By Elena Petzold
I’ve noticed throughout my career that it takes any new technology five to 10 years to really infiltrate the practice of law — except during a pandemic. Over the last six months, closed offices and teleworking have created an accelerated environment for the adoption and implementation of new technologies. With the restrictions caused by the pandemic not loosening anytime soon, even those who are extremely leery of new technology platforms may want to rethink their ways.
In that spirit, I share with you my top six tips for mastering the current tech landscape of 2020:
1. Don’t wait until your next Zoom call to learn how to use Zoom.
As soon as my department realized we were going to be asked 1,001 questions regarding Zoom, we set up a two-hour training after hours. During this get-together we explored the platform (good and bad), figured out what people were going to love or hate, and put ourselves in a position of readiness for whatever the next day would bring. And as soon as we figured everything out about Zoom, we did the same for Microsoft Teams.
In business development, you never want to be reactive; if you want to get ahead, you need to be proactive and always move forward — especially ahead of the position where you know people are going to be.
2. Explore and expand all your virtual networks.
The greatest virtual network for professional endeavors is LinkedIn and it still surprises me how few people utilize the platform. There is a persistent myth that popular people get all the new business. However, their success is less about perception and personae, and everything about their network. A strong network, including a presence in many networks, is the pathway for new business. I even see spouses referring their partners on Facebook in informal community groups when someone is seeking attorney services.
If you don’t already have a LinkedIn account, I recommend you start there first. Next, I encourage all professionals to explore other networking platforms which can help advertise who you are and what you do. Consider niche options like alumni networks (many are on LinkedIn or have Facebook subgroups) and legal referral networks by industry or location.
3. Lean in to new technologies.
The legal marketing industry has been flooded with a variety of tools and technologies — many of which are worth leaning in to. For example, Canva is a graphic design platform that allows users to create social media graphics, presentations, posters and other visual content. Whereas marketers previously had to employ graphic designers with specialized skills such as Adobe or Photoshop, everyday users (including lawyers who are also marketers) can now easily create content in less than a dozen clicks.
Other technologies that are beneficial include “Find a Lawyer” apps and website plug-ins which can act as a triage for prospective clients who are coming in through your website.
4. Exploit the technology you have for its full features.
Technology can get expensive quickly — especially with the new Software as a Service (SaaS) models, which look inexpensive when one year’s cost is divided by 12 months. Before you take on any new tools that are supposed to enhance business development, ask yourself if you’re really using all the benefits of the ones you have first. For example, even if you can’t afford a CRM software, you can gain the same effects using Outlook’s Calendar, Contacts and “To-Do List” features. You might not get the analytics you’re looking for or the access across the firm that you need, but you can keep track of prospective clients, history, activity and when you need to follow up next.
5. Don’t go it alone. Collaborate.
There is nothing more overwhelming than having to do everything on your own, even when it comes to technology. If you are in a position to work with someone else and align yourself with others in the same position, your endeavor may be easier and the results may be better for you both. This concept applies to webinars, podcasts and blogs. For example, instead of creating your own podcast, can you find a podcast where you would be a great guest speaker? Or if you already have your own podcast, instead of having to create the content by yourself, why not solicit speakers who are in your industry? Two heads will always be better than one.
6. Don’t get too comfortable.
If there’s anything we’ve learned during the course of 2020, it is that whatever is here today can be changed or gone for good tomorrow. For long-term success with technology as a business development tool, explore what you don’t know before it becomes mainstream.
Elena Petzold is the chief marketing officer of Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti, a midsize business and litigation law firm with five offices across Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. She is also an alum to several well-known organizations, including “Big Law” Skadden. Petzold began her career there as a paralegal, when everything was done in paper and “Redacted” stamps were not a relic.