A report just published by The Solicitors Regulation Authority contains some pretty startling findings
- Half of UK adults faced a legal problem in the last three years. Only a third sought professional advice.
- Small businesses on average face eight legal issues a year. Only one in ten firms take advice from a solicitor or barrister.
If these statistics are even half true then there’s a sizeable market in potential clients out there. How can solicitors tap into it?
RELUCTANCE TO CONTACT SOLICITORS
The SRA report suggests there are two reasons for the apparent reluctance to contact solicitors. One is a concern about affordability. This has always been there and should not be too much of a surprise. But the other factor in the relatively low-level of take up in legal services – a perceived lack of information available to consumers – is curious.
We live in an information age. Legal sites are packed with information in many formats, from FAQs and case studies to detailed explanations of practice areas, useful templates and procedural guides.
So there’s plenty of useful material for consumers. Maybe it’s not a lack of information alone but a scarcity of the right kind of information that’s available to potential clients.
WHAT ABOUT THOUGHT LEADERSHIP?
The term thought leadership might be a bit off-putting. The kind of writing you’d expect to find in a Magic Circle firm’s ‘Specialist Knowledge’ pages, curated carefully by some distinguished figure from the world of academia. But in reality thought leadership is a simpler concept than this. In fact it has come to play a key part in the development of content strategies for many small and medium-sized law firms.
Thought leadership speaks to potential clients in a more subtle way than other kinds of content. It should be opinionated but helpful. Most importantly it should start to answer the big questions your clients have.
THOUGHT LEADERSHIP – THE ESSENTIALS
You’ll find many explanations of the term thought leadership. We think it boils down to content that is:
- Original – not simply restating what’s out there already
- Appealing – it engages, perhaps by being explicit about what there is to lose by not contacting a lawyer for advice
- Insightful – you show you have empathy with clients, that you understand their worries
- Helpful – the insight is great but you need to give people an idea of what they can do in a real sense
- Analytical – thought leadership should reveal expertise by displaying natural analytical and critical thinking skills
IT’S NOT ABOUT THE HARD SELL
We’ve talked before about the value of presenting your expertise for free on your website. Thought leadership content extends this notion.
It is all about positioning yourself as a reliable, useful expert in the eyes of potential clients. Through it you are trying to develop an evolving dialogue with clients. So it’s not about the hard sell. It’s about being more subtle in your approach, less pushy.
As lawyers you may be tempted to focus on the dispute, the theory. But thought leadership for solicitors is about thinking of the issues from the point of view of the person who is going to pay for your services. How could clients use your expertise in a practical way if it were applied to the legal challenges they face?
A VALUABLE SIGNAL OF YOUR CAPABILITIES
A behavioural economics report in 2013 for the Legal Services Board concluded that legal consumers lack the time to evaluate and compare different legal providers. As a result they rely on key pieces of information to make decisions. A well-placed thought leadership article is the type of signal potential clients might react positively to. It can act as a hook on which to display the wider benefits of working with your firm.
Solicitors are used to developing arguments. They think analytically and creatively. By harnessing these skills in thought leadership commentary they really can add value to their websites and generate new business at the same time.