The inaugural Legal Marketing Technology Conference/Midwest, produced by the Legal Marketing Association’s Midwest Chapter, took place June 23, 2016, in Chicago. While all attendees gained insights on a host of sophisticated tools that legal professionals can use to identify, attract and support clients, the presenters also helped law firm marketers understand how to work with their law firms to turn those insights into actions. Here are five takeaways from the conference I’ll be taking back to my firm:
1. The Revolution Starts Now
Daniel Martin Katz, technologist and law professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, kicked off the conference with a thought-provoking keynote on the pressing need for innovation in the legal industry, urging legal marketers to lead law firms through the current competitive revolution. Legal futurists have been prophesying for decades that the delivery of legal services will no longer be exclusively the domain of the traditional law firm. That future, says Katz, is now: other law firms are no longer our only competitors. For one, Big 4 accounting firms are entering the legal field. And consider this: Deloitte is bigger than the 10 largest law firms combined! In addition, legal startups are proliferating, backed by Silicon Valley investors. AngelList currently lists 1,163 legal tech startups and counting. CodeX, the Stanford Center for Legal Informatics, also offers a curated list of 558 tech companies “changing the way legal is done.”
The challenge is to take what legal startups are doing and fold some of that thinking into your law firm. For example, every law firm needs a data strategy — to collect, regularize, and use data to differentiate your firm. You have to prove your value via metrics rather than just claiming, “We’re great!” like every other firm does.
How can you differentiate? Eliminate waste; develop, curate, and deploy good ideas; and find ways to be indispensable.
2. Demystifying Experience Management
Deborah McMurray, legal marketing pioneer and Content Pilot CEO, led a panel of in-house business development leaders on the subject of experience management databases. The idea is to corral all the information on your firm’s capabilities and experience currently housed in multiple places into one user-friendly database that can produce output in a variety of customizable formats with consistent branding.
Those of us dealing with a never-ending stream of RFPs, pitches, directory applications, and queries like “What matters have we handled in X industry?” were spellbound by the nifty and robust solutions offered by the various systems employed by individual panelists’ firms. Content that can be stored for ready access includes multiple versions of attorney bios; practice/industry descriptions; cases, deals, and other matters; and overviews of administrative systems.
As McMurray explained, if you are able to efficiently pull together pertinent facts and examples showcasing what your firm is capable of doing, you will win more work. Simple as that.
3. The Power of Visual Storytelling
Brian Kiefer (Director of Public Relations) and Molly Porter (Content Marketing and Business Development Manager) of Seyfarth Shaw demonstrated how to incorporate compelling visual content into popular social media platforms as well as into traditional marketing vehicles like client alerts. As they pointed out, there is no more “business to business” or “business to consumer.” It’s all H2H: Human to Human. Using visuals can help elicit empathy in clients and enhances differentiation of your firm and lawyers.
Traditional written content will always be valuable; clients expect their lawyers to provide specialized knowledge. But they want to digest it quickly, so you can use strategic typography, block text and subheads to create stepping stones for your audience to skim your content. What’s more, simply adding a relevant image to an article gets it up to 94 percent more views.
Visual storytelling, they said, consists of five basic elements:
- Typography. Strategic and mindful use of fonts can increase readability and improve understanding.
- Color. Use bright and contrasting colors on your website and other materials to draw the eye and create engagement.
- Shape. Use basic shapes in charts and infographics to tell a story; they can simplify a complex narrative.
- Icons. A universal language, icons are easily interpreted, and because they are pictures rather than words, they’re more likely to be remembered. The Noun Project offers thousands of glyph icons from different artists for free or at a nominal cost.
- Photos. Think beyond the traditional head-and-shoulders bio headshot. Consider an environmental action photo or at least a photo taken at an interesting angle. And don’t use stock photos; they need to be authentic. Check out Flickr for free photos, and look for two license types: “no known copyright restrictions” and “commercial use allowed.”
4. In Sync with Your Clients
Every legal marketing conference features the ever-popular in-house counsel panel, and this one was no exception. Notable takeaways from that session included:
“If you’re too big for the small job, you’re too small for the big job.” Scott Curran, Senior Legal Adviser, Clinton Foundation
How to differentiate? “Leaner, faster, better and more integrated firms” are most impactful. Scott Curran
Lawyers who sincerely want to be involved in our work, who passionately serve the client, stand out.” Scott Curran
Law firms have to have cybersecurity in place and be able to speak about it on the spot. Dennis Garcia, Assistant General Counsel, Microsoft
Microsoft offers bonuses to firms that meet diversity metrics; they want to see diverse leadership and relationship partners. – Dennis Garcia
Don’t expect me to teach you about my business. I expect you to know it when you walk in the door. Alice Green, Chief Legal Officer, Rewards Network
What constitutes “value added”? Partnership in addition to counsel. Help identify a solution and a set of alternatives; help the client get where they need to be — a defined positive outcome. Alice Green
Instead of asking, figure out how to bring value to the client. Be proactive; find out what’s important to them and say, “We’d like to help you out.” Take the long-term view. Dan Harper, Global Board Member, Association of Corporate Counsel; former Assistant General Counsel, CTS Corporation
5. It’s All About the Data
If there was one theme running through the sessions I attended, it was leveraging data: data quality, data mining, data analytics, data automation, differentiation through data — moving toward a data-driven law practice. Other industries already use big data to inform business decisions; data can drive intelligence to improve performance throughout an organization. As more and more data is stored and available for analysis, it’s up to the law firm to leverage it for competitive positioning and to create opportunities for real change.
Beverly A. Loder is Marketing Director at Fitch, Even, Tabin & Flannery LLP. She was formerly the Director of Law Practice Management Book Publishing at the American Bar Association and the Features Editor for the ABA’s “Law Practice” magazine. Beverly is a Fellow in the College of Law Practice Management.
*Note: The Legal Marketing Technology Conference/West, produced by the LMA’s Bay Area Chapter, takes place October 2-3 in San Francisco. For more marketing tips and takeaways from the West Coast event, read Attorney at Work’s latest report here.