Give your law firm’s executives
a thought leadership platform
A thought leadership program centered around your firm’s executives
can help it shine in the eyes of clients and potential hires.
It’s easy to think the only type of thought leadership law firms should publish is the kind that touches on the areas of law their lawyers practice or the industries they serve.
But there’s another type of thought leadership that firms can publish that can position them as authorities and help them build relationships with clients and referral sources as well as other equally important audiences, such as lateral attorneys, lateral staff, judicial clerks, and law school students.
The case for a thought leadership program for your law firm’s executives
At law firms of a certain size, there’s a group of people who do not practice law but whose work is vital to their firms’ continued operations and success. And, given the areas of their firms they manage, they may have strong, well-reasoned opinions about the best practices for those areas.
This group—law firm executives—can publish an additional type of thought leadership that can help differentiate a law firm from its peer firms by positioning it as operationally and culturally superior.
If your firm has executives, chances are good that at least a few of them have thoughts they want to share with the world about best practices for doing what they do at your firm. If your firm’s executives do have things to say about the work they do, your firm should consider creating a thought leadership platform for these executives so they can at least dip their toes in the thought leadership water.
But unlike some “Notes from the CEO”-type thought-leadership platforms, creating a platform for your firm’s executives should not be a vanity play. Instead, it should be a strategic approach to helping your firm shine in the eyes of its past, current, and prospective clients and referral sources, as well as past, current, and prospective attorneys and staff.
That’s because law firm executives’ thought leadership is a rising tide that lifts all boats. Not only will these executives come across as thought leaders, but your firm will gain credibility—and possibly perceived market leadership—regarding the areas those executives lead at your firm, which can be a boon to your firm’s marketing, business development, and recruitment efforts.
For example, let’s say your Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion regularly talks on their blog about the effective and innovative ways your firm is incorporating DEI into its operations. Clients, attorneys, and staff (and media outlets) who value DEI and read that blog will come to look at your firm as a leader in the space because the person leading DEI efforts at the firm is showing that they are knowledgeable and wise about DEI, and they are not afraid to discuss the ins and outs of it with the world.
Likewise, if your Chief Operating Officer or Director of Facilities has a podcast during which they talk about what makes for an inviting post-COVID law firm office, or they provide a glimpse into how your firm is rethinking the traditional lack of remote work options it previously offered, attorneys and staff—including would-be laterals—who value innovative office design or remote work options will look at your firm as a leader in the space for that same reason.
Same thing goes for your Chief Information Officer talking about the need for law firms to invest in technology to more efficiently provide legal services, or your Director of Lateral Attorney Integration talking about best practices and trends for integrating lateral attorneys.
As effective as an executive thought leadership program could be for your firm, your peer firms are likely doing their part—inadvertently—to help increase its effectiveness. That’s because so few law firms today have such a program in place. As a result, the executives who start publishing thought leadership content sooner rather than later can make a name for themselves and position themselves and their firms as thought leaders in a marketplace of ideas that, for the time being, has more people listening than speaking.
Creating a thought leadership platform for your firm’s executives
Once you’ve come to realize that your law firm’s executives deserve a thought leadership platform, and there’s interest on their part in participating, it’s time to build one. There are a number of paths you could start them on, such as articles submitted to third-party publications, whitepapers, videos, or a podcast, but I suggest your firm start modestly with a blog.
Starting with a blog allows your firm to give interested executives a chance to see how they feel about producing thought leadership on a (hopefully) consistent basis without some of the pressure other formats might cause.
Your firm’s executives won’t have to worry about word counts or strict deadlines (bylined articles), providing a massive amount of content each go-around (whitepapers), how they look on camera (videos), or how they sound on recorded audio (podcasts). They will be free to focus on getting into the habit of organizing what they want to say about the areas they oversee at your firm, how they want to say it, and then saying it.
Once your firm’s executives gain traction with their thought leadership, your firm may want to explore repurposing those executives’ ideas by creating other thought leadership formats. But there’s no need to rush repurposing and increasing the distribution of their thought leadership before they hit their stride and are confident in their ability to produce such content.
Take advantage of the dearth of law firm executives’ thought leadership in the marketplace
To be sure, not every executive at your firm is going to want to create thought leadership content.
Some will not want to give it a trial run. Others will, but it will be a short one. Still others will be interested in this initiative but will struggle with their ability to consistently produce content or to come up with the ideas that will become content.
(For this latter group, your firm could provide those executives resources—internal or external—that will help them conceive of ideas and produce the content.)
But I would hazard a guess that at least a few of your firm’s executives would be excited to test out drafting and publishing thought leadership content. They have thoughts about the work they do for your firm and the bigger picture regarding that work, and they want to start sharing those thoughts with the world.
Just like lawyer-centric thought leadership reflects well on the ability for a law firm to practice the areas of law covered by its lawyers’ thought leadership, law firm executives’ thought leadership will reflect well on the operations and culture of a firm.
For that reason, as well as the dearth of law firm executive thought leadership currently being published today, there’s no time like now for your firm to give its executives a platform on which they can take their first steps on their thought leadership journey.
Wayne Pollock, a former Am Law 50 senior litigation associate, is the founder of Copo Strategies, a legal services and communications firm, and the Law Firm Editorial Service, a content strategy and ghostwriting service for lawyers and their law firms. The Law Firm Editorial Service sets free the knowledge and wisdom trapped inside Big Law and boutique law firm partners by collaborating with them to strategize and ethically ghostwrite book-of-business-building marketing and business development content. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reprinted with permission from the January 10, 2023, edition of The Legal Intelligencer © 2023 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited, contact 877–257–3382 or email@example.com.