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Expert papers: how giving free advice could win you business

Getting your service off to a good start

Clients want a lawyer’s expertise – that’s why they hire you. But while scouring your firm’s website will give them some insight into the legal knowledge that you hold, there are more effective ways to highlight the fact that you can provide exactly what they are looking for.

We’re not talking advertising, press releases or social media here. A more sophisticated communication is sometimes the best way to sell a law firm’s credentials.

While providing a ‘paper’ may sound dull, is a useful way to show some clients your legal wisdom.

So what is a paper?

It’s a detailed summary explaining a change in the law or relevant development and how it might affect a particular type of client.

It’s not ideal for every client – Mr and Mrs J. Public probably don’t want a sophisticated explanation of the latest changes to landlord and tenant law because they might rent out a room in their home – but some businesses, such as property management firms and finance houses, might be more responsive to a paper.

Others sectors and professions use them effectively, such as accountants, often after a Budget. Barristers’ chambers have been known to do so for law firm clients.

Yes, it’s effectively giving your legal expertise for free, but in being a thought leader, ‘bank of wisdom’ or whatever you want to be seen as, it’s giving your existing and potential clients a glimpse of why they need you onside. It’s also an add-on service for existing clients.

What should a paper look like?

It needs to be topical: Obvious areas are the Brexit impact type of pieces, but more niche areas carry value with more niche clients. For example, offshore law firms are regularly seeing the laws in their jurisdictions changing. Keeping clients abreast of such changes shows how your firm is a) on the ball and understands what this means for the client and b) keeping clients informed – a sign of good customer care.

Written in an accessible way for those clients: They may not be lawyers but they might have more knowledge of their sector than the public, so getting the right balance of style, information and tone is vital.

Infrequency is key: Given the knowledge rich content, papers should be deployed only when necessary. Regular papers are effectively newsletters. Less frequent papers strengthen their value and importance to the client.

Keep focused. Don’t sell or cross-sell: A paper is sharing your expertise on a very specific area of law. It’s showing your strength. Don’t distract from it by trying to link it to other services.

Make it personal: It needs to be authored by a prominent individual in the organisation. This is a hero piece – a firm’s leading specialist needs to have their name all over it. The lawyers are a law firm’s greatest asset, so make the most of them and show them and their knowledge off.

Fit it into the communications jigsaw: As it is an infrequent method of communications it needs to sit alongside all your other communications strategies. A very select group of clients and potential clients should receive a paper. Others will still need to be informed about your firm’s legal brilliance in other ways. A paper’s contents can also form the basis of a much larger communications campaign.

Writing a paper can be tricky and requires considerable input from your firm, but get it right and your clients may appreciate it. It might act as a useful business development tool. It could also raise your firm’s lawyers’ profiles too.

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