Yesterday I noticed an ad in the Wall Street Journal for a new service that deliver news and quotes via instant messaging (IM). I tried it just now and it seems pretty useful and unobtrusive, at least so far.

A few years ago, most law firms would have scoffed at the idea that they would regularly send e-mail updates to clients or allow their clients to sign up for subscription alert services from the firms’ web sites. Yet many firms do this today. So, is IM the next wave? Will law firms begin to emulate the WSJ and deliver legal news via IM?

Arguably legal news and analysis requires some thought and reflection and therefore is not appropriate for IM. I suspect those same arguments were made about e-mail years back. The point is not necessarily just speed – it’s operating in the medium clients find most congenial. I now have a WSJ “buddy” name on my AOL IM list. I can send a message (“main”) to receive a menu of options or a message containing my menu selection to get headlines (“1”) or quotes (“2”).

Firms that want to occupy a high share of mind of their clients should consider a service that emulates what the WSJ is doing. For clients who use IM, having the firm name right there on the buddy list (or equivalent) can be a powerful awareness builder. And if that client has a legal question…. well, I’ll let you fill in the rest.