You’ve probably heard of the wildly popular Foursquare and Farmville, where users receive incentives to participate in activities. But the concept of gamification—the use of virtual rewards, levels and status to motivate certain behavior—is increasingly popular among lawyers, too. That may come as a surprise if you associate games with younger or “less professional” groups of people, but you are probably already engaged in gamification without even realizing it. Frequent flyer mileage programs, credit card reward systems and even profile completeness bars on sites like LinkedIn are simple examples. Other examples that are more focused on the lawyer community include Quora, which recently introduced Quora Credits, and Avvo.com, where lawyers who answer questions earn participation quality points that are displayed on leaderboards and badges.
Why is this so? According to Gabe Zichermann, the chair of the Gamification Summit: “Game mechanics are increasingly becoming a critical tool for websites and applications to attract and retain users. In addition to using these techniques to create a stickier user experience, companies are also finding that they can raise the level of participation by experts and consumers, introduce a more competitive landscape and improve the caliber and quality of information provided on the site.”
Should You Play?
As more sites introduce game mechanics, here are four ways lawyers and law firms can gain by playing along:
- Showcase expertise. Lawyers who engage in sites that use gamification can use the virtual rewards to demonstrate their specialized knowledge to others in the community. In doing so, lawyers can develop and enhance their online reputation, market their expertise and grow their online network. Some lawyers already use their Klout score to measure their influence in particular markets.
- Measure ROI. For those who have a limited amount of “free time,” engaging in sites where performance is measured and monitored helps. And seeing the results and progression is satisfying for many lawyers.
- Keep the mind sharp. If you are answering questions or engaging in other types of online games, most likely you will be using different sets of skills that may not be tested offline everyday. Gamification can create new challenges and good opportunities to keep sharp on the topics and areas you are interested in. You may also learn something new from others who are participating.
- Engage in “friendly competition.” At the center of all gamification is the competitive spirit. Most people (including lawyers) enjoy and are further motivated by friendly competition and recognition. As you set out to earn more points, rewards and status, you could be competing against colleagues, peers or even your competition. It can provide an opportunity to put your best foot forward and even have some fun.
Josh King is the General Counsel and Vice President of Business Development of Avvo, Inc., the largest legally related Q&A website where consumers get their questions answered by a community of rated attorneys. He was recently named “Outstanding Corporate Counsel finalist” by the Puget Sound Business Journal. He received his J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of Law.
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