People are a law firm’s greatest asset. And yet, for a long time, firms tended to focus their efforts on attracting and supporting the best fee-earning talent. While of course incredibly important, highly skilled marketing and communications professionals play an essential role in keeping firms competitive and successful.
The events of the past two years wreaked havoc on the legal sector. Under pressure to double down and focus on core priorities, marketing and communications teams were often the first to shoulder a financial hit, with cuts made to a number of roles. Yet, as we transition out of the pandemic, law firms are beginning to examine how they operate with many revisiting and reversing a lot of those early decisions.
I recently caught up with some of the very best in legal marketing, client services and communications from a range of law firms. We discussed how despite a myriad of challenges and competing priorities, the value of good PR, marketing and client services are fundamental to the client experience, reputation and profitability of a law firm.
Business services and the post-Covid recovery
As law firms focus efforts on growth and recovery in this ultra-competitive market (even more so than before the pandemic), many are placing business services at the centre of their plans. Law firms have realised that dedicated marketing and communications teams can maximise the opportunities which add the most value. Furthermore, they play a crucial role in strategic leadership, involved in key decision-making which supports brand management and client growth.
A deep understanding of a client’s business and their market is the cornerstone in the client-law firm relationship. It is here where good marketing and communications professionals come into their own, helping the law firms they work with stand out. By speaking to clients regularly, marketing and communications individuals gain exceptional sector knowledge and client insights which help legal teams to become much more strategic. They also advise lawyers on the best tactics to help promote credibility and position lawyers as experts in their field.
“Partners are realising that my sector knowledge can help them understand their clients better. They now ask my opinion more and we work together to address some of the challenges their clients face.”
Effective PR goes further – way beyond issuing the occasional press release. PR is about managing and improving reputation across all communications, but more directly, it enhances brand (and personal) image and strengthens relationships.
“While clients will always look for deep industry, sector knowledge, they also expect their legal team to be well-versed in identifying trends and responding to issues that can impact them. PR and comms teams are crucial to drawing attention to that capability through their ability to amplify across various communications channels, including social media and press.”
Enhancing the competitive edge
Reflecting and responding to current trends is a good way for law firms to stay competitive. Today, there are two significant trends affecting the legal sector – improving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) among their workforce and prioritising ESG best practices.
Marketing and communications professionals are helping law firms put these crucial themes on boardrooms’ radars in various ways through their comms, strategic approach, steering groups, and proactive listening exercises with clients.
“Conversations around diversity and inclusion and ESG have been happening for a while. Typically, this has been as a direct result of marketing and communications specialists putting it on the agenda, forcing management at law firms to start having the conversation.”
The future of business services within law firms
The truth is law firms can and will always find costs to cut and efficiencies to be made. However, as they move into operating in a new post-Covid era, ensuring resilience while delivering excellent client service lies in investing in good, effective marketing and communications professionals.
The law firm that actively creates a culture for these teams to thrive and be considered alongside their fee-earning colleagues will be the differentiator and in turn, head and shoulders above the competition.
Angelina Haynes is an associate director in Cognito's London office