Online media marketing is an essential component in keeping up with business competition. In today’s marketing world of quick information and promotion, the law firm Subject Matter Experts (SME) are required to present, defend and promote information in different ways. The high demand for accessible information is a critical factor in how information needs to be presented. SME’s who understand the importance of writing and presenting for media consumption will benefit both internally and externally within a law firm. However, lawyers and law firms are confined to another standard of ethics when it comes to dispensing marketing information that can be misconstrued as advice. Media training is important and crucial to the law firm marketing process. Media training for law firms needs to contain an ethical component for unbiased consumer information.
For the entrepreneurial lawyer, the gap is in the demand for online media marketing and the necessary training that will address productivity, ethics, and proficiency in online marketing.
Access to any form of media is so widespread. In order to keep up with the demand of marketing a law firm, it must be embraced. The competitive advantages of various marketing platforms such as blogs or social media far outweigh the option to disassociate from them. The accessibility to these platforms potentially can spread a firm’s message anywhere and to anyone. Initially, law firms that have created articles or presentations have relied solely on writing for or speaking to other lawyers or audiences in the law field. With the expansion of online marketing, audience diversity is a larger part of the law firm marketing objective. Organizations possess the power to be discoverable on the web and establish their credibility (Scott, 2011).
Positive and Negative User Experience
The opportunity to focus on a new audience can provide lawyers a myriad of opportunities to shape the firm’s sentiment. Online media marketing can relay a message shaped by the firm to create a relationship with a potential client. This information can garner either a positive or negative response and can shape the direction of the firm and its reputation. The approach needs to be on building relationships as a human interaction to create a positive response towards an organization (Mcguire, M., & Kampf, C. 2015).
Online marketing offers law firms the relatively instantaneous discoverability to obtain what potential clients are saying about specific topics, and what they feel both positively and negatively about a certain subject. It can track a client base and see how that sentiment is changing over time. This information allows firms to see the trends in law and perceptions, especially as cases move into mediation or jury-lead cases.
Law firm marketing and the ethical dilemma
Lawyers face ethical dilemmas when dealing with online marketing. They themselves are the brand and ill-advised social media posts or other online interaction can lead to a negative reputation or ethical violations. Common stories can be examined as an exercise in restraint. A lawyer seeking an adjournment in a case due to a death in the family but was viewed online by the judge who granted the adjournment partying to a lawyer losing her job for posting a blog disclosing facts in a juvenile case are all too common (Levy, 2016).
Lawyers are held to an ethical standard and must adhere to the ethics rules adopted by the jurisdiction in which they are licensed. Some jurisdictions adhere that social profiles and posts may constitute legal advertising, and or could lead to misleading statements that could be misconstrued as legal advice. The potential risks also include releasing privileged or confidential information or communication with represented parties (Harvey, McCoy, Sneath, 2014).
The Need for Legal Marketing Training
As online marketing expands lawyers look to identify key audiences as being a possible client and or jury member. Creating a strategy is essential to the long-term marketing plan for any law firm. Crafted messages and media connections will establish a voice that will represent the firm and deliver the message without ethical violations. Consequently, producing a standard policy within the firm for online media marketing will establish precedence for anyone communicating with the media or other online marketing methods.
The essential training needs to address how to speak directly with an audience. In understanding the critical information that needs to be portrayed to clients or potential jurists, it is often overlooked the tone and language that is presented. As SME’s in particular areas of law, the language is often too difficult for most readers outside the legal industry. It is essential as online media marketing becomes commonplace in law firms that training is required. Lawyers today carry many different roles within a firm. They must essentially think like entrepreneurs (Dangel, Madison, 2015).
The Current State of Legal Marketing Training
The current state of training is that it is still not viewed as the complex component of law essential to today’s lawyer’s success. As researched, it is a fundamental component of the law that is only explored on a case learning basis rather than on an entrepreneurial one.
In conclusion, lawyers must now practice law and think like an entrepreneur to market their firm online. With the demand for lawyer productivity to market their firm, law schools will have to accept the responsibility to teach marketing ethics practices. Online media marketing is a component in which law firms need in-depth training. The training needs to essentially explore the different platforms that will be useful to marketing a firm as well as the ethical implications of utilizing these marketing tools.
The fine ethical line of presenting information and knowing how to speak to potential clients requires the need for training. Complex answers presented to the media and or marketing information that can be misconstrued and taken as advice is problematic. Misleading statements, misrepresentation and or disclosing confidential information are all issues that can arise when dealing with online media. However, if used correctly the benefits of online media marketing can provide a firm with a positive sentiment to potential clients and or jurors.
Dangel, S., & Madison, M. J. (2015). Innovators, Esq.: Training the Next Generation of Lawyer Social Entrepreneur. UMKC Law Review, 83, 967.
Harvey, C. V., McCoy, M. R., & Sneeth, B. (2014, January 3). 10 Tips for Avoiding Ethical Lapses When Using Social Media. Retrieved from http://www.americanbar.org/publications/blt/2014/01/03_harvey.html
Levy, D. (2016, January 22). Experts: Used Wrongly, Social Media Can Sting. Retrieved from http://legalnews.com/macomb/1419452/
Mcguire, M., & Kampf, C. (2015). Using Social Media Sentiment Analysis to Understand Audiences: A new skill for technical communicators? 2015 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference (IPCC). doi:10.1109/ipcc.2015.7235801
Ndubisi, N. O., Nataraajan, R., & Lai, R. (2014). Customer Perception and Response to Ethical Norms in Legal Services Marketing. Journal of Business Research, 67(3), 369-377. doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2013.01.001
Scott, D. M. (2011). The New Rules of Marketing & PR: How to use social media, online video, mobile applications, blogs, news releases, & viral marketing to reach buyers directly (5th ed., pp. 41). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.