Little birds with courage

Legaleaglemhm and Little birds with courage.
The Legal Profession in Scotland awaits the new Legal Services Act and is viewed as, balancing precariously on the proverbial branch of that solid oak tree, watching a world of change. The big question is when will they take the leap of faith and fly?
A summary of my presentation to the Law Society of Scotland at the Alternative Business Structures conference on 7th May 2010 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel
Coming from a successful career spanning over a decade in Business and Marketing I come to the legal profession from a very different perspective. I returned to study in 2004 and received my LLB with honours from the University of Glasgow in summer 2009.What surprised me was, as many speakers at the conference described “the stubborn streak” that exists in Scotland’s legal fraternity.
Having secured my traineeship with and the position as Marketing Manager I realised that a glimmer of hope does in fact exist in what was once viewed as a stuffy and traditional profession.
My current role of Marketing Manager sees my years of marketing experience being re-sparked and put to action in the redefinition of their key marketing strategy. A strategy which indeed places as one of Scotland’s innovators; the movers and shakers and maybe the little bird that has leaped off the branch and is flying around as others stare on with disapproving and disbelieving glares.
Working directly with Graham Walker LLB I worked to mould and reshape the existing marketing strategy to accommodate new means of communication. A multi-facetted strategic plan which is still in its infancy; although already seeing results.
This strategy formed the core of my entry to the Law Society of Scotland’s competition to new lawyer’s one which I was delighted to have been chosen as one of three winners in the “What future leaders say……” section of the conference.
Apart from the obvious boost to my ego, being introduced as a future leader of the Legal profession in Scotland brings with it a challenge I am happy to embrace. I aim to record changes (and i predict there will be many)as they happen with the assistance of key lawyers throughout the world.
During the day we heard from respected academics and Scottish Lawyers of the changes ‘about to happen’ within the profession. Lorna Jack of the Law Society urged members to be united in embracing these changes yet the society as a whole awaits the passing of the Legal Services Act as somewhat a marker of when changes will occur. This is something I disagree with and indeed shows that the profession as a whole are kind of missing the point. The changes have already happened and I demonstrated this in my address.
The profession in England and Wales have and are responding to the formation of Alternative Business Structures albeit reluctantly, yet us Scottish lawyers apparently seem set to waste time squabbling amongst our profession instead of doing what the rest of the world is doing and that is embracing the change.
We heard during the conference of the need to protect the rule of law whilst somehow responding to changes in our client’s behaviour yet no-one proposed how to actually do that. ‘Where have all these lawyers been?’ I thought as I awaited my turn to speak.
The two other winners described the use of Facebook and the growth of a new virtual world with the commoditisation of legal services being a key to the responses needed by the profession and this led very neatly on to my talk.
I began my presentation by identifying a recurrent theme of the day ‘change’ and asked the audience to consider that change has already happened. I described this change as a paradigm shift in law making, in society, in client behaviour, in all professions, not just the legal profession, and in the emergence of even more competitors.
The emergence of the new shiny virtual world brings us two routes we can take. The first one is being adopted already and that is to simply ignore it and in my opinion rather appears to be like an ostrich burying its head in the sand or we can be brave and reach out our hand to the virtual world, learn its languages and actually talk, engage and do business with its inhabitants.
I asked the Scots Lawyers to consider who the inhabitants of the virtual world are? I asked them to allow me the privilege of being their translator for the day by opening up my Twitter account with the audience and explaining how I use Twitter as a new lawyer and how uses Twitter as part of our marketing strategy.
I explained that the twitter stream is visual snapshot of a live conversation occurring in the virtual world between different virtual inhabitants. The inhabitants are called followers and following. To make things very simple I asked them to accept that the 1980 people whom I follow are ‘potential clients’ and the 860 following me are ‘potential clients’. Not only does Twitter allow one to choose whom to follow but one can target followers by using Twitter search function thus allowing me to follow: lawyers, sources, potential clients, current clients.
By following these targets I can visually watch and take part in their conversation occurring in real time in the virtual world.
Twitter statistics currently show that there are over 105 million Twitter users and 27.3 million tweets (conversations) occurring every day. That is a lot of conversations and some of those conversations are about the law and legal issues. The boundaries and jurisdictions’ in the virtual world do not exist. There is only one virtual world and the sharing of information between inhabitants occurs all day every day.
Conversations such as “I need a lawyer” are currently falling only on very few ears.
In my role as Marketing and Business development manager for we have been listening to these conversations since September 2009 and in the last 8 months have used Twitter in many different ways.
By using Twitter as one form of communication we have listened to conversations by potential clients, new clients, instructed counsel, pushed web traffic to our web site which has increased by over 200% in the last year. We have had over 5000 views on our Youtube channel alone and developed our own movie channel where expert lawyer Graham Walker delivers short videos that can be watched on an iphone or blackberry.
As a new lawyer I watch what other businesses with different business structures are doing with Twitter and this feeds into our knowledge of this new phenomena.
I asked the audience how many people used twitter and I was shocked to see only a few hands being raised. If Scottish lawyers are not listening to all these ‘I need a lawyer’ tweets then who is?.
Twitter is a unique tool with tweets being directed out into the virtual world but the nature of the beast itself is that tweets are often swept along and missed by the very person they are aimed at. Using twitter strategically by sending tweets out and also engaging (translated: having conversations) with clients is one of the keys for both @legaleaglemhm and @roadtrafficlaw.
By having conversations with our followers we demonstrate that we are not just a lawyer in a suit in a big corporation. We show that we are listening when the client needs help and that may be at odd times outside of opening hours.
We also create a reputation as being ‘human’ and a real person who cares about why they need a lawyer.
As a new communication tool Twitter also brings access to the changing face of political discourse .Just as the political forums have evolved and people conduct politics in both a different language and arena, sources rich in new law and law form emerge in the virtual world.
During the recent debating of the Digital Economy Bill (now Act) over 60,000 tweets were sent. The languages of the world thus converge into a new form of discourse. The new systemic entity does not close at 5pm, has no need for sleep, and bars no-one.
Whilst Twitter is labour intensive, it is also worth remembering that it is Free.
The important message that I attempted to convey to the conference delegates is that ‘change is not about ….to happen’ Change has happened.
The virtual world now exists and is inhabited by our future clients, future law and future competitors.
To tweet or not to tweet is still a question many firms spend so much time contemplating…… that few seconds it takes to tweet ‘I need a lawyer ’ I know that I will be listening, engaging and responding and so will our competitors.
No-one knows what future technologies are around the corner. There may be lots of new forms of communication with the virtual world and without doubt they all require us to be brave and embrace them. Change has happened-fact.
As brave baby birds that have jumped off that branch and are flying around with a few select others: such as @brianinkster (Inkster’s solicitors) and @dfscot (MacRoberts solicitors)in this strange new virtual landscape we look back to the traditionalists still bickering about why they should stay firmly rooted and beckon then to join us. I will leave you with a final thought.
One can stay in that old traditional oak tree, safe and secure only till you realise that the world is now in the sky and you are a bird not a dodo. Do what birds do….soar high.
(Dodo’s by the way are now extinct)
I was asked what future leaders say……..and this is it “Jump – Come and join us in the sky of the future”.
Tweet me @legaleaglemhm and @roadtrafficlaw
Michelle Hynes-McIlroy LLB (Hons)
Marketing Manager
My talk was filmed courtesy of and a big thankyou to @kevoneil and @gillianoneil


4 thoughts on “Little birds with courage

  1. Interesting post.

    The simple fact is that in the big scheme of things regulatory reform and alternative business structures are but a sideshow. Change, more and more is market driven. It is the client, the customer, the buyer that will determine the future shape of legal services.

    This does not necessarily mean that it will be a bland commoditised service, (of course that assumes you think dynamic and engaging platforms are bland of course).

    There is EVERY opportunity for law firms to be part of this world. There is EVERY chance for law firms to survive and prosper in such a world. But opportunities and chances are all about taking them.

    Twitter and social media are just one strand of engagement. Ultimately it boils down to clear, engaging and robust service delivery. Delivery that is done in a ‘language’ that the market understands. It is this ‘language’ where most law firms fail. Get your ‘language’ right and you will push on. Try to stop the ‘language’ and you will be come a victim of it. And don’t forget the exponential power of online delivery….arriving late does not equal catch up.

    My advice to law firms. Understand the future, or get someone in who does. It could be one of the biggest strategic decisions you make.


  2. Duh Michelle…I did think of one thing last night but forgot to mention it above. The power of the individual is a big thing with social media. We engage with social media on an individual level. This offers up a big opportunity for micro-legal, in other words using tech to connect the market with the knowledge/solution sources. In the old world these were firms. In the new world these will be individuals. And connectivity will deliver solutions more efficiently.

    Maybe 200 year histories, 20+ partners and expensive city centre offices are important for some but for many engaging on a one on one with a low overhead that delivers mega efficiencies, in a ‘language’ that is understood will percolate down to a reduction in the cost to serve that is far more palatable to the customer. So my feeling is that “small is the new smart.”

    Ultimately providing solutions to problems is what it is all about. Providing a forum/mechanism to identify the problem and deliver a solution has to be multi-dimensional.

    Remember…as the social media market grows (it is still in its infancy), the market will look for the solutions less, they will find the market.

    The issue that I am working on for law firms is not about how good or bad Twitter is but the issue that many haven’t yet considered. Where do you go, how do you engage beyond 140 characters? Watch this space.


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