[Editor's Note: Today's guest post is by real estate and business lawyer Andrew Wecker]
"[Steve] Jobs asked some questions about education, and [Bill] Gates sketched out his vision of what schools in the future would be like, with students watching lectures and video lessons on their own while using the classroom time for discussions and problem solving. They agreed that computers had, so far, made surprisingly little impact on schools – far less than on other realms of society such as media and medicine and law. For that to change, Gates said, computers and mobile devices would have to focus on delivering more personalized lessons and providing motivational feedback." Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
So far, the otherwise irresistible force of technology has broken its pick on the immovable object of education.
But that is changing in ways that attorneys can use to their benefit.
Amazon.com, eBay and Craigslist changed everything from high-end retailing to weekend yard sales, creating and growing markets through greater reach and efficiency, turning big box retailing and print media advertising models inside out. We’ve gone from mass market, one-way broadcasting to individualized two-way interactive.
Take attorneys and accountants. At one time financial and accounting software might have seemed to automate the accounting profession out of existence. It instead elevated many accountants from being bookkeepers to general business advisors, called upon to objectively measure, think and consult, and incidentally, often displacing the attorneys along the way.
But client confidentiality and advocacy set attorneys apart from accountants. Our appreciation of what lawyers do (or should be doing) for individual citizens and businesses should grow deeper every year, especially as our country seems more and more at odds with itself at the federal and state levels of government on individual rights and obligations.
Attorneys may lag behind accountants in using technology for the production side of their practices. However, the very nature of what we do and who we are as independent, self-policing counselors and advocates may help us take advantage of what technology can offer for the marketing side of operating a practice, both in terms of:
- publishing to current and potential clients, and
- business development training.
Marketing may seem like crass commercialization. Because it often is. But if we really are in an age of two-way interactive, instead of thinking in terms of “what’s your brand”, think instead in terms of “what’s your story?” Further still, what’s your client’s story?
What hopes and fears motivate clients and prospects, and how do you as an attorney better equip yourself to learn about and help address those opportunities and obstacles with clients and prospects?
Publishing has become virtually democratized. It’s not a matter of whether you can buy ink by the barrel and paper by the ton, but whether or not you have an idea to contribute. Instead of finding clients, a lawyer can think in terms of putting himself in a position where clients can find him.
CNN once called Salman Khan “Bill Gate’s favorite teacher.” According to his Wikipedia entry, in 2004 Khan began tutoring his cousin over the internet. Since then, his Khan Academy “has eclipsed MIT’s OpenCourseWare.
Its YouTube channel has more than 283 million total views, compared to MIT's 52 million. It also has more than twice as many subscribers, with 1,233,000.”
And just as technology can help attorneys reach audiences that they might never have been able to even identify, attorneys can tap courses from their desks at their convenience, and train themselves to better generate and convert opportunities into relationships. If it makes you more comfortable, think in terms of a law school clinical or a 2L clerkship instead of a 1L torts or contracts lecture.
Businesses divide labor for marketing, sales, production, management, human resources, billing, collections, and financing. But unless an attorney picked that up along the way at the undergraduate level, none of that was taught in law school. Everything starts with generating business. It is the first and perhaps most important step. Unless it is somehow subsidized by external inputs, every organization lives or dies on its cash flow.
So unless you are a digitally native professional with a book of business that is not at risk of being:
- commoditized by a competitor,
- deregulated by a governing authority, or
- internalized by the client,
the time has never been better to take a look at new ways to connect and learn.
[Mr. Wecker is with Manos Martin & Pergram (Columbus, OH). firstname.lastname@example.org]
Mr. Wecker wrote this article with the help of the RainmakerVT course, Write Articles With Greater Impact - In 30 Minutes
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