The traditional marketing model used by law firms is being phased out in favour of a digitally focused model and, as a result, many law firms are undergoing fundamental changes to their marketing and business development efforts in order to be recognised as the go-to expert for clients.

41% of law firms have increased focus and expenditure in marketing and have reported it as a single factor that has been most effective in driving new business, and 62% of firms recognising the effectiveness and looking to increase their focus on marketing efforts and business development (Lawyer Monthly, 2021).

No longer is it enough for law firms to rely on providing a good service, the referral network and historic clients. Legal marketing departments are recognising the need for investment in thought leadership and the wider firms are understanding how they would benefit from showcasing their expertise and improving their brand recognition by having a thought leadership strategy.

What is a thought leader?

A thought leader is an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognise as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialisation, resulting in it being the go-to individual or organisation for said expertise, and significantly increasing profits from being recognised as such. (Forbes, 2012)

Thought leadership is not a sales tool but its emphasis is on differentiation, raising awareness and improving the perception of you and your firm through sharing relevant and interesting insights with your prospects and clients.

Thought leadership can be shown through multiple content types such as business blogs, long-form articles, whitepapers, podcasts, videos, websites, infographics, practical content.

Before considering a thought leadership strategy, you will want to consider what are the key issues of interest in your specialist sector? Who are the current influencers and what they are talking about? And are there any effective thought leadership best practices that you need to take note of?

Why is thought leadership important to your law firm?

Some law firms are still relying on word of mouth and referrals as their preferred method of attracting new clients. However, by doing this and not embracing thought leadership your law firm is missing out on potential clients and revenue.

In today’s highly competitive legal industry, it is vital for you and your law firm to be forward thinking on the issues that matter to their clients, stakeholders and the wider legal industry. Law firms need to stand ahead of their competitors by influencing market opinion on specific areas of the law or policy by positioning themselves as experts in your legal practice areas, whilst bringing new ideas and perspectives to the industry.

Through getting published as much as possible and attending industry networking events, you can showcase your knowledge and expertise and sharing insight by identifying market trends early, aligning your services with these trends will give you credibility and allow you to build and improve on your brand.

Thought leadership gives lawyers and their firms the opportunity to achieve visibility organically and boost your industry presence whilst positioning yourself at the forefront of their specialist practice area issues in their given jurisdictions

How can thought leadership support building client relationships?

Establishing yourself as a thought leader allows you to step back from your day-to-day legal practice and determine the specialist practice areas and your expertise that you want to promote, while listening to your clients and understanding their business requirements, their challenges and the opportunities affecting them.

By taking a step back and really understanding your clients, lawyers and law firms will be able to anticipate their needs and you will be able to use your initiative to give them the information they need sooner to ensure they understand the impact of any changes to law or policy, before or as it happens.

Although creating thought leadership content does not qualify as a billable hour for your firm, it will lead to greater opportunities to build stronger client relationships as you position yourself ahead of your competitors and as the go-to experts in your specialist practice areas and jurisdictions.