Adtech is a liability to law firms after GDPR

Do the risks outweigh the benefits?

Law firms are creating more marketing content than ever before, and spending more to produce it.

Whether press releases or thought leadership, the volume is increasing. If a partner with the requisite experience – who may ordinarily charge upwards of £600 per hour – devotes several days to writing an article, marketers must demonstrate a return.

To better leverage these expensively-produced articles, law firms utilise a range of adtech companies in order to promote content and collect leads. But after GDPR, is the legal risk worth it?

Passing the hot potato of responsibility

Many adtechs have tried to minimise their GDPR obligations by claiming that they do not process personal data at all, or do so only as data processors.

Some law firms will be positioned to ensure that adtech vendors are put through a thorough audit before being onboarded. Others hope (until they see enforcement), that the third-party data will fall under “legitimate interest”.

But legitimate interest is still unclear even for legal professionals. Regulatory guidance on legitimate interest is described as “severely lacking in this area” by both Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and the Data Marketing Association.

Maximum fines of €20m or 4% of annual revenue are at stake. Law firms want the adtech vendors to assume the risks; while the vendors insist their clients are the publishers and should therefore assume the risks. But many adtech agencies are reported to be burying the new terms in 2018 deals.

GDPR therefore poses a risk to any legal firms who use adtech, as the vendors have succeeded in deferring liability for personal data to ‘the publisher’. In nearly all cases, the publisher is the law firm itself. This is necessary in order for the firm to gain first-party access to the lead generation data.

The third-party tracking data created by adtech also leads to law firms housing bloated databases with useless information, providing considerable GDPR risk via breach or subject access request. As Hardwicke, part of the Legal 500, observed in Lexology: “[Customer] databases are the bane of every business, whether you are selling legal services or anything else. They become obscenely overweight, loaded down with a large proportion of contacts who are to all intents and purposes (and occasionally literally) dead.

While creating liability, none of this data provides visibility on the return: did they read the article? How long did they spend looking at the expertise of the firm?

Adtech never demonstrated a return in the first place

Do the benefits outweigh the risks? After surveying 100 law firms with turnovers ranging from £500,000 to more than £10m, research commissioned by First4Lawyers concluded the majority of law firms are investing in adtech that is ineffective.

A House of Lords Select Committee investigation found that a lack of transparency means adtech vendors don’t have to provide transparent information on return due to the complexity of their business model. Yet regardless, the committee found the proportion of overall advertising spend among firms has nearly entirely moved to adtech.

Publishers are learning their lesson, and so can law firms. Publishers increasingly suspect that perhaps adtech vendors are not contributing to their top-line figures. French newspaper Le Figaro, along with Le Monde, saw revenue jump 50% after removing 12 adtech vendors from their supply chain.

Adtech has failed to measure and personalise content to ensure it resonates with the right audience. Via obscure statistics such as clicks and bounce-rates, adtech has provided little to demonstrate a visible return: a responsibility shouldered by the legal marketing team. In the legal sector, personalised content is much more likely to increase engagement. Some 96% of marketers in the legal sector agree that personalisation increases customer relationships.

At best, third-party adtech optimises the delivery of the envelope, but not the contents. At worst, it is a bloated privacy liability.

Use platforms which measure engagement with none of the privacy risks

GDPR provides an opportunity to re-evaluate the regulatory death-grip which marketing teams have with third-party adtech.

Senior partners attest that writing builds a direct relationship with their clients, and demonstrates expertise. Matthew J Tuller, a principal attorney, says that compared to any other, the firm finds their “absolute best approach [is] writing timely educational articles about estate planning”.

Your law firm is full of experts – innovative problem-solvers faced with extraordinary situations. Reporting on those situations advertises their skill and expertise and demonstrates competitive advantage.

Content marketing technology, which measures direct reading engagement, maximises the performance of the valuable, detailed articles that partners write to demonstrate their expertise.

Law firms today create a lot of content in-house, with complex, fascinating stories to tell. By maximising real performance, they can bring more clients in-house too.


About Turtl

Turtl is an all-in-one content marketing platform aimed at empowering businesses to maximise the performance of their content through easy creation, flexible publishing and real-time measurement.

The company’s mission is to combine innovative technology and – uniquely – cognitive science, in software that allows anyone to create, distribute and analyse the performance of engaging, entertaining content that has a lasting impact on its audience.

Learn more about how to get more engagement from your law firm’s content.

Get in touch at info@turtl.co or +44 (0)330 311 9742