Specialisation is the key to offering law via tweet and blog, says a technology lawyer at Minter Ellison.
"Having a general law firm blog isn't going to help you. Its all about specialist areas," said partner Paul Kallenbach, who set up Minters' twitter account and blog, which the Sydney Morning Herald has since picked up and run articles from.
Kallenbach said Minters' first blog - the 'TMT blog' on technology, media and IP - was a "good place to start" because many people who follow that practice area tend to be adoptive of an online approach.
"Blogs tend to be niche, so the important thing is to find a community that's interested in following you and what you're saying in a particular area. Other areas might have been less amenable to moving to a blog-type form," he said.
The firm uses an internal micro-blogging platform for lawyers to collaborate on the blog and share ideas for articles and on the latest developments.
"It's like twitter but internal for the organisation," said Kallenbach, adding that lawyers are very conscious of confidentiality issues.
"Those issues are no different to traditional hard copy publications, but the difference with blogs and social media is the pace is faster. [Unlike] the traditional publications which were sent out in hardcopy and later in PDF once a month or once a quarter, we're posting content to the blog every couple of days," he said.
The firm has a strategy in place to roll out further blogs but in the meantime, the external arm of its new media vision is the blog and the twitter updates which Kallenbach said are forms of "knowledge sharing and collaboration with clients".
"It seems we've got an extremely broad audience: everyone from law students to general counsel of fortune 500 companies overseas," said Kallenbach, adding that readers can post comments and receive replies from Minters lawyers on the blog.
As the demographics change, he expects an increase in blog usage and a shift in the way generation X and Y expect information to be packaged from law firms.
A survey of in-house lawyers in the US last year revealed that around half of in-house counsel used blogs as one of their primary go-to sources for news and information and envisioned a future where high-profile blogs influenced a client's decision to hire a law firm.
"The blog is part of that ongoing digital evolution. We've used technology for a long time and have been particularly good at using collaborative technology in things such as deal rooms, document assembly and fact check compliance system," said Kallenbach.
"I don't ever expect a law firm blog to be as highly trafficked or commented on as compared to the Herald Sun for example. It's a different audience and it tends to be more specialised."
Minters also plans to create new internal platforms on which clients can interact with lawyers online, and then be billed for it.
The firm is one of the first to trial and run specialised software allowing invite-only social networking whereby lawyers use private instant messaging systems with clients.
But Kallenbach said it was a case of "watch this space" and that any move to interact with clients via direct messaging (DM) on twitter would be client driven.
"It's not any different to a short email or an SMS, it's just a different platform," he said. "We certainly give significant amounts of advice over email and a decade ago that was unheard of, so while I'm not aware of any client who has asked for DM on twitter at this stage, I think it's an interesting idea."
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