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Moberly: Don’t be the Next Betamax: The Necessity of Evolution in the Legal Profession

February 24, 2016

iba-moberly-robyn-president-2016I recall feeling pretty smug when we bought our first VHS tape player. We’d been smart and hadn’t bought a Betamax player, which became obsolete in about 15 minutes. That was about the same time that our law firm bought its first Wang and the IBM Selectric was retired. And, I didn’t even notice when the Yellow Pages quit being delivered. That used to be all law firms’ main source of advertising their services. I occasionally think about that poor fellow who manufactured carbon paper. I hope he didn’t diversify into the White-Out market. Life can be so unfair.

I know I’m lucky I don’t have to go out and find work. Mine appears these days in an electronic inbox. For 17 years, it appeared in large banker boxes full of folders containing reams of paper. Every day my goal was to empty that day’s box of proposed Orders to keep the workflow moving and people’s cases on track. Since my court is “paperless” now, I click on a “Reports” tab and the queue of routine Orders line up on my computer screen. Pretty soon all of the state courts will be paperless and judges and lawyers will have to adapt. The bad news is that if you don’t adapt, you’ll go the way of the Selectric typewriter.

I’ve had the chance the last few years to think about Internet access to justice, new forms of competition from large global corporations, the possible obsolescence of state-regulated practice of law, commoditized legal services and many other seismic shifts in the legal profession. Lots of other professions have dealt with these changes. You don’t have to look far to see the dramatic change in how medical services are delivered today.

The stark reality of these changes is that the early adopters will thrive and those who are late to the game will wither. The IndyBar staff and leadership continues to work on helping our members compete in this changing world. I recently read a book by Richard Susskind called “Tomorrow’s Lawyers.” It’s a very quick read and I recommend it, especially to small firm and solo lawyers (I assume large multistate law firms have marketing and operational experts who are studying these issues daily).

An example of just one of the easiest things you can do to put your toe in the water is to join Indy Lawyer Finder, an online referral service created by the IndyBar. Think Avvo, but with transparency in methodology and no rating of lawyers. It doesn’t cost much and new memberships are free for six months. IndyBar professionals will help you build your profile page, which is the first step. After that, I hope you’ll consider growing your Web presence with video. I’ve learned that YouTube has surpassed Google in time spent on their websites. That should tell you something. You need to be where your clients are looking for you.

The day this column will appear in the Indiana Lawyer, the IndyBar will be featuring a renowned speaker, Corey Sabin, who will speak about digital marketing: how to do it, and how to do it ethically. I hope you’ve been watching your IndyBar e-news because we’ve been featuring this member benefit prominently. We want you to be an early and effective adopter of new technologies and we’ll help you do that.

So, don’t be the lawyer who comes to work one day, notices the phone isn’t ringing any more, and wonders why. Likely it’s because your clients are looking but can’t find you. Don’t think of it as the end of an era, think of it as a new adventure.•

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