The business of professional services is built upon providing specialist knowledge to paying clients.
Historically, law firms have benefited from the information gap between lawyers and clients — billing by the hour, providing limited transparency and working inefficiently. But the rise of the internet has eroded this information asymmetry. 76% of adults now search for an answer online before speaking with a lawyer, according to LexisNexis.
In LegalVision’s relatively short history, we have recognised that publishing content online and making it freely available offers three significant benefits. First, forward-thinking organisations that embrace online content benefit from the goodwill and trust that flows from sharing information. Secondly, giving away free content transforms the legal relationship into a partnership by empowering clients to make more informed decisions. And finally, accessible content demonstrates expertise and lets clients ‘try before they buy’ creating a key driver for generating paid work.
1. Builds Trust With Clients
Trust is the legal profession’s currency. The information asymmetry between a lawyer and client requires a client to place a lot of trust in their lawyer. Freely sharing knowledge through online content is the first step towards closing this gap.
But law firms have been publishing case notes, journal articles and industry reports for decades. Historically, this type of content has been directed to other legal professionals and not clients. The more important step in closing the information gap is publishing content that is readable and understandable.
Understanding legal information means a reader can take steps that will help achieve their business goals and minimise their risk. Building this understanding involves a law firm publishing relevant content in a tone, style and structure that resonates with business owners.
At LegalVision, we have a data-driven approach to content. Collecting information about the types of questions users ask and the frequency of their enquiries can provide an insight into what issues matter to the Australian business community. Law firms are responding to what clients actually need, rather than what they think they need.
A data-driven approach can also help convince decision-makers about the value of a content strategy. After publishing an article, lawyers can measure how many people clicked on the article, filled out an enquiry form and ultimately, engaged the firm for legal services.
Of course, not every legal question can be covered in an article. So when a client has a question that our articles don’t address, they call to speak with a lawyer. By providing information for free to everyone who visits our website, we build trust and offer genuine value — which leads to clients coming on board.
2. An Informed Client Base
Writing relevant content also helps build our client’s understanding of how the law interacts with their business. In our experience, clients prefer to conduct research in their own time and speak with a lawyer when they need a solution. Both parties can then have a more productive discussion and focus on the real legal issues for their business. For instance, if someone reads an article about ‘registering a trade mark’ and calls to speak with a lawyer, we can have a conversation about:
- What intellectual property are they trying to protect?
- Do they intend to expand their business overseas? If so, which countries?
- How do they want to commercialise their intellectual property (for example, licensing their trade mark to other businesses?)
Some law firms make the mistake of thinking that the opportunity cost of producing content is too great. A lawyer might spend a few hours writing an article, when they could instead be charging out at $350 per hour. But publishing quality, free content online means more business owners can access a lawyer’s expertise, helping to generate client work. Sharing articles online can also have a positive impact on a law firm’s brand because people who don’t have an immediate legal need come to know the firm and its service offering.
At LegalVision, we’ve factored the cost of producing content into our sales and marketing budget. We understand the high return on this investment, so no one is concerned when a lawyer wastes “billable hours” writing excellent articles for our website. Team members at LegalVision take one day each month to write articles for our website. Rather than sending lawyers to expensive lunches with one client, we reallocate that time to writing evergreen content that reaches a broader audience. For us, growing the base of informed business owners outweighs the cost. Informed clients demand more from law firms, forcing law firms to develop a sustainable competitive advantage that pushes the whole industry forward.
3. Demonstrate Knowledge and Engagement
Clients are more likely to engage lawyers who are familiar with their business and industry.
It’s easy for lawyers to just focus on completing their legal work. But clients have always expected that their legal advisors will draw on their commercial experiences to help them address the challenges affecting their business. Legal content is a way for lawyers to express interest in the issues client’s face.
LegalVision sees legal content as an important value-add to our legal product — whether it’s a document, a piece of advice or a legal tech solution. Some of our content is intended to explain our offering for instance:
- What terms are in a shareholders’ agreement?
- What protection does a trade mark provide a business?
- What is the difference between a licence and a franchise agreement?
We also publish other types of content such as long-form content. Long-form content allows our lawyers to provide in-depth knowledge about a specific area of law. For instance, our startup law team wrote a ‘Startup Manual’ that contained all the information a founder would need to launch their startup. We featured case studies from venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to complement the legal content. This reduces a reader’s time that would otherwise be spent clicking on different websites to find the information they want. Longer form content can help position legal professionals as an authority on the legals but also as an approachable educator for the industry.
There is also clear evidence that long-form content ranks higher in organic search results. Moz and BuzzSumo analysed 1 million articles and discovered that long-form content (an article with more than 1,000 words) receives more social shares and backlinks. This means that more people will see your insightful article and hopefully, become a client.
As you can see, content is essential, but it can be difficult to put a content strategy in place — particularly when firms are strapped for time and resources. I’ve set out some tips that helped LegalVision get started in building a library of articles and distributing content to our clients.
Create a culture of content
Publishing free content is embedded in LegalVision’s DNA. We mention content writing in our job ads, during interviews and in team updates. Content is a long game — each article might have little or no immediate return. But, over time, the success of quality articles becomes obvious. At LegalVision, we share regular updates about article views and generated leads. This helps our team see the direct benefit of producing free content.
Assemble a team to organise, review, publish and share content
Content is important and leaving it to other team members with other priorities can be a risk. It makes sense to have a team who is responsible for content. At LegalVision, we have a dedicated Content Manager that works with each lawyer to identify relevant topics for their clients. Articles are then edited to ensure they are written with our clients in mind and optimised for search engines. Authors are also provided with frequent feedback on their articles.
Experiment with different mediums
Don’t limit yourself to publishing free content through blog posts on your website (although it’s a great starting point!). Think about where your clients spend their time and how they prefer to take on information? We use other channels to publish content, like LinkedIn, YouTube and the sites of our partners. We are also making progress in diversifying our content types, producing infographics, as well as video recordings of our events.
Does your organisation regularly publish content for free? I’d love to hear about how you approach content, what challenges you are facing and what channels you are experimenting with to reach your clients.
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