Nico A. Jansen graduated in private law at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands and has a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Edinburgh Business School/ Heriot Watt University in Scotland. He holds the professional qualifications in marketing (A and B) of the Dutch Institute of Marketing (NIMA) and the Diploma in Marketing of the British Chartered Institute of Marketing of which he is a Member and admitted as a Chartered Marketer. In his capacity as managing consultant of www.legalmarketing.nl he operates as an interim lawyer and marketer and holds a lecturing position in (European) Business Law at the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration of the VU University in Amsterdam. In 2011 In 2012 he published ‘Law & Self-Regulation. Legal and business perspectives’.
'Positioning', is how you want the market to perceive your offering and it's a core strategic decision for lawyers who want to grow their business and... which one doesn't?
The growth matrix, as developed by Ansoff in 1957, provides companies with four growth paths. One way to do this is to develop new products for existing markets. A fundamental rule in marketing is that products should ‘tap into’ the needs of the market. Another fundamental rule is that the market, in casu companies, are not aware of what they need. The point now is that companies are in need of (but not aware of it) services which can be provided by lawyers, and not aware that lawyers can offer these services.
So what services can be offered by lawyers because they have the competencies to do so?
A few examples:
(i) Drafting codes of conducts and business principles:
Lawyers are trained to analyse existing texts and draft new ones and these ‘word skills’ can be used to draft the codes of conduct with which companies communicate their values and methods of operations to the company’s stakeholders. Lawyers are usually excellent copywriters capable of formulating short and precise notes, they just need to learn to ‘spice up’ texts by choosing words which communicate positive associations when writing for non legal documents like marketing and communications because that is what marketing and communications is about.
(ii) Structuring websites to include soft law recommendations:
Lawyers tend not to like what is not law. However many international organisations; for example the OECD and the European Union, develop soft law to steer the business world into voluntarily implementing principles such as on disclosure, transparency, and corporate social responsibility. Lawyers can and should, take the lead in developing policy to ensure that a company behaves responsibly by analysing soft law and indicating what companies should consider and how. The management of a company will then make a decision on the lawyers' proposals and subsequently the choices should be communicated to the stakeholders on the company’s corporate website in texts written by lawyers under ‘buttons’ proposed by lawyerss, such as ‘implemented soft law’, ‘voluntary disclosure, and ‘our human rights principles’.
(iii) Translating the company's CSR principles into contractual clauses:
By clauses in supplier contracts companies can impose their voluntarily accepted rules upon their suppliers. Clauses are off course a typical lawyers issue but clauses for non-legal issues are not. However if lawyers do so they are in the ‘driver seat’ of responsibilisation of supply chains.
All examples indicate that lawyers can be more actively involved in reputation management. Lawyers have the competencies to do so as they are trained in analysing and drafting texts. The market is willing to buy these services from lawyers but they are now reluctant to do because lawyers are seen as lawyers.
So while lawyers can offer new services a repositioning strategy is required, for example from lawyer into a reputation consultant. Progressive lawyers will love the idea, conservative lawyers will not. Who are you?
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