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December 14, 2011 / Steve Hennigs

Is your law firm ready for the web of Big Data?

Person buried in paper

The last week of November I attended The Gilbane Conference in Boston where one of the main talking points throughout was the need for organizations to address the problem of Big Data as it pertains to the web.  While I had heard the term Big Data before I was used to it being used with regards to Business Intelligence tools and Search Engines not necessarily with a focus on individual websites or online presences.   For those of you unfamiliar with the term Big Data here is the definition as provided by Wikipedia:

“Big data are datasets that grow so large that they become awkward to work with using on-hand database management tools. Difficulties include capture, storage, search, sharing, analytics, and visualizing. This trend continues because of the benefits of working with larger and larger datasets allowing analysts to “spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime.” Though a moving target, current limits are on the order of terabytes, exabytes and zettabytes of data.”

I thought it was an interesting topic and that I could write a post in order to drive awareness.  As I thought more and more about the definition and what I had heard at the conference it hit me like a ton of bricks that this is an issue that law firms and legal marketers need to pay attention to sooner rather than later!  While I would guess that the Big Data issue would extend beyond the web for law firms I would like to focus on the web in this post.

Some Big Data information

The first thing to consider is simply the size of law firm websites.  Through a service Siteimprove provides to law firms called Siteimprove Quality Assurance I was able to look at the average number of web pages on a large law firm website.  We currently provide Siteimprove Quality Assurance to 30 of the NLJ top 250 law firms and the average page count of those 20 websites was over 7,000!  That is a lot of pages to keep track of and it is the opinion of industry experts like Kevin O’Keefe and Robert Algeri that law firm websites will continue to grow in size and that the growth will be significant.

While the number of pages on law firm websites is alarming it can become downright frightening when you consider all the other types of content on the web today that law firms must be able to leverage and effectively analyze to further boost their online presence.  There is video, PDFs (and other documents), vCards, email marketing and other campaigns.  Of course we cannot forget social media which is something that law firms are just starting to embrace according to the Wall Street Journal.  When social media is fully embraced the problem only grows.  Yikes!  All of this together can leave one feeling quite overwhelmed when attempting to digest the data and turn it into something useful to drive the law firm’s business.

The solution?  Web Governance!

I had written a post a while back entitled Website Governance and the new Law Firm Website that I hope provided some good thoughts on how to tackle the issue of Big Data.  However as I think about it more and more that post may have been a bit too narrow.  This was confirmed when I stumbled upon a true definition of Web Governance and how to champion the concept of Web Governance in an organization.

First the definition.  While the Wikipedia offering is good it did not offer the detail I wanted.  I found that detail in a blog post by Lisa Welchman entitled Web Governance: A Definition.  In this post Ms. Welchman puts forth the business case, framework, and descriptions of terminology used for Web Governance in layman’s terms.  By taking the time to implement Web Governance at your law firm you can  attack the issue of Big Data head on by determining what is important to the business of your law firm, what policies (social media included) must be created to ensure a strong and consistent message, and how to follow web standards in order to provide a quality web experience to your website visitors.

I thought that this sounded great but found myself wondering how to get the ball rolling within an organization to move towards Web Governance?  The business case Ms. Welchman provides was a good start but in some organizations it may not be enough.  I was lucky enough to come across another blog post that addressed this particular issue as well.

Jonathan Kahn blogs for the magazine A List Apart which is written by web people, for web people and he had written the post Web Governance: Becoming an Agent of Change that not only gives practical advice for how to implement Web Governance at your organization but also encourages you to stick with it no matter how difficult.  In the post he asserts that there cannot only be change on an organization’s website but the organization as a whole must change.  He does a great job, like Ms. Welchman, of presenting the case for Web Governance before diving into the how to’s.

Both articles are great if you find yourself swimming in a sea of web data and struggling for air.  Big Data on the web is here and not going away, is your law firm prepared?

Kudos to Kevin O’Keefe and his recent post WSJ on social media and law firms survey: Few taking plunge into genuine interactivity as that is where I first found the Wall Street Journal article.

Image courtesy of Google Images

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