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Talk about philosophies — not just tactics — in your thought leadership

Discussing *why* you’d approach a legal issue a certain way can help you more quickly build rapport and trust with your target audiences than discussing *how* you’d approach it.

Most attorneys’ and law firms’ thought leadership discusses tactical approaches to particular legal or business issues.

For example, whenever an attorney or law firm publishes content regarding a new case coming down, a statute that was (or might be) enacted, or some administrative agency action, that content usually covers what individuals and organizations affected by those developments should do now as a result of those developments.

Or, attorneys and law firms might publish thought leadership about best practices for handling certain legal or business issues, such as internal investigations, employment agreements, business divorces, etc.

This tactical thought leadership creates valuable marketing and business development assets that show past, current, and prospective clients that an attorney and their firm have the knowledge and wisdom to help them with their legal or business issues.

But another kind of thought leadership—philosophical thought leadership—also creates valuable marketing and business development assets.

Though attorneys and law firms produce this kind of thought leadership less often than tactical thought leadership, it can be even more effective at building trust and rapport with clients than tactical thought leadership because of what it communicates to clients.

What is philosophical thought leadership?

In philosophical thought leadership, attorneys and their firms discuss *why* they’d take a certain approach to their clients’ legal and business issues instead of discussing *how* they’d manage or solve them.

There are several benefits to publishing philosophical thought leadership.

Philosophical thought leadership shows clients that an attorney and their firm have thought deeply about an issue

There’s no way that an attorney could develop a philosophical view on how to approach a legal or business issue if they didn’t first devote a significant amount of time thinking deeply about the issue, such as the various ways to approach it and the pros and cons of one approach versus another.

When attorneys develop a philosophy for approaching a legal or business issue, it shows they’re committed to their craft. This is attractive to clients because they’ll likely assume that the attorneys who are most serious about the work they do and who think deeply about it are the most capable.

Philosophical thought leadership shows a client that an attorney and their firm have the experience to help them with their issues

To develop a credible philosophy for approaching a legal or business issue, an attorney will need to have had enough opportunities—enough at-bats, if you will—to tackle that issue for clients.

Attorneys who don’t routinely handle a legal or business issue aren’t going to have the need, desire, or ability to develop a philosophy for dealing with them. After all, if they don’t handle an issue often, it isn’t worth their time and attention to think how they should handle that issue in the future (unless they want more clients who have that issue).

Philosophical thought leadership shows that the attorney publishing it was able to develop a philosophy for tackling a legal or business issue because they have knowledge, wisdom, and experience dealing with the issue and that they know how to approach it based on that experience.

They can take a high-level approach to an issue in their thought leadership instead of focusing on tactics because they’re familiar with the bigger picture considerations clients must keep in mind when tackling that issue.

Philosophical thought leadership shows a client that an attorney and their firm are aware of trends that could impact the client

When they develop a credible philosophy for approaching a legal or business issue, an attorney or a firm shows clients they are keeping abreast of relevant trends and developments in their legal practice or their clients’ industries.

That philosophy has to take into account the ever-changing circumstances of today’s world, including the legal issues developing today, which ones are emerging as potential issues tomorrow, what business issues are causing problems today, and which ones could be driving tomorrow’s problems.

When attorneys and their firms create philosophical thought leadership, they’re showing clients that they’re not stuck in the past; they’ve developed an approach to a legal or business issue that reflects the legal and business realities of this very moment in time.

Philosophical thought leadership invites like-minded clients to raise their hands and come forward

When attorneys and firms publish thought leadership about their approach to certain legal or business issues, they’re creating a connection with those past, current, or prospective clients who see the world the way they do.

Those clients will read a piece of thought leadership and think to themselves that the attorney or firm publishing that content “gets it.” They’ll think the attorney or firm is particularly qualified to help them with their legal or business issue if the attorney or firm is signaling through their thought leadership that the approach they’d take and why they’d take it mirrors the approach the client wants their attorney or firm to take.

Philosophical thought leadership can also help repel clients who aren’t going to share an attorney’s or law firm’s philosophies or views of the world. Those clients would likely be difficult clients who aren’t going to listen to their attorneys and wouldn’t follow their recommendations because they are not aligned on how to tackle a legal or business issue.

In other words, philosophical thought leadership can help attorneys and their firms prevent potential client headaches down the road by dissuading clients who disagree with an attorney’s or firm’s approach from reaching out to them in the first place.

Philosophical thought leadership differentiates an attorney and their firm from their competitors

Of course, from a branding perspective, when an attorney or a firm publishes philosophical thought leadership, they’re differentiating themselves from their competitors and peers.

They’re putting a flag in the ground and saying, “This is how we see the world. This is how we do things. This is how we suggest our clients approach certain legal or business issues.”

Based on the fact that relatively few attorneys and firms publish this kind of thought leadership, let alone share the same philosophies as others for handling particular legal and business issues, publishing philosophical thought leadership is a differentiator for attorneys and firms that can help them break away from the pack in the eyes of the marketplace.

Philosophical thought leadership can be a potent recruiting tool, too

Philosophical thought leadership can also help an attorney or firm with their recruiting efforts.

When an attorney or firm publishes philosophical thought leadership content, they’re sending signals out into the marketplace that they’re a particular type of attorney or firm with a particular approach to clients’ legal and business issues.

Those attorneys and firms are indicating to new attorneys from law school, mid-level attorneys, and lateral partners, as well as potential staff members, that they may have a home at their firm if they see the world the way the attorneys and firms see the world. This content says to those individuals, “If you want to practice law and solve problems the way that we practice law and solve them, come join us.”

A beneficial shift in thought leadership focus

When people in the legal industry talk about thought leadership, they’re often talking about tactical thought leadership, which explains how to approach a particular legal or business issue.

But there’s a role for philosophical thought leadership, which gives an attorney or firm an opportunity to explain why they take the approach they do regarding their clients’ legal or business issues.

That kind of thought leadership, which is not published nearly as often as tactical thought leadership, can be as effective, if not more effective, than tactical thought leadership at attracting clients and recruiting attorneys and staff because of what it says to clients and potential colleagues about the attorneys and law firms publishing it.

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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