Having worked in legal sector communications for the last four years, I have seen first-hand the unprecedented era of change and challenge the sector faces.
While much has been written on the financial and structural impact of the Legal Services Act and the Jackson civil justice reforms, less consideration has been given to the communications impacts. What are the challenges that firms face, and how can they overcome these?
1. Greater focus required on business development
The ban on referral fees for personal injury cases has placed a major source of income in significant jeopardy. Meanwhile, the corporate arena has seen increased scrutiny of gifts and corporate hospitality in response to the Bribery Act and the economic environment. As a result, firms can’t just ‘buy in’ tranches of work any more – they need to invest in their own business development initiatives including PR lead generation campaigns, events and digital marketing.
2. Communicating with potential investors
The opening up of the market to external investment means that law firms have a new group to communicate with. If you are seeking external investment then your communications strategy must be tailored to the needs of this community. Institutional investors (e.g. private equity houses) will want to buy into firms with strong brands, who display robust financial performance, healthy client relationships and a clear mission – so you need to build this messaging into your communications activity.
3. Being heard above the noise
The legal services market has always been highly competitive and high-profile entrants like Co-operative Legal Services will only add to the volumes of competing (and often very similar) marketing communications. Consequently your message needs to be unique and compelling. Do you know what your USP is or what you want to be famous for? If not, you need to address this now.
4. Put content marketing at the heart of your strategy
Creating and sharing compelling content should be at the heart of your approach. Whether for consumer or business audiences, good relevant content will allow you to generate leads, build loyalty, attract employees, develop a reputation as a specialist, raise your profile and improve search performance – everything you want your marketing to achieve. Given today’s multi-channel world, content can and should be recycled to ensure you use all offline and online channels to best effect.
5. You need to be found
Consumers and corporate clients are using the internet more and more to seek information on potential legal providers yet many law firm websites are terribly inadequate. Examples include poor design, poor navigation, irrelevant content and no use of social media. If you are guilty of any of these marketing crimes, you are missing out on potential new work and may not be impressing existing clients.
Freshfield has considerable experience of advising professional services firms. To find out more about our specialism in this sector go to http://www.freshfield.com/specialisms/professional-and-financial-services/ or contact me.