The app isn’t just face filters and viral dance trends, explains magic circle associate turned tech founder Richard Mabey
The legal profession has undergone a number of changes in the last decade, driven by new technology, enabling a transition away from stilted processes and practices. New platforms have empowered lawyers to automate manual processes and deploy machine learning to deliver clients services more efficiently. As a result, those who embrace change are best positioned to grow their operations and remain competitive.
One branch of this is the adoption of social media marketing practices for attracting new audiences. Lawyers representing firms today are able to grow cult followings on channels like TikTok, offering free legal ‘education’ with the call to action to get in contact for more.
This is a step in the right direction: lawyers must learn from other markets to remain engaging, and those offering value in the content they share will meet the audiences most in need. The demand evidently exists on these platforms prioritising short, snappy content. Five years ago, it may have taken a month to build a following of 300 on Instagram. Today, an engaging first post can be seen by 300,000, and sophisticated algorithms serve lawyers by getting them in front of the right clients. The extent to which technology can outpac antiquated legal systems is only set to increase, positioning lawyers who adopt it to attract new clients and communicate with them more effectively.
Technology can also democratise the profession, allowing small and medium sized businesses to compete with larger corporations. Midsize firms are often more aggressive adopters of technology compared to their larger counterparts. Their decision-making and procurement processes are often faster and more agile, meaning their implementation of cutting-edge technologies is faster too. This allows them to work more efficiently and accomplish more in less time. This innovation makes them more appealing business partners to corporate clients. Technology can also help lawyers quickly get up to speed on matters beyond routine administrative work, and through AI, critical research and document checking can be expedited.
However, there are limits to the opportunities afforded by treating the law like another branch of social media. With TikTok, content published cannot necessarily be validated or vetted, and a ten-second sound bite is unlikely to provide the value necessary to meaningfully improve a complex situation. And while algorithms will automatically place your content in front of audiences likely to engage with it, there are limitations to how useful and specific your messaging can be when received by hundreds of thousands of people. Because of this, much of the content on ‘legal TikTok’ is caveated with disclaimers against taking tips as legal advice.
The legal profession’s embrace of social media is yet to be universal. While no other medium could place lawyers in front of so many leads, (professional TikTok lawyers are now building entire intake teams to handle the thousands of messages and requests for consultation), for the law to deploy technology effectively, back-office processes must be developed to support counsel. In-house lawyers spend on average 600 hours a year on manual administrative tasks. This will only increase until routine tasks like contracts and proofreading can be effectively automated. Work is also being done to encrypt sensitive online documents as processes digitise, but there is some way to go before this is the industry standard.
Lawyers can only benefit from a wide funnel of incoming leads if they have the infrastructure ready to support the flow. The challenge now will be to use technology to ensure that heightened demand for services is not at the expense of quality received by clients.
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Richard Mabey is a former lawyer at Freshfields and co-founder of legal tech company Juro.
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