2016 has seen a continued focus on digital strategy in the Canadian legal market. Legal industry professionals have been late adopters of digital processes. However, the continued disruption in the Canadian legal market has placed pressure on law firms to find new ways to increase brand awareness and to meet client expectations. So what do law firms need to implement digital policies that improve their bottom line and the client experience? Information and a thorough understanding of client needs.
For the second year in a row, fSquared Marketing has gathered data on the Canadian legal market, to help law firms customize their legal marketing efforts in the realm of digital processes and content strategies. We distributed surveys to three different kinds of professionals— in-house counsel, managing partners and chief marketing officers/senior legal marketers—all to understand the function of digital in their lives.
The surveys were focused on traditional digital interaction, web and social media engagement, content marketing, client feedback programs, electronic billing, client portals, legal process outsourcing, and directories.
Our analysis revealed a few notable trends that have continued from last year’s survey:
- Canadian in-house counsel are consuming legal related information online — and the various new media found there — more frequently than before.
- Although lawyer bios remain important, content marketing is a vital aspect of lawyer business development, with lawyer-authored articles and speeches, blogging and social media profiles influencing in-house counsel who are searching for an outside lawyer.
- Not surprisingly, a recommendation from a trusted source is still the most important factor for in-house counsel who are looking to hire.
Our survey found that in-house counsel use lawyer bios, lawyer-authored blogs and articles, LinkedIn profiles, and lawyer social media activity to research potential hires. We also discovered that the perceived credibility of these digital sources has increased from last year. In addition, in-house counsel are more frequently using social media to find legal industry information, and to share legal news with in-house and outside counsel colleagues.
The Chief Marketing Officers of large law firms in Canada understand the importance of the digital profile of their firms and lawyers, and as a result have adopted robust digital processes and content marketing strategies. Now more than ever, the Internet is where potential clients go when looking for legal services.
It is evident that law firms and in-house counsel are making an effort to implement digital practices. Yet law firms are not optimizing their digital platforms, nor are we seeing a greater degree of social media engagement. However, more lawyers are signing up for social media, using the internet to stay up to date with legal industry news and information, and using digital methods of collaboration with other lawyers. More lawyers understand how digital can improve their business development efforts by offering insight into client and potential clients’ needs.
Highlights from the 2016 Canadian Legal Digital Survey
- Responsive, user-focused law firm websites are essential.
76% of in-house counsel use the internet daily or weekly to find legal industry information. Increasingly, they’re using their mobile phones and tablets. The importance of blogs and client portals are also growing.
- Online Profiles are a lawyer’s resume
83% of in-house counsel (up from 78% from last year) ranked lawyer bios as important when researching outside lawyers and law firms. Website bios and Linkedin profiles need regular updates to stay relevant.
- Thought leadership counts
71% of in-house counsel use articles and speeches written by lawyers to research outside counsel. 46% use blogs published by lawyers, on topics relevant to their business.
- A lawyer’s reputation is everything
Unsurprising, word of mouth is still the top influencer when in-house counsel are deciding which outside lawyer or law firm to hire.
- Client Feedback is increasingly important
However, is not enough to simply collect feedback. It is crucial for firms to have programs in place to analyze the data generated and to provide timely solutions for clients.
- Social Media’s stature is growing
An increasing number of in-house counsel view LinkedIn (61% up from 49% last year) and Twitter (29% up from 20% last year) as credible sources for legal industry news.
- Email is still alive
80% of in-house counsel read newsletters and/or client alerts sent via email somewhat often or very often. 78% of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) respondent’s firms publish client alerts, and 56% publish a firm-wide newsletter for clients.
• But CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislations) greatly impacted law firm marketing
55% of CMO’s reported that 25-74% of their e-mail marketing subscribers were lost due to CASL compliance.
- Legal Process Outsourcing is Not Standard Procedure
77% of in-house counsel respondents do not engage the services of a legal process outsourcing firm. 47% said that bios on the legal process outsourcing firm’s website are important in helping them to research the right provider.
- Client Portals are underutilized
50% of CMOs say that their firms offer a client portal while 56% of in-house counsel say their law firm offers one. Of those who were offered a client portal, 57% indicated that they use them.
- Firm-Wide Social Media strategies are being implemented at larger firms
73% of CMOs report that their firm has a social media strategy in place. 78% of survey respondent’s firms have a social media policy that concerns all lawyers and administrative staff. In addition, 78% of respondents say that their firm provides training for social media tools.
- Content Marketing is on the rise
89% of CMO participants either have a current content marketing strategy, or one in the works. 94% say content marketing is important, and 78% anticipate an increase in content marketing in the next year. 39% of respondents indicated their marketing department spends 20 or more hours per week on content marketing.