Everyone loves an underdog, at least on the Internet. Now corporate boardrooms are catching on. A new paper out in the MIT Sloan Management Review discusses how small companies and individuals can level the playing field in a legal dispute with a large company through what the author calls “lawsourcing”—using social media and online crowdsourcing to raise legal fees and awareness to fight a legal threat against the small company or individual.

From the article:

Lawsourcing campaigns can provide significant benefits, including greater brand awareness and loyalty and increased sales. In recent years, social media and modern technology have provided a powerful platform and a set of tools for companies that want to fight back. By leveraging public support, companies can advance their legal and public-relations goals.

If the small company has any kind of social media presence, it can leverage that into a larger “David vs. Goliath” narrative that grows both the brand identity and a legal fees war chest.

The idea of crowd-sourcing to raise funds to cover legal fees has been around for a while now. The paper cites Ben & Jerry’s 1984 publicity campaign against Pillsbury as one of the first examples, but the first example of truly leveraging online support against a legal threat to my mind is Matthew Inman’s “BearLove Good, Cancer Bad” campaign in response to a legal threat from FunnyJunk.com. Gone are the days when the mere threat of a lawsuit from a big company, frivolous or not, can force an individual or small company off of the playing field.

Featured image: “Big businessman crushing a small one” from Shutterstock.

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