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Australasian law firms are failing to capitalise on the power of social media

'Online disruptors are building their own lead streams from non-traditional sources,' warns Andrew Barnes

10 November 2015

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Australasian law firms are relying on traditional methods of generating new business instead of taking advantage of free online resources.

That's according to new research released today by the Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA) and Julian Midwinter & Associates (JMA).

Referral networks and personal relationships are rated by 70 per cent of Australasian law firms as the most effective form of generating new business enquiries, followed by client relationship management strategies (34 per cent) and firm seminars (30 per cent).

"I suspect these ratings reflect a legacy view. Potential clients for generations have preferred to buy legal services from people they know or firms that are recommended to them by people they trust," commented Andrew Barnes, president of the ALPMA.

"But the markets are changing. Online disruptors are building their own lead streams from non-traditional sources, customers are increasingly willing to compare and purchase legal services online and most law firms are missing out on this business."

Riverview Law and Halebury are among the NewLaw firms which are capitalising on online marketing to build up their client base and maintain relationships with existing clients.

"Social media is an important part of our overall strategy. Since our launch, we have been approached by a number of customers via social media platforms. We have also recruited a number of people we have met via social media," Karl Chapman, chief executive of Riverview Law, told Managing Partner.

"The great thing about social media is that you can engage with people all over the world, from different businesses who you may not meet via other methods. There is no doubt that social media has opened doors for us whether that's been with recruiting people, meeting and engaging with thought leaders or being approached by people who are now our customers. It's also proved a phenomenal research and horizon scanning tool."

Halebury has also found social media to be a powerful tool to win new client work internationally.

"We have grown our business by more than 50 per cent over the past two years, with our main marketing activity being social media engagement," co-founder Janvi Patel says in her upcoming Managing Partner case study 'Social networking: Lessons from using social media to establish a NewLaw firm'.

She continues: "I should also mention that we are in a very competitive, highly-funded marketplace, so this growth via social media should not be taken lightly. We have been able to push our messaging and our brand by social media and we have been able to have an impact and gain a profile in our marketplace without advertising, sponsorship or, until this year, a retained PR agency."

Patel's article appears in the December 2015/January 2016 issue of Managing Partner, which is released on 30th November. Subscribe today to access her insights.

Social media is not viewed as a critical resource

The research suggests that Australasian firms are missing out on prime opportunities to build up their client work through online resources.

Nearly a third (29 per cent) of respondents said their firm does not have any social media accounts.

Among the firms which do have social media accounts, many are failing to allocate sufficient resources to manage those business development platforms.

Only 13 per cent of respondents have a dedicated social media team member. In addition, 68 per cent do not have a specific budget for social media activities.

Only a quarter of respondents use social media at least daily. Less than half (46 per cent) use social media weekly and 14 per cent use it monthly.

In addition, just 13 per cent of responding law firms rate their website as effective in generating leads. Two thirds of respondent firms do not have a blog, which can be a key way to provide high-value content to prospective clients and referrers. Just over half (53 per cent) have social sharing options on their website.

"There is a significant opportunity for Australasian law firms to work their digital presence much harder, so that it becomes an important source of new business, supplementing and supporting those generated by traditional methods," said Amy Burton-Bradley, a partner at JMA.

"Law firms wanting to generate leads online and reassure potential clients who are shopping around that they are a great choice, should focus on improving their website content and amplifying that content through social media. By having a content rich website, with regularly updated material, you can stay top of legal consumers' minds in what is a long and complex sales cycle.

"With so few firms doing online well in Australia and NZ, it can be a smart way for firms who really embrace digital to position and differentiate," she said.

Client satisfaction is not being measured or managed

Another source of business development which Australasian firms are failing to take seriously is client satisfaction, according to the research.

While more than three quarters (77 per cent) of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their law firm is focused on client satisfaction, only 35 per cent have formal processes in place to measure client satisfaction.

"It's just so obvious for law firms that it's far easier to obtain more work from existing happy clients than to try and generate new leads by other means, so the results on formal client satisfaction feedback are really disappointing," said Burton-Bradley.

"It's a wasted opportunity, not just from a client satisfaction perspective, but for market intel and as means to uncover unaddressed client need and create new revenue streams," she said.

The 2015 ALPMA/JMA Winning Work in a Digital World survey, which received 153 responses from a broad range of Australian and New Zealand law firms, was conducted in October 2015.


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