The Legal Mar­ket­ing Association’s Nation­al Con­fer­ence was held in Atlanta recent­ly; over 1,500 pro­fes­sion­als gath­ered to learn from indus­try experts, take point­ers from key out­side con­sul­tants and, most impor­tant­ly, hear from clients.

Sev­er­al key themes con­tin­ued to arise in con­ver­sa­tions and pre­sen­ta­tions:

  1. Client ser­vice and expe­ri­ence is more crit­i­cal than it’s ever been.
  2. Law firms need to take a cue from the Big 4 by focus­ing more on oper­at­ing like a busi­ness through a new approach to sales and client ser­vice.
  3. Firms and attor­neys need to focus on dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion in the mar­ket­place through exper­tise, brand­ing, and thought lead­er­ship.

Below is a list of some of the key take­aways that legal mar­keters and con­sul­tants should be imple­ment­ing ASAP at their firms.

These are key strategies and tactics to be aware of as we approach the halfway point of 2019.

1. Clients Are Talking, Are You Listening?

As the voice of the client should always be the pri­or­i­ty, there were sev­er­al key take­aways from the in-house coun­sel pan­el dis­cus­sion, which includ­ed Mark Smo­lik of DHL, Alex­ia Mass of Vol­vo Finan­cial Ser­vices and Will Bar­nette of The Home Depot.

  • Mark Smo­lik, gen­er­al coun­sel and chief com­pli­ance offi­cer at DHL Sup­ply Chain Amer­i­c­as, says the aver­age cost of a senior mem­ber of his in-house legal team is $174 an hour. He had a very direct mes­sage for the packed room of legal mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als to take back to their firms: “I can’t afford to pay you $800 an hour.”
  • With the incred­i­ble amount of inno­va­tion and change we’re see­ing in our indus­try, this is result­ing in fun­da­men­tal busi­ness mod­el changes for us, which should be impact­ing you,” said Alex­ia Maas, senior vice pres­i­dent and GC at Vol­vo Finan­cial Ser­vices. When refer­ring to com­pli­ance, “it is no longer good enough for us and thus for you to be just a sup­port func­tion. We are chang­ing so you have to find ways to change with us.”
  • We will con­tin­ue to look for [alter­na­tives] in dis­crete areas like tech­nol­o­gy or doc­u­ment review, but the real threat for firms are oth­er firms that become bet­ter part­ners with their clients than your firms,” said Will Bar­nette, asso­ciate gen­er­al coun­sel at The Home Depot.
  • You’re fail­ing to rec­og­nize that the com­pa­ny behind us is run by entre­pre­neurs, and they’re expect­ing us to act that way, and we’re expect­ing you to act that way,” Smo­lik said. “The law firm that speaks as a busi­nessper­son first and lawyer sec­ond is going to get more and more of our busi­ness.”

2. Create a Dedicated Client Service Culture

  • A 2% increase in cus­tomer reten­tion through a ded­i­cat­ed client expe­ri­ence and ele­vat­ed client ser­vice pro­vides the same prof­its as cut­ting costs by 10%.
  • Rais­ing the sat­is­fac­tion of hap­py clients vs. putting out the fires of neg­a­tive clients pro­vides up to 9x more rev­enue.

(Rich Brack­en & Heather McCul­lough, Soci­ety 54)

Client ser­vice lead­ers: 

  • 37% high­er rev­enue growth 
  • 48% high­er prof­its
  • 33.1% high­er client reten­tion 

(Deb­o­rah McMur­ray, Con­tent Pilot, LLC)

How to enhance client ser­vice:

  • Put a busi­ness pro­fes­sion­al at the table with clients. Numer­ous client con­ver­sa­tions yield­ed the same sen­ti­ment that a busi­ness focused pro­fes­sion­al needs to be present in con­ver­sa­tions who has a larg­er view of the client, and firm’s, busi­ness align­ment.
  • Cre­ate client teams to inter­act with, and serve the needs of, the var­i­ous mem­bers of your client’s team.

(Doug Tum­minel­lo, Lewis Roca Rothger­ber Christie LLP)

3. Focus Your Expertise to Align with Your Clients

Industry/sector mar­ket­ing is key to dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion mov­ing for­ward for firms.  By iden­ti­fy­ing your top client indus­try trends and dis­sect­ing the ser­vices pro­vid­ed, you can iden­ti­fy gap oppor­tu­ni­ties for addi­tion­al ser­vices.

(Eliz­a­beth Duffy, Acritas & Gillian Ward, Bak­er Botts)

4. Be Open to Change 

The indus­try is chang­ing whether you like it or not. By adapt­ing to change and cre­at­ing effi­cien­cies on deliv­ery, you can dif­fer­en­ti­ate your­self in the mar­ket. How­ev­er, “69% of part­ners in law firms resist most change efforts.” – Alt­man Weil Flash Sur­vey

(Bren­da Plow­man, Fasken & Deb­o­rah McMur­ray, Con­tent Pilot)

5. Let Technology Help You Make Revenue

Part­ner with tech­nol­o­gy to cre­ate prod­ucts and ser­vices that can work while you sleep. “69% of peo­ple would use online legal ser­vices over attor­neys.” – Har­ris Poll, Legal Tech News Dec. 2018

(Liz Patrick, Patrick Law Group/Kevin Miller, Legal Sifter)

6. Outsourcing Is A Great Resource

The largest firms out­source 11.6% more non-lawyer func­tions (e.g. mar­ket­ing, CRM, pre­sen­ta­tions, etc.) There was an increase of around 10% of sur­vey respon­dents who felt that out­sourc­ing legal work and non-lawyer func­tions have made pos­i­tive impacts on their firm.

(Pan­el pre­sen­ta­tion; Alt­man Weil Flash Sur­vey Sta­tis­tics)

7. Be Ready For Your Closeup

Video & pod­casts are becom­ing the main tac­tics in thought leadership/brand cre­ation. Instead of stress­ing over post­ing on all chan­nels, meet the clients where they view con­tent (LinkedIn, Twit­ter, JD Supra, YouTube).

Types of videos to cre­ate: 

  • Blog
  • FAQ
  • Tes­ti­mo­ni­al
  • Break­ing news

8. Fine Tune Your Sales Skills From the Big 4

  • Train­ing is most effec­tive when done ear­ly and often.
  • Coach­ing can change work habits that stick!
  • 3rd par­ty coaches/trainers can add scal­a­bil­i­ty and val­i­da­tion to inter­nal pro­grams. Lever­ag­ing client-fac­ing sales pro­fes­sion­als can have a huge impact on growth!
  • Cul­tur­al push­back to sales pro­fes­sion­als is com­mon, yet can be over­come.