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Why the web world matters
By Warren Smith

May 28 2010 issue


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Over the past few years, I have spoken with a number of partners who have steadfastly refused to bring themselves up to speed on recent developments on the Internet. They view these tools as unnecessary to continue their current practice, oft citing the quote of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The challenge, of course is, while a lawyer may feel these changes are of no consequence to themselves, it is often of great consequence to their clients. In fairness, if you are two years away from retirement, then perhaps you can rightfully claim this doesn’t apply to you. Anything less, and the continued growth of technology and its impact on the practice is bound to affect your business, profile, and general success in the market. So what are the most important business aspects of the web for a lawyer to appreciate? Here are a few to consider:

What the web says about you
The web, much like the market, is an efficient entity. Even if you are not taking the time to consciously create your web profile, there are a number of websites already creating a profile for you. As an example, take a look at Zoominfo (www.zoominfo.com), an aggregator of all manners of news, business documents and interviews tied to your profile on the web. It might surprise you to find out how much is already out there covering your activities in the market, being compiled into a personalized CV of your professional engagements for all to see. More importantly, however, it might concern you if matters linked to your profile are incorrect; people may be drawing erroneous conclusions about your profile in the market if left unattended. As a result, even if you are not consciously managing your web profile, other lawyers, clients, potential clients (and recruiters) will often use this as a tool in assessing your professional credentials and profile in the market.

How the web keeps you informed
As the reporting of news continues to evolve and expand in the market, so too do the tools available to help you better sift through the overwhelming supply of information. Whether it is simply conducting a keyword search through the electronic version of your favourite newspaper, or using a news aggregator service to better focus your information pipeline, the web can improve both the quality and efficiency of your market knowledge. For example, take a look at Pinhawk (www.pinhawk.com), a powerful, industry specific news aggregator (including legal). You may also want to consider free services like Google Alerts, which allow you to monitor key words (your clients, as an example) and their occurrence in the news, in real time. For a profession that monitors time usage closely, these tools can help you in being better informed of both your client and industry activities in a timely, efficient manner.

The web and your clients
With the increased integration of social media in the business community, more professionals are turning to the web to help them expand their contacts, referrals and introductions in the market. While an established traditional network will continue to serve you well in sourcing work, increasingly, clients are using sites like LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) to ask for introductions and educate themselves on potential business partners in the market (including legal service providers). The use of business information found on the web is not restricted solely to matters of commerce either. Earlier this year, for example, I was giving evidence at trial on lawyer compensation matters, where counsel had conducted extensive research on my professional credentials using social media sites (including LinkedIn) in anticipation of their cross-examination.

Together, these represent a few easy steps you can immediately take to make better use of the business tools presently available on the web. Intrigued now, but not sure where to begin? Try LinkedIn. Some interesting stats that might help: from April 2008 to June 2009, Stem Legal (www.stemlegal.com) membership surged eight-fold from 118,000 to 840,000 of professionals in the law practice industry, as compared to LinkedIn membership, which doubled over the same time period. Might be a good place to start, to see why the web really matters.

Warren Smith is a managing director of The Counsel Network, one of Canada’s oldest lawyer recruitment and career consulting firms. He is also the only Canadian elected to the Board of Directors for the National Association of Legal Search Consultants (NALSC), North America’s leading legal recruitment industry association.


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