Telum Talks To... Bonnie Clarke, Head of Marketing and Communications, Gall Solicitors
Telum caught up with Bonnie Clarke as she practices comms at an independent dispute resolution law firm in Hong Kong.
You've worked in the legal services sector for more than a decade. What is it about doing marketing communications in law that entices you?
I’ve been in the legal industry for most of my career and like how the work is so varied. I enjoy creating and implementing marketing plans for partners. I also like supporting lawyers across a range of practices to build their individual - and the firm’s - profile. At Gall, where I’ve been since September 2019 in a newly created role, I’ve really enjoyed being given a blank slate to set the marketing strategy for the firm.
In light of the economic and social landscape in the past few months, how have you adjusted your PR strategies to meet client demands or educate the public on relevant legal matters?
Gall, along with every other company globally, have needed to adapt to the current environment. Many of our initial marketing and PR plans at the start of the year have been revised and we are finding new ways to build our brand. We’ve focused a lot more on improving our digital presence, for example, by creating an Employment Law webinar series, writing timely content on topical legal updates, tailor-making targeted EDM campaigns to particular groups of clients and improving our website’s SEO.
Our primary focus has been on understanding the evolving needs of our clients, to ensure we position ourselves to provide the support they require. Being consistent and having a content marketing schedule has been crucial, as well as promoting our sector-specific knowledge to carve out a clear niche for ourselves.
With local courts back in full operation since the peak of the pandemic, where do you see the legal sector of Hong Kong in the new normal? (e.g. new measures, changes or differences)
COVID-19 has sped up the use of technology across all industries, including in the legal sector. We’ve seen an increase in telephonic hearings, with our lawyers offering advice on Hong Kong’s first telephonic hearing in early February, where a key witness was unable to travel to Hong Kong and was given permission to provide evidence via video link. We expect virtual disputes to continue throughout the pandemic, and as a result, lawyers will need to adapt, collaborate and find innovative ways to ensure cases can continue to be resolved.
I think the legal sector will also see increased flexibility in the way businesses and teams operate. Working from home (WFH) - or at least having the option to – is likely to continue in some form for a while and ensuring lawyers can have remote access to their documents, billing software and colleagues via online platforms like Zoom will enable firms to continue to operate smoothly.
What does it take to be a modern communicator in such a highly regulated industry as law?
Ensuring partners understand we, as Marketing and PR professionals, are there to help them is key to our success. It can take time to build trust. I’ve found being agile, open-minded and flexible is crucial. Being strategic and willing to push boundaries is important too - PR and marketing campaigns which are carefully thought out and well-executed can have a lasting impact. I’ve found providing partners with regular updates and keeping abreast of industry news and trends is also vital.
Finally, what is your favourite memory or proudest achievement of your career?
I am proud to have briefly left the familiar surroundings of the legal services sector when I accepted a consulting role at NGO PathFinders in 2018. Throughout my career, I’ve always been interested in finding ways to work with lawyers to develop their skill set by getting involved in pro bono work. At Paul Hastings, I created their Asia-wide pro bono platform in 2013 and most recently, I started our “Gall Cares” programme here at Gall. I am grateful for my time at PathFinders. It was fascinating to see how a local NGO operates, to be able to apply my skills in a new sector and to learn new competencies in a very different work environment.