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Legal challenge: the editorial issues holding back law firms

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Compared to businesses in other industries, law firms have fewer opportunities to differentiate themselves from competitors, as their sector is so information-based. Knowledge is one way they can lift themselves above rivals, and a firm’s lawyers are a vital source of knowledge. But this expertise needs a vehicle to reach those who may be seeking counsel, and that vehicle is content.

To showcase their knowledge in a chosen niche, law firms need to commit to a content marketing strategy that addresses the challenges their target market faces. This isn’t as easy as it may seem. It requires commitment of time and resource that many simply don’t have. We know this because we speak to firms every week about their content requirements, and one of the biggest challenges we hear about time and time again is resource.

Many law firms are held back by common resource issues

The editorial issues holding back law firms

Smaller, regional law firms often lack the resources they need to deliver. They have plenty of ambition but not the people power they require to implement a comprehensive strategy that elevates them above the competition.

With their limited resource they may be able to develop brand guidelines, brief lawyers about what content they need, and proofread what comes back. But lawyers are lawyers and marketers are marketers. A lawyer’s prose will most likely be full of legal-speak, disregard brand guidelines and include sentences that leave the reader short of breath. It’s the marketer’s job to put their editorial hat on and turn this into something informative and compelling. However, they lack the legal knowledge to make sure the end product is legally compliant. It could go back to the lawyer, but this can create a time consuming loop of feedback where neither side is completely satisfied with the end copy.

Meanwhile, their larger counterparts face another editorial challenge of their own: poor resource management. The bigger firms can call on many legal minds across their network for content, but this attracts a lot of copy from different people with different styles on different topics. Without an editorial function there are no checks or measures to control the quality of what is being published. How can they be sure that copy from an office where English isn’t the main language meets the required written standard? And how can they be sure that every office is following brand guidelines? They can’t, unless everything is managed in one place by a dedicated editorial team.

Consider ‘The Four Cs of Legal Content’

What these firms need are legal copywriters and content specialists who can see things from both sides, bridging the gap between the compliant and the compelling. We like to bring two more ‘Cs’ into this mix when developing copy for our own clients: clear and cohesive.

If the compliance element comes from having legal knowledge, it takes a specialist writer/editor to shape this factual content into something that makes the reader want to keep reading (compelling). To do this, every sentence needs to take them another step closer to an easier or happier life, which compels them to read on.

But this isn’t enough. Lawyers are so valuable because they understand matters that you and I generally don’t. So, topics that are simple to a legal mind need to be made clear for the layman. This is where the value of a legal copywriter really comes to the fore. What’s more, they understand the importance of sticking to brand guidelines across all communications, which they do to bring cohesion to the content.

When law firms get content right

When legal firms make a solid commitment to content marketing and create relevant copy that combines The Four Cs, the outcome is hugely valuable to them and the reader. The law firm presents themselves as an expert on an issue and how it can be solved, attracting individuals or businesses to the top of the sales funnel. Meanwhile, the reader is shown how an issue they are facing can be overcome with the help of legal counsel, and who can help.

Take Allen & Overy (not a client of ours) as an example. They have offices on every continent and a single website where businesses can get all the information they need about the firm. This includes a dedicated ‘publications’ section where detailed reports based on current matters and quantitative research are published. These thought leadership pieces give prospective clients a glimpse of their expertise and indirectly show why they should choose the firm. Meanwhile, current clients can access their own exclusive ‘premium publications’ section for even more insights – another big incentive to choose them.

We’ve pulled apart an example of excellent legal content in a blog to support this piece to show how firms like Allen & Overy excel at content marketing. Here’s a quick insight: Magic Circle law firms get content right by thinking like an editor – not a law firm – from the very start of the content marketing process. There’s a lot more to learn from the Magic Circle law firms, so be sure to look out for the blog on our website.

As the content specialists that support legal firms of all sizes, we are familiar with the challenges you face and what needs to be done to overcome them. Call us today on +44 (0)20 7842 8240 to find out more about how we can help your firm to get content strategy and creation right from the very start.

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