In my travels to law firms across the country I have come across two types of law firms. The first type is law firms that embrace creating articles, alerts and blogs and then we have the second type, law firms that merely tolerate article writing and content creation. Here is one comment from a partner I spoke to a a few months ago,
“Writing articles is for associates, I’m a Partner.”
“Nobody every brought in business from writing articles, that’s why associates do it.”
Can you guess which type of firm these quote comes from?
These partners at the second type of law firm are missing one major trend in the legal industry. Hyper-specialization. One of the seven key findings of the Law 2023 report that I blogged about yesterday here: Are law firms capable of driving innovation?
Here were the seven trends to look for in the next decade:
1. Technologies will enable lawyers to bill for real value
2. Firms will develop offerings that transcend jurisdiction
3. Demand for responsive institutions create new markets for accountability
4. Firms will tap new talent and enable new pathways to practice
5. Transparency will push firms to seek hyper-specific markets
6. Firms will launch R&D departments to create new offerings
7. User research and innovation will shape client experience of legal products
I’ve highlighted number 5, because this is a trend we are already seeing of hyper-specialisation. The age of the generalist is over, we have entered the era of the hyper-specialist. Companies don’t want to hire a lawyer that can help them with a ERISA claim, they want to hire the ERISA guy. How do you show complete mastery of a topic? How do you show your are the best in your field? The old adage was that to build a good reputation as a lawyer you need an expensive suit and 30-years of experience. There is no replacement for experience, but what good is experience if nobody knows about it? How do people find you? How will they know you are the best?
I’ll stop asking the questions that have an obvious answer, writing is the answer to all of these questions. When a lawyer sacrifices their own non-billable time to educate the market and to give great information, they are rewarded by not just building a better reputation, but by also gaining huge exposure online and through Google, Yahoo and Bing searches. Studies show that an increasing number of buyers of legal services are using the internet to find their lawyer, and nowhere is this more true than it is for the search for specialists.
Article writing is an essential strategy to help associate quickly gain a reputation in a certain niche or specialty, but for them it is an uphill battle, they just don’t have the real experience to go with the content they are creating. For Partners, creating content should be much easier because of the wealth of experiences they have gained over the years. Now they just need to put some of the wisdom into articles and it will live forever online building up their reputation. Partners can keep letting associate write the articles if they want, but it is these same Partners that have the most to gain by writing the articles themselves.