Raising the Bar: Marketing Trends in the Legal Sector in 2021

As we recover post-COVID-19, it is inevitable that the marketing trends in the legal sector will continue to drive change. In a fiercely competitive industry like the legal sector, the slightest competitive edge can be hugely important for brands. The services you and your competitors provide are similar, making effective marketing a vital USP. Additionally, the increasing globalisation of the legal market also means that even small firms have accessibility to a wider audience.

Optimising strategies early and implementing the necessary roadmaps to achieve these strategies is the first step towards success.

This blog summarises the critical marketing trends in the legal sector. We examine why they are so important and how you can gear your law firm to benefit from them. By applying these principles, your law firm can continue to grow and thrive, even in this tough economic environment. 

Thought Leadership: Knowledge is Power

As commonly attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, “Knowledge is power.” In 2021, this phrase has never been more pertinent for the legal sector. The change is threefold.

  1. Socio-political factors such as Brexit and COVID-19.
  2. Regulatory changes such as the push for privacy-first in digital communications.
  3. An increasing market-wide focus on personalisation and customisation

All of these are influencing the change in marketing trends in the legal sector.

Traditional modes of advertising present law firms as self-serving. This attitude can be particularly detrimental within the legal sector. Previously marketing tropes for law firms tended to highlight the prestige of the company name. However, nowadays, personal credibility is paramount instead. Your clients are no longer autonomous drones requiring packaged bundles of service. The market landscape has shifted towards a highly flexible, highly personalised approach. People don’t want to be ‘talked down’, they want to be engaged and educated in an informative and approachable way. 

Talking to You, Not At You

Resultantly, marketing trends in the legal sector are shifting towards content-driven solutions that place problem-solving at the very core of their messaging. It’s not unfeasible to say they will become the backbone of legal marketing. 

Rather than relying on complex nuances, thought leadership should be appropriately pitched with the correct tone of voice and level of authority to ensure people understand that a) you are sufficiently knowledgeable on the subject in question, but also b) you want them to gain a level of understanding they previously did not hold. As Mary Bonsor, CEO and Co-Founder of F-LEX says: “The prospect has to believe that we understand their world.”

Law firms that successfully create this content will continue to attract customers, particularly those savvy senior leaders and influencers that want to access this content. 

One of the main marketing trends in the legal sector will be a continued reliance on the knowledge basis and regular provisions of thought leadership.
One of the main marketing trends for the legal sector will be a continued reliance on the knowledge basis and regular provisions of thought leadership.

The Digital Revolution in Law

Technology is driving disruption in all industries. Marketing trends in the legal sector are no different. Innovations such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic process automation are changing how law firms do business. You might have incredible thought leadership, but you still need to spread the message properly.

The big buzz for marketing trends in the legal sector during the previous decade was social media. However, often law firms have found it a vacuum. They do not engage with the right people, in the right ‘places’ at the right time. Using technology to support your content promotion is the bridge to achieving this coveted goal. You could utilise machine learning algorithms to help identify the best audiences to match a chosen profile. Alternatively, deploy artificial intelligence to help identify the most compelling placements, copy and imagery.

Another example – the case of discovery law. It is no longer enough to simply have a record of all available information and evidence in the case. That evidence needs to be available for review and updates on a constantly evolving basis. AI can help review the evidence and constantly amend it, even taking into account text in images, or extracting details from photographs. It’s impossible to list all of the ways that this technology can support your operations, but it is easy to see how it will drive marketing trends in the legal sector. 

Infinite Possibilities

AI, RPA and machine learning have infinite possibilities in terms of scope and scale, greatly outweighing any human marketing equivalent. What’s more, these technologies can ensure a level of precision and repetition unmatched by traditional methods.  

Automation will also turn towards another untapped well of potential for legal firms: harnessing the power of Big Data. Extracting this data will allow companies to make smarter business decisions in terms of who their customers are, how their customers connect with them and what methods best ensure their needs are met and exceeded during service. 

Of course, there is going to be a trade-off between collecting data and using it effectively and remaining compliant with increasingly stringent data rules. However, technology is here to stay in law and it’s going to remain a driving force for the disruption of marketing trends in the legal sector for the foreseeable future.

The adoption of robotic process automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning are going to continue to be prominent marketing trends in the legal sector.
The advent of technology is already disrupting the legal sector.

Identity Shift: Not Just Lawyers Anymore

In law, there has been a monumental shift in perception in the last five years. Previously, lawyers were lawyers, and solicitors were solicitors. The current marketing trend in the legal sector is a switch away from law as a product, to law as a service. You need to be able to resolve problems in a clear, coherent manner. You need to be available to answer questions and reassure clients 24/7. 

The way people access legal services has changed too. It’s no longer just a matter of the office in the high street and clients walking through your door. Services must be digital. Contact needs to be accessible online. The way you present yourself can be the difference between getting a client or losing a client. 

Being fast needs to become a core competency. If your law firm is unable to give a definitive answer or doesn’t respond, chances are your customer will go elsewhere. From the first contact, there should be a clear understanding of the pathway you will take your client along to achieve a conversion.

Additionally, you may need to adjust your rates too. The SRA 2019 ruling to allow ‘freelance solicitors’ means they can set their costs below your usual bar. This might lead to you being driven out of the market unless you react. 

Thinking like a customer, rather than like a lawyer should be a vital tool in your arsenal. ‘How important is resolving this problem? How quickly would I expect it to be resolved?’ Once you apply these reverse principles, you can gain an insight into how you can adjust your services to meet those demands. 

The Re-Born Identity: Answering the Why question

All law firms need to be able to answer the following questions about themselves:

  • Who are our core clientele?
  • What are our values?
  • What service offering are we providing?
  • Why do we provide those services?

Once you answer that final question, the other answers should be simple. However, reaching that ‘why’ is the tough challenge. Defining that value proposition will take time. You should be prepared to speak to everyone: your employees, your customers, your colleagues and your peers to find out the answer.

Already marketing trends in the legal sector are showing that companies that unlock that particularly tricky question are finding themselves thriving in the modern market. On the flip side, those that fail to cross-examine and scrutinise the ‘why’ question are struggling in the ultra-competitive environment. 

Assessing the identity shift and answering the 'why' question are going to drive marketing trends in the legal sector in the near future.
Assessing the identity shift and answering the ‘why’ question are going to drive marketing trends in the legal sector in the near future.

The Final Word: Marketing Trends In the Legal Sector

If 2020 saw dramatic changes in the legal landscape, 2021 looks set to continue that landslide. Issues around Brexit and Coronavirus have only hastened the change in size and makeup of the legal market. The stunted global economy means that companies are struggling to retain clients and grow sustainably. 

At the same time, marketing trends have emerged that are beginning to define how a law firm should conduct itself for success in this digital-first world. The challenges big and small firms face can often be resolved by technology. The move online has resulted in a need to better harness data, understand customers and push thought leadership. 

Finally, there is a need to review your own services and solutions. Law firms that are able to create a symbiotic relationship between their digital marketing and services continue to grow and thrive in the tech-savvy world. 

At the heart of everything, marketing trends in law will continue to diversify and evolve. At their core, they will remain rooted around one principle. Placing the customer first and empowering them to understand your law firm: what you do, how you do it, and why you do it.