As many lawyers are aware, the internet has changed the way in which lawyers and law firms connect with clients. As more and more people are seeking news and information online – naturally lawyers need to adapt to this reality and become active. But how?
I recently had an opportunity to speak with John McDougall, CEO of McDougall Interactive Marketing, publisher of the Legal Marketing Review about this very topic. Below are some of the highlights of that discussion. You can listen to the entire audiotape of the discussion by clicking this link.
John McDougall: “Hi, I’m John McDougall, and I’m here today with John Grimley of Asia Law Portal. He’s a consultant to law firms on international business development. We’re going to be talking about today about web compliance and content marketing for international law firms. John, do you feel at risk for breaking Bar rules when you’re developing content for international law firm websites, such as blog posts or social media updates?
John Grimley: In everything I do in a profession that is governed by strict Bar regulations, particularly if you’re working in an international context, you always have to be concerned about this. That’s why whenever I do help clients, irrespective of whatever jurisdiction they’re in, we have a discussion about what is and what isn’t permissible pursuant to local Bar regulations, and we act in complete accordance with that. I think one of the countries that’s covered by Asian Law portal is India. India is in the process of more greatly expanding the ability for its lawyers to engage in social media than they have been in the past.
At the moment, and the Bar regulations at the moment are being studied. At the moment, India, lawyers are not permitted to have fully active social media engagement with active websites and blogging. Some have been using third party vendors to do that at the larger firms but that’s in growth. I do try to focus on that. I do talk to my clients honestly on what is and isn’t permissible.
John McDougall: Where do you find the official info about what you can and can’t say in terms of compliance for online marketing? Is it different than what you’d find in the US?
John Grimley: It tends to always be the same. It’s the local, regional, national bar associations which are promulgated rules, directives, and other guidance that is relevant to social media.
What oftentimes you find too, which is very refreshing is that many jurisdictions around the international jurisdictions around the world are quite open to social media engagement by lawyers. It’s fun when you see that. Malaysia is a country that you see significant social media engagement by lawyers, for example. Hong Kong, Japan, not as much by lawyers but there’s a real personal affinity for social media engagement by lawyers in Japan. It’s certainly one country that I’d love to cultivate more in terms of lawyer engagement, as a profession.
John McDougall: Are there any types of content you avoid? Any types that you focus on? For example, not giving legal advice.
John Grimley: That’s a great question. I really tend to help clients focus on what I believe and what is probably the most important things to a prospective client’s business given the laws are becoming more competitive whether or not you’re in a major international law firm or you’re in a small firm.
What is important to the client is the most important thing for lawyers to be talking about on social media. If you follow the Twitter feed of some of the major global law firms, they tend to talk about issues related to foreign direct investment. Foreign direct investment, which is very important to clients, whether large or small, it has a direct impact on a law firm’s ability to grow its practice, not just internationally but domestically. It does apply to small law firms.
Small law firms have to try to remain competitive by getting on social by becoming actively engaged in social. They need to do it in a manner that’s going to be effective.It’s effective if they’re talking about things the client has an interest in or they’re ideal potential referral sources have an interest in communicating to a client.
John McDougall: Right. Those are great points. Any final thoughts, we have just about two minutes left, on maybe tips for people being more internationally minded?
John Grimley: If I were a lawyer in a small practice or a medium‑sized business, particularly a medium‑sized firm that is facing challenges, get online, blog. Focus on not just your domestic market. Focus on the international market. Diversify your revenue stream so it’s not just domestic, it’s also international.
Be as rarified and specific in terms of your specialization as you can be. Distinguish yourself in the market. To do that you’ve got to do some of the things that we’ve talked about. If you do that you’re not going to be as worried about competing in the future as you are now.”
The entire interview is available at this link.