Conference told of Net gains

Multidisciplinary corrals and online advice sessions are two developments of the Internet that could benefit law firms, according to Liam McNeive, a partner at Masons.

Addressing a conference on the Internet for Professional Services last week, McNeive said lawyers should not ignore the Internet as a potential source of income. He said the Net could be used as a marketing tool, to raise a firm's profile, to cater to existing clients and possibly to generate fees and change business practices.

McNeive told the conference, organised by IBC UK Conferences, that he foresaw the creation of multidisciplinary corrals, which he defined as sites where information about different professional services is held together. An example would be an estate agent and a law firm placed side by side on a page.

Another potential money-spinner was using the Internet for online advice sessions between lawyers and their clients, she said. “Real online advice sessions are one of those useful applications of the Web not being thought about too hard at the moment. But this will change, particularly when we get more use of real-time video links.”

Christopher Millard, a partner at Clifford Chance, added that there was a huge market for generic, easily accessible legal information. He said there were many situations where people would not go to a lawyer but would benefit from £20-worth of highly focused tips, easily available through the net.

McNeive's tips for creating a successful Web site were:

Aim for a marriage of content, context and technology.

Make the experience of visiting the site visually stimulating – but avoid useless graphics that take too long to download.

The site should contain valuable information.

Publish globally, think locally – think about things that will affect those reading the site, for example readers in different jurisdictions.

Look to use live online events as a means of generating income.

If you have a strong brand name, use it – position it carefully, exploit its potential and defend it assiduously.

Be prepared to wait for the benefits to accrue: the Internet is a very young medium.