Why do some law firms give away content while others wallow in silos?
For most of this week I have been attending the annual trade show of the International Legal Technology Association or ILTA for short. Like most trade shows, ILTA offers a very large and interesting exhibit hall with hundreds of vendors displaying their wares.
If you ever been to an Exhibit Hall at a major trade show, you know that vendors often set freebies out to attract people to their booths. You can usually tell the freebies because they are prominently displayed on tables in front of each booth. I used to always ask if I could have one of the freebies before taking it; recently though I have not always been so courteous before taking something. Which of course led to an embarrassing moment at this year’s show.
As I was walking the floor on Wednesday, I noticed one vendor had some socks laid out. Now granted, socks are a bit on the higher end of freebees but not outlandishly so. Many vendors, including NetDocuments (thanks for the free socks, I really like them!) and others have used socks for a long time as draws. And socks are not terribly expensive. So perhaps my assumption that they were give aways might have been justified.
In any event, I saw the socks, said something like “cool, always can use socks” as I picked them up. A young, stern faced exhibitor immediately came close and said, “Sir. You have to buy something to get the socks”. Naturally, I was a bit taken aback.
“Well, whats for sell?”, I said sort of sheepishly. Mr. Stern Face: “you have to by a subscription to get the socks.” “Whats the cost of a subscription”? “$40 per gigabyte per month. (The vendor, who I will resist the urge to name, was an e discovery provider of some sort). I politely declined to purchase and hence gave up the socks since $40 is a bit steep for a pair of socks. Of course, I walked away somewhat embarrassed reminding myself that making assumptions is always dangerous, especially when it comes to freebies.
But the incident got me to thinking. Why would you want to charge someone for something that you could get free or for next to nothing either from another more benevolent vendor or from a store for a reduced cost? Was it for the privilege of saying I have socks from ________, a brand by the way I had never heard of? Was it arrogance? Being chintzy? But when you think about it, don’t a lot of law firms and lawyers make the same mistake?
These same firms are often reluctant to post articles and information online for fear someone will get their “expertise” for free
There are firms that when asked for advice on matters they aren’t familiar with turn to Google to find information about a problem and then charge the client to regurgitate what they find. There are firms who when confronted with a problem will go and research it instead of first seeing what there may already be available online and elsewhere to give them a head start. These same firms are often reluctant to post articles and information online for fear someone will get their “expertise” for free. Many of them refuse to cite informative material written by other lawyers and firms or share that information with their clients for fear that the other firm will get business and they won’t.
Other firms value client service more than self interest. Or put another way, they recognize that client service is the best way over the long term to promote self interest. These firms and lawyers routinely put on display their expertise and knowledge online for free for anyone to see. They strive to be thought leaders even though doing so requires non billable time. They aren’t concerned that someone will take their content and use it for a competitive advantage. These same firms and lawyers know that there are online resources they can use to help their clients be more efficient. They don’t mind sharing the content of others when they know it will be valuable to their clients.
If a client knows that its lawyer is willing to send another content or use that of others to solve a problem, then that firm becomes instantly more credible.
Why do they do this? It builds credibility with the client. If a client knows that its lawyer is willing to send another content or use that of others to solve a problem, then that firm becomes instantly more credible. And they also believe, over the long haul, their loyalty, expertise, and yes, integrity will win out. And not surprisingly, these firms are often the more well known firms whose “brand” is strong and solid.
And if their integrity doesn’t win out over the long haul, they can still get up every morning and look themselves in the mirror.
After they put on some free socks.