Content Strategy and Lateral Hiring in Law Firms: Are You Overlooking Something?

[The following guest post is by Molly Porter, web and social media manager at DLA Piper. Molly and I met recently while presenting together at the Social and Digital Media for Law Firms program hosted by West LegalEdCenter in San Francisco. I asked Molly to write about her takeaways from the all-day conference – insights and action items from her perspective as a digital media specialist in a large law firm. Here’s a thoughtful response to do with content strategies from untapped sources – lateral hires:]

Technology lawyer Richard Hsu’s presentation on video was one of the highlights of #SML12 for me. I love his One Page Blog  (aka Hsu Tube), where the goal is that every post should “provide useful information which can be summarized on no more than ONE PAGE.”

Richard’s blog is filled with delightfully pithy posts – many of which effectively deploy visuals to convey the information. See his explanation of IP Ownership in Joint Development – a fairly complex topic rendered friendly by his voice over narration and the illustrations of his daughter Maya:

See also his post on Life Science Collaboration Agreements – turned into an interactive Prezi that is as informative as it is fun to explore. So much better than a dry powerpoint.

Legal marketers and content-creating lawyers have a lot  to learn from Richard’s approach:

  • He looks outside legal for inspiration – in this case, Kahn Academy which uses a distinctive illustration style to unpack complex topics.
  • His “DIY” attitude gives all his pieces an inventive and unique feeling, embued with his personality. This is not a guy who is waiting on marketing for direction, nor should he be.
  • He also defines very clear parameters for his content – which he sets out in his “About this blog” statement on the homepage.

Richard is the kind of person I’m always on the lookout for at my firm. Not only does he “get it” – he produces great content!

Lateral Partners: Untapped Sources of Great Content?

Richard’s presentation also made me wonder how firms handle the content of incoming laterals, whether they are bringing content with them – or leaving it behind. In these days of the “lateral boom,” we could be talking about a lot of interesting stuff.

Richard himself was a lateral hire earlier this year – yet no sign of Richard’s content exists on the site. Not an embedded video on a bio, not even a link to his blog (at least not any place obvious, like his bio page or the press release announcing his arrival).

I do not know why Richard and the firm made this decision. I can only speak to my role and how I might approach this case of “lateral content.”  How great would it have been to introduce him to our Facebook followers with a link to his magnetic Rubik’s cube video instead of a press release? After all, great self-branding by individual lawyers accrues back to the firm’s brand.

All this suggests the need to have someone with a digital mindset as a part of the lateral intake process. This person’s approach should not be to “take over” or re-brand assets, but to discover what the lateral has produced and to offer assistance in the transition. The objective would be to find out:

  • What is the quantity and quality of content marketing assets?
  • Are the assets still timely and relevant?
  • Can the assets be absorbed into existing vehicles (the firm’s main site or blogs) or are new vehicles required?
  • And most importantly, do the assets violate any existing client relationships?

Additionally, the intake process should take into account the lateral’s other digital and social assets. For each lateral, the firm’s digital team should:

  • Search Twitter – if an account that appears to be at least partially devoted to content marketing, follow on main firm or personal account of person in charge of social media (or who cares the most about it).
  • Search LinkedIn. Connect or message to welcome to the firm and offer assistance with optimizing linkedin profile.
  • Review the lawyer’s predesessor firm site for content that might come over – the bio especially, since sometimes the web bio is the only bio the lawyer keeps up to date.

These activities should be handled with sensitivity – and urgency. The more content the partner has, the more work there is to do. Perhaps there will be little left after you subtract out all the conflicts (biglaw cares a lot about conflicts) and items that have grown stale or irrelevant over time. But you might end up with more than you had in the beginning. PLUS, if you get a lateral like Richard Hsu, you’ve at least identified someone with a content marketing mindset – and an intellectual curiosity – that can only make your firm and his practice groups look good. Maybe his new firm has big plans for new content created by Richard – I’m looking forward to seeing it.

@Molly_Porter

Molly Porter is a web and social media manager at DLA Piper. In her current role, Molly collaborates with a global team to develop and implement the digital marketing strategy for one of the world’s largest law firms. All views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter or on her blog at www.mollyporter.com