A couple days ago Jordan Rushie made a post at the Philly Law Blog entitled Your Website Is Not a Reception Area in response to the ongoing rah-rahs at the ABA TechShow and “lawyer coach” Rachel Rodgers. Rushie states:
Ah, the future of law! Technology is going to change everything about lawyering! In the very near future no lawyer will have an office and everyone will work from either Starbucks or their living room. The cat will proofread your briefs. There will be no need for filing cabinets because all paper will be stored in the cloud (or the trunk of your car). Court will be held in a chatroom, and the judge will be a moderator. Judgements will be in bitcoin and people convicted of crimes will be banned from the internet or something. This is where it’s all going! Get your iPad ready!
We put a lot of time, money, and effort into having a physical space where people come into and find impressive…So why spend money on building nice office space? Because our goal is to build a credible, lasting law practice, not make a few quick bucks and spend it on crap. A law firm is an investment, and you have to keep investing in it to grow.
In a rush to embrace the coming digital/virtual aspects of a law practice, people are inexplicably dismissing the physical ones. A website is nice but is a poor substitute for an actual office. And as was discussed in the comments to the post, a website does not to be extensive or flashy, but merely provide an overview of the firm. A blog helps give clients an idea of who you are. Far better to put time and effort in the physical aspects of your practice – and that means investing in your office and your community.
While nominally about websites and offices, Rushie also touches on an overlooked part of many successful law practices – they are part of a community. For most lawyers, this will be the area in which you live and practice. Successful lawyers will reach out and invest time and money in local business, sports, organizations, and groups. They are free with their time and look to become involved with their community. Some may say that lawyers who do such a thing are doing so out of a cynical desire to attract clients. I would say that such lawyers are unlikely to continue to reach out to their community for very long. Instead, lawyers go out into their community because it is important to be connected to people – in the real world – and not just on social media.
Over the weekend, I spoke to a local blogging group about various legal aspects of blogging. While the group was based around blogging, a purely online endeavor, the group gathers on a regular basis because they want to build relationships with one another. I volunteered to speak with them, not out of some disingenuous motivation, but because I love talking about the intersection of law and technology. I do it here all the time, and going to meet people in the real world allows me to develop relationships with people I can discuss it with locally – not just online. By meeting with people in the real world, it lets them know that I am exactly who I present myself to be online, and not some farcical curated “personal brand”.
Over at Simple Justice, Scott Greenfield also weighs in on Rushie’s post, emphasizing the need to be consistent with who you say you are:
Make no mistake, there is a huge difference between the lawyer who has spent years gaining competence and experience, gaining a reputation among one’s peers and making close friends with others to share and grow, and the lawyer who has invented a persona on the internet that doesn’t exist anywhere else. Carolyn [Elephant] speaks of various practices that, to some extent, function well without the need for a physical reception area. But then, these lawyers reached that point in their careers after first becoming the lawyers they promise the world they are.
The importance of transparency seems to come up again and again, whether it be some legal marketeer, or Rakofsky, or some other lawyer engaged in puffery. Don’t over inflate yourself. Don’t present yourself to be something you are not. Don’t fake it.
Be honest about who you are. If you are going to invest time and money into anything, invest in yourself and the tangibles of your practice. Go out into your community and become a part of it. Help other people, give freely of your time, and work hard at becoming a good lawyer and doing your best for your clients. Soon enough you’ll be so busy that you won’t know what to do with yourself.