John McDougall: Hi, I’m John McDougall and welcome to “Legal Marketing Review.” Today, my guest is Jay Wager, Director of Business Development with Nutter McClennen & Fish in Boston, Massachusetts. Jay is also a past president of the Legal Marketing Association, New England Chapter.
Jay Wager: Thanks for having me, John.
Lawyer Specialties vs. General Law Knowledge
John: Jay, how important is it that an attorney is an authority in their main practice area versus trying to be good at many areas of law?
Jay: This is a really common conflict, if any attorneys have within themselves, and then when they are working with business developers, either coaches or internal or even with marketers. They always have the fear of putting themselves in the marketplace and being pigeonholed for only one specific area of law.
That’s not really what I think the purpose of being an authority in a main area is all about. We’re not trying to direct an attorney in any way to be good at one thing or to only be knowledgeable of one thing. It’s all about market penetration and getting the attention of an “attention deficit world.” The world does react to going deep on one or two specific areas of subject matter.
We really do try to coach attorneys that the most effective way to be heard out in the market place is to become an authority on one specific issue. It’s a balance in terms of educating the attorneys that we aren’t trying to change their career path or try to limit all the great experience they may have earned over their career, but if they want to get attention in the marketplace they do need to be focused.
John: Really nicely put, the “attention deficit world,” it’s true! We have so much marketing coming at us and so many distracting things that it’s a shortcut to say, “Oh, that’s the guy or the company or woman that’s really good at that.”
Jay: I really think there’s got to be a consistency also in the multiple channels that you’re using to talk in the market place. You’ve got your website biography, you’ve got your LinkedIn biography, you’ve got content that you’re producing of the articles or presentations. You’ve got all these different ways and they do need to have more of a focus and consistency across all those mediums.
There’s a viral aspect of everything and if you’re out there on these multiple channels droning a specific theme, you’ll get the attention you’re getting and other people will notice that and recognize you for that subject that you’ve decided to focus on. The other important part is also aligning your areas of work in their case examples with those areas of specificity.
I’d like to encourage folks to, instead of putting down 20 or 25 different case examples of what you’ve done, either prioritize or narrow it down to the ones that are more close to your line, to the thought leadership position you’re trying to achieve.
Brand vs. Individual Attorneys in Hiring a Law Firm
John: That’s great advice, definitely, well put. Do people generally hire based on a law firm’s brand, or on individual attorneys, and how much influence do attorneys of substance and their website bio pages have on hiring decisions?
Jay: I would say that my mantra has always been “the client buys from people, not firms.” However, that doesn’t mean that the brand of law firm is not important. We do a number of client interviews and most of them will almost always say, “I am looking for the right person to solve my need, my problem.”
The firm definitely helps people “credentialize” and confirm that they’ve made the right decision or may point them to a firm that may have talent within it that they’re looking for. The firms really do make it easier, make the client feel like they’ve made the right decision. It’s almost a safety net. It’s credentialing, it’s covering your behind if something goes wrong, in many ways.
That actually kind of ties back to question one, helping the person understand an individual’s expertise and their background beforehand. Then others can vet you and the conversation becomes very substantive, not really credentialing in any way. That’s how I feel, that brand on the attorney level is equally as important as the firm level and will get you farther along.
John: I agree. We’ve heard that a lot. It’s not really just one or the other, but you can’t underestimate the power of the individual attorney. There is a lot to be said for that but, then again, the firm has a big part in it, too.
Jay: Oh, a really big part. There are definitely brand name firms that are known for a certain level of quality, of expertise. Obviously there’s variance with a firm by individual, but those firms have built a reputation of having the kind of attorneys with the area of expertise, with the area of quality and value that promotes that firm brand.
To keep that legacy going they have to populate those firms with the right kinds of people. So, definitely if others don’t know an individual for an area of expertise but they know that an individual comes from a specific firm, that can go a long way in convincing others that they’re making the right decision.
Credibility on Attorney Websites
John: When you look at an attorney website, how do you know if they or their firm are credible and can be trusted?
Jay: That’s a great question. When I look at websites, and we’ve actually been looking at quite a few recently, just making sure that we’re, as a firm, doing what we need to be doing to give that splash page or that home page image and get people to get interested and move on deeper into other pages. To me there are three C’s, which are content, cases, and clients.
You’re putting three areas up front for people to see that you are about thinking, and you’re about being able to provide information. Obviously supplying that in a very nicely packaged and attractive manner but for you to have the confidence that your clients can speak for yourself, your work speaks for yourself. That you’re thinking on issues, can think for yourself and you have all of that at an immediate hand on the home page so people can really go deeper into those areas.
It’s really important that you make it very navigable to get them in there. Websites have changed quite a bit. I find websites really need to be information portals for folks, not just an electronic version of a brochure. The more information and content you can put on the front, the more important that is.
Thought Leadership Activities for Attorneys
John: What are some of the most important thought leadership activities for attorneys, such as blogging, public relations, being an author, bio pages, client alerts and newsletters, social media, etc.?
Jay: It’s an interesting question. I would say that the first thing an attorney needs to start with is the most fundamental one, which is the bio page because that is the one that people will go to most often, as a quick way of finding out about an individual attorney. Not just the background, but the kinds of clients they have, and also what other thought leadership components they have should be linked to that bio.
It’s kind of a central information portal about an individual attorney. I would most importantly start there and be able to have…their LinkedIn bio there is there, if there’s a blog it’s there, if there’s a Twitter handle it’s all there on their bio because that is, I believe, one of the most viewed pages. Statistically, when we look at it, they’re definitely the most read pages on our website.
John: What about “about us” pages where they’re typically — on most websites the “about us” page is the most visited, but on an attorney’s site we hear this all the time — it’s amazing how much the bio pages really are pivotal.
Jay: Yeah, well, again, people look for people and they’re wanting to really read up on that. The “about us” pages don’t have as many hits on it. A lot of attorneys, their bios get stale pretty quickly and to have that is a fresh way of doing it.
The second point is that your…especially with the younger generation of attorneys, their LinkedIn page needs to be — even though the set up can be different and it does have more dynamics to them — a mirror of your bio page in many ways. You need to have the same focus message, need to have the same value propositions, need to really bring across the same kinds of thought leadership that you want to have on your website bio page with your LinkedIn bio page.
We see a lot of inconsistencies between the two. If one person’s looking at somebody from LinkedIn versus looking at them through the website bio, they may get two very different perspectives about that individual. Of course, we want to have a consistent message out in the marketplace.
John: We haven’t heard enough people saying what you just said. I think you’re adding a nice bit of information to these interviews we’ve been doing around these similar topics ‑‑ the consistency of the brand message, the value proposition and across these different channels. It’s a great point.
Jay: You really need to tell a story about yourself. You really need to be having people want to read on and know more about you. Obviously, the end game was for them to reach out to you either via email or a phone call, to really talk about their specific issue and began a dialogue, that’s the end game. I really feel like that’s some content they really could work on in terms of the kind of things they can do.
Then you move on to the thought content, the blogging, the PR and client alerts and newsletters. To me, it surrounds this core biography about yourself.
John: Interesting just how powerful and important that is.
John: Thanks for talking to us, Jay. That was fantastic. How can people get in touch with you?
Jay: I’m at Nutter McClennen & Fish. We are at nutter.com and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
John: This is John McDougall with the Legal Marketing Review and see you next time — legalmarketingreview.com.