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10 Things That Should Be on Your Law Firm’s Radar in 2017

By Mark Beese

The legal profession, marketing technology, and clients’ buying habits are changing dramatically. Lawyers need to think differently about marketing, lead generation, big data, project delivery and leadership. Here are 10 things that should be on your radar, starting now.

1. Data-driven business development. At the 2016 Legal Marketing Association Technology Conference, JD Supra’s Adrian Lurssen demonstrated how they are using readership data to help law firms identify highly engaged prospects and pursue them with a specific value proposition. No longer is content just a branding play. Using data analytics, firms can nimbly figure out what topics clients are engaged with and create business development strategies to pursue highly qualified prospects about a specific issue or opportunity.

2. Business development automation (or marketing automation 2.0). Many law firm marketers are using online tools to design, draft, schedule and send boatloads of email newsletters, webinar announcements and event invitations. Tools like Constant Contact and MailChimp make emailing easy. How you track and use data is the key to business development automation. Some firms are using engagement scoring (points for opening a newsletter, more points for passing it along, attending a webinar and so on) to identify and rank highly engaged prospects for one-on-one contact or to offer a specific value proposition. Mass-marketing activities, in this way, identify possible qualified buyers or referral sources that could be contacted to identify opportunities.

3. Experience data. Legal procurement professionals say that experience with a specific type of problem, matter and industry are the most important criteria for getting their attention. Law firms that inundate clients with hundreds of examples, however, don’t make the point that they have the specific experience to solve a specific issue. Look into an experience data solution, which helps you zero in on specific examples to share with potential clients. By the way, a strong experience database also helps people in the firm understand other people’s experience and capabilities, bridging the cross-marketing gap.   Look for new killer apps in this space in early 2017.

4. Pricing. The Legal Marketing Association’s P3 Conference turns five years old next year, but value pricing science is still new to law firms. Pricing professionals need to be closely linked to both the finance and business development teams. Clients are expecting more data from law firms in terms of cost and value metrics, and the business development/pricing team needs to deliver.

5. Delivery design. As we change how we price legal services, we also need to (re)design their delivery to win in an increasingly competitive market and meet client’s expectations for value and process improvement. Understanding the levers of legal process design, design thinking and how to integrate technology into legal process delivery needs to be on the entrepreneurial lawyers’ radar. Good design starts with a clear understanding of the client’s needs and situation.

6. Project management. It seems that in nearly every conversation I have with a legal procurement professional or in-house counsel, the topic of project management comes up. CMOs, business development professionals, pricing professionals and attorneys need to understand how much time and money can be saved by applying basic project management principals and including the client in the process.

7. Client intimacy. Client satisfaction interviews and key account management are not new, but also not yet widespread tactics. For client interviews, Wicker Park Group’s Nat Slavin says, “one size fits one, not all.” What can your firm do to keep and grow your most important clients? How vulnerable are they to lawyer succession and lower-cost, higher-value competitors? Could your firm develop a strategic advantage of intimacy?

8. Leadership capacity and adaptability. Management guru John Kotter said, “The rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon. If anything, competition in most industries will probably speed up even more in the next few decades.” Does your team have the leadership skills to adapt to and lead change in your firm? Do team members have the resiliency to withstand the pressures of initiating and sustaining change? Do you have the vision and influence to lead your firm as it changes to meet the dynamic needs of its clients and future clients?

9. Sales effectiveness. In times of increased competition, many companies look for ways to make their sales force more effective. What is your firm doing to increase the business development effectiveness of attorneys and business development (sales) professionals?  Some firms are hiring business development professionals to take an active role in the process, from lead generation and nurturing to opportunity identification. Should you devote some attorneys to a relationship-building role (sales attorneys) rather than providing legal services? You may want to provide high-level business development training and coaching for partners focusing on relationship-building techniques and working on soft skills such as likeability, issue spotting and problem solving.

10. Sustainability. Law firm leaders are facing significant management challenges, including, for example: managing Millennials, the expectation to be “on” 24/7/365, and navigating a global work environment where team members work across time zones, cultures and technologies. Creating a sustainable work environment — one that provides a safe, challenging and engaging workplace — is a significant leadership challenge. Leaders need to create a sense of purpose and mission, a place of belonging and community for their team. Leaders also need to spend more time investing in their team members, building bridges to other teams and looking for opportunities for collaboration with other departments and groups of lawyers. We need to make law firms a great place to work again.

What are you doing to lead your team, instead of simply manage things?

Mark Beese is President of Leadership for Lawyers, a consultancy dedicated to making lawyers stronger leaders and business developers. He is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and a recipient of the Legal Marketing Association Hall of Fame Award. He is a frequent speaker, trainer and coach to law firms and other professional service firms. Follow him @mbeese and on LinkedIn.

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Categories: Business Development, Daily Dispatch, Law Firm Strategy
Originally published January 3, 2017
Last updated June 22, 2020
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Mark Beese

Mark Beese is President of Leadership for Lawyers, a consultancy focused on helping lawyers become stronger leaders. He provides training, coaching and consulting in the areas of leadership development, innovation and business development. Mark also facilitates workshops on design thinking for legal. Mark is an adjunct faculty with the University of Denver Sturm School of Law and former adjunct with the Center for Creative Leadership.  He is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and an inductee in the Legal Marketing Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement. Follow him @mbeese on Twitter.

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