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06/01/23-The stories behind the legal sector news

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Let’s put the individuals back into Divorce Day

How lawyers have got this dreadfully wrong over the last few years

Turn on the telly and be in no doubt that Christmas is very nearly upon us: on any commercial station, you will be greeted by an endless parade of brash, jingly ads for toys, festive foods and assorted DIY products (go figure). Head down to your local high-street shops and your senses will be assaulted by cheesy Christmas songs on endless repeat (I used to work in retail so feel your pain, retail workers), vast stacks of Quality Street tins, and shelves crammed with an array of discounted tat that no one other than panic-stricken, last-minute Christmas shoppers (almost invariably men with a haunted look in their eye) would ever consider forking out their hard-earned dosh for. Yes, the season of excessive spending, excessive gastric indulgence and – for some unfortunate people, at least – matrimonial disharmony has come around again. Bah, humbug!

So what does this Scrooge-like and wildly lopsided summary of what is for many a much-anticipated and happy event (including myself, I hasten to add) have to do with Divorce Day? Well, unfortunately, it’s that last bit about the arguing spouses: the sad fact is that, with all its many tensions, expectations and enforced close proximity, the festive season ends up being a time of misery for many couples – it’s when the existing fissures and faultlines in their marriage come gaping apart under the seismic pressures of a not-so-jolly family Christmas. The result: an ever-bigger spike in the number of instructions for divorce lawyers on the first working day of the New Year – and voilà, Divorce Day is born.

And here’s the point that law firms need to sit up and take note of: Divorce Day is not a one-off, flash-in-the-pan PR event like some kind of distasteful Black Friday for lawyers – for the people affected, it’s the culmination, the apotheosis, of a very difficult and painful situation that has been weeks (and months, and perhaps years) in the making. And although the press coverage of this unfortunate date may appear on Divorce Day itself or the days bracketing it, if you are marketing your relevant legal services in that same narrow window surrounding this hallmark day, you are doing your practice and your potential clients a grave disservice.

Why? Because the people who seek out a lawyer on Divorce Day will be thinking about divorce well ahead of this date in early January. They will be going into the Christmas period filled with dread, knowing that things will perhaps inevitably come to a head in their unhappy marriage, painfully aware that the conventions, the pressures, the expectations of the festive season might well be the straw that finally breaks the poor camel’s much-bowed back.

So law firms need to demonstrate much greater awareness that the men and women who come to them on Divorce Day have been on a dark and difficult journey, and imbue their marketing with the humanity these people deserve. And the truly crucial point: firms must create touchpoints along this journey for those affected and reassure them that, as Christmas looms, it is okay for them to have doubts about their spouse; it is okay to be fearful of what might happen to their unhappy relationship in the pressure-cooker of the holidays; it is okay to be thinking of divorce, and about retaining the services of a good divorce lawyer: you.

Don’t join your clients at the very end of their journey. Accompany them at every step along this difficult path, remind them of your assisting presence, and show them compassion and understanding, so that you are front of mind when they are finally ready to make the momentous decision to end their marriage. Do all of this, do it authentically and well (as law firm BDB Pitmans do in this article here), and the very last thing you need to do on Divorce Day itself is gimmicky marketing activities – instead, you and your team will be far too busy talking to all the new clients who have felt cared for by your sensitive marketing activities around the subject of divorce over the preceding weeks and months.

My hot take is that if you’re doing PR on Divorce Day, you’re in thew wrong place: you should have cleared you diary, ready and waiting to give the new clients who come in that day the time and attention they deserve.

Of course, all of the above applies for all your other PR and marketing as well – it’s not purely about what you do on the day itself, but about your well-calibrated, carefully considered and authentically compassionate activities in the leadup to it and after it.

A final note on divorce

If you are personally affected by this difficult topic, we invite you to read this helpful article selected by registered therapist and mindfulness practitioner James Hartley, friend of TBD Marketing:

Blog post of the week: One size doesn’t fit all. Why larger firms refer to smaller firms (and vice versa)

~ Catherine Hyde ~, founder of law firm HooperHyde, has been kind enough to write a guest blog post for us. In her piece, Catherine makes a convincing argument that sometimes, in order to provide the best possible service for their clients, the best thing that lawyers working in large law firms can do is refer them to smaller law firms. It’s an arrangement that benefits everyone involved, with improved profitability and greater client satisfaction being just two of the many advantages to be gained. Read the full article here.

The news in brief

De-selling the diesel?

Pogust Goodhead is running an expensive advert during England matches in the World Cup (actually during the matches so think £££) aimed at people who were mis-sold their diesel vehicles.

But the lawyer featured – Toun Cole – is now a paralegal at Schillings.

Bit odd to run your advert with another firm’s lawyer. Especially if you’re chucking quote so much money at it.

US firms are colonising London

As an article in The Lawyer this week spotlighted, the NQ pay offered by US-headquartered law firms in the City is off the scale compared to the already eye-watering pay packets of our ‘native’ Magic Circle firms:

“As Horizon highlighted this year, NQ scales at some US City firms are now higher than your average profit per equity partner (PEP) earnings at some regional firms; the salaries are also significantly ahead of what is on offer from the magic circle. Akin Gump (£179,000), Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins (£170,00), and Weil Gotshal (£165,000) continue to lead the market; all have raised NQ rates by more than 10 per cent since 2020/21. The biggest hike was at Latham & Watkins, where at £170,000 the class of 2022/23 will take home 30 per cent more than their 2020/21 peers with their £130,000 pay packets at the outset of the pandemic. This is New York, not London economics.”

The vast sums paid for talent by the US behemoths is also a reflection of the revenues being hoovered in by these firms, with this year’s The Lawyer Corporate 50 ranking being dominated by American law firms: 27 of the UK’s top 50 corporates are US-based firms. As The Lawyer puts it: “BigLaw in London is the 51st state.”

The big law-firm office revamp – misreading the data?

This recent article in The Lawyer states that, far from killing off the law-firm office, the pandemic has actually resulted in a slew of office upgrades: the latest figures from property consultants Knight Frank reveal that law firms are on track to acquire 1.5 million sq ft of City space this year, up 25% on the 1.2 million sq ft acquired by firms in 2021. The article mentions several firms that have committed to new digs, including Clifford Chance, which has decided to quit Canary Wharf after almost two decades and move to Aldermanbury Square, near London Wall.

Is it me, or doesn’t this data need to be compared to:

  1. the pre pandemic period so that we have a truer picture and
  2. the size of buildings they’re leaving?

Doing ‘new square footage post pandemic’ only misses the fact that Clifford Chance’s footprint will be considerably smaller.

Unless I am reading it wrong?

Dickson Minto: divorce day came early

Another divorce day seems to have come early as the Scottish/London firm is going to split and the London parts merged into US leader Millbank:

Dates for your diary

  • 21 December – The deadline for submitting papers for the 17th International Conference on Technology and Internet Law, which will take place in London from 23 to 24 January 2023
  • 8-11 January – International Forum on Sports Law – This event will invite up to 48 preeminent private practice sports lawyers who represent the interests of athletes, teams, leagues, associations, governing bodies, sponsors and broadcasters to explore common concerns, exchange ideas and resolve challenges faced on behalf of these clients. The event will take place in Surrey.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s edition!


Si Marshall

Legal marketing expert – I love lawyers, their stories and how they help clients | Marketing | PR | Digital Marketing | Business

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