Today, thought-leadership marketing and business development content is as important a credential for lawyers as where they went to school and the awards they’ve won.
If you were to look up the definition of “credential” in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, you’d find that it is defined as “something that gives a title to credit or confidence.”
If you were to look up “credential” on Dictionary.com, you’d find a similar definition: “evidence of authority, status, rights, entitlement to privileges, or the like, usually in written form.”
Often in the legal world, lawyers think of credentials as where they went to undergrad and law school, the bars they’re members of, the awards they’ve won, and the recognitions they’ve secured.
That all might be true. But in today’s world of content marketing and thought-leadership marketing, content is a credential as well. Content is evidence of your authority or status.
The substance of your content, and your consistency over time publishing it, gives your audience evidence of your authority and status.
A regularly updated blog focused on developments in franchise law across the U.S.? That’s a credential.
An ongoing series of videos about legal issues surrounding immigration? That’s a credential.
A podcast where the host, a small business lawyer, interviews small business owners about the issues they face running their businesses? That’s a credential.
Thanks to these credentials, a current or prospective client or referral source can look at all the content you’ve created and be confident that you are knowledgeable and wise about the concepts and issues you’re talking about—which are likely directly related to the area of law you practice. And when your content covers the same kinds of issues clients or referral sources are coming to you for help with, it confirms you are the person to speak with—and retain—to help with those issues.
Traditional credentials vs. Content as a credential
Here’s a hypothetical that shows how content can be a credential.
Let’s say you are the general counsel of a large company. You’ve recently been made aware of allegations of bribery on the part of people or divisions of the company. You now need to hire a lawyer and a law firm to conduct an internal investigation that gets to the bottom of what may have happened.
You’ve done your research and have whittled down your list of potential law firms to hire to two law firms with equally strong white-collar internal investigation practices.
One firm’s group of lawyers that you’d be working with has a long list of matters they’ve worked on that are similar to the issues your company is facing. A few of them have received awards or recognitions, including being listed in Chambers for three years running for white-collar crime and internal investigations.
However, the group doesn’t publish much content. They write blog posts a few times a year and write articles for third-party publications about as often. Content is just not a huge interest of theirs.
The second firm’s group of lawyers has a similarly long list of matters they’ve worked on that are similar to the issues your company is facing. But collectively, they have fewer awards and recognitions.
That said, this group pumps out content. They maintain a blog focused on legal developments within the white-collar crime arena. They have a number of blog posts covering internal investigations and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. They are frequent contributors to legal trade publications like Law360 and Bloomberg Law on white-collar crime topics, typically averaging a new article every six to eight weeks. And they’ve just launched a podcast focused on white-collar issues in-house lawyers need to be aware of.
If you were a general counsel tasked with hiring a law firm, which of the two would you select? Would you go with traditional credentials or with content as a credential?
Would you go with the lawyers whom you’ve been told are knowledgable and capable of assisting you based on the awards and recognitions they’ve received from third parties? Or, would you go with the lawyers who have shown you, through their content, that they are capable of assisting you?
I’m sure there are some general counsel that might decide that the traditionally credentialed group is the better choice based on their awards. But they’d almost certainly be in the minority.
In today’s content-heavy world, where we as professionals and as human beings can easily find content about any topic imaginable, and make decisions about who is trustworthy, who is knowledgable, and who we want to work with and hire based on the material they publish online, there will be a larger contingent of general counsel who would select the second group. They’d look at all of the content the second group has published and say:
“Look, all things being equal — and these two groups are equally capable—this second group really seems to have a firm grasp on all things white-collar crime, especially internal investigations and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Sure, the first group has some nice awards. But the second group has covered in its content time and again the issues and concerns we’re dealing with. We’re confident they know exactly what they’re doing and that they will lean on that knowledge and wisdom when assisting us.”
Here, content was a credential. It was evidence of a practice group’s status and authority because it demonstrated to a prospective client how knowledgeable and wise the practice group was about the kinds of issues that client needs help with.
Content is the new(ish) distinguishing credential
I know, I know. The entire thrust of this post is nuts because credentials for lawyers are all about where they went to school and the awards and recognitions they’ve received.
Actually, credentials for lawyers WERE all about where they went to school and the awards and recognitions they’ve received.
Today, content is a credential. It is evidence of a lawyer’s status and authority regarding the areas of law they practice and the kinds of issues they can help clients with.
Embrace this idea, let it sink in, and then go off and create credentializing thought-leadership marketing and business content with it in mind.
Thinking about bringing on an outside writer to help your law firm strategize and create compelling thought-leadership marketing and business development content that credentializes its lawyers? 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.