“My chairman isn’t interested in creating client alerts and content like that. She says, ‘We’re not a news service.’”

That’s a comment I heard when I recently co-hosted a webinar for the Legal Marketing Association with Lance Godard on effective strategies for creating law firm content. We called it “Make the Pain Go Away.”

This chairman is right. Law firms aren’t, and shouldn’t try to be, news services. 

But the conversation doesn’t stop there. While law firms aren’t in the news business, they are in the insight and advice business. That’s a crucial difference.

An effective client alert doesn’t just tell the reader about something that happened. That’s what news is, particularly the old-fashion version of news. A client alert should explain why this development may be important to you, and what you should do about it. It gives the client valuable insight, as well as practical advice. 

That’s right, a useful client alert will offer a little bit of advice for free. That may clash with the habits and instincts of many lawyers. But think of this approach as a way to build goodwill with current and prospective clients. It’s a small step to take to show that you’re thinking of your clients’ needs first and to keep your name in front of clients on a regular basis.

Some might think that this smacks of desperation. Only someone scratching for business would give away advice for free, right? Well, one of the most successful firms of all time—Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz—is one of the most prolific client alert generators. Nearly every week I get a short, insightful update from the firm that contains useful advice. (I have no business or other connection to Wachtell.)

In fact, as I was writing this post, another Wachtell alert popped into my inbox. It discussed how companies will be affected by a shift in DOJ policies on corporate monitors that a government official had discussed in a talk three days earlier. (Notice how quickly Wachtell responded to this development.)

So don’t try to be a news service for your clients. Be an insight and advice service.