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Five ways thought leadership
can be a talent magnet for your firm

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The law firms that consistently publish thought leadership can gain a
recruiting and retention edge over their peers and competitors that do not.

It’s no secret that thought leadership is a core marketing and business development tool for attorneys and their law firms. But thought leadership can also be a recruiting tool, serving as a magnet that attracts and retains top talent. 

Here are five ways thought leadership can help your firm attract and retain attorneys and staff.

 

Thought leadership positions a law firm as doing the kind of work attorneys and staff members want to do

When an attorney or staff member looking to make a lateral move, or a law student choosing among potential summer associate positions, sees a law firm that’s consistently publishing thought leadership content regarding its attorneys’ work in an area of law or regarding an industry that they want to practice in or serve, they’re going to take notice. They’re going to say, “This is a firm that obviously does the work I want to do. I want to be a part of that firm because I know its attorneys and staff are serving the clients that I want to serve and they are wrestling with the legal issues and business issues I want to wrestle with.”

In addition to attracting lateral attorneys and staff and law students, when firms consistently publish thought leadership regarding the areas of law they practice and the industries they serve, they also remind their current attorneys and staff that their firms’ attorneys have their fingers on the pulse of their legal practices and industries served, which can help retain those attorneys and staff who want to work for a firm that has one of those practices or serves one of those industries.

 

Thought leadership positions a law firm as a prominent firm, worthy of the interest of lateral and new attorneys and staff, and the loyalty of current attorneys and staff

Beyond being known as a firm that practices in a particular area of law or serves a particular industry based on the thought leadership content it produces, over time, a law firm can gain the reputation of being a prominent firm based on that thought leadership and the clients it attracts.

In other words, consistent thought leadership can enhance a firm’s reputation. If a firm is known for being a leader in a field, based in part on the thought leadership it publishes, prospective lateral attorneys and staff will pick up on that or be told it is so by people they’re seeking guidance from regarding their job search. Likewise, current attorneys and staff who want the professional stamp of approval that working at that firm brings will probably be hesitant to move to another firm. 

 

When clients perceive a firm to be a practice or industry leader, they will bring their matters to the firm. Those matters will inspire new thought leadership content, which could bring more client matters in the door. These new matters inspire more thought leadership content, continuing the cycle. This client matter/thought leadership cycle ensures a firm can produce a steady stream of thought leadership that will catch the eyes of lateral and new attorneys and staff and serve as a reminder of the firm’s prowess to current attorneys and staff.

 

Thought leadership attracts attorneys and staff who share a law firm’s vision and philosophy for handling legal matters

 

If a law firm’s thought leadership isn’t just talking about developments in the law but is also talking about how its attorneys resolve certain types of matters or deal with challenges that arise in the course of their clients’ matters, that content is communicating that the firm has a particular vision and philosophy for resolving clients’ legal and business issues. That vision and philosophy will be attractive to those prospective—and current—attorneys and staff who share it.

 

An example of this kind of vision or philosophy is the way a plaintiffs’ firm or a criminal defense firm challenges the status quo and uses innovative legal theories and investigation techniques to secure successful outcomes for its clients. Another example is the way a large corporate firm employs non-traditional approaches to the deals or litigation it represents its clients in, or employs an innovative approach to dealing with its clients’ regulators.

 

Whatever it is, this vision or philosophy signals to like-minded prospective and current attorneys and staff that a firm approaches its clients’ legal issues and business issues a certain way. If those attorneys and staff believe that way is THE way to do things, they will also see the firm as being THE firm for them.

Thought leadership shows that a law firm empowers its people to be thought leaders

For a law firm’s attorneys or staff to publish thought leadership, the firm has to allow (and probably encourage) them to do so. This is obvious but important to note.

When a firm’s attorneys and staff are publishing thought leadership, the firm is giving them a platform through which they can become thought leaders. This signals to prospective attorneys and staff that the firm will help its people with their professional growth and that it encourages them to be proactive in sharing their knowledge and wisdom.

A firm’s consistent publication of thought leadership gives prospective attorneys and staff a glimpse into the firm’s philosophy on allowing its attorneys and staff to market themselves as thought leaders that they might not otherwise receive. Not every firm will explain that philosophy during the interview process.

 

(Likewise, the fact that a firm is not publishing much thought leadership, or only publishes thought leadership created by senior rainmakers, could show that it is unlikely to support its attorneys’ and staff members’ thought leadership efforts.)

A firm with a robust thought leadership program featuring attorneys and staff up and down the totem pole signals to prospective attorneys and staff that if they joined that firm, they will likely be empowered to market themselves and build their professional brands. And when a firm already has attorneys and staff on the team who are interested in marketing themselves through thought leadership, the firm’s thought leadership program reminds those attorneys and staff about the support they can expect to receive for their thought leadership efforts.

 

Thought leadership about a law firm’s culture is a window into that culture

 

When a law firm’s leaders publish thought leadership about their firm’s culture, that content shows prospective attorneys and staff the culture that exists at that firm.

 

Law firm leaders talking about how their firm operates, how it aspires to treat its people, their views on the business of law, what the firm believes its core values to be, and similar topics gives prospective attorneys and staff an idea of what life would be like if they joined that firm. If a firm’s vision and philosophy for how it operates syncs with what a prospective attorney or staff member wants in a law firm they work for, they’ll be more willing to apply to that firm and to take an offer of employment from that firm more seriously than ones from firms that don’t seem like they’re a good match for them culturally.

 

This “business of law” thought leadership can also help a firm reach those of its current attorneys and staff who aren’t tuned into its internal marketing efforts regarding its values, mission statement, and the like, giving the firm an opportunity to reinforce why it is the right firm for these individuals culturally.

 

Thought leadership is more than a marketing and business development tool

 

Thought leadership is one of the most important marketing and business development tools for attorneys and their law firms. But firms that only use it for marketing and business development purposes are not using it to its full potential. When deployed strategically and consistently, thought leadership can also be a magnet for firms to attract new attorneys and staff, and to retain the ones they already have.

 

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 thought leadership ghostwriting service for Big Law and boutique law firm partners. He can be reached at waynepollock@copostrategies.com.

Reprinted with permission from the May 3, 2024, edition of The Legal Intelligencer © 2024 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited, contact 877–257–3382 or reprints@alm.com.

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