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Five ways thought leadership can be a magnet for talent

The law firms that consistently publish thought leadership can gain a recruiting advantage over their competitors that do not.

We like to think about thought leadership as a core marketing and business development tool for lawyers, law firms, and, really, any professional services provider and their firm.

That’s absolutely, positively, true. But thought leadership can also be a magnet to attract and retain top talent.

Here are five ways thought leadership can help law firms attract prospective attorneys and staff, and how it can help those firms retain them.

Thought leadership positions a firm as the go-to firm for particular areas of law or industries served

When attorneys see a law firm that’s consistently publishing thought leadership content regarding its attorneys’ work in an area of law or regarding an industry that an attorney wants to practice in or serve, they’re going to take notice.

They’re going to say, “This is a firm that obviously does the kind of work I want to do. I want to be a part of that firm because I know they 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 as an attorney.”

On the ego side of things, many attorneys want to collaborate and learn from thought leaders. They want to go to the best firms so they can learn from the best practitioners. Lateral attorneys and staff, and recently licensed attorneys, will naturally be attracted to the firms that are doing the kind of work they want to do—and showing that they’re doing so by consistently publishing thought leadership regarding the areas of law they practice and the industries they serve.

It positions a firm as a prominent firm worthy of the interest of prospective 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 they produce, over time, a firm can gain the reputation of being a go-to, highly respected law 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 law firm is known for being a leader in a field, based in part on the thought leadership it’s publishing, prospective 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.

When a firm is perceived to be prestigious by clients, causing many clients with various matters to bring those matters to the firm, those matters can inspire new thought leadership content which could bring more clients in the door, which inspires more thought leadership, and so on. The client/thought leadership flywheel creates marketing/business development momentum that’s hard for other tactics to compete with.

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

If a 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 to prospective attorneys and staff that the firm has a particular vision/philosophy for resolving clients’ legal and business issues. That vision/philosophy will be attractive to those prospective attorneys and staff who share it.

This vision/philosophy could be the way a plaintiffs’ firm or a criminal law firm challenges the status quo and uses innovative legal theories and investigation techniques to secure successful outcomes for its clients.

Or, this vision/philosophy could be the way a large corporate law firm employs non-traditional approaches to the deals or litigation it represents its clients in, or its innovative approach to dealing with its clients’ regulators.

Whatever it is, this vision/philosophy signals to like-minded prospective attorneys and staff that a law firm approaches its clients’ legal issues and business issues a certain way, and if they believe that way is THE way to do things, that firm may be the right firm for them.

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

This is simple logic, but for a firm’s attorneys or staff to publish thought leadership, the firm has to allow them and empower them to publish thought leadership. This is self-evident 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 is willing to help its people with their professional growth and that it encourages them to be proactive in sharing their knowledge and wisdom.

Interestingly, a firm’s 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 job interviews. Or, a firm might wait to see how a new hire does on the job before committing to helping them market themselves.

(Likewise, the fact that a firm is not publishing much thought leadership, or only publishes thought leadership created by senior rainmakers, could indicate 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 it could help them get their name out there and help them build their professional brand by empowering them to publish thought leadership.

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

When law firm leaders publish thought leadership about their firm’s culture, that content shows prospective attorneys and staff the kind of 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/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.

That said, some people may think that law firm leaders will paint a rosier picture of their firm’s culture in their thought leadership than actually exists.

I understand that concern, but I don’t think that would happen often.

Most law firm leaders who aren’t serious about their firm’s culture are too busy to spend time writing this kind of thought leadership (or to spend money hiring a ghostwriter) only for it to be a farce. Plus, in this day and age, if a firm’s leadership misrepresented its culture in public statements, former attorneys and staff would call them out on it on review sites, social media, and other digital platforms.

Thought Leadership is a Swiss Army Knife

Thought leadership is an amazing marketing and business development tool. But if you only use it for marketing and business development purposes, you’re not using it to its potential.

Thought leadership is a Swiss Army Knife. When deployed strategically and consistently, thought leadership can also be a magnet to attract lateral attorneys and staff, as well as attorneys fresh out of law school.

Thinking about bringing on an outside writer to help your law firm strategize and create compelling thought-leadership marketing and business development content? Click here to schedule a 30-minute Content Strategy Audit to learn if collaborating with an outside writer is the right move for you and your firm.

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 helps Big Law and boutique law firm partners, and their firms, grow their practices and prominence by collaborating with them to strategize and ethically ghostwrite book-of-business-building marketing and business development content.

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