Building Relationships with Global General Counsel

June 27, 2012 John Simpson

How Firms Can Use Targeted Content and Experience to Win and Retain Business

Earlier this year, One North Interactive—in partnership with Spada Research—conducted a survey of more than 40 in-house legal officers across the US, UK and Europe. The survey results provide new insights into the needs and expectations of General Counsel (GCs) when it comes to communication with law firms, ranging from website, email and social media effectiveness to the impact of online collaboration and relationship automation tools.

Key Takeaways:

  • A law firm’s expert knowledge of their company’s sector/industry and their legal experience are of greater importance to GCs than competitive and flexible prices.
  • Reputation in the marketplace is crucial, as most GCs ask for recommendations and referrals from trusted sources when looking to select a law firm.
  • When it comes to law firm websites, GCs prioritize the ability to gain access to relevant information in a quick and straightforward manner.
  • In order to provide GCs with relevant information, law firms will need to convince them that content individualization is neither a waste of time, nor a risk to privacy.
  • Law firms will miss out on opportunities if they fail to actively engage with underutilized and undervalued communication channels, such as social media and extranets.

In addition, the survey uncovered some more detailed insights about social media, web content and future technology trends. Specifically:

  • Law firms need to change the way they use social media. Two-thirds (69%) of respondents found existing overall engagement by law firms on social media ‘not very valuable’, and a quarter ‘not very valuable at all.’ Although they perceive that law firms are not utilizing these channels effectively at the moment, GCs indicate a willingness to engage more if relevant content was available.
  • Blogs and LinkedIn are the most popular digital channels for GCs. Despite the overall hesitation in terms of social media, 60% of respondents do visit blogs and 60% use LinkedIn for general work purposes. Both channels were cited as notable sources of information about law firms (35% and 26%, respectively).
  • Quick and easy access to relevant web content is key. Although visits to law firm websites were often short and practical, respondents indicated that it is crucial that sites are regularly updated and able to provide the necessary content or detail required swiftly and easily. The most important features of a website for respondents were clear and usable navigation (34%) and relevant and valuable content (31%).
  • Attorney profiles are the most important destination on law firm websites. 40% of respondents spent the most time looking at this section of a firm’s website, with practice areas and service offerings noted as a top destination by only 22%. Surprisingly, news and publication sections were considered least popular, with only 7% of respondents spending the majority of their time there.
  • Relationship automation is expected to have the greatest impact on law firms and GC communication. 30% of respondents said that relationship automation platforms (with e-billing being the most common form) were most likely to impact how they select, communicate and collaborate with law firms over the next three years, with other important areas being cloud computing (22%) and web intelligence/data analytics (16%).

It’s crystal clear that there is a sea change underway in terms of the interaction between law firms and GCs. Many law firms are missing the mark when it comes to the need to tailor communications and content for GCs. In many ways, law firms no longer have the upper hand – it’s become a buyer’s market. If firms are to have a chance of winning and retaining work in this environment, they need to differentiate themselves by providing relevant content that helps GCs do their jobs more effectively. Until then, law firms will be leaving behind valuable opportunities to showcase their knowledge to top in-house legal officers, whether they are existing clients or prospects.

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John Simpson Chief Executive Officer

John Simpson is one of One North’s founders and serves as the Chief Executive Officer. For more than 20 years, John has been helping professional services marketers engage with their clients and grow their organizations through brand-based digital marketing experiences. He is a frequent author and speaker as it relates to relationship development, digital strategy and marketing innovation.

  • Favorite season: Summer. Summer makes everyone feel like a kid again.
  • Super power: Positivity. A psychology professor once told me that humans are predisposed to be positive. His logic was that the cave man faced so many challenges – sabre tooth tigers, starvation, cold weather, disease – that they had to be positive just to survive until the next day. I can’t say whether or not this theory has scientific merit, but it’s good enough for me!

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