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| 3 minutes read

LMA Mid-Atlantic - Reed Smith Case Study: How to launch a new ESG Practice

Yesterday, it was so refreshing to attend a jam-packed day of networking and enlightening sessions at the LMA Mid-Atlantic Region conference held in Washington, D.C. In the morning, I enjoyed the session held between Phill McGowan, Global Director of Communications at Reed Smith, and James Barclay, CEO of Passle Inc.

At Passle, we have been working with Phill and his team since January 2020, assisting in the launch of their thought leadership program during the first few weeks of the COVID lockdown. Phill had a lot on during that time but he launched a very successful thought leadership program. 

The idea of achieving goals and driving change despite the obstacles and challenges that Marketing teams in law firms face every day provided the idea for this discussion. It brought this quote to mind:

A year ago, Phill and his team launched an ESG Practice at Reed Smith. As Phill said, every other law firm was showing their ESG expertise but they were a little behind. Phill and his team needed to get going - and fast, despite the punches.  

Using the experience of the last 12 months and the now successful launch of their ESG Practice, Phill went through how they managed to get this done despite the challenges. Central to his success was empowering his attorneys to create timely, client-relevant, ESG-focused content with a strong eye on SEO.

Here is what I took away from the presentation:

1. Take off before the runway is built 

“Discovery beats strategy,” Phill stated. He explained that they needed to figure out how to bring a new Practice to market and decided they wanted to use their team to figure it out in real-time. They used a wide group so everybody could weigh in across time zones. Phill said they all knew that they were going to make mistakes and were prepared for that. “Lead by design”, he says, and “operate under the premise and preparation for mistakes”. Importantly, they did not wait until the 'launch date' to start. 

For example, they started creating Passle posts focused on ESG immediately, 10 months before launch. In that time, over 30 attorneys started sharing their insights about ESG. Publishing over 80 posts between them, the firm started to develop a bank of ESG expertise and could point to leaders in the field who are actively sharing their thought leadership on key topics.

2. It all starts with SEO and content

Phill explained to start searching with/for keywords. What matters is the search terms people (potential & existing clients) are looking for. 

“Think like your client and think as to how people are searching for things," he said.

3. When the lawyers are listening to you, capitalize on the moment

“Don’t hold back". ESG was a bright shiny object for a certain percentage of Reed Smith’s attorneys. He explained that he told the attorneys they won’t be associated with the practice unless they’re going to rewrite their bio, their LinkedIn profile with a headshot and headline of value and create content. 

4. On thought leadership, you don’t need a blockbuster to make an impact

This is your responsibility and you can do this, use your voice! Phill delivered one of the most unique analogies of the day: 

"Thought leadership is looked at as a long process like birthing a baby and it doesn’t need to be. You can get people to subscribe to your feed with pithy digestible content”. 

To measure the success of their thought leadership, besides obvious numbers, Phill said they look at the number of subscribers for their ESG content including competitors, clients and prospects. They look at who’s engaging with them repeatedly. Phill says, “Just an impression on LinkedIn means nothing without a click-through. I want them on our site". Providing that feedback is key to encouraging attorneys to keep creating content.

Overall, it was a fantastic session, and I am so grateful to have had the chance to attend this conference. It was so refreshing to catch up with familiar faces and meet some new people as well. Looking forward to the next one!

For further reading check out: The 4 essential pillars of successful professional services content marketing programs

"Thought leadership is looked at as a long process like birthing a baby and it doesn’t need to be. You can get people to subscribe to your feed with pithy digestible content" -Phill McGowan, Global Director of Communications, Reed Smith


e2e, marketing, professional services, legal marketing
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In professional services firms, being able to demonstrate your firm's knowledge and value to the market is key. Thought leadership sits...

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