The Sheung Wan section of Hong Kong is an eclectic mix of the traditional and the modern – about a mile from the city’s gleaming office towers. It’s here that I met Stephen Lai, Managing Director of Hong Kong-based Conventus Law. A former Associate Publisher of Euromoney Legal Media Group(titles include IFLR, China Law & Practice, Asialaw and Managing Intellectual Property), Stephen now focuses all his time on building Conventus Law.
Conventus Law is an on-line platform providing law firms with the ability to publish their own content – whether written or videotaped. Stephen and his team manage the site and coordinate interaction with their clients: Asia Pacific’s top law firms.
What’s unique about social media in Hong Kong is that while widely accepted among many in the business community — as evidenced by a robust interest in groups like Hong Kong Social Media Meetup Group — social media adoption among law firms has been minimal.
Hong Kong law slowly adopting social media
“The United States was an early adopter of social media” Stephen told me. As well, the city’s law firms have not yet perceived a compelling need to adopt social media – as their business has so far been generated via referral. And that’s where Stephen comes in. In a market that is slowly beginning to adopt social media as a means to attract interest among potential clients – they are increasingly turning to Stephen and a few others.
Lexis Nexis, for example, maintains a similar portal dedicated to curating content related to the Hong Kong legal market. And a few years ago, Scottish legal social media consultant and former solicitorGavin Ward founded Hong Kong Blawg and looks forward to building on this as a useful resource, particularly for legal consumers, in the coming years. It’s part of a global network of blogging sites he’s established (the flagship site is YouBlawg) focused on allowing lawyers in specific markets to self-publish to wide niche audiences. “We’re receiving tens of thousands of unique visits every month, mainly from people wanting to find out the answer to their legal problems, and this is just the beginning”, Gavin told me. “We can provide lawyers in Hong Kong or in many jurisdictions around the world – with a turn-key service focused on freeing up their time to practice law while knowing their content is going to be seen. In ten years’ time, most lawyers will be using social media for their business, whether that’s solely through their own social networks, or using and interacting with established portals like YouBlawg or others.”
Gavin mentioned how Stephen Lai should be seen as an inspiration for anyone else looking to set up an extremely useful legal resource and indeed community for legal professionals, consumers or businesses in a large jurisdiction like Hong Kong. “The quality of the legal material published on Conventus is great and the lawyers who publish it will be seeing their rewards in new business through the door”, Gavin noted.
A focus on message
As Stephen outlined – it’s important not to focus on the industry standard nomenclature like “blogging” or “Twitter” when talking about the importance of being active on social media. “My goal is assist my clients in getting their message out to the right audience. The best tools right now are email, blog sites and social media tools but this can all change in the years to come. By staying focused on this goal, we can communicate with firms much more effectively as opposed to focusing the conversation around twitter and other sites”, Stepehen told me.
Both cited LexBlog, the Seattle-based law blog portal – as the industry standard. Other legal information networks such as JD Supra, Avvo, LawPivot (now a part of Rocket Lawyer), Defero Lawand CaseCheck continue to help publish useful legal information and news for specific jurisdictions also.
The next Huffington Post?
I asked Stephen and Gavin if they thought they were perhaps emulating in action and future success – what Arianna Huffington did with the Huffington Post. “It would be great to aim to provide as much value as Arianna Huffington has done with her blogs”, Gavin told me. When I posed the same question to Stephen – he said: “LexBlog and the Huffington Post are doing fantastic work for their respective markets. I believe one should be careful when building their business around this concept. It is important to remain focused on helping your clients in reaching the right people, while the technology we have now are the best tools we ever have to do this, we should only use this as a tool to help us. What remains important is the quality of the content we are providing.”
Hong Kong is a vital financial center for direct investment emanating from and entering mainland China. I suspect that as social media gains wider acceptance in the legal services sector globally – Stephen and Gavin will be well placed to continue their success in the market.