By the time you read this it will be a new year. Once again there will be new starts, new resolutions and new gym memberships. It’s time to wipe the slate clean and start over again (as I suspect the Law Society will want to do after the year it had) and to make a series of all too easily broken promises to yourself.
Christmas already seems an age ago and your secret Santa present has failed to win any bids on eBay, but that aside, 2013 was the year of the tablet. Not a gift set from the high street chemist or a gift pack from Holland & Barrett, oh no. I’m talking about a tablet computer. A touch screen interface carrying a whole new world of opportunity. Easy to use, just plug and play. What’s more, this isn’t a new fad for the computer geeks. Tablets have been bought by and gifted to every generation, from school children to great grandmothers. The spectrum of apps and optional extras and the broad price range has made it a must have accessory and, although I may be surprisingly late to the game, I now have one and am happy.
Although the majority of such devices will be used to read books, search the web, watch television in bed or to play Angry Birds, there are many practical uses for three portable screens in our day jobs. I know many barristers who use tablets for preparing their cases and when in court. I have seen agreements drafted and evidence presented, all on a flat screen, smaller and significantly lighter than the White Book. In fact, you might even be able to download a White Book app, although I haven’t tried to find it.
Breaking down barriers
The increase in mobile communication and accessibility of information has broken down barriers for business development too. Anyone who knows me or reads this column will already be aware of how much I believe in the power of social media. Yes, I may look a bit like a geek, but I’m actually a bit of a technophobe and it doesn’t matter.
Social media is the perfect method for lawyers to communicate with clients, potential clients, peers and protégés. It’s also a great way for aspiring solicitors to learn from and reach out to future employers and eminent leaders. It’s not just about how many followers Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber have. It’s not even just about Twitter. Social media includes YouTube (now pioneered by the Supreme Court), LinkedIn, podcasting and beyond. And tablets are the ideal tool for using social media.
Subtle marketing techniques
So why should you care? You may think that you are beyond the need for social media, cocooned in your book-walled office, servicing your regular clients and confident in the strength of your relationships. Well that’s just fine. It makes it so much easier for competitors to employ these new subtle marketing techniques. Social media is all about being sociable. Communicating. commenting. assisting and adding value. These might seem like marketing buzzwords, but tips for where to eat in Lisbon are as accessible as recommendations for a good employment lawyer (ahem) or reviews of counsel.
Social media has even replaced phone-hacking as the lazy journalist’s weapon of choice when hunting out information, a story or an expert talking head. It’s the first place to find out news, whether that’s the death of Nelson Mandela, updates on the Nigella Lawson ‘scandal’ or the judgment in a key case in the High Court. That puts you ahead of the game and in touch with legal updates, if through Twitter, in 140 characters or less. Which brings me on to brevity. Social media does not encourage grandstanding, speeches or relentless self-promotion.
Social media allows us to have a personality beyond a black and white photo on a website and a list of professional memberships. It can present a human side to lawyers which has been missing, or assumed to be missing, for so long.
So in this new year, try something different. Spark up your Kindle Fire, nestle in with your Nook, introduce yourself to your iPad and turn on your tablet. Take it on the train, pass the time during a winter lunch break, work while you’re waiting. Give it a go, what’s the worst that could happen?
This article first appeared in the Solicitors Journal on 14 January 2014 and is reproduced with kind permission.