Monthly Archives: September 2009

Why Law Firms need to consider Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

We are in the age of the Internet with the younger “Y” generation using the web to find and check out options on just about everything they do online.  It’s no different when they want legal advice.  Even if a friend or relative recommends your firm, the chances are that they will check out the other options when they look for your website on the web too. 

If your law firm already has a web site it’s time to ask yourself one question – how much new business is it generating for you?  The problem with many Law firms is that they did not set business objectives when their web site was first developed … and it has carried on from there. It was probably created ‘because everyone else has got one’ and the fundamentals haven’t been revisited.   Web sites are superb marketing tools, so it’s time to start putting your firm in the shop window.  It’s time to consider joining forces with a professional SEO consultant that can initiate and manage your online campaign.

SEO is an essential part to every legal firm’s web site, where there should be a long-term objective and strategy to generate new business through it.   Organic search engine optimisation will provide your site with free traffic by giving you high positions in the results pages of the major search engines.   In a long term strategy organic SEO has a more manageable and level cost from month to month than pay-per-click (sponsored) listings, although it will take longer for you to see a return on your investment.

Naturally, the higher up the rankings you get placed, the more visible your web site becomes to searching browser – and the more visible you are, the more chance there is of people finding and using your services; so competition for the top positions can be tough, in any industry.

Most businesses don’t understand SEO, largely because it is an intangible commodity when compared to newspaper advertising, creating a website or producing PR, all of which are tangible “products”.  SEO is a time consuming, labour-intensive process that requires constant monitoring, tweaks and updates throughout the life of any campaign.

Search Engine Optimisation is not a commodity and your choice of SEO professional should not be based on who offers to do the work for the lowest price.   The industry acquired a bad name in the past where cut-price SEO companies have promised results, but failed to deliver.  However, the entry of more professional and capable of organisations into the industry has demonstrated that results can be achieved with a well-organised, persistent, innovative and proactive approach, that requires constant attention.

As with anything in life, you get what you pay for.  If you are happy to take the risk of hiring a cheap SEO, then remember to take responsibility when your campaign doesn’t get the rankings that were promised.

Alternative Legal IT Conference – Setting an Agenda for Mid-Market Law Firms

I attended the Alternative Legal IT Conference last week, which created a fairly unique forum for IT managers and other senior managers in mid-market law firms to share openly their experience, plans, concerns and solutions on IT.   It was good to see delegates from legal, management and IT backgrounds confirm that – in many firms – close collaboration between IT and the management of the practice is making a big difference in adding value on management of the firm and of relationships with clients to improve overall performance of the practice.  This was tangible in some of the real life case studies presented by managers viewing the business from different angles and from the facilitated discussions during the day.

What is needed from IT to capitalise on the imminent reforms?

Partners and Heads of IT from different firms from all over the country worked together through presentations and round table sessions with the added benefit of input from consultants and suppliers to the industry.  Delegates explored how IT had a role to play in helping law firms capitalise on the changes that will be introduced under the Legal Services Act, concluding that investment in clean client and prospect databases, easily accessible management information and effective, streamlined processes would be critical when it comes to forming new joint ventures or selling a legal business; also that more varied and effective communications between lawyers and clients (or business partners) will be needed to ensure the success of marketing and client retention initiatives.  There was a recognised need to invest now in reviewing business processes in relation to both legal and business processes.

Outsourcing of IT on the increase

There was widespread recognition of the benefits that outsourced (managed and hosted) could bring to ensure a sound infrastructure, readily accessible DR and business continuity solutions and to release in-house IT people to focus on implementing effective client management systems, management reporting, workflows etc. which currently don’t get enough attention.  A good number of delegates are investing now in upgrading systems (when their firm was less busy) – either directly or through outsourcing the IT infrastructure on the basis that it will help them cope with the recession if it continues or to get well positioned to capitalise as the economy recovers. It was good to see a rational and objective approach from IT Directors and Managers to the potential outsourcing of part or all of IT.

Business leadership needed to produce results from IT

Discussions reinforced the need for leadership of IT projects by the managers of the business; also the importance of a strong strategic relationship between IT and the rest of the management team backed up by confidence from lawyers in the ability of their IT teams.  Good IT Manager and Directors are working hard to generate that confidence, to support a change in culture so that lawyers can commit to new projects like CRM and improvements in working practices…. but it can clearly be a challenging and frustrating journey! 

Pointers for the future

There was an excellent and informative real-time comparison of four document management systems by the IT managers of four firms discussing their reasons for following different routes and outlining plans for the future; Microsoft solutions such as SharePoint and CRM appear to be extending their involvement in the legal market. The final session dealt with the benefits of best of breed or integrated systems and the current market place consolidations. It was argued that it is increasingly difficult for smaller suppliers to afford the development expense needed, with the suggestion that larger business process/workflow suppliers may well come to the fore.

If you want more information on any of the topics mentioned above, please feel free to contact Bill Kirby or Allan Carton at Inpractice UK – Tel: 0161 929 8355.  We are happy to spend 30 minutes on the phone for free if we are available.

Uptake of Hosted and Managed IT Services Accelerating.

It is clear that the rate at which legal and accountancy practices are moving to take up outsourced IT services is accelerating quickly; in relation to both fully hosted solutions and managed services.

Recent case studies, which you will find under each profile of suppliers here include:

Wolferstans, solicitors based in Plymouth who moved to a fully hosted services with e-know.net to provide IT that would support their new business strategy.  Not a decision taken lightly, but a move recommended by Inpractice as part of a far reaching review of business and IT strategy that has been successfully introduced and developed by the management team.

Network Law – “a new type of law firm with an innovative business model which allows our staff and consultants to be able competently to work on client matters from any location at any time” again using a fully hosted service from Intercept IT.

Freeth Cartwright – who have relied on managed IT services from Quiss to support their expansion. This has enabled the firm to focus so effectively on improving fee earner use of IT and internal processes that their in-house development team were awarded ‘Fee Earner Desktop/Portal of the Year’ in the Legal Technology Awards 2008.

Shoosmiths – who have signed up for a managed high bandwidth UK wide IP Network (LANnet) actively managed by InTechnology. This resilient, monitored and managed network allows them to maximize utilization and performance of communications and data transfer between offices and to secure data centres, cost effectively.

There are many factors contributing to the decisions to make these moves, including:

  • Increasing demand for higher level IT skills and technology solutions that are difficult to maintain internally;
  • A need for more flexibility and scalability of IT solutions to allow business to scale up or down to changes in the market; also to allow more flexible, remote working;
  • Demand for extended support beyond standard office hours;
  • The attractions of monthly charges that vary with usage, instead of capital investment; and,
  • Better return on investment (ROI) through tighter management of the IT function using Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) and through release of internal resources to focus on improving use of technology tools and business processes.
  • Significant advances in the capabilities of providers, the technologies and solutions they can deliver through an increasingly fast and stable online environment. (For example, BT’s recent launch of its revolutionary 21st Century Network (21CN) programme.)

For more information, or to set up an evaluation of the benefits your own practice could achieve by taking up more managed or hosted IT in some areas of your operations; who to use and how best to manage any changes, contact Bill Kirby at bkirby@inpractice.co.uk or on 07496 251277.

Contact us here for more information or call +44 (0)161 929 8355

Revitalised Business Links are providing real support and funding

With the economy causing difficulties for many businesses, the Business Links have become very much more active recently.  The even better news is that there are now real options available to get some funding for initiatives that can help professional practices like yours to do better in the current climate.

It is now well worth investigating the options available as we have clients who have been able to get significant financial contributions. Some examples of funds that might be available to you, based on services available in the North West, which will vary across the country, include:

  • Train to Gain, where you can get grants of up to £1,000 (with a £500 contribution from you) for up to 7 of the leaders and senior managers (£7,000 in total) in your business to benefit their personal ability to lead and manage your business.  This could enable you to run in-house development, coaching and mentoring for your key management personnel at just the time when they need support.
  • K2I – ‘Knowledge to Innovate’ awards, to help you introduce innovations in your business – which most firms should be considering to respond to the business opportunities and challenges presented by the Legal Services Act and move to Legal Disciplinary Practices and Alternative Business Structures.  It is funded in the North West by the Northwest Regional Development Agency to work with small and medium sized companies (up to 249 people) based in the Northwest who recognise the importance of innovation but who require practical assistance to successfully take their knowledge and experience to the next level.  Areas of “Innovation” covered are very relevant to lawyers in the current market can relate to: Product/Service Innovation– introducing new or modified products/service provision; Market Innovation – creating a new customer base or developing a new market; Process Innovation – changing/improving internal systems/processes; Business Innovation – introducing new ways of managing your business or supply chain.
  • Innovation Vouchers to get up to £3,000 worth of input from local universities, giving extra resource, which can be used to explore and implement new initiatives.
  • Knowledge Transfer Partnerships – enabling you to bring in (for periods that can range from as little as 10 weeks to 3 years) capable and knowledgeable graduates for a fraction of their full cost to support new initiatives.  They can be an invaluable resource on the ground to get tasks completed on projects where consultants like us are working on new initiatives with a practice.
  • … and there are other schemes.

If you think one of these options might help you implement a new initiative at your practice, or if you have a new project in mind that you think might qualify for some support from a Business Link, then speak to us.  We can help you make sure you apply for the best support for you; also then refine and focus your bid for support and funding to get the best possible deal for you.  

To discuss – contact Allan Carton on 07779 653105 or at acarton@inpractice.co.uk