Our Thinking

20 Feb 2018

By Ralph Cunningham

ralph cunningham

Getting noticed

Think of your content like any working visa or business registration that you and your firm need to operate in countries around the world. Such permissions get you into the market, but they don’t guarantee you or your firm a livelihood and you have to make sure they don’t expire or you are out.

In the same way, given that your website is, invariably, the first time that a prospective client will come into contact with you or your firm, you have to make sure that your online content remains relevant and not out-of-date. Fine if you want to record significant milestones within your firm, such as important deals and partner promotions and hires. They show you are progressing, making a noise in the market and rewarding talent and hard work, but that can’t be the limit of your content. And, remember, content is not just about the written word.

While biographies aren’t usually the first things someone sees when they come to a website, the quality and relevance of your content starts here. It is well known that in-house counsel hire people that they get on with, or think they can get on with. It means biographies, which should include professionally taken photography, should highlight the industries and areas of the law where the lawyer concerned claims expertise. It also means using the correct form of the language you are writing in, whether Chinese, French, English or any other language. This goes for all the content on your website. You don’t want anything, such as irritation at poor expression or misunderstandings, to deflect a client from going on to hire your firm.

Relevant and up-to-date
Your website should display your prowess and highlight the awards you’ve won or the directories in which you’ve been highly ranked. Remember, however, these are only tools that help clients to notice you, and are independent proof of your expertise, but clients still want to know if you are familiar with their company and industry, and to what level.

Showing that you are relevant and not out of date means having items at the top of your news feed that are not three years old. It means not describing the hire of a new partner in the middle of last year as latest news. It is about showing content that shows you have a deep understanding of a range of different industries, and the legal requirements and motivations of the companies that are in them.

That content could be a whitepaper, an opinion piece or an interview with a client or one of your practice leaders about the priorities for the industry. But it could also be a less conventional form of content. It may not even be written at all. What about a web seminar or video that pinpoints the current issues in a particular industry and discusses them in a practical way with influential in-house counsel, regulators or policy makers, ideally all three?

Conference exposure
Another potential form of content that is under-used and not seen much on law firms’ websites is based on speaking engagements. Lawyers are asked to appear on panels at conferences all the time and they list each one in their biography, but then very often do little with the contribution they made or the reaction generated. Their firms should make the best use of that exposure by featuring the conference and making clear their lawyer was a panellist and who they spoke with. Fellow panellists are often other influencers, such as government ministers, policy makers or academics, and the association with them puts the lawyer’s name in lights.

It’s about showing clients you understand their company and their market.

Possibly the most important thing you can do with content on your website is make it different. The danger of just doing the same as everyone else is that you don’t stand out, making it impossible for clients to determine if they should call you or the next firm.