Over the past few months, I’ve met senior business development managers and marketing directors at leading UK law firms. They all face the same issue: a more competitive industry.
Clearly, return on investment is now a prerequisite of any law firm content marketing, business development or PR activity.
The great challenge is: How to communicate the technical expertise of your partners with so little time and so little input from the thought leaders themselves?
What’s needed is more bang for a partner’s buck (and time is money for a lawyer, don’t forget). Thankfully, there is a light at the end of the content marketing tunnel and it is called video. The stats speak for themselves: 70% of marketers report that video converts better than any other medium [Nielsen, 2014], and after 72 hours users remember 10% of text compared to 95% of the content of a video. [The Guardian, 2015].
Thought leadership is fundamentally about associating an idea to a human face, which video does brilliantly. But law firms should be aware that producing thought leadership video is not just about shoving a lawyer in front of a camera and pressing record. Video initiatives should be approached strategically to ensure that the output excites, informs or inspires the target audience, and aligns with the wider business objectives.
59% of senior execs would now prefer to watch a video as opposed to read text if both are available on the same page. Whitepapers are of course, still an effective way to demonstrate knowledge and expertise, but in an increasingly programmatic world, the mighty white paper feels cumbersome and slow. Lawyers need to get to the point quicker and cut through the complexity with clear, precise thought.
Content marketing in the legal sector needs to evolve towards video because in recent years the industry has become a lot more competitive. Why is the competition so fierce? Ironically, it is a law change that caused the big shake up that the legal sector is now grappling with. The Legal Services Act 2007 was designed to encourage greater competition, but specifically, it was aimed at helping more consumer focused legal firms establish themselves. The smaller firms were thought to be most at risk from the increase in competition, with high street banks and supermarkets first to jump into consumer-focused legal services.
After all, being able to buy a can of baked beans and your divorce paperwork from the same store is a joyful convenience. But the ripples of the LSA did not stop there: it reached all the way to the top, to the Magic Circle, the domain of the UK’s five biggest law firms.
The big ripple came from the Big Four, who off the back of the act, developed their own significant legal teams to offer to clients alongside their world class accountancy and professional services.
Competition is nothing new in the legal sector some would argue. Whilst that is undoubtedly true, the nature of the competition changed when the Big Four got in on the act, because if there is one thing that KPMG, PWC, Deloitte and EY are good at, it is blowing their own trumpet. But self-promotion does not come easy to law firms. One marketing manager at a top law firm told me that they have only just implemented an email newsletter system and CRM tool.
All of this increase in competition has meant that law firms, both large and small, have had to develop substantial in-house marketing and business development resources whether they want to or not. For a traditionally conservative industry that has not changed the way that it has done business for hundreds of years that is a major upheaval.
Law firms are very late to the party. Their marketing and BD teams have great hurdles to overcome. Most difficult of all is the need to convince partners to spend properly on marketing activities. As a service-based industry, a firm’s lawyers are its greatest (and most reluctant) marketing asset. A law firm, is in effect an agency housing hundreds of mini human brands and the challenge is how to market them independently whilst at the same time build the firm’s overarching brand into something unique and memorable.
The video revolution is here and it is time for the legal sector to get in on the act. In the end, it is up to marketing and BD teams to convince partners to step out of their comfort zones and in front of a camera (with the right strategic thinking behind it, of course). With the goalposts having been moved by the Big Four, law firms must step up. They have no choice. The good news is, lawyers have analytical brains and as they say in court, the facts speak for themselves, your honour.