Preparing Your Law Firm for the Internet of Tomorrow

Think about a time when you’re not at your desk in front of the computer. Maybe it’s while you’re at court. Maybe it’s out with friends at a restaurant. Maybe it’s in the evening with your feet up on your sofa. Pick any of those times and ask yourself:

Are you online at that moment?

Before you answer too quickly, do you have a mobile phone that is pinging you with updates to Twitter or Facebook? Is your office staff sending you case notes via email? Do you have a television or game console that connects to Netflix or Hulu? Are you wearing a FitBit or Apple Watch that may be communicating on a network autonomously?

It’s astonishing to realize that most of those devices are less than five years old. Given that fact, it’s clear that the Internet will be a very different place in five years. It will look and act differently to be sure. But beyond that, the distinction between an online and offline life may become virtually meaningless. Heavy stuff for anyone planning to do business on the web in 2020.

We’ve been through this before.

In the 1990’s AT&T did a series of ads called You Will — you can view the full series here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MnQ8EkwXJ0. In the series they described what, at the time, seemed a far-flung future. People used imaginary tablets, paid for highway tolls electronically, joined meetings remotely, received directions through electronic maps and tucked their kids in via streaming video. Back then, this was the stuff of science fiction. Now, these ads depict a life that seems almost mundane.

Today, AT&T is still a major and relevant company. At least part of the reason for this is their response to the impending technology. Not only were they smart enough to tell which way the wind was blowing, they were flexible enough to organize their business around the present and the future.

What does this have to do with your law firm?

As you think about your digital marketing efforts on today’s Internet, be mindful of what tomorrow’s will bring. The future of seamless online integration has already birthed smarter smart devices and the nascent Internet of things. There might not be a place for your firm there yet, but don’t ignore what’s obviously coming down the track: a future where legal consumers don’t find lawyers the same way that they do now.

Of course people will still use search engines, but those services will inevitably change. The evolution of search engine results in just the past few years has shown a dramatic shift away from lists of websites towards providing seamless – and accurate – answers.

Draw a line out from this trend and imagine a world where the machines around us share more information with each other than they share with us. This isn’t limited to your watch reminding you to buy milk every few days. Imagine your next car recognizing when it’s been in an accident and immediately communicating with your insurance company while also offering up a list of local attorneys without your even having to ask.

The question isn’t whether or not this specific scenario will come to bear. But rather, will your firm be open to such an opportunity?

Some tried and true marketing methods may never disappear completely, but holding on to specific tactics that “always worked before” offers limited returns. So take a page from AT&T. Be a law firm that sees possibilities and embraces the marketing potential they represent.

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