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Three Things Marketers Can Learn From a Law Firm (Yes, a Law Firm) About Creating Awesome Content

by Ann Handley  |  
October 26, 2011

In our book Content Rules, C.C. Chapman and I talk a lot about "speaking human"—in fact, it's our Rule No. 4:

Speak human: Communicate your brand mission, values, and philosophy in simple terms, using the language of your customers. Speak in a conversational tone, with personality, empathy, and true emotion. Kill corporate-speak, buzzwords, and other language that makes you sound like a tool.

You know how you love one of your kids more than the others? No, me neither (how is it even possible to do that?). Well, I feel a similar democratic affection for all of our content "rules": It's hard to choose which is my favorite. But I do have special affection for "speak human" (in part because it came under attack early on in the editing process), so I'm especially gratified when I see it in play, especially in unexpected places.

In fact, humanizing professional services marketing has been taken to a whole new level by Chicago law firm Levenfeld Pearlstein—the first law firm (that I know of) to have developed attorney website profiles that incorporate video vignettes of lawyers speaking candidly about their professional philosophies and personal viewpoints—showing off their personalities in a creative and wholly unexpected way.

In one vignette, Steven Bright, a partner in the Banking & Finance Service and the Real Estate & Finance Practice groups, talks about what he was like as a child. In another, Lisa Vandesteeg, an associate in the firm's Litigation, Bankruptcy, and Restructuring and Insolvency Practice Groups, gives a tour of her office. Visitors sometimes tease her for her stockpile of diplomas and awards on the wall, Lisa says before she shows off her proudest professional accomplishment: Her trophy earned for spanking her colleagues in the firm's annual chili cookoff.

In all, about half of the firm's 70 lawyers talk about what their hobbies are, what inspires them, what mistakes attorneys make, what they'd be doing if they didn't go to law school, what their favorite time of year is, where they would go if they could travel in time, and so on.

The firm used an outside production company and spent, in total, roughly $9,500 to create several super-short vignettes (most are around a minute) for each featured attorney. It plans to add video to all of its attorneys' profiles by the end of this year.

"Video isn't exactly groundbreaking, but the way we used it is," Andrea Crews, the firm's director of marketing and business development, told me last week.

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Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Ridiculously Good Content, and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules. Ann co-founded, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.

Twitter: @MarketingProfs and @AnnHandley.

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  • by Chester Butler Wed Oct 26, 2011 via web

    Ann, A great article and an inspiration. That is is saying something from me, since I recently invited some plaintiff''s attorney types to leave the state. Shucks, I might even like some of these folks...or hire them!

  • by Debbie Josendale Wed Oct 26, 2011 via web

    Thanks for sharing this story Ann! It's especially powerful because it demonstrates the impact of content to "humanize" the legal profession...something that many people have a cynical attitude towards.
    When marketing professional services it's critical to move past college degrees and certifications to...who are you and do I like you, can I trust you. The combination of non-legalese talk combined with the videos is a great example of the effectiveness of this approach.

  • by Ann Handley Wed Oct 26, 2011 via web

    Thanks, Chester and Debbie. Really appreciate your comments here. Glad you see what I see... it's a fantastic example of how some honest, simple, human words can go a long way....

  • by AJ Huisman Wed Oct 26, 2011 via web

    Thanks Ann - great stuff and soooo very much in line what I envision our way of communicating with our market will be soon (only a few months on the job haha) - it's almost exactly the route we're going ! Bizarre how even their tag line translates almost one on one what we have - thanks again for sharing!

  • by Ernest Nicastro Wed Oct 26, 2011 via web

    Outstanding article, Ann! Informative, interesting and actionable advice from a surprising source...offered up in engaging, highly readable prose. Excellent.

  • by Ann Handley Wed Oct 26, 2011 via mobile

    @AJ - wow... That's interesting! What's the URL of your law firm? Funny you commented here btw- I thought of you when I heard this story.

  • by Ann Handley Wed Oct 26, 2011 via mobile

    @Ernest Thank you! High praise coming from you. :)

  • by AJ Huisman Thu Oct 27, 2011 via web

    Very interesting indeed ... my Law Firm prides itself in doing things differently, not as a gimmick but as an intrinsic part of our DNA. When we started 19 years ago there was a specific wish to be: good, fun & social. This still runs through the veins of everyone here, you can feel it in the air and itís specifically appreciated by clients and noticed and awarded by our peers.

    My job now, since a few months, is to communicate this even better to our clients & prospects. You can have a look at our current website at but Iím afraid it does not fully reflect what I envision our communication should be Ö but our new website will launch around April when we celebrate our 20 year anniversary, so keep an eye out ;) Ė Meanwhile we have a blog called where we experiment with real-time marketing & PR ;)

  • by Ann Handley Thu Oct 27, 2011 via web

    @AJ Sheesh I wish I read Dutch... looks like great stuff.

  • by AJ Huisman Thu Oct 27, 2011 via web

    Thanks Ann - like I said during my presentation at Content Marketing World ( ) - Start, try, test, measure, tweak, learn and repeat - not perfect yet but we'll get there ;)

  • by Nick Stamoulis Fri Oct 28, 2011 via web

    I love the "no asshole" policy the company created. It shows that they have a little bit of humor about their industry, which can go a long way in connecting with your audience. You shouldn't be afraid to let personality shine through.

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