The Legal Marketing Association (LMA) held its annual conference last week in Orlando, Florida, attended by more than 1,200 professional marketers. The buzz focused on a range of topics, from adapting to the “new normal” and sophisticated pricing strategies to using technology to market legal services and considering generational differences in your marketing message.
1. New normal. Jordan Furlong of Law21 and Edge International presented an audience of chief marketing officers with a startling image of two worlds colliding. The client’s world, driven by the need to reduce costs and improve efficiency, is crashing into the law firm world, characterized by the billable hour, a reluctance to change and well-established client service delivery methods.
Clients now have more options for high-quality work at a range of prices and methods, he said, including legal process outsourcing, working with a network of smaller, low-cost firms and bringing work in-house. At the same time, law firms are experiencing flat or declining revenue and profits, new forms of competitors and what Furlong calls “destructive cultural pressures.”
Old news? Furlong agrees. The “new normal” is not new anymore, but just “normal.” Normal today is a dynamic and rapidly changing market for legal services. His recommendations? Law firms need to:
- Integrate modern systems and management into law firm culture and infrastructure, such as process mapping and Lean Six Sigma process improvement tools.
- Look to other industries and professional services for systems, client service models, work processes and pricing.
- Intimately know your clients’ priorities and develop custom services to address specific needs.
- Research and understand your competitors’ strengths, weaknesses and pricing. Position your services to uniquely address your client’s needs.
- Focus marketing on market niches your firm can dominate. If you aren’t “on the podium,” develop a plan to get there.
- Try process mapping a typical matter with a client to identify ways to save time and money.
- Share ideas. Start an internal blog to get the conversation going and to get to critical mass faster.
2. The other marketing “P” — pricing. Akin Gump’s Chief Pricing Officer, Toby Brown, led a crash course in legal pricing. He reported on several trends:
- Corporate procurement departments are becoming increasingly involved in evaluating and hiring outside counsel. In fact, a nascent networking group of legal procurement professionals has formed to share best practices.
- Corporate clients are increasingly using detailed requests for proposals designed to increase competition, and drive down legal costs.
- Clients are subscribing to matter management programs to capture data on their legal spending so they can better predict (and negotiate) future legal fees. One data analytics firm, Tymetrics, claims to monitor more than $50 billion of legal fees and share the aggregated data with its subscribers.
- Law firms are increasingly using sophisticated project budgeting, profit modeling and scenario modeling tools to create custom fee proposals.
3. Clever client apps. Paul Grabowski, CMO of Bracewell Guiliani, gave a behind-the-scenes tour of what it takes to produce an award-winning mobile app. Targeting energy companies, Bracewell’s free “ShalePlay” app provides a stream of news, analysis and legal commentary on the hydraulic fracturing industry segmented by geographic shale “plays” throughout the U.S. The process of creating the app took 14 months, and was a cross-disciplinary collaborative effort of in-house staff, attorneys and outside designers that required strong project management and a good budget. More than 10 software tools were involved in development, design and usage metrics. Grabowski’s lessons learned?
- Create a useful tool for clients that shares information or resources — not a brochure or directory of your firm.
- Make it simple and fun to use.
- Limit self-promoting content to 10 percent.
- Innovation and creativity in law firms are fertile soil for skepticism, group-think and Murphy’s Law. Be prepared for surprises, delays and cost overruns.
ShalePlay, which received a 2014 LMA “Your Honor” award, has been promoted through multiple channels, including industry conferences and email promotions. Word of mouth, however, seemed the main driver of the thousands of downloads in its first week of release. The fracking glossary and news feeds have been such a valuable resource, some clients and prospects have made the app required reading for landmen and energy executives.
4. Talking ’bout my generation. Heather Morse, Marketing Director at Barger & Wolen, and Jonathan Fitzgarrald, CMO at Greenberg Glusker, discussed their primary research on the generational differences between clients and law firm leaders. Here’s what they found:
- Gen Xers (born 1965–1982) hold 31 percent of the GC titles in the NASDAQ 100 and almost 20 percent of Fortune 100 GC roles.
- Gen Xers hold only 3 percent of AmLaw 100 Managing Partner roles.
- Silent Generation members (born 1925–1945) and Leading-Edge Boomers (born 1946–1955) make up 57 percent of AmLaw 100 Managing Partners, but their clients — GCs at NASDAQ and Fortune 100 companies — are much younger. Sixty percent of Fortune 100 GCs and 66 percent of NASDAQ GCs are either “Trailing-Edge Boomers” (born 1956–1964) or Gen Xers.
Heather Morse articulated the marketing lesson: “It begins with knowing who your clients are, what generation they fall into, and realizing that age should be as much a part of your firm’s diversity mix as gender, orientation and race. Baby Boomer law firm leaders need to understand that Gen X clients are looking to you as an extension of their legal team, where they are the lead attorney. They earned their title through merit, and want their outside counsel to be made up of competent attorneys, not just seasoned and experienced. They value merit over seniority.”
5. Niche marketing. Think about the last time someone asked, “So, what do you do?” at a networking event. What did you say? “I’m a [fill-in-the-blank] lawyer” or “I’m an attorney at [X] firm”? Do you think you made a lasting, positive first impression?
Kevin McMurdo, Principal of McMurdo Consulting and former CMO of Perkins Coie, led a lively discussion on teaching lawyers to focus on a specific niche market where they have a specific value proposition. He used the “elevator speech” to illustrate the point. Which of these responses is most memorable?
- “I’m a regulatory lawyer at a large firm in the Pacific Northwest.”
- “I help vintners deal with the many regulations involving wine production, bottling and distribution. My clients produce wine listed on Wine Spectator’s top 100 list. I love wine, I make my own wine and have made a career out of helping wine companies.”
McMurdo advised that lawyers define their niche market by expertise, reputation, network, industry or a specific problem they help solve. He had this advice on creating a targeted elevator speech:
- Make it succinct, detailed and distinctive.
- Tell a story.
- Make it appropriate to the situation.
- Use it to start a meaningful conversation that builds trust and chemistry.
He encourages lawyers to practice their speech within their firm, in practice group meetings and through internal introduction videos so that others know how to best refer opportunities to you.
Mark Beese is President of Leadership for Lawyers, LLC, a consultancy dedicated to helping lawyers become better business developers and leaders. He also teaches Marketing and Business Development at the University of Denver Sturm School of Law. Mark is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and has been inducted into the Legal Marketing Association Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter @mbeese.