Column: Social Media & Lawyers: Why So Afraid?

August 9, 2017 | 1 Comment

Chris Garrod Bermuda July 2017[Opinion column written by Chris Garrod]

I’m an attorney in my mid-forties.

Every day, I tweet and retweet. I go on LinkedIn to comment on articles. I go on Facebook. I’ve written my own articles and published them on Medium, LinkedIn Pulse and then tweeted them.

Social media. When I mention it to many colleagues who tend to be my age or above, I get a blank stare. “Why I am tweeting?”. What is the point of digital marketing? Do you really get clients from it?

I don’t really know. Not yet. But that’s not to say I perhaps won’t. And I shouldn’t try.

The Rise of Digital Marketing in the Legal World

Millennials. Those who were born in the 1990s, broadly speaking. The use of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. are all their ways of communicating. Emails are becoming gradually pre-historic in their world, let alone using the….. telephone.

I’ve already written about the rise of AI and legaltech generally in two separate articles. For instance, will lawyers still exist by 2050 as a result of AI? In 2017, certainly the term “Artificial Intelligence” has become a new buzz catchphrase and rightly so. Because it is the future.

And therefore, so is legaltech. And so is the use of social media. In fact, the latter is really the present.

Many law firms are already very effectively using social media. Tweeting appropriately, understanding the proper use of hashtags, such as how many to use in a tweet to gain as many retweets, followers and engagements as possible. The proper use of LinkedIn. Search engine optimization [SEO] for Google. Having a Facebook Business page. Instagram. Pinterest. Google Plus.

Many law firms are also not.

Moore’s Law

Before long, emails will become like faxes became 10 years ago. The exponential growth of the use of this kind of technology — essentially, the sharing of data — is going through an equivalent of Moore’s law. That is to say, the amount of information which is being amassed and then shared is doubling every year.

Gordon Moore was one of the founders of Intel and as noted on their website:

“In 1965, Gordon Moore made a prediction that would set the pace for our modern digital revolution. From careful observation of an emerging trend, Moore extrapolated that computing would dramatically increase in power, and decrease in relative cost, at an exponential pace.”

In essence, the processing power for computers would double every two years — and over time, become cheaper. Buying a new iMac with the power it has today would have been [a] impossible 20 years ago and even if it was [b] would have taken up an entire room in your house.

Exponentially, this has led to the rise of artificial intelligence.

I think back to 25 or so years ago in the early to mid-1990s. Faxing took over a method of communication known as telexing [and if you remember telexing you are officially old]. Faxing soon became the common way of sharing information. That method transformed to emails as well as texts on cell phones in the late-1990s, followed by Blackberries in the mid-2000s to iPhones in the late-2000s and then now to platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Currently, you can instantly communicate with anyone, anywhere, at any time. You can even see when someone is available, where they are and when they are typing their response to you.

And at less cost.

Emailing someone may appear to be “normal” now but very rapidly, that technology should be replaced by instant messaging, if the Moore’s law trend regarding sharing information continues. Documents will be sent via instant messaging. Clients will see if you are or are not available and when you are responding to them. A new method of storing messages and documentation will replace whatever current method is being used in your organisation.

The use of programs such as Facebook IM or WhatsApp will make emails look like faxes are today — perhaps in less than 5 years time.

Social Media Bermuda Aug 2017

AI, legaltech and its relationship with social media

As a result, the legal world will also change. Clients will become more demanding and expectations for “instant responses” will rise. Looking back to the days of faxing, clients were happy for a response a few days after a fax was sent. Currently, with emails, many aim for a same/next day response. With instant messaging, many will likely want responses to queries even faster, as awful as that may seem.

And that is where automation and AI play a role.

For lawyers, unfortunately, the questions which clients will ask will become more demanding and require more logical thinking and judgment. That is because automation and more advanced AI will replace many of the more “basic” aspects of law which are currently being carried out today. Some firms are already providing this technology today, such as RAVN, LawGeex and Luminance.

Therefore, some of the queries which a client may send by email today, won’t need to be sent by them at all. The client will be able to obtain the answer through AI and their own research. The queries which paralegals or more junior lawyers research and respond to now could be moved “in-house”. Clients will also be able to draft their own basic legal documents without any legal input at all. That particular aspect being provided by law firms today will become obsolete.

An advantage to lawyers is that — hopefully — the queries coming from their clients will be more thoughtful… and as a result, the number of instant messages one receives in the course of a day will not equal the number of emails which are currently received today. Those range from complex matters which do require human empathy, thought and logic to basic matters which are simply time consuming but also require some form of a human element or creativity which AI simply cannot replicate. Or at least, not yet.

The flip side, of course, is that if you are not receiving as many client queries, then the ability to charge clients on a time spent basis should indeed over time also alter.

So, should lawyers be afraid of Social Media?

So, should lawyers fear the use of social media and scorn its use? Depending on where they are in the their career, they may be at a point where its use is unfortunately inevitable — for good or bad — and just cannot be ignored.

The use of social media is exploding amongst millennials. My generation and those older than me may scoff at its use. But the millennials who use Twitter, Facebook Business, WhatsApp and other social media avenues will, in 5 to 10 or so years, be the ones leading law firm strategies. They will be the leaders.

The use of AI and social media will combine and work in conjunction with each other in the future. In 5 to 10 years time, no doubt some other form of messaging system will have evolved due perhaps to AI.

The legaltech world will continue to evolve, that is for sure, and it is not one a lawyer will be able to escape from.

So, if you don’t tweet and if you don’t have a WhatsApp account, consider getting one and also ensuring you are ready to instant message and tweet away.

Chris Garrod is a Bermuda insurance attorney with opinions on AI, legaltech, insurtech, IoT and fintech.

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  1. Aware says:

    A very insightful article Chris. It’s not all about cat videos and hook ups.

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