A Day in the Life of the Legal Marketing EvolutionJune 26, 2014
The legal marketing industry continues to grow and morph. This viable professional service career may have started with a grounding in client relations (client appreciation event planning) and communication (the infamous holiday card). However, I recently attended the annual Legal Sales and Service Organization (LSSO) conference in Chicago and found the curriculum has evolved. The program ranged from a pricing bootcamp with some of the world’s largest and specialized law firms discussing the Continuum of Fee Arrangements to a “Technology Horizon” presentation that provided a high-level showcase of trending technology solutions, including client intelligence mash-up tools, mobile devices capturing billable time on-the-go, and “gamification”—game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts (such as engaging energy clients on issues related to Marcellus shale).
The good old days conjure up memories of simplicity such as (billable hour) x (hours worked) = (client invoice). Welcome to 2014. Although the mathematical equation for profitability has not changed when we ask these questions:
• How much does it cost us?
• How can we maximize the spread?
• How much can we charge?
The relativity of perceived value to legal services plays a subjective role and that is driving change in our industry.
David Cambria, global director of operations for Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM), provided the LSSO audience with a candid dialogue about why some law firms are considered vendors and others are business partners. Getting the job done by providing legal solutions to business issues is a “low-value” service, he explained. Crisis management, strategic business planning and introducing commercial opportunity is the “value” general counsel measure, and, according to Cambria, “it is not easy to find.” He told the room full of business development and sales professionals that when he meets with attorney, he is not impressed by where they went to school or their latest representative matter list. “What gets my attention is when a law firm knows what their competitors are doing for my company and can explain to me how they can do it better,” he said. ADM is not interested in doing things cheaper, price does not equal value, but efficiency, creativity and partnerships are compelling.
With the rise of the Association of Corporate Counsel’s (ACC) Value Challenge several years back, law firms have made incremental progress by offering key clients a menu of fee arrangements. Cambria highlighted the Continuum of Fee Arrangements, shown at http://goo.gl/WOqdRi.
These fee arrangements are often discussed but rarely executed in an effective way. “Attorneys are not project managers and it’s just easier to fall back on the billable hour and that’s what happens a lot,” Cambria stated. If law firms are serious about offering varied fee arrangements, they should invest in the resources to manage, educate and communicate to the client.
Many law firms’ information technology, knowledge management and business development staff are being drafted into their firms’ legal process improvement, legal project management and alternative fee arrangement initiatives. To truly succeed, these initiatives mean that attorneys must massively alter their mindsets and behaviors. Some law firms listening to Cambria’s advice have hired teams of experienced project managers and pricing specialists to support work with attorneys on key client teams.
Legal marketing stands at the intersection of business intelligence, communication, marketing technology, sales and service. Always with a focus on the client, it is pertinent to manage by a process so that measurement is attainable. Technology enters the scene and has changed the law firm (business and operations) landscape forever. From incremental to existential, law firm technology budgets are only second to staff budgets. Relationship science is used in business tools such as The Deal Pipeline and sales automation is made accurate by signature-scraping tools such as Gwabbit.
The Information Age has afforded law firms smart business tools that not only aid in accessibility and connectivity but provide simple algorithms that capture relationship capital and translate it into “who knows whom” reports. This dynamic resource has helped siloed practice groups within a single law firm identify authentic collaboration for business development sake.
With more mobile devices than people in the world (7.3 billion mobile devices versus 7 billion people), law firms have embraced the importance of staying connected and visible.
A special report prepared for Kiplinger, “10 Trends That Will Change the Way You Do Business,” reminds us to make way for Generation Y. Born over an 18-year span starting in the early 1980s, they total 77 million, roughly the same total as the baby boom generation. Gen Y-ers see technology as enhancing the quality of their lives—making work easier, allowing them to manage their time better and bringing family and friends closer. For example, Forbes.com recently posted an article titled, “The Busiest Man on the Internet.” The piece featured Tim Hwang, a technology marvel who attended University of California, Berkeley, School of Law and landed a job as a first-year associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell. Hwang identified an opportunity for technology advancement in his role. So he spent his extra time developing a computer program to replace first-year attorneys by automating tasks like document review. Hwang has assembled a group of programmers that this summer are set to release a free software package to automate the document review and IPO-form-filling work that’s assigned to a first-year law firm associate.
Need to Innovate
Standing still is not an option. Embracing change is a nice thing to do. However, the challenge our industry faces is the need to innovate. Pricing and technology were only two topics discussed at the LSSO conference. The emergence of sales teams, inspired leadership and the ever-growing role of non-attorneys in leadership were also trending topics. Ann Lee Gibson, a legal marketing consultant and respected friend, recently posed this question on Facebook: “What if, as a condition of employment, every year, each partner, attorney and employee of a law firm had to submit a suggestion for how to make the firm’s client services and client products (a) better, (b) cheaper or (c) faster? Those suggestions would be judged by a panel of clients, and the 10 best suggestions would be selected for implementation by the firm the following year. People could submit individually or as team members. The winners would receive sizable cash prizes. How long do you think it would take for that law firm to develop a culture of innovation in service to client service?” I loved this suggestion and challenge you to take Gibson’s suggestion to your firm’s management then plan to share your success stories.
Source: The Legal Intelligencer