At the leading edge of each of each new technology—from the Internet, to blockchain, to artificial intelligence—a pattern repeats itself. Every “next big thing” is over-hyped and oversold. A wave of momentum builds, companies and capital plunge in, the wave crashes, and a few participants emerge to define the market moving forward. Many technologies eventually become “big things,” but often not in ways we originally envision.
One thing we can say for certain—because we’re witnessing it before our eyes—is that the aggregate effect of technological advancements over the last twenty years is the leveling of the playing field when it comes to availability of information. We have moved from a world of information asymmetry to one of information parity due to the digitization of data accessible at the click of a button. In this word, yesterday’s “experts,” defined as those who held troves of data in their heads, are less valuable. Whatever information they possess about a particular topic is dwarfed by what’s freely available online.
Further, technology is displacing and commoditizing those who previously distinguished themselves by crunching numbers, analyzing data, and performing other rote-like functions that take computers mere nanoseconds to complete. Artificial intelligence is exacerbating this displacement.
Lawyers and law firms are, of course, not immune to these changes. In fact, the legal industry is likely to feel the pinch as acutely as any other, as demonstrated by the influx of alternate service providers and startup entrepreneurs introducing new tools and technologies that perform functions that were previously within the exclusive domain of traditional law firms.
One could (and many do) view these developments as akin to a glass half empty. After all, advances in technology are not the only issues participants in the legal marketplace are buffeting against. However, other market participants, particularly young lawyers with long careers ahead of them, should see these circumstances for what they are: a massive opportunity. For it is during moments like this, when things get tough, that merit matters most and there are opportunities to achieve stand-out success. In many ways, young lawyers today have the chance to achieve things that were never before possible.
In order to achieve stand-out success, however, a young lawyer must recognize the type of skills that are most valuable in this “new normal” environment.
In his book, A Whole New Mind, best-selling author Daniel Pink explores how right-brain thinkers are wired for 21st-century success. Pink argues that left brain skills—numbers crunching analysis, for example—are becoming less valuable, and that right brain skills—such as the ability to think creatively—are becoming increasingly important. As the pace of innovation across all aspects of the economy quickens, the ability to move past procedural and tap into creative thinking is paramount.
Implications for Legal Marketing
Because there is information parity, lawyers and other professionals no longer have an information advantage relative to clients and prospective clients. The same information is available to everyone. This has many implications, including with respect to marketing.
For example, when engaging in content marketing, lawyers hoping to make an impact and position themselves as thought leaders can no longer focus simply on what “is” but rather must push themselves to consider what “is to come.” It’s not what’s in front of us that matters, it’s what’s around the corner.
Law firm websites are another domain in which right-brain thinking is required. To be effective, law firm websites can no longer focus solely, or even primarily, on information-sharing if law firms want to drive organic traffic among prospects. To attract interest among prospects, and keep them coming back, law firms must tell interesting stories. Insights and education wrapped in compelling stories help to make connections with people and generate enthusiasm for a law firm’s brand. In sharing their stories, and more importantly the stories of their clients, law firms can express empathy and demonstrate understanding of the challenges their clients face.
Right-brain thinking, as expressed through marketing and legal work product, can also demonstrate to prospective clients that a lawyer or law firm is up to the challenge of solving problems in our complex world. “Design thinking,” which is marked by combining empathy, creativity, and rationality in brainstorming solutions to hard problems, is an increasingly important skill and point of differentiation. Design thinking, rather than procedural thinking, allows lawyers to connect dots between disparate ideas and craft creative solutions to problems.
The world we operate in is a complex puzzle. Because we all have access to the same information, the pieces to the puzzle are evident to everyone. The key to success, therefore, is to employ creative, right-brain thinking to figure out how they all fit together.