Back in 2015, Michelle Maier of Fox Rothschild was already some way ahead of her industry peers, citing the growing importance of highly relevant content in legal marketing. Crucially, she cites that the people with purchasing power (the GC's) are the ones who want to read the content from the service providers (the attorneys themselves). However, in practice, this is actually quite difficult.
The reason this is important is because the people with the purchasing power (the GC's) now prefer to-the-minute forms of content (blogs, articles and content written by the attorneys) over static, slow-moving traditional forms of content (legal directories, legal awards etc.) which are only really updated on an annual basis.
Crucially, this is how they conduct their research and, quite rightly, want to get a flavour of the experts whom they will be paying to deliver the service for them.
This content, as she quite rightly states, must come from those service providers (the attorneys themselves). The logic behind this is backed up LinkedIn / Edelman's research that successful content has 5 key tenets:
- Relevant & Applicable
- Current (dealing with up-to-date news / issues)
- Industry-focused (talking about the challenges of the client/industry rather than the strengths of the firm)
- Digestible: If it can't be read with two swipes of the thumb, it probably won't get read at all
- From a trusted source: content from the attorney, delivered in the right format will resonate so much more than generic branded content.
For the content to be relevant, it has to come from an expert who knows the industry inside / out and for it to really resonate, it needs to be an up-to-date problem.
Fast forward 3 years and whilst attending the LMA conference, this theme cropped up again and again. So much so that at the "What GCs want from law firms" talk, one-panel member (Ashraf Lakhani, Director of Business Development and Marketing, Porter Hedges) even scribbled down the quote below at the top of their conference notes:
What was interesting was the reasoning behind this: if faced with a plethora of similar law firms, all full of similarly intelligent people with the same qualifications from the same law schools, choosing one from another is actually quite a difficult task. This choice is made even tougher because making the wrong decision can be very costly in terms of time, resources, a missed opportunity or at worst, loss of reputation in the marketplace.
The job then of the law firms is to inspire confidence and build trust when they aren't in the room. Having something tactile and tangible, like regular, 'snackable' content, to demonstrate that expertise is incredibly worthwhile. The best organisations are realising this - the rest will be left behind.
In my experience, lawyer directories are not the primary drivers of business referrals, particularly for larger law firms with a broader and more diverse client base. Other sources are generally considered to be more relevant in the selection process and hiring decision. A survey released last year by American Lawyer Media found that referrals from trusted sources, followed by biographies on firm websites and articles, speeches, blogs and other content written by attorneys, are most important to in-house counsel who are researching lawyers and law firms to potentially hire.