Why GC’s are too busy to go looking for your content and what you can do about it

by Kirsten Hodgson

Last week Greentarget, Zeughauser Group and Inside Counsel launched their 2013 in-house counsel new media engagement survey. It’s great to see a survey focused on in-house counsel’s use of social media because it helps inform lawyers in private practice about where they should invest their efforts.

There are some encouraging stats, which you can view in the survey itself or in one of the great summaries put together by legal marketers in the US (see end of this post for links to these).

However, one particular paragraph really interested me:

“Our 2013 survey data affirms that a growing number of in-house lawyers
are consumers of professional content rather than contributors to it. They
generally read blogs rather than write blogs, and they read others’ LinkedIn
posts much more than they broadcast their own thoughts, analyses, or job
notes. This approach, likely, is because in-house lawyers, unlike their law firm peers, aren’t looking to promote themselves, so there is little upside for them to post information.” 

I don’t doubt that’s part of the reason, BUT when I spoke to over 40 general counsel in New Zealand last year what they made clear time and time again is that they’re too incredibly busy.

When are in-house lawyers likely to go looking for information?

As the Greentarget survey states:

“…specific sites and networks are used to accomplish tasks and reach goals.”

That’s a key point.

General Counsel are only going to go looking for information if it will help them get something done so that they can get on with their day.

They want to be able to access relevant information and analysis quickly.

And that’s why many of those I spoke to in New Zealand still prefer email, particularly when content is aggregated. 

It’s the push rather than the pull. I find that a lot of social media requires me to go out and mine through it to find what’s good. Whereas email makes information accessible. You can scan it and it doesn’t feel like you have to spend so much time.”

Some in-house lawyers in New Zealand acknowledged that Twitter makes it easy to access information on the go – which is attractive for the growing numbers using mobile phones and tablets for work purposes. The Greentarget survey (379 respondents) found:

  • 53% of respondents read the daily general business media on their smartphones, 
  • 39% on tablets, and 
  • 23% on a mobile app. (n.b. some of these read on more than one device hence the percentages are greater than 100%).

It will be interesting to see if Twitter becomes more popular amongst in-house lawyers going forward as only 14% of respondents had accessed it either in the last 24 hours or the past week and only a handful of those in New Zealand used it frequently. 

Those in New Zealand felt that LinkedIn could be useful PROVIDED their connections post relevant content. In other words, it’s a catch 22 situation. If lawyers in private practice posted more good content, in-house counsel would spend more time on the social network. Interestingly, in the Greentarget survey 40% of respondents had used LinkedIn in the past 24 hours and 27% in the last week. Of these, 61% used it for news and info (which possibly suggests those in their networks are more active than connections of in-house lawyers in New Zealand). The main reasons cited for using LinkedIn by respondents to the Greentarget survey were connecting with in-house colleagues (70%), connecting with business and industry leaders (66%), accessing news and information, and connecting with outside counsel with whom they work (60%).

One of the verbatim comments in the Greentarget survey: “Value is currently limited by the over-abundance of “noise,” but the greatest value is in news and the too few thoughtful opinions” also supported sentiment from in-house lawyers in New Zealand who feel there’s a lot of over-simplified content: 

“[law firms] seem to think if they’re firing something out it’s worthwhile but actually it’s not particularly useful.”

What can lawyers in private practice do to help their in-house colleagues?

  1. Focus on producing and curating content that will help in-house lawyers with specific issues they’re facing (or will be likely to face going forward) or that will answer their common questions.
  2. As well as distributing that content via usual means ensure you upload it to aggregators such as JD Supra or Lexology (or blog on a network such as LexBlog) and/or send it to your National/State in-house lawyers association if they collate content. It’s easier for in-house counsel to look through one email containing content that’s been aggregated by a trusted source than it is to go actively hunting for information.
  3. Produce your content in various formats – written, audio, video to allow in-house counsel to choose how to consume it.
  4. Ensure your blog/website and articles are mobile friendly so that in-house counsel can consume on the go.
You’ll know you’re hitting the mark if the average time spent reading your blog posts or articles increases and/or you notice that people are scanning most of the way through. 

How else do you think lawyers in private practice could help their in-house colleagues? 

Good summaries of the Greentarget research:

Nancy Myrland – Summarized: The 2013 In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey 

Lindsay Griffiths – It’s here! A look at the 2013 In-house counsel new media engagement survey

Adrian Dayton – Social Media Use by In-House Counsel at All-Time High 

Image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net


Specialising in professional services and law firm marketing. I help firms to retain and grow existing clients and attract more of their ideal clients. My core services include social media for lead generation, voice of the client programmes and tender strategy and development. Outside of work I love to run. I’m a bit like Forest Gump in that I’m not that quick but can keep going for ages. I also enjoy coming up with new inventions. Unfortunately, most of them have already been invented! | * Professional services marketing consultant | * Legal marketing consultant | * Law firm marketing consultant