Crunching the numbers on gender pay reporting

Further analysis on gender pay reporting by major UK law firms

As you probably know, I love data, so I was quite excited to see that The Lawyer had generously published a story this week on gender pay on all 109 UK firms that had to submit gender pay figures (i.e. those that have over 250 employees). The Guardian also did so publishing data on all major employers, but I have focused on the law as that’s the sector I work in.

Years ago, I ran the partners survey and the associates survey for Legal Business, so the statto in me wanted to have a go at crunching the numbers.

I have loaded them into a spreadsheet here and assumed that they are correct as they appear on The Lawyer and other websites.

What I’ve then done is give each firm a ranking for how it ranks for four different criteria versus competitors. For simplicity, I have given equal ratings to appearing near the top of four fields:

  • Mean pay (vs male pay)
  • Median pay (vs male pay)
  • Percentage of women who got a bonus
  • And percentage of women in the upper quartile

The long and short of it is:

  • The best overall firm is Freeths – which ranks best across all four categories.
  • If you’d like to earn more on average than your male counterparts, the only major law firm in the UK that pays women more than men on average (mean and median) is Winckworth Sherwood.
  • If you’d like to get a bonus, try Shakespeare Martineau or Michelmores where 95% of women got a bonus
  • If you’d like to make it to the top, try Birchall Blackburn where 74.2% of the top quartile are women
  • Irwin Mitchell, CMS and Fieldfisher all appear just outside the top ten, which, considering their sizes, is a significant result.

Congratulations to those who ranked well. Now, what’s next?

Well, the picture can be improved dramatically for a lot of firms, and, as you’ll have no doubt read elsewhere, there’s a lot of devil in the detail. For example, the vast majority of women getting bonuses is great but not at the price of mean pay being lower nor if those bonuses aren’t significant and meaningful. A question or two for next year, perhaps?

Likewise, some firms that promote women into their upper echelons don’t then pay them bonuses.

Anyway, here’s the full data set along with the ranking of rankings.

  • Sheet 1 is an A to Z
  • Sheet 2 is ranked by that overall ranking.

Let us know your thoughts and comments.

What you measure, you can manage: how law firms can use their data to their commercial advantage

Can an algorithm which is beyond your control – affect your revenue? What can you do about it?

I was eating at Caribbean Croft yesterday lunchtime – great food and great service – you should go. Tripadvisor agrees, which is how we came to be there as it had consistently ranked in the top 10 restaurants in Bristol for months past.

In December last year. I took a snapshot of the top 10 restaurants in Bristol and, for my wife’s birthday (in January) created the Fourth Thursday club, a series of bookings at the very best ranked restaurants in Bristol, on the fourth Thursday of almost every month of 2018.

We missed Caribbean Croft in February due to some other commitments but we finally made it there for lunch yesterday. Like I said, the food there is amazing and great value and I recommend that you all go. But this is not a restaurant review.

We spoke to the waitress and told her what we were up to and she thought it was cool and asked us how we’d chosen the restaurants and that’s when we mentioned Tripadvisor.

“Oh, well we’re not in their top 10 anymore. They changed their algorithm.”

So the first thing to say is that I think Carribean Croft should be in the top 10 restaurants in Bristol. But that’s just my opinion.

And the second thing to say is: Wait: an algorithm?

Put simply, we would not have been eating lunch there yesterday if it weren’t for the original top ten ranking. If we’d taken the snapshot after March this year, Caribbean Croft would not have made the cut.

I had a heap of questions when I left the restaurant, including:

  • Did TripAdvisor let owners know that the algorithm was changing? (Quick research tells me that it did not – at least until after the event and even then it has been pretty opaque about it); and
  • Why would TripAdvisor want to do this? My guess would be that it wants to rank restaurants at the top that are performing well recently. Otherwise, no-one new is likely to ever crack the top tier. Tripadvisor’s algorithm may, for example, reward the last 100 ratings with more of a weighting, or they may give extra weighting to a 5 rating on a day in which everyone else got lower ratings (because of external factors which affect the public’s general mood e.g. the day after the national football team loses in the World Cup).

Even for those of us not in the restaurant business, it’s a stark reminder that marketing people:

  1. can’t assume that tomorrow looks like more of today;
  2. need to keep on top of/continually analyse our sources of business; and
  3. need to stay on top of how those sources work and any planned changes to how they work so that we can judge how it will affect our future revenues and plans.

So what does this mean for law firms?

Well, first, to my knowledge, no law firm’s restaurant is yet ranked on Tripadvisor. (Although if there is one, please can I get an invitation to come and review it?)

Second, it means that law firms need to continually analyse the data about their work sources and make sure that they are not given the Tripadvisor treatment. And they need to stay on top of any upcoming changes to methodology so that they can retain or improve their rankings.

How can law firms do that?

Step 1: Analyse and include and weight data sources

The first thing to do is make sure that you have a dashboard of data lined up for analysis. What you don’t measure, you can’t manage. So if you can think of a good data source across the marketing and sales mix, grab it and see what it tells you. Here are some ideas of sources:

  • Google Analytics
  • The analytics in your website CMS (eg WordPress)
  • Press cuttings
  • Press reach
  • Profiles in which clients name you
  • Nisus and Acritas brand and client surveys
  • Tweetreach/social reach
  • Bitly
  • Revenue
  • PEP
  • Percentage of total panel spend

… and so on. I can think of dozens more free data sources which are useful which law firms have regular access to.

Some of those sources are internal, some are external.

Some are straight facts and figures. The majority are not.

They all tell part of the broader story of your firm’s success.

Measure them if you’re not already doing so.

Step 2: The game keeps moving forward: yesterday’s stats and methods may not work today.

Google changes its algorithm and publishes some idea of how those changes may impact your rankings (for rankings, read ‘new business’). If the change is big enough, they often warn you in advance so that you have time to modify your approach and not suffer a fall from the top of the rankings. You should check out this amazing blog of changes to Google’s algorithm, as well as this equally amazing top 200 ranking factors Google uses to rank your website.

Your finance team changes how it reports the firm’s LLP report. Most years have a different set of notes and tweaks to the accounts.

LinkedIn changes what data it shares via its API, so you can’t even get at some of the source data you used to be able to.

So, when you come to analyse all this information, you need to be sure that you caveat your findings with changes to method/sources etc along the way. You need to diarise to regularly look at the effects of those changes on your statistics. You need to check your own assumptions, time and again.

Step 3: share your findings so that it can be used as the basis of your plans

When I worked in the restaurant trade, as well as revenue/covers/daily ingredients usage that we’d served, we also used to record the weather and any local events in the notes against the day’s performance. After a year of doing this, we got really good at using past data on dates/holidays/events to predict future requirements. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than not analysing the data. The point was that it was available to all of us to use to make the restaurant run more smoothly and efficiently.

Democratising data within law firms may well be some way off. But if you’re not yet using data to inform both your internal and external client relationship meetings or your sector or departmental plans, then let us know as that’s something that we have a track record of doing at TBD.

In summary…

  1. Rankings on Google and Tripadvisor and a whole heap of other sources provide traffic.
  2. Traffic provides an opportunity to sell or market your service.
  3. Less traffic means fewer leads means less potential revenue.

Client feedback (from both lawyers and their clients) tells us that they love to have a visual approach to data. Let us know if that’s something you’d like to work on together.

Should law firms centralise or decentralise their PR efforts?

What are the pros and cons of centralised/decentralised PR for law firms?

There’s a big debate as to whether PR should be managed centrally or decentralised within a law firm. Whatever law firm you work in there are pros and cons to each approach, and it’s important to take into account the level of experience, costs, efficiency and ease for each side before deciding which option to choose.

To give you the short answer we think it’s best to use a combination of the two; with the strategy set in your central PR team and ideas fed back from divisions and offices. Here’s why.

The pros and cons of having a central PR team (also acting as a point of contact for a single law firm PR agency).

The benefits of a centralised PR function at a law firm

Coordination PR agencies or a PR team can efficiently coordinate larger campaigns. They will ensure everything is going out at the right time and dovetails with the rest of your marketing and communications strategy. Campaigns mutate, the news agenda moves quickly, and so teams need to be alive to changes in sentiment to make sure of the right outcome. Being able to gauge the news environment is one thing that separates great PRs from average ones. Coordination is much easier when campaigns are handled centrally than in a devolved way.

Clarity and consistency of messaging keeping your messaging consistent across all your marketing efforts and communications is key to developing and retaining trust in your brand. Recent reports show just how effective, consistent marketing can be when creating a recognisable brand. If your messaging is inconsistent, your target audience may not associate it with your organisation, wasting the money spent on that communication. You need to remain consistent to remain front of mind because recognisable brands (which have good ‘front of mind recall’) sell more.

Knowing what sells – central PRs (and there are some great ones in the law that we’ve come across over the past two decades) know what sells and how to sell it. They know how to draft a quote that speaks to the journalist’s reader (as opposed to boosting the quotee’s ego). Trust them, or get an agency that you trust to do it.

Wider experience centralising PR puts your communications in the hands of a professional who will have years of experience in getting the most coverage. They will either have extensive PR experience or will know how to manage a PR agency and how to get the most from them.

The challenges of centralising PR in a law firm

Can fail to understand the issues quickly enough an average central PR professional can often fail to understand the issues surrounding your firm and work soon enough. The time needed to educate them can create delays in getting your communications to your customers and the press. It may also result in missing the point in the news cycle at which they should be pitching to journalists, and so your competitors grab the coverage instead. To minimise this risk, we suggest hiring a professional with a background in law or law PR. It’ll help.

Can be reactive PR professionals can often work in a reactive way, rather than bringing new, structured communications to the press and customers. They may be handling dozens of pieces of concurrent press work and fail to act quickly enough on a topic that then grows to be a big news story. Hiring ex-journalists who have turned their hands to being PRs can often prevent this from happening as they klnow how to prioritise and what constitutes ‘news’.

The pros and cons of allowing divisions and offices to run their own press work

What are the benefits of getting divisions to run their own PR?

Subject matter experts divisions are clearly experts in their own subject matter and can bring interesting insights to an audience; whether that’s the press or potential clients. The flip side to this is that experts are often too immersed in their subject to be able to pick out key facts and information and can often write promotions in wording specific to their industry. Lawyers also often write for themselves (as opposed to their target audience) and they make huge assumptions as to the level of knowledge that the client or target has. One trick here is to have a pen picture of a person who you are writing for and write for them, consistently. We have one. And no, we’re not going to share it with you.

Easier to act than to go through the central machinations it can often be more straightforward to put together your own communications rather than have to explain it to a central PR professional, who will then inevitably come back with questions, rewrites and amendments.

What are the challenges of getting divisions to run their own PR?

Lack of consistency of message if each division is running their own promotions messaging can often become inconsistent across a firm. We have discussed the benefits of consistency of messaging when it comes to centralised PR. An inconsistent tone of voice or key messaging can be detrimental to your marketing campaigns and your broader brand.

Doesn’t have the reach of centralised PR PR professionals know journalists and have contacts at a number of publications. They understand how to sell a communication to a publication and can extend the reach of your PR. If PR is run by distinct divisions, they can very often have huge success with one publication picking up a piece but are then unable to get the snowball effect PR professionals are able to achieve by promoting it through other publications.

Quotes are often written for themselves, not their readers as a professional who has been working in an industry for years it’s hard to step outside and put yourself into the shoes of the consumer. Subsequently, communications created by individual divisions are often inadvertently aimed at themselves rather than their key audience.

Divisions are often reactive and they don’t have the planning systems that centralised teams do PR won’t be the primary concern of a division, leading to reactive communications rather than planned and optimised PR strategies.

Lack of understanding how the news cycle works – the right idea pitched in the right way at the right time will likely get coverage. Do decentralised teams know enough about how this works to guarantee coverage and to know what to do if and when their initial efforts fail? In our experience, they do not.

How does the modern PR team survive in the middle of this?

The outcome of weighing up the pros and cons of a centralised PR strategy may come out differently for every firm. But a centralised PR team or professional combined with effective communication with key divisions is the strategy we recommend for most legal businesses. PR remains the event around which many of your BD, marketing and other comms strategies can be built. It’s not the only hook around which to build activities, but it is a good one.

We’ve often found that pre-agreeing messaging about a topic means that the central team can mobilise quickly without needing to seek extensive permission internally from partners before proceeding (because they have already signed off on messages/angles etc). If you’d like, we can show you how to do this. Just drop us a line.

#DigitalGaggle March 2018 – a conference through its tweets

I attended #BristolGaggle yesterday, which is organised by Noisy Little Monkey (a Bristol digital marketing agency). I’ve collated some of the thinking from the day here and will add in extra links to slides and speakers as they become available.

You’ll need to scroll down the tweets in the window to see all the tweets.

The speakers were:

 – whose talk on the need for establishing reputation can be found here

 – whose session on polling with validity made me wish I had pursued twin careers in comedy and statistics.

 – who brought life and passion to the topic of CTAs, a topic close to our hearts and bottom lines.

– who talked about lead nurturing and how we need to get better at qualifying leads before we hand them on to sales.

 – who is the most sophisticated video speaker I’ve heard speak live.

– who validated some of my approaches on how to win or close business and managed to swear less that Aisha which was his stated aim.

 – who talked about lots of data and PPC and how to set yourself up to succeed in targeting your audiences.

What can I do about law firm article plagiarism?


“I have a great idea for an article…”

Sometimes, you have a wonderful story and article idea all lined up, but by the time you actually get around to writing it, someone over in New York has already beaten you to it. That’s so frustrating. What’s worse is when you have a wonderful story and article idea, write and publish it, only to see it regurgitated two days later on another website with more people liking/sharing/commenting on it. The only differences between your original and their knock-off are a couple of words changed using Word’s synonyms.

Law firm clients often complain to me that their law firms send almost identical articles and legal updates to them. In our experience, this may be even truer than you’d like to think. All it takes is a simple copy + paste, and changing of a few words before publishing it as ‘original content’. (This is also probably executed with the idea that ‘no one will ever know’). But to our mind, once you write something, it’s yours. There’s a fine line between ‘a little inspiration’ and violating copyright laws.

But what are the boundaries? What counts as plagiarism and what doesn’t?

There’s no quantitative and objective definition of plagiarism. You can argue ‘a sentence or two’ borrowed from an article won’t do any harm. But then where does it stop?

Three sentences?

Four sentences?


Suddenly you’re on a diet sneaking ‘just one more bite’ of cake and before you know it the whole cake is gone. If you find yourself continuously going back and forth taking snippets from sources and not really having to use your own brain, you may as well now change your job title to ‘thief’. Strong language, we know, but this is a serious issue. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of inspiration from a really good website, that’s called research.

At TBD, we strongly believe that this lifting of other lawyers’ content needs to stop. If anyone copied this blog and recycled it (or however they justified it to themselves), we’d have to contact them and ask them to take it down. It takes hours to write something this interesting and engaging, this current and well researched.

Don’t get us wrong; we know that for lawyers, it can be hard when there appears to be not a lot to say, but that’s no excuse not to draft from scratch or provide a unique viewpoint. If your firm is strong in particular sectors, legal and client updates are a great place in which to demonstrate this excellence.

So why do lawyers copy each others’ work? Maybe it’s a learned trait from doing deals on opposite sides of the desk from each other and using each-others’ precedents (or those from PLC). Regardless, in law firm marketing, it’s not acceptable, and TBD works hard with law firms to resolve it.

In fact, the learned trait excuse can’t be right because, in our experience, it’s trainees who do it most and they are just starting out in their legal careers. It’s even more surprising given that they are the lawyers most recently to have been to university, as, for their entire degree, they will have had plagiarism cautioning reiterated to them. So, why disregard it once entering the workplace?

I was recently talking to Olivia Evans about this, a Journalism and PR student who heads her university’s PR Society – and she said that it’s £drilled into every student not to do it because lecturers will find you out. Just don’t do it, not even a paragraph. Universities, like most organisations and firms, have copyright and plagiarism software to catch you out.”

If you’re considering using someone else’s material, first remember your duties as a solicitor before you commit what could be a criminal offence, and second, know that your own digital marketing team will know if you’ve purloined your words from somewhere else. Let’s be clear, it’s a very uncomfortable conversation when you have to explain to your supervisor or line partner what you did. So best not to do it in the first place.

So how does a law firm find out who’s been stealing your content?

How can you tell if someone has stolen your article?

I asked Phoebe Pring, a friend and digital marketing expert at Burges Salmon who said, £Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for hunting down plagiarists. But you can use online plagiarism checkers like CopyScape, Small SEO tools or Free Plagiarism Checker which flag up passages from your article that have been used elsewhere. We’ve found that plagiarism can show up in strange ways. We once found a whole duplicate site from an anomaly in our web data.”

I also spoke to Bram Vanoirbeek, another digital guru who I’ve worked with in the legal sector previously (he’s now a Digital Marketing Consultant). I asked him for his memories of tracking plagiarists. He said:

£I’ve uncovered a few instances of plagiarism – from firms that you wouldn’t quite believe we’re doing it. It’s more prevalent than you think.”

Does it really matter if other firms are poaching your traffic? Yes. Because all traffic that comes to your website is potentially a sales lead.

The revenue point is an important one. Some of your finest minds have spent time following an issue, thinking about it, considering how it will impact on your clients, drafted it, edited it, optimised it (hopefully) and then someone has negated all that work by copying it and posting it on their site. Possibly six to ten hours of work taken and reused for free with no upside for you.

It’s easier to spot it against your better-performing articles when you look in Google Analytics. For the long-tail pieces, it can be a lot harder to spot. But both are important in order to make sure that leads you have rightly won come your way.

What should you do if you have found that someone else has knocked off your article?

In practical terms, you or a member of your marketing team should:

  • Approach their PR team or the fee earner who ‘wrote’ it and ask them to have it taken down (and fast);
  • Give them a reasonable (but short) deadline to work to;
  • Ask them to remove all links to it on their site and on their social media;
  • Ask them for a redirect to your site from the article’s original URL; and
  • Follow up with checks as to whether or not they’ve removed it.

What can you do to defend from people stealing your article?

Nothing is going to stop the determined plagiarist, but you can make it harder for them. How?

  • First, make sure that your website has a ‘date published’ option shown on the article;
  • Next, share it on your social media feeds so that you can point back to when it was posted in case they dispute whose was posted first;
  • Then, if nothing else, use your contacts and ask them for quotes about the topic – no-one in their right mind would dare to steal content which referenced a quote from someone else’s contacts. (So, if you do steal this article, please don’t prove us wrong by quoting Phoebe, Bram, Olivia or Ben in your article.)

So, how can TBD help me/my law firm with plagiarism?

TBD will ensure all bases of your content are covered to prevent plagiarism occurring in the first place. We can also audit your web traffic to see if your articles are being plagiarised. This means no copying, no loss of revenue and an increase in audience trust and increased thought leadership. Let us know if you’d like a quote for us to do that. It’ll cost less than you think, boost your traffic more than you’d believe and your organic rankings will also improve.

We also work with clients on devising their content strategies – clarifying what they want to be famous for, with whom and the channels to use to achieve that. We have extensive experience of auditing existing materials, drafting content strategies and working with internal teams and external content agencies to drive new audiences to your content. The results often see a five-to-tenfold increase in reader numbers and read time.

Although many firms have a natural resistance to using external copywriting, we find it often makes a lot of sense. A briefing call and a write up by an experienced corporate writer will often significantly reduce the time it takes to get a first draft from a partner’s head onto paper. It will also add in new dimensions to the article in terms of making it ‘reader-first’ in its approach.

Among others, we have previously worked with content agency M2 Bespoke. When I asked their MD Ben Hollom why law firms should use a content generation agency (alongside TBD!), he explained that his team “can help law firms implement a tailored process that’s designed to extract unique insights from their experts. This assistance with both planning and production ensures sustainable, quality content, and safeguards against plagiarising content from competitors when ideas run dry.”

The final word or two

If you’re interested in talking about your content strategy for the year(s) ahead, let’s grab a coffee.

And if you think a fee-earner at your firm has infringed another’s copyright, maybe just flip them a link to this article?

And if you haven’t had enough of reading about tackling plagiarism yet, then read this excellent blog from Plagiarism Checker Free.

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