A new survey of general counsel and law firm partners suggests that legal directories and “brand” are less important and valuable than other factors such as international reach and thought leadership.
The Looking Glass Report 2015 is a UK-based study, based on research with 122 in-house counsel and 160 law firm partners, which “looks at firms’ and in-house law departments’ responses to the economic environment and evolving market conditions; technology and innovation; and the relationships between inside lawyers and the external firms they hire”.
According to the authors, “the report rates those aspects on whether in-house lawyers deem them important, and whether in-house lawyers believe that firms are performing well in the delivery of those aspects.”
Thomson Reuters, the law firm Mayer Brown, and Winmark, a market research consultancy, collaborated on the research.
Critics of legal directories tend to jump on these reports as evidence that directories are irrelevant to sophisticated clients and law firms should instead spend their time on more “productive” marketing initiatives.
Likewise, for branding – it’s all a great deal of time, effort, and money, for not much return.
I’m skeptical of these findings.
I took part in a discussion with a bunch of other legal marketers recently about this subject, and a couple of the participants, who know far more than me about market research techniques, made the point that if you ask the question “what is important?”, you inevitably get skewed results.
The issue being that respondents underestimate the importance of brand and directories.
In other words, if someone asks you how important are brand and directories relative to various other things, you will likely say unimportant, but we know that the impact of brand and advertising is meaningful, although less direct.
If you bought a product, and someone asked you why you bought it, you would rarely say because of an advert, but we know that advertising seeps into consciousness, and has a considerable effect on buying behavior.
Studies show that brands influence our purchasing decisions, sometimes in ways that are irrational or hard to quantify statistically.
The same could be said for directories and brand in a legal context.
Respondents are instinctively likely to say directories are unimportant, but in reality we know that they influence behavior in less obvious but significant ways.