Advocating for your clients through your thought leadership is a savvy way to bring about change your clients want to see, while solidifying you in the eyes of those clients as the go-to attorney for their legal or business issues.

Thought leadership is more than a marketing and business development tool; it’s “after hours” client advocacy that has two key benefits for the attorneys publishing it.

Obviously, thought leadership is a core marketing and business development tool for attorneys and their firms. But through thought leadership, attorneys can advocate for their clients’ interests and raise awareness about important legal and business issues that are pertinent to their clients.

Thought leadership is another way, in addition to their billable client work, for attorneys to contribute to the broader discussion regarding the legal and business issues of importance to their clients, and shape the narrative around these issues in a way that’s favorable to their clients.

It’s not a stretch for most attorneys to want to advocate for their clients “after hours.” Many of them firmly believe in their clients’ causes, agree with their views of the world, want to help eradicate the problems their clients face in the world, and want to help their clients achieve whatever personal, business, or legal goals they want to achieve.

Instead of reporting on legal developments, like new court decisions, for the bulk of their thought leadership efforts, attorneys can use thought leadership to frame industry conversations and trends in ways that sync with their clients’ views and interests.

Examples of advocacy as thought leadership

Attorneys of all types and with any practice can use thought leadership as advocacy.

A classic example is tort reform.

In the mid to late 20th century, the corporate lobby wanted to push back on what corporations and their supporters deemed to be greedy, self-interested plaintiffs’ attorneys securing large verdicts and settlements.

So they engaged in a campaign to change laws across the country that would constrain plaintiffs’ attorneys’ abilities to secure large verdicts or settlements for their clients.

The corporate lobby called this “tort reform,” which sounds like it was in the public’s interest. After all, “tort” is legalese to most people but sounds ominous, and “reform” is only something that happens to bad things.

(You’ll never hear any one talk about “reforming” ice cream.)

For plaintiffs’ attorneys and their would-be clients, “tort reform” is really “due process deprivation.” Literally. Tort reform deprives people’s due process rights to bring lawsuits against people or organizations that harmed them.

In the heyday of tort reform, corporate defense attorneys were writing articles about tort reform, advocating for their corporate clients’ interests while also demonstrating that they were knowledgeable and wise about the issues giving rise to tort reform because they, presumably, saw those issues firsthand when litigating cases for their clients.

This would have signaled to clients and referral sources that these attorneys and firms were qualified to help those clients or referral sources with the kinds of tough cases leading to runaway verdicts or settlements.

Thought leadership as advocacy can also be an education tool

In addition to helping to shape and frame legal or industry conversations, thought leadership can also educate policymakers and the public about issues that impact clients’ lives and industries.

Workers’ compensation attorneys could publish thought leadership educating policymakers regarding issues that impact injured workers, whether that’s allegedly abusive conduct by employers and insurance carriers, or the unintended effects of certain legislation or regulations.

Likewise, attorneys representing crypto companies could publish thought leadership about the ways regulators should approach regulating the crypto industry.

Employment attorneys could publish thought leadership regarding unions, the gig economy, and minimum wage, to name a few perennial hot topics in that area, that highlights unintended consequences of particular regulations (or the lack of regulations), proposed legislation, and court decisions.

Of course, in addition to educating policymakers, attorneys can advocate for positive legal changes that benefit their clients.

Beyond talking about abusive conduct by employers, approaches to regulations, and proposed legislation impacting gig economy companies, workers’ compensation attorneys, crypto attorneys, and employment attorneys can advocate for the kinds of changes that would prevent the harms these attorneys are complaining about. By doing so, they can offer insights, guidance, and solutions that could steer policymakers, regulators, and judges toward better outcomes for their clients.

The two primary benefits of thought leadership as advocacy

There are two main benefits attorneys will see when using thought leadership to advocate for their clients’ interests.

First, this advocacy plants seeds of change. Attorneys are helping to take steps toward change that benefits their clients and the kinds of people and organizations the attorneys want to serve.

Second, and arguably more impactful, is that thought leadership as advocacy also endears the attorneys writing it to their current clients, as well as prospective clients that are similar to their current clients.

If an attorney’s current clients and prospective clients see that attorney as someone who’s forcefully calling for favorable changes to laws and regulations that directly impact them, guess what? They’re going to put that attorney high up on their list of attorneys to talk to about new legal matters.

If past, current, and prospective clients and referral sources see an attorney as advocating for people like them or people they are likely to refer—people who have been injured, people who have been wrongly convicted of crimes, startup entrepreneurs, etc.—they know that attorney is aligned with their (or their referred clients’) interests and is likely to be in a position to provide quality legal counsel to them because they are familiar with the issues they’re dealing with as evidenced by their advocacy through thought leadership.

“After hours” advocacy that’s also helps build an attorney’s personal brand

Attorneys spend their billable hours advocating for their clients, whether in the form of court papers, negotiations, or communications with legislative bodies or administrative agencies. But rarely will clients ask their clients to advocate for them “after hours” in their non-billable thought leadership.

That makes advocacy through thought leadership a below-the-radar way for attorneys to endear themselves to their clients and further show that they are the right attorney for them because they have their best interests at heart and are going above and beyond what most attorneys do when advocating for their clients.

Instead of simply looking at thought leadership as a marketing and business development tool for covering developments in the law, attorneys should consider how they can use thought leadership to advocate for their clients’ interests to third parties whose actions impact their clients’ legal issues, business issues, and personal lives.

Not only will they plant seeds of change in support of their clients, they’ll solidify their relationships with them.

Thinking about bringing on an outside writer to help your law firm strategize and create compelling thought-leadership marketing and business development content? Click here to schedule a 30-minute Content Strategy Audit to learn if collaborating with an outside writer is the right move for you and your firm.

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