The title “thought leader” is the next big trend since “guru”. It means someone others look to in setting trends and inspiring movements. Lawyers across the country are using their law blog as a platform to move them from expert to thought leader. But you have to do it right.
Your law blog isn’t just about marketing. Of course getting new clients is one of the main reasons you commit time every week to write, proofread, and post your blogs (not to mention all that time sharing them to social media). But direct sales isn’t entirely the point. Instead, your law blog should be about helping readers see you as an expert in your field, a thought leader who is pushing his or her industry forward.
Why Do You Want to Be a Thought Leader
As Jay Harrington with Attorney @ Work notes:
“A lawyer who is a thought leader is an industry expert who shares his or her expertise with a target market (often members of an industry vertical) for the purpose of educating, inspiring and increasing business performance.”
Becoming a thought leader can be one avenue toward that big precedent-setting case or the next million-dollar settlement. It makes readers, including referral partners and potential clients, see you as someone who is ahead of the industry curve, riding the wave of the next big thing in your niche area of the law.
How To Become a Thought Leader
Of course, there is no silver bullet to becoming a thought leader. No matter how much time you spend polishing that blog post or white paper, or how many social media accounts you share to, there’s no guarantee it will get the clicks it needs to go viral.
The key is not to write THE perfect post. It is to write MANY good posts that come at your topic from a variety of angles. Your subscribers need to know that they can come back to you with their questions and that you will likely have an answer somewhere in your blog archives (and if not, they know how to contact you to schedule a consultation).
Being a thought leader is about consistency and quality, rather than writing that one perfect article. Its name explains what it is: a person with thoughts that people can follow. Mark Herman from Above The Law explains:
“You’re a thought leader only when people follow you. When your articles are cited by others, when your proposals become federal regulations, when what you’ve written has had impact, then you’re a thought leader. Until then, you’re just another guy who has occasionally gotten his name in print. The difference between publishing something and being a thought leader is the difference between trying (which is better than nothing) and succeeding.”
Ways to Work Toward Thought Leadership
Thought leadership doesn’t happen over night. Lawyers young and old feel like their degree means that people should automatically listen to them. But it is not your training that readers and clients are looking for. It is a connection to a person who knows the answers they need.
If you are trying to build a following and become a thought leader you should:
1. Be Authentic
Don’t put on airs or fake a feeling of authority. Be real. Allow your writing to express your own voice, rather than that stuffy legalese you learned in law school. Express yourself fluidly, like you would if the potential client was sitting across the conference table from you.
2. Be Generous
You won’t become a leader of others by sheltering yourself and your thoughts away from your followers. Lawyers make a living off of knowing things other people don’t. When we represent others it is our knowledge they are looking for, so they need to see that knowledge before they know they want to hire us. That means we need to give it away, at least a little.
I’m not saying you should offer free legal advice, or even free consultations. But you shouldn’t be stingy with your knowledge either. Share what you know. Answer questions (in general terms) and respond to people posting comments on your social media. That way your followers will know that you are accessible when it comes time to hire you.
3. be Consistent
I already mentioned this, but it’s important. If you want people to follow you and look to you as a thought leader, they need to know you are still having thoughts! Set a plan and stick to it. Post weekly, or even several times a week. Carve out time to write ahead to fill in your busy times. Do what it takes to consistently post content that pushes your industry forward. That way, if one or two of them are duds (and they will be) your readers won’t be left wondering when the next good idea will be coming.
Becoming a thought leader is an organic process of building a readership and engaging with your followers. It doesn’t happen all at once, and it does take effort. But through consistent posting and authentic engagement with your readers, you can become the expert they think of when they need legal work done.
Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She helps lawyers and small businesses create high-quality web content. If you need help creating or filling your blogging schedule, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.