solicitor as her website grew, to the extent that she closed down her law firm last year. Landlord Law provides information, services and documents, along with legal kits and e-books.
“A big part of my business is my blog, which I write every day and brings in thousands of people,” she said. “It is a beacon for my services.”
Ms Shepperson said the most important thing when clients were searching for legal services on the web was trust, and people were not bothered that she was no longer a solicitor because they knew her background.
She added that her website had a forum where clients could ask her questions, and which acted as a “comfort blanket”.
Jeremy Brooke, co-founder of Simpson Sissons & Brooke, a two-partner firm in Sheffield, said: “Legal consumers are looking for free information, so why not give it to them?”
Mr Brooke said the firm, which was on the Rocket Lawyer panel, was moving away from private client work to employment and commercial law for small businesses due to the response to fixed fees.
He said clients “seemed to really take to fixed fees”, and his firm joined QualitySolicitors last year, which, on a bigger scale, was driving the move to fixed prices.
“We have had to consider very carefully the cost of each bit of the business before offering it for sale at a fixed price,” he said.