The rollercoaster of the last 18 months has taught us a lot about the importance of thought leadership. While the headline news is that clients of professional services firms have increasingly turned to thought leadership to help them navigate their way through the challenges they face, we wanted to dig beneath these headlines to investigate the needs and preferences of different client groups.
Given the growing overlap between consulting and legal services we decided to focus our latest research on legal services clients. We wanted to understand what this group is looking for when it comes to thought leadership content; where they go to find it; and how to develop some winning strategies to catch the attention of this sizeable group of clients.
One of the key messages from this research is that legal services clients don’t go to law firms as their first port of call when it comes to thought leadership: Their go-to sources are strategy and management consulting firms, with law firms much further down their list of choices. Why this preference? Well, their top topic interests—building better organisations, automation, and home working practices—are all very much business related, indicating that lawyers are not reading about the law, but about business, and they are currently looking to business-focused publishers to provide them with this content.
Of course this could change. Legal services clients differ from consulting clients in many ways. For example, they have a strong preference for easy-to-digest forms of content such as blogs and short articles. They’re also more likely to want to see content backed by summaries of existing research and interviews with industry leaders, rather than the cutting-edge analytics that are favoured by consulting clients.
So what does that mean for professional services firms?
Given the increasingly important role of thought leadership in fostering collaboration between senior leaders, and different functions across a business, all types of professional services firms need to consider how best to create material that will help to help build that consensus. While consulting firms are leading the way with legal services clients now, their position is not unassailable, and they will need to understand and respond to the needs of this client group if they are to maintain pole position. Firms that provide a legal services offering alongside their consulting services are particularly well-placed to put new thinking about legal issues into the context of wider business change. Law firms, on the other hand, should consider publishing material on a wider range of topics—not just technical legal ones—and also think about how to exploit their legal expertise by producing a legal perspective on non-legal issues, for example.