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Successful marketers differentiate their products or services from any that their rivals provide — a principle as valid for law firm marketing as it is for any industry. Any marketing method that allows an attorney to stand out from other lawyers gives him or her a major leg up on the competition, and Udemy is an excellent option.

Udemy, or more precisely, www.udemy.com, is a platform and marketplace for online learning. Udemy was launched on May 11, 2010, and its name implies “The Academy of You.” Udemy is an example of the growing movement of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which are a teaching option outside the traditional university system that includes providers such as Coursera, Lynda, Udacity, Codeacademy and edX.

But unlike its competitors, Udemy operates outside the typical, academic MOOC structure. Instead of offering courses that mirror traditional collegiate coursework and are taught by university academicians, Udemy allows experts of any kind to develop courses that can be offered to the public. And it is on that basis that attorneys can create a useful means for reaching out to potential clients — and do so in a manner that will help distinguish them from the competition.

Successful marketers also personalize their pitches to every client as much as possible. A personalized approach helps attorneys establish a valuable rapport with clients that fosters the trust that is so essential to converting a casual connection into a business connection.

Udemy has many tools available to help create that personalized approach, and most of them center on a dynamic interface between students and instructors through a live classroom setting. The interface between students and instructors is achieved through such communication tools as chat rooms, audio streams, video and PowerPoint-esque presentations. The format allows up to 20 live video streams. The courses can also feature discussion boards, self-hosted or YouTube-hosted videos and slideshow presentations.

Attorneys who would be course creators can upload presentations or videos, post blogs and project content from a variety of online services such as YouTube, Vimeo and Slideshare, but the most valuable means of providing a personalized interface experience is through the Live Virtual Classroom. Through this online classroom setting, attorneys can host live class sessions with up to 10 video participants — and have the potential for reaching out to thousands more viewers.

Within this online classroom, attorneys can offer not only a chatroom for discussion and a virtual whiteboard, but also the ability to share files and to employ a video presentation tool that permits them to customize presentation slides and synchronize them with video footage.

There are now more than 6,000 instructors offering 10,000 live courses on Udemy, which can be held either for a fee or free of charge. Udemy sets must-have content and format requirements that classes must meet before they will be approved, including the creation of an attractive “cover” to draw students.

The plethora of marketplace opportunities for learning recently expanded to smartphones when, in April 2013, an Udemy application for iOS was launched; in January 2014, an Udemy application for Android was unveiled.

The experience of the app is designed to be similar to the one enjoyed on the main site, but additional conveniences are available to users through iOS or Android. Among them, beyond the obvious of being able to study on the go, is the ability to save courses for offline viewing that can be watched during, say, a commute to or from work. Video lectures can be viewed in multiple speeds on the app. In addition, users can sign in via Facebook, synchronize courses from web to mobile and access content in areas with limited bandwidth.

With all of these user conveniences, there are plenty of opportunities for attorneys to market their message to potential clients and to expand the pool of people they can reach. In fact, as of this year, the San-Francisco-based Udemy has enrolled more than 1.5 million students — way up from the few thousand users it had at its inception only a few years ago.

For the attorney as user, the Udemy process of creating a classroom, setting up a course and uploading materials should be very easy and intuitive. And for the attorney as instructor, the platform is full of ways to interact with potential clients in an enjoyable, educational way.

The importance of providing an enjoyable learning experience cannot be underestimated. The average person who needs legal services too-often thinks of lawyers as aloof and foreboding individuals who speak and write in legalese that usually seems crafted to exclude the listener. Contrast this relationship with the one nurtured in a classroom between a teacher and a student, which is ideally marked by a give-and-take exchange of ideas. Sharing knowledge is an enriching experience for both parties, and one can easily see the benefit of applying this model to the attorney-client relationship.

Attorneys can replicate the teacher-student relationship model by offering courses on the law for potential clients. Udemy does an excellent job of providing an approachable platform and a variety of means for interaction with students. When lawyers communicate with their students in inviting, easy-to-understand and relatable language, they can speak to (not down to) potential clients. And these potential clients are able, in turn, to learn about matters of legal importance to them and to trust their guide.

About Author

James Ambroff-Tahan is a former contributor to Bigger Law Firm Magazine.

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