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Law Firm Publications: Moving From Marketing Tool to Legal Information Product

The law firm newsletter has long been a mainstay of client engagement and business development at law firms. As firms moved from paper brochures to electronic communications, readership statistics became increasingly accessible, but the news was not always good.

Whenever there is a significant case or legislative amendment, law firms race to send out an update, but we hear an increasingly common lament, “nobody reads our legal updates”. According to Mailchimp benchmarks, the legal industry is slightly above average with a 21.14% open rate and 2.71% click through rate. While not the worst statistics – there are industries which fair even worse! – it is pretty clear that many law firm newsletters are being completely ignored.

Yet, many legal updates contain important information that law firm clients need to know. Why the disconnect?

As we all know, most of us suffer from information overload and we simply cannot read another email that we do not consider business critical. Notwithstanding that there are usually important developments reported in many law firm updates, they often seem more like marketing tools designed to generate business than information required to run a business.

So, how do law firms change this perception? Provide legal information as a service – become the trusted source of legal updates for your clients. If they only have time to read one legal update, make sure it’s yours.

Comprehensive Reporting

Provide a thorough review of a specific subject area. Instead of periodic updates on a few items of interest (which may appear to be random) provide regular updates to ensure that clients are aware of all important developments and know that they can trust you to keep them up-to-date.

I offer two legal information services that provide comprehensive coverage of specific practice areas. Subscribers know that they need not look anywhere else – my legal information services are the one source for everything they need to know.

Sounds counterintuitive – isn’t this the basis of information overload? Keep reading.

Provide Targeted Information

To counter the potential for overload, deliver targeted information that focuses on a client’s specific area of interest and give the client options to “slice and dice” this even further by sub-topic, jurisdiction or frequency of delivery. Before opening a newsletter, recipients should know that it likely contains information of interest, because they have self-selected the news that is important to them.

In addition to providing customizable notifications, subscribers to my services receive one email each morning that reports all of the developments (related to their selected jurisdiction) from the preceding 24 hours. Wherever possible, multiple daily alerts should be avoided.

Make Sure its Timely

This probably goes without saying, but all updates need to be timely. Most law firms seem to have learned this lesson, but if your law firm tends to be the last to report on a new development, you really need to have a unique perspective on the issue. Otherwise, your client has probably already read your competitor’s update and has no need to read another commentary on the same development.

Highlight What’s Important

Everyone is busy and it is critical that lawyers make it easy for readers to scan the page and know immediately that this is an article they need to read. Generous use of headings, keywords in bold and bullets help with readability, as do short paragraphs focused on one issue. Including direct links to sections of legislation and cases adds value and cuts down (hopefully eliminates!) the need for footnotes.

Unique or Not Otherwise Easily Available

While not necessarily easy to do, if you can provide readers with access to information that is not easily available elsewhere, that is a bonus. For example, I use automated tracking systems to monitor hundreds of websites, and occasionally these trackers pick up government policies that have been published but not actively announced. So, these developments are otherwise easy to miss.

Make it Easy to Catch up Later

Another way to provide comprehensive reporting while avoiding information overload is to ensure that readers know that they can always read your update when they need it. A reader may not have time to read an article at the time of publication or may only see the significance when a new business issue arises. It should be easy to subsequently access an article. In other words, please make sure your website is not simply a repository of PDFs – readers should be able to easily find what they need by searching or browsing by topic, jurisdiction or industry. Providing a site for ongoing research helps solidify a law firm’s transition from provider of newsletters to a trusted (and relied upon) source of legal information.

And once you have developed a legal information service that is comprehensive, accessible and timely, you have the basis for productization – taking a newsletter service that is sporadically provided to clients and turning it into a standardized, supported and marketed legal product.

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