Global law firms are increasingly using content marketing – particularly blogging – to demonstrate their expertise and raise their organisational profiles.
The legal industry doesn’t have a reputation for being an early adopter of new ways of doing things, so it’s surprising how eagerly the industry is getting to grips with content marketing.
Law firms that get good results from their content marketing tend to be ones that have a solid strategy in place.
For law firms, this usually means taking a B2B-style approach, aiming content at decision makers who need to be persuaded to choose one law firm above the others working in the same area.
Quite often LinkedIn forms a core part of this strategy. It’s also important to integrate a content marketing strategy with an understanding of search marketing. Law firms are finding they need to stretch their skills to encompass writing and digital strategy.
But law is a demanding profession, and legal companies are also embracing smart ways of working that reduce the burden of creating a constant flow of compelling content relevant to their area of practice.
They are embracing tools such as Passle, which claims to be able to help users create 100 times more content than their peers. It’s a compromise between writing lengthy blogs and curating content that allows law firms to comment on industry updates no matter how heavy their workload. Twitter also seems popular: it’s a fast way to stay in touch with legal updates and respond quickly to them.
The challenge of writing for your audience
Another challenge faced by law firms is that although their partners may be knowledgeable about their areas of knowledge, this doesn’t necessarily mean they can write coherently about it for a non-legal audience.
Avoiding legal jargon, making the content relatable to the audience and understanding what engages them are often challenging for lawyers used to a formal writing style.
Outsourcing doesn’t always work because it’s difficult to hire copywriters with the subject knowledge required. Some lawyers find that content marketing comes naturally, whilst others find it more of a challenge.
No matter how insightful a blog might be, it’s often the human interest it offers that makes it stand out from the crowd and become more readable.
Much of the content produced from law firms is attributed to individual lawyers, and adding an element of personality, emotion and relatable stories can really help engage an audience. Legal blogs that do well are often those that employ controversy, humour and strong opinions, making them fun to read and engage with.
One international blogger that’s managed to take a human approach is Dan Harris, writing the China Law Blog published by Harris & Moure plc. He makes good use of interesting stories and personal experiences, keeps posts short and understands how to write for the web. He uses techniques such as writing numbered lists and using quotes to make his blogs more readable, and isn’t shy of expressing his views on clients who take a naïve approach to operating in China.
Content marketing for law firms is primarily for the purpose of finding new clients, although there are also other motivators.
When asked why they blog, 23 lawyer bloggers gave a range of answers which revealed how much they enjoyed and felt compelled to write about their experiences. Lawyer Eric B. Meyer said that he liked to use a level of snark he couldn’t use in a pleading, Gerry Oginski said he thought it made him a better lawyer, and many of those surveyed said they helped them connect to other lawyers as well as reach new clients.
International content strategies
Law firms that operate internationally have to find ways to implement successful international content marketing strategies.
Covington runs a number of subject related blogs, such as Inside Tech Media which tackles legal issues related to media, the internet and technology. This blog runs on a microsite independent of the main Covington website and covers many jurisdictions across Europe, Asia and emerging markets. Blog posts are contributed by lawyers drawn from across Covington’s worldwide offices.
This means the blog has an international authorship and draws on broad expertise within the subject area. Blogs usually take the approach of stating which jurisdiction they relate to in the header, and are organized by various topics so it’s easier to search on areas of specific legal interest such as IP or social media.
Covington uses its corporate LinkedIn profile to share posts from across all of its blogs. Individual blogs also have their own Twitter accounts such as @InsidePrivacy, a Twitter account related to the blog it runs about global privacy & data security. Covington is a little patchy in terms of its performance in social media, with some Twitter accounts performing better than others in terms of engagement, followers and activity.
Some of the Twitter accounts make the mistake of acting as a ‘broadcast’ channel, with little interaction with other Twitter users and activity limited to pumping out blog content. Covington’s decentralised approach means that it performs better in some areas than others and it’s recognisably a corporate approach rather than one driven by a single recognisable personality such as Dan Harris. This makes it a little less lively to read.
It’s likely that international content marketing is going to be a key element that law firms can leverage to get ahead from their competitors.
Content marketing helps firms and individuals demonstrate their knowledge and also advertise their style of doing business to those most likely to come to them with work. With potential clients seeking answers for their legal problems online, it’s a way to connect with clients in specific areas of the law to ensure a good match between lawyer and client.
Law firms that can successfully master expressing themselves in this way are likely to gain advantage over those firms that are falling behind in this area.