For over 20 years, Kleiner Perkins’ venture partner Mary Meeker has been issuing her annual Internet Trends Report—what amounts to a ‘State of the Union’ for the Internet, compiling data, analysis, and forecasting into mammoth slide decks.
While the Internet Trends Report is an important read for any digital trends enthusiast, there are ample insights to be gleaned for professionals across a wide range of industries, including legal. To that end, we took a look at all 355 slides in the Internet Trends Report to see what has been foretold for law firms in coming years.
Here are a few things lawyers should keep in mind for the remainder of 2017 and beyond.
1. Lawyers need to be available online, at all times
Due to the meteoric rise of social media and messaging applications, consumer expectations have shifted in a big way when it comes to business responsiveness—and your law firm isn’t exempt. When asked what was most important for organizations to improve in customer service, 60% of consumers identified easier access to online support channels, and 53% responded in favor of faster response times for questions and inquiries on those online support channels. In fact, 42% of customers reaching out to a business via social media expect a response in 60 minutes or less, and a full third expect a response in under 30 minutes—regardless of whether they’re reaching out during office hours or not.
The opportunity for an always-on law firm to stake a claim is enormous when it comes to winning new clients or retaining existing ones, and you don’t even have to pull bleary-eyed all-nighters staring at your phone to make it happen. With tools like Intercom or Facebook Messenger bots at your disposal, you can automate a client messaging experience that provides potential clients the answers they’re looking for and has them coming back to you when it’s time to retain your services. Facebook Messenger was also identified in the report as one of the fastest growing platforms since launch, so it’s a safe bet your potential clients are already using it. One caveat: We’d caution against having clients share confidential information via these messaging apps, due to potential security concerns.
2. Your law firm needs to be mobile-friendly
In news that should come as absolutely no surprise, the amount of time we spend on mobile devices has grown significantly—time spent with digital media on mobile devices has increased from 1.6 hours per adult per day in 2012 to 3.1 hours per adult per day in 2016. Time spent on desktop computers, in comparison, has held steady at 2.2 hours per day over the same time period, and mobile seems poised for future growth in digital timeshare as well.
“In fact, 42% of customers reaching out to a business via social media expect a response in 60 minutes or less, and a full third expect a response in under 30 minutes—regardless of whether they’re reaching out during office hours or not.”
The growth of mobile timeshare represents a number of opportunities for law firms—both in how they conduct their business and in how they market themselves.
First, ensure your website is optimized for mobile devices—and no, that doesn’t mean just slapping a mobile skin on your existing website: You’ll need a responsive design . Mobile user behavior is fundamentally different from that of desktop website visitors. Ensure the mobile version of your website is designed in such a way that your mobile visitors have the clearest possible path to do what they need to do, whether that be access information, contact you, or start the intake process.
Secondly, if you’re advertising online, ensure you’re advertising on mobile. While mobile timeshare has seen a marked increase, mobile ad spend is still playing catch up, which represents an opportunity for you to get ahead of the pack. Facebook Ads, Google mobile search ads, and mobile video ads all hold enormous promise for forward-thinking law firms. More than half of YouTube’s traffic comes from mobile devices. Facebook sees 1.15 billion daily active users from mobile—and 56% of Facebook users NEVER log in using a desktop computer. Putting ads in front of these enormous audiences is essential for growing your firm (though, make sure you’re choosing the right medium for your law firm and practice area).
Lastly, ensure the technology you use to run your firm is optimized for mobile as well, to cater to your (and your clients’) increasingly mobile lifestyle.
Want to learn more about how to optimize your law firm for the mobile revolution? Get your free guide here.
3. There’s never been a better time to switch to cloud-based practice management software …
As cloud adoption soars to all-time highs, historic objections to using cloud-based software are dropping—but new ones are rising to take their place. Whereas consumers (e.g., lawyers using cloud-based software) have traditionally expressed concerns around data security (42% in 2012) and cost uncertainty (38% in 2012), these end users have now grown more comfortable with cloud security and recognized the obvious time and monetary savings. Worries now focus on data ownership and the ability to change vendors (22%) and regulatory compliance (27%).
This is great news for lawyers—more than 20 states now offer some form of cloud ethics guidance, and a growing number of software vendors (including Clio) make it easy for customers to export data and retain ownership rather than holding users hostage. Some even go beyond that in making sure you have control of your data. For example, Clio will help you migrate your data from your previous practice management software into Clio.
4. … And to make sure you’re taking extra precautions to protect client data
In the ‘this is why we can’t have nice things’ category, the incredible growth of the cloud has led to a corresponding rise in attempts to compromise cloud accounts—and law firms must be extra vigilant.
Malicious email spam sends (including, but not limited to, ransomware, phishing attacks, and more) rose at nearly a 400% through every month in 2016, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down. Law firms must be particularly vigilant, having been identified as a ‘soft target’ for attackers (due to the lethal combination of highly valuable and/or sensitive data and lax or non-existent security standards).
There are a few steps you can take today to help mitigate these threats, so that you’re protected even in the event of a breach. First, back up your data regularly. Second, enable two-factor authentication on all accounts where it’s available—this ensures that even with your password, attackers will be unable to gain access to your account if logging in from an unrecognized device. Lastly, ensure you’re adhering to password best practices: Use a password manager and never reuse passwords across multiple sites. This way, in the event of a compromise, the damage will be limited to one account only.
5. Voice recognition is getting … recognition
This year, the voice-based word accuracy rate from Google reached 95%—considered the threshold for human understanding. In other words, your phone can now understand you as well as the average human, at least when it comes to identifying words. (There’s still some work to be done, however. Machines seem to struggle with context.)
What does this mean for you? The rise of digital assistants could have a dramatic impact on your productivity AND your bottom line. Why pay a legal assistant or dictation service when you can hire Siri for free? Also, new tools are emerging to help law firms specifically record time, generate documents, and find relevant information by voice alone.
The use of digital devices to listen to you does not come without risk, however—particularly when it comes to third-party services with loosely defined terms of service and data storage policies. Until these issues are addressed, it may be best for firms to forego convenience in favor of client confidentiality.
Lawyers need to stay on top of technology trends
Technology has already done plenty to change the practice of law. There’s cloud-based practice management software that lets lawyers manage their firms from anywhere, easier-to-access legal research, and even artificial intelligence tools for law firms, all of which help lawyers make their practices more profitable while providing better service for their clients.
But that’s only the beginning. As the technological landscape changes, law firms will need to adopt new tools and change the way they practice in order for their firms to survive and thrive. Smart law firms will continue to keep an eye on reports like Mary Meeker’s to ensure they’re aware of any and all tools that could help their firms succeed.