In an age when work-life balance is more of an issue than ever, finding ways to make this possible is as important for law firms as anyone else and flexible working benefits both employees and their employers.
Times have changed a lot in the legal profession as in so many others. A key fact of working life today is that Britons not only work more hours on average than their European counterparts, but also it is the norm for households to have two or more working people.
With 76.1 per cent of the UK working-age population in employment – the highest levels since records began in 1971 – the reality is that for millions, juggling work and home life is a challenge. This is particularly true for couples with dependent children.
The feminine factor
Central to this has been the growing presence of women in the workforce – and the legal sector has been heavily impacted by this trend. Not only are many more women practising law than was the case in the past; the latest trends suggest the profession may be increasingly female-dominated in the years ahead.
For example, Law Society figures for the 2017-18 academic year revealed that of the 18,000 students accepted onto law courses, 68 per cent were female.
Flexible working is clearly a way to help people in all sectors of the economy balance work and home responsibilities; for example, by allowing one of the parents to be able to do the school run. It can include features such as remote working, flexible hours and the opportunity to take leave at short notice should the need arise.
The issue for law firms is how they can manage this. After all, with busy caseloads and lots of demanding clients, any successful firm is likely to be very active and will need to deploy its resources very efficiently to balance the competing needs of providing a good service to clients and maintaining a strong work-life balance.
How content can offer more flexible working
However, this is where the use of a good content marketing strategy can make it a lot easier for firms to maintain this equilibrium.
To some people, the internet – and in especially email – can seem like a potential threat to work-life balance. This is certainly true if clients have expectations that their legal representatives can be practically on-call all the time, so that they can send an email outside normal working hours in the expectation of getting an almost immediate reply.
This is, of course, a feature of the internet age, where consumers shop online and expect an immediate delivery. Instant gratification has become a key demand of the present time, whether one considers this a good thing or not.
It helps to raise awareness
On-demand services have transformed retail working, as high street shopping has declined and door-to-door deliveries have proliferated. But does that really mean other sectors should follow suit? Should legal firms have lawyers online all the time?
A good content strategy offers an alternative to this. In the first instance, it will certainly help attract custom via the web through the production of optimised content that can score highly in search rankings, helping to raise awareness among consumers and ease them through the consideration stage. But it can achieve much more.
Keep your clients informed
Where a smart content strategy will work is through guiding potential clients not just to the pages where they can read about the legal services they want to find, but provide plenty of links to wider information, in order to deal with frequently asked questions. If the answers are easy to find, there will be far fewer out-of-hours enquiries.
Good content can also help keep clients informed of how their cases will be handled, what constitutes normal working practice and the sort of timescales people can expect. All of this plays an important role in managing expectations. After all, the very reason people expect e-commerce firms to deliver to their door the next day is precisely because this is what has been promised. Better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way round.
The great benefit of this is that it means clients know what to expect and therefore are less likely to be relentlessly chasing law firm staff. This can be very important when it comes to flexible working. For instance, a partner in the firm who needs to get away for the afternoon will not suddenly find they have to deal with something urgently because this is the expectation.
Aiding remote working
At the same time, online content and a great website can help reduce the demand for face-to-face meetings. In this case, the practices of e-commerce can be adopted, since there are many people who prefer to deal with law firms online rather than in person. This reduces the need for a lawyer to be in a specific place at a certain time, which helps facilitate remote working.
Of course, using content in this way is not a stand-alone solution; the practice needs to be set up in such a way that it can manage flexibility through not being under-staffed at certain times. But it can avoid one impediment to such flexibility.
Using flexibility to tell a good story
The content strategy can also in its turn be developed by creatively using the flexibility that the firm allows.
For example, suppose that flexible working practices are so good, that it gains the company an award. This sort of good news creates the kind of positive PR for law firms that makes for great content. Indeed, a strong work-life balance can also make possible all sorts of extracurricular activities that can create a feel-good factor around a firm.
For instance, suppose this enables some partners to take some time out to participate in a major charity event; this not only reflects positively on the firm as an entity that contributes well to society but also helps create a good human story, showing there are real lives behind the names of those who carry out legal functions.
A happier and more engaged workforce
This is important because the ultimate aim of a good content marketing strategy is to tell a positive story about a firm, highlighting its sense of mission, rather than just its function and services.
By having a content strategy that emphasises this mission, there is all the more reason to provide flexible working. It helps create a happier and more engaged workforce, which in turn feeds back into the sense of mission and vocation.
At BeUniqueness, we know how important it is that your content marketing tells a story. If yours is one of an employee-friendly firm that offers flexible working as well as communicating well with its customer base, it will help attract many more potential clients and therefore maximise your marketing return on investment.