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Your thought leadership should talk to the clients you have today — and the ones you want tomorrow

If you’re contemplating expanding, niching, or otherwise changing your legal practice, craft thought leadership content that leads the way.

While promoting his October 1977 album “Heroes,” the late David Bowie said, “Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming.”

Many lawyers and law firms hear tomorrow coming and want to expand their practices or move into a niche.

But they wait until those practices or niches are live before crafting thought leadership that’s relevant to the clients (and referral sources) served by those practices or niches.

That’s a mistake.

If your legal practice is going somewhere, your content should point in that direction

When attorneys think about developing their practice and what direction their practice might take, it’s important that their thought leadership content speaks to both the clients (and referral sources) they have today and the clients (and referral sources) they want tomorrow.

Obviously, when you are creating thought leadership and calibrating it to your target audience, you want it to speak to the clients (and referral sources) you serve today.

You want the content to be relevant, valuable, and compelling to the kinds of clients (and referral sources) you have today because you want them to see you as an authority and to know that you’re the person that can help them with their legal issues and/or business issues (or their clients’ legal issues and/or business issues).

But as you think about the kinds of clients you want more of, you can use your thought leadership as a tool to start connecting with them even before you’re perhaps ready to work on their cases.

By creating content that is relevant to them and the issues that they’re dealing with, you can indicate to current and prospective clients (and referral sources) that you’re capable of handling—and that you want to handle—the types of cases, legal issues, and/or business issues you are covering in your content.

Now, of course, when you haven’t practiced for very long in an area of law or you haven’t served clients in an industry for very long, you’re not going to have the wisdom that comes with years and years of practicing in that area of law or serving those clients.

So you’re not going to want your content to focus on best practices and other opinion-based content that would only be credible if it’s written by someone with a lot of wisdom gained from spending many years practicing in an area of law or serving a particular industry. But you can still write content that focuses on legal developments—whether that’s new court opinions, legislative actions, or administrative agency actions—or news and analysis of notable industry developments.

Taking your content in two directions—simultaneously

Once you’ve decided that you will be expanding your practice, niching your practice, or otherwise moving your practice in a direction that would require you to tweak the things you talk about in your thought leadership content, consider developing a plan for transitioning the focus of that content.

For example, maybe you start with 100% of your content focused on the clients (and referral sources) that you want today. Then, your content slowly shifts to 90% focused on today’s clients (and referral sources) and 10% focused on tomorrow’s clients (and referral sources).

Over time, you can adjust those percentages as you become more interested in the new area of law or industry, gain more experience in either, or as you increasingly believe either provides you a promising (and lucrative?) business opportunity.

This strategy works for attorneys regardless of the area of law they practice or the size of their firm.

Whether you’re a corporate attorney serving businesses and want to niche down into serving one kind of business or one kind of industry, or you’re a personal injury or criminal law attorney who wants to take on more types of cases or only specific kinds of cases within your practice, your content can serve as an indicator to past, current, and prospective clients (and referral sources) that you are moving into a new area with your practice.

The best part about this strategy is that it is fail-safe.

If you write content regarding a new area of the law or a new industry you’re planning on moving into, but your move into that practice area doesn’t pan out, no one’s going to care. Clients and referral sources will just look at your content regarding that area of the law or industry as content you were writing as part of your general marketing and business development efforts.

Because it’s content you’re posting on your firm’s site, on your social media channels, or in a third-party publication, the content will have an “out of sight, out of mind” aspect to it. In other words, because clients and referral sources are bombarded with content daily, eventually they will forget you were writing about these topics if you were only doing so for a limited amount of time.

And, even if they were to see a listing of your articles or blog posts on your online bio regarding the area of law or industry you were planning on venturing into but did not venture into or did not do so for very long, they’ll think nothing of it. It’s not unusual to see attorneys write content over time that covers a variety of topics.

If you hear tomorrow coming, your thought leadership should reflect that

When you are using thought leadership as part of your everyday marketing and business development efforts, you obviously want it to be talking to your current clients and referral sources and the kinds of clients and referral sources you want today.

But if you’re planning on changing the area of law you practice or the industry you serve in any way, your thought leadership should start talking to the clients and referral sources you want tomorrow as those plans turn into reality.

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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