Pokemon Go. Sure, it’s the latest gaming phenomenon, but what’s that got to do with practicing law? Why should lawyers care about an augmented reality smartphone app? After all, lawyers are busy enough practicing law and running their law firms. How could the latest fad offer any practical lessons for lawyers?
You’d be surprised. Even though Pokemon Go was released in the U.S. just one month ago, there are already a few things lawyers can learn from it. But first, a bit of background.
If you’re not already familiar with it, Pokemon Go is an augmented reality smartphone app that’s been downloaded more than twice as many times as Tinder and its user numbers have already overtaken Twitter’s. This app overlays an augmented map over your location and places the Pokemon world onto your own reality. In order to play, players must walk around to various locations to: 1) obtain supplies at “Pokestops,” 2) gain experience by battling in gyms, and 3) obtain Pokemon by catching them as you encounter them while walking or hatching them from eggs after walking required distances.
So that’s the low down. But even if you have no interest in playing Pokemon Go, there are a few lessons you can learn from the phenomenon that, I humbly suggest, will benefit your law practice.
1. The power of positive reinforcement
One of the things that keeps people coming back to Pokemon Go is the positive reinforcement you receive as you play. As you walk from one location to another, you nearly always receive positive reinforcement in any number of forms. You either encounter and attempt to catch a Pokemon, you receive tools to play the game at each Pokestop, you battle and sometimes take over a gym, and you hatch eggs as you cover ground. In other words, at every stage of the game, something happens that keeps you engaged.
What can lawyers learn from this? The importance of providing that same feeling to your clients. Keep them engaged in their case and let them know that you’re working hard for them. They’ve placed their faith in you and are spending a significant amount of money for your legal services. Let them know that their money is well spent. Update them regularly on the status of their case via letters or messages in a client portal, even if nothing has changed. Tell them what’s going on, what you’ve accomplished, and what you plan to do in the future.
By sending regular updates to your clients, you’re keeping them apprised of the status of their cases and heading off any possible frustrations and confusion about your efforts on their behalf. People appreciate regular interactions with their lawyers and by ensuring that you do this, you’ll be positively reinforcing their perception of the work you’re doing.
And make sure to stay in touch with clients even after their case is closed. Send a firm newsletter, holiday cards, or birthday greetings.
Just like Pokemon go players, your efforts to keep them in the loop will pay off in the long run. Engaged, informed clients are happy clients. They’ll think of your firm the next time they have a legal matter and will refer your firm to others in need of legal services.
2. The importance of clear communication
Pokemon Go’s creators, Niantic, learned about the importance of clear communication the hard way after updating the game and removing key features. The updates occurred with no notice and Pokemon Go players were angry — and very vocal about it, both online and off. Niantic failed to respond to criticisms for quite some time, causing their fans to become further frustrated. Eventually Niantic issued a statement explaining their actions, but for many, the reasons given didn’t add up and their response failed to satisfy.
Lawyers can learn a lesson from this failure. Clear, prompt communication with clients is key. Avoid legalese when talking to your clients about their cases. Use simple terminology. Speak to them, not at them. Be empathetic when sharing bad news and patiently answer all of their questions. Finally, consider incorporating all of the techniques discussed in this blog post when meeting with clients, especially when breaking bad news to them.
You’re not always going to have the best of news for your clients. But bad news is more easily handled when you are honest and communicate clearly. Learn from Niantic’s mistakes. Make clear communication with your clients a priority.
3. The value of staying abreast of changes
While understanding the intricacies of Pokemon Go may not be a top priority for you, taking notice of it is important because it’s a quickly growing trend that is affecting our culture at large. At first glance it may seem irrelevant to the practice of law, but even after one month, it’s clear that’s not the case.
Lawsuits relating to Pokemon Go have already been filed. For starters, there’s the class action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California against the creators of the game, where the lead plaintiff is himself an attorney. In the lawsuit, he alleges, among other things, that Pokemon Go players interfered with the “use and enjoyment of his property.”
There are other lawsuits as well, including the one filed by a teacher in state court in Florida against the makers of the game alleging allegations of unfair trade practices relating to how consumer data is handled by the app. Personal injury lawsuits are sure to follow as well, given reports of people falling off cliffs and getting hit by cars while playing the game.
Criminal defense practices are being affected as well. For example, there’s the directive issued by New York’s Governor Cuomo on August 1st to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision requiring that it restrict sex offenders under community supervision from playing Pokémon GO and other similar augmented reality games.
So regardless of your practice areas, there’s no harm in educating yourself about Pokemon Go–and the next latest and greatest technology trend that comes along. It’s important to stay on top of our rapidly changing culture, since law practices don’t operate in a vacuum. In fact, many jurisdictions are acknowledging this fact and are imposing an ethical duty on lawyers to stay abreast of changes in technology.
So don’t get left behind! You certainly don’t have to play Pokemon Go or partake in the next big technology craze. But at least take a bit of time out of your busy day to familiarize yourself with it. Make sure that you understand the basics and how it’s impacting society–and how it might even impact your law practice. You’ve got nothing to lose–and everything to gain.