Do Not Stop on Content Marketing for your Law Firm
Many law firms have hired editorial staffers in recent years to write content for their blogs and be their voices on social media. Now, some (a few, in the world) are going further by building full-blown media properties of their own.
Take the case of a legal practice, for example. The law firm is currently hiring journalists and gearing up to start its own standalone Web publication about law. The site doesn’t have a name or a URL yet, but it’s slated to launch later this spring.
Some law issues represent a growing subject that lacks a true editorial authority.
This type of “content marketing” is in vogue. Instead of “renting” audiences with paid advertising, law firms are increasingly producing their own content in an effort to attract consumers’ attention themselves, with the ultimate goal of promoting their brands, products, interests and ideas.
The broad goal of the law firm of our example site is to “own the conversation around its law seciality,” they said. That might mean analyzing many issues.
But the law firm is making real efforts to position this as a real journalistic venture. It has already hired a former editor of a small magazine to head up the initiative as editorial director. It is currently hiring for senior editor and staff writer positions.
Meanwhile, other big law firm has also been hiring journalists, and is building its own editorial team and capabilities.
The law firm hasn’t yet decided whether to launch a new standalone site or to focus its efforts revamping its existing blog, but says it now employs between four and five editorial associates, some freelancers and some full-time. Job descriptions on its website indicate the new initiative will focus on some specific legal topics.
Elsewhere, numerous legal practice-to-legal practice brands have invested in content and standalone websites in an attempt to position themselves as “thought-leaders” around certain issues.
Although the stated goal of these content initiatives might be to “own” or “contribute to” conversations around certain topics, the law firms paying for them are also hoping they’ll help drive their legal practice in one way or another. Perhaps the content they produced can be used to help the law firms position themselves as trusted “authorities” around certain issues, or maybe it can directly drive users to purchase products from their sites.
Others say there’s value in the data that these content destinations might collect. For example, if a law firm knows what type of content users enjoy consuming, they might be able to target them with better advertising or even alter their products accordingly. For online retailers, they might also build profiles around users to compare their spending habits with their content consumption.
The details of site of the law practice of the exampl are still being ironed out, but the law firm said its primary purpose is to build its brand, or at least to align it closely with the subjects of their specialiced areas. The law firm says it plans to expand into other areas of law “very quickly.”
As far as his leading partner is concerned, however, he’ll be producing journalism, not marketing.
“I don’t feel like I’ll be doing branded content. The goal is to launch an editorial venture and standalone media property,” he said, adding, “I’m hiring journalists; not marketers.”
As for how his will avoid potential conflicts of interest, the law firm said its staffers will abide by editorial guidelines. “The site is focused on the legal subjects in a greater sense, approached from any number of angles, but always in a more journalistic manner,” the law firm said. “When we do publish service journalism, it won’t be tied to the legal firm’s current or future legal services.”
Whether it’s marketing or not, some industry observers say it’s wise to hire journalists if law firms expect their content to stand out. It’s now harder than ever to cut through the noise, they say, especially online.
Susan Bidel, a Forrester analyst covering digital publishing, said building a content destination is an “extremely ambitious undertaking” for a law firm whose core legal practice isn’t in creating content.
“It’s very hard to create compelling content that’s going to draw enough users to a site to make that kind of investment worthwhile,” she said.
Some law firms are still figuring out exactly what form their content initiatives will take. Both law firms say they expect to have clearer strategies in place in the next couple of months. 
1. Baed on an article of Jack Marshall, with many changes.