Well, the topic on everyone’s lips is ChambersConnect, the new private social network form directory publishers, Chambers & Partners.
Since announcing the product last week, most of us in the legal marketing world have bene inundated with queries.
So, I gathered up some of them and asked Chambers managing editor, Rieta Ghosh.
A couple of these questions below are from me, but most are from legal marketing and PR professionals inside law firms.
Some of the questions weren’t easy to answer, but thank you to Rieta for her quick reply.
Chambers’ answers in red.
I understand that all ranked lawyers are invited to join, plus some clients – buyers of legal services. But how many clients, and which ones in particular. All of them, or some of them? What sort of percentage?
We have always used our database to inform clients about new publications, new editions of our guides, new events and seminars.
Now we are using it to alert them to our new project and to invite them to join.
Our database of those in management who use the legal profession has been built up from a multitude of sources over the past 25 years.
We have used it for two key activities: a) asking clients about the various lawyers they use, and b) sending clients our guides and advising them of new releases on our website.
For many years clients, have used our guides in print and online to review the ranked lawyers.
Now, as members of ChambersConnect, they can also see these lawyers in action.
We’re bringing the lawyers to life and providing a more direct connection with them.
Already, clients are telling us how delighted they are to be invited.
Here are some typical responses from clients whom we’ve phoned and asked for permission to publish:
“Great News! An interesting way to be in contact with other colleagues. Congratulations!” (Carlos Sanchez Villanueva, Caterpillar Crédito)
“Fantastic! Looking forward to using this platform as a sounding board for industry views on key issues.” (Priti Shetty, ICICI Bank)
“Pleased to be invited to join and I’m sure I will find information and advice of benefit to me – in particular in regard to real estate and litigation.” (Frank Hopping, Crown Records Management)
“Excellent initiative. Connect is a great tool. Thank you for the invitation.” (Flávia Freitas, Giesecke & Devrient América Do Sul Indústria E Comércio De Smart Cards)
“It is an excellent platform network which definitely will be used by all in the legal community.” (Camille Bitar, Nourbano)
“Well done: Great idea! Thank you for this opportunity.” (Giovanni Gerasi, Dexma Capital)
Will you contact clients supplied to you via law firm submissions, or those that you have independently on your database, and via other channels? Some law firms have expressed concern that clients who agreed to be put forward as a confidential reference will be sucked into an additional product that they may not be inclined to join – and that may reflect poorly on the lawyer at the firm that put them forward.
We are contacting clients on our distribution database.
Clients will decide if they wish to respond to our invitation.
No clients or ranked lawyers will automatically find themselves members of ChambersConnect.
What about the cost? I understand it’s free initially, but do you have plans further down the line to charge a membership fee, or monetize the site in some other way?
Membership of ChambersConnect is free of charge and will remain free.
There are no plans to monetise the site.
The benefits to our business will be those that come from having a world-wide platform that reaches out to leading lawyers and clients.
Legal marketers are on the front line when it comes to managing their law firms’ relationships with Chambers. Will they be allowed into the site? Lawyers listen to them, and they can be champions for this, but it’s difficult for them to advise their lawyers if they can’t see what’s going on?
We shall give legal marketers a special role on the network which enables them to see what’s happening and to assist their ranked lawyers to contribute.
How will the RFP function work? Can you walk us through how clients (or law firms) will be able to use CC to invite prospective firms to pitch for work?
This function is being worked on at the moment.
We shall provide more details in the next few weeks.
It’s among the many extra functions occupying the time of our IT department.
The question everyone wants to know is will it impact rankings whether someone signs up or not? I imagine the official line will be “no” but it’s similar to how firms that don’t support Chambers commercially through adverts and profiles feel (rightly or wrongly) – that they’re at a disadvantage, and that it might subtly affect how they’re covered in the editorial section.
Our rankings will never be influenced by anything other than our research into the legal market.
This has always been our position and it always will be.
How do you respond to lawyers who are hesitant to invest time in this? How can you convince them to engage with CC, when law firms already have a tough time convincing their partners to use LinkedIn, which has been around for 10 years?
ChambersConnect is different.
It’s not LinkedIn.
It’s an exclusive community of the world’s leading lawyers and clients.
Members will be spending their time with other members and the other members will be worth spending time with.
Looking at the Q+A facility, many lawyers will be nervous, partly through instinct, and partly through bar and ethical considerations, that they may wrongly create an attorney-client relationship by responding to any public queries. What can you do to reassure them?
There’s a disclaimer on every page that using ChambersConnect does not create a lawyer-client relationship and that content on the site does not constitute professional advice.
Some people think that the key to the success of CC is whether you can attract clients, and make them stick around – on the basis that if the clients come the lawyers in private practice will follow. But what’s in it for the clients? Are you hoping that they will use CC to request ideas and responses on certain legal issues, which in turn could lead to them developing relationships with certain law firms?
How the members use ChambersConnect is for them to decide.
We can only pay close attention to what they ask for and what they do and don’t do.
It’s then down to us, as best we can, to respond with continual improvements.
Legal marketers are asking if you have any training planned, so they can in turn advise their lawyers – a conference call, webinar, perhaps some presentations. Anything like that in the works?
We’re producing some videos that we hope will be helpful.
We shall also take note of any requests for information and do our best to respond.
I understand that you access CC via the website at the moment, but are there plans for an iPhone app next year?
Yes, there are.
How many minutes does it take for partners to sign up?
This can easily be done in three minutes.
It takes longer if you deliberate at length over which Professional Interest Groups – which areas of law, which industry sectors and locations – you should choose.
But you needn’t spend too long over this because you can always add new interest groups later, or delete or change them.