Dear fellow not-so-technologically-adept attorneys: You may not know what the term “QR Codes” means but you certainly have seen this goofy little ink-blot kind of square here, there and everywhere. It is called a QR Code. Above this paragraph is the QR Code for the ISBA Mutual Insurance Company. I’m using this column as a vehicle to tell us technologically-challenged individuals what these codes are, what they mean, why we bother with them, why we really should bother with them, why we have no choice but to bother with them, and, believe it or not, how you can even get and use your own QR Code.
I am certain you have seen this code on billboards, mailed items, walking through airports or train stations or bus stations, in magazines and in stores, etc. By this time, you have realized that it’s called a QR (short for “quick response”) Code. It is nothing more than a barcode (whatever a barcode is?) that can be read by your smartphone (also called an iPhone or Android). I would assume that most of the readers of this column have such a new-fangled telephone. I have it on my agenda to get one—one of these days. Anyway, a QR Code is basically, as I said, a barcode that can be read by your smartphone. This device, or concept, or however you want to categorize it, was developed in Japan (of course!) to track car inventory and should help you in your law practice if for no other reason than marketing. Once created, some brilliant person came up with the wonderful idea to combine barcodes and the internet. By the way, in case you are wondering, a “barcode” is an optical machine-readable representation of data relating to the object to which it is attached—it is the labeling of nearly every product in stores and has boosted productivity in nearly every sector of commerce worldwide.
This is how it works: your smartphone (the generic name for all these do-everything phones, e.g., iPhone, etc.) reads this QR barcode and directs you to a relevant website. Most smart phones are equipped to read such a code or you can get the phone service provider to install a QR Code reader (many are free) on your iPhone, Android, Blackberry and the like. Of course, like me, if you don’t have the use of these new-fangled phones (shame on me!), you really should get one because, in this fast moving world that we live in today, we really need immediate, constant contact with both our clients and our office and, certainly, our family. Anyway, when you click on the QR Code, hold your phone up to the code and the camera on your smartphone will view this code and a few seconds later (lo and behold!), your smartphone will automatically deliver you to the website representing this QR Code, or text or phone number that is dedicated to that QR Code. Try it out: take out your smartphone, get the app, hold it up to the QR Code at the top of this article, and give it a zap and you’ll know all you need to know, at least preliminarily, about our wonderful Illinois State Bar Association Mutual Insurance Company, founded and continuing to provide stable, affordable legal malpractice insurance coverage as an additional benefit for an ISBA member.
You might ask yourself at this point, “How do I get one of those QR things?” Generating a QR Code is free and easy to do. Just go online (the internet) and Google “free QR code generator.” You will find many sites offering to do this. You will be asked some basic questions, such as what content type you want the QR code to go to. Will it be a URL (uniform resource locator, better known as a web address)? Will it be a phone number or written text? Then you simply let the site know where you want the QR code to be directed—your Web site URL, phone number, etc. Click “generate,” and you have your code. You can copy and paste it wherever you want. It’s your code!
Your next step is to decide where and how to use your QR code. Where do most of your clients congregate? What are their traffic patterns? Where do they drive? Where do they walk? What do they need? If you know these things, you can place a QR code anywhere, on anything, directing the public to your website. Think of the possibilities—giant billboards, small signs, brochures, business cards, flyers, magazine ads, direct mailings, t-shirts. This is just scratching the surface on how to use these codes.
This technology is already huge in Europe and Asia. It’s just catching on in the U.S. and is already the next big thing. QR Codes are cool, and you will be too, if you use them.
Well, now you know what a QR Code is, why you need one, how to have access to QR Codes that you see around and, believe it or not, how you can even create your own QR Code and, hopefully, use it. I hope this helps. Sure, it’s intimidating but, in this fast-paced world of communication, technology and marketing, it is as important to the practice of law as substantive rules and their applications. Good luck. ■