In my last piece, I predicted that law firm websites would grow dramatically in the coming years, due to the proliferation of attorney-created thought leadership content. In that post, I referred to the market forces behind this trend. I figured that it would be helpful if I compiled a list of these trends (many of which I’ve written about previously). So, here they are — 8 market forces pushing attorneys to generate more thought leadership content:
- Skepticism toward Marketing – Our society has become increasingly numb to marketing messages. As a result, it’s no longer enough to simply claim that you’re the best – you have to demonstrate it.
- A Trend toward Specialization – Routine matters are increasingly being handled by in-house legal departments. This means that the work given to outside counsel tends to concern highly specialized, bet-the-company matters. Content marketing is simply the best way for attorneys to demonstrate their specialized expertise.
- A Wider Market – Geography is becoming less of a consideration when hiring outside legal counsel, especially if the client is looking for highly specialized expertise. As more and more work is pitched long distance – with fewer face-to-face meetings – the importance of insightful website content increases.
- Increased Meritocracy – The “old boys’ club” is diminishing in importance as the playing field widens and there is increased specialization. In short, a person with a reputation as the “leading authority” will win out against “the familiar.” Attorneys will be looking for ways to demonstrate that they are a leading authority.
- The Emergence of Social Media – As attorneys embrace social media marketing, they are realizing that it’s not sufficient to simply “be social.” Increasingly, it’s becoming clear that an effective social media marketing campaign is about driving people to read your cutting-edge thought leadership content.
- Increased Competitiveness – Right now, there are more lawyers than there is work – and it looks like the market will remain competitive into the foreseeable future. This means that attorneys need to work harder to win business – and that they have more time to create content like articles and blog posts.
- Increased Reliance on Websites – A 2009 survey conducted by the Wicker Park Group showed that nearly all general counsel visited attorney bios on a firm’s website when considering hiring them. Attorneys and firms are now recognizing this reality – and beefing up their bios with reputation-enhancing content like articles, case studies and blog posts.
- A Realization that Content Marketing Works – A recent study by The Brand Research Company found that 53% of executives surveyed have put a firm on their short list based on the information found on the firm’s website. Data like this indicate that attorneys offering the highest-quality content are best positioned to reap the benefits.
Am I missing any? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Geez, Robert. How come you always express my thoughts better than I do? I love your list.
Let me raise one point though, about your #6: Increased Competitiveness. I agree that “there are more lawyers than there is work – and it looks like the market will remain competitive into the foreseeable future. This means that attorneys need to work harder to win business.”
I’ll disagree, though, that “they have more time to create content like articles and blog posts.” They don’t have more time to do this stuff; they have less.
By selling time, lawyers enslave themselves to the limits of hourly wages, no matter how lofty the unit price may seem. To use a simple example, if you aspire to make $1000 per year, and you charge $10/hour, you’ll have to bill 100 hours/year. During high-demand periods, clients willingly pay that rate. As lawyer demand drops relative to supply, competition increases, bringing downward price pressure with it. Let’s say the market price drops to $8/hour. Now, you have to work 125 hours to make your same $1000/year.
Hourly billing assures that lawyers will never have time to run their practices, plan, market, sell, or live a life. Each hour they devote to non-billable effort has an immediate, tangible economic cost they’re reluctant to bear, whereas the benefits are usually much fuzzier and deferred.
Consider if a construction company could only bill the facility owner for the hours worked directly by those erecting steel, pouring concrete, installing windows, etc., and that those same narrowly-skilled specialists also, in their “spare time,” had to take care of the project planning, accounting, the company’s marketing and sales. Then, you’d have something akin to the law model. Insanity, right?
So far, discussions of hourly billing’s weakness has focused almost exclusively on the negative effects on clients, e.g., the conflict between the client’s desire for efficiency and cost certainty and the lawyers’ built-in incentive to bill as many hours as they can justify. Ignored is the negative effect on lawyers and firms from having no time or money for critical business operations such as marketing and sales. During the boom, marketing/sales required minimal time and money because demand was rampant. As competition reduces prices and requires more time and effort to acquire sufficient number of billable hours to satisfy one’s annual economic needs, lawyers will have less and less of both available to do so.
I’d add one more to the list. Having a well tagged video can help with SEO rankings. According to Forrester Research in Nov of last year, they claim sites would have a 53x chance of landing on Page 1 search results with a well tagged video. We’re pioneering customizable videos for Attorneys to tell their stories. I have to assume in 3 years time, there won’t be a site online without a video.
The perennial question asked by many of our law firm clients, somewhere after announcing discussion on a “content strategy” is “what the heck, I went to law school to be a lawyer not a writer, or videographer.”
In response, we’ve found that by alluding the firm to how people are currently finding them, particularly via long tail searches and of course the pages with the corresponding content with high bounce rates is a great place to talk “content improvement” as opposed to “content generation.”
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