Recent Events – March 2014 Luncheon “Learning from Other Industries”

by Jane Haskins on May 15, 2014

Haskins JaneA record number of attendees for a regular New York Metro LMA luncheon were curious to find out “What Law Firms Can Learn from Other Industries.” The March 20 luncheon attracted about 125 LMA members and guests to hear from a panel filled with high level marketing experience both in the legal industry and in other fields. It was held at the Convene Conference Center on Third Avenue after demand for the program outgrew the originally intended site.

The panel addressing the issue consisted of:

  • Janet Stanton (Moderator) – partner at Adam Smith who came out of the advertising industry at Bates Worldwide
  • Anne Hutchinson – Marketing Manager at Pryor Cashman with prior marketing experience at technology companies
  • Robert Pay – Head of Relationship Management at Alvarez & Marsal, whose experience includes being the CMO of both the London Stock Exchange and BSI Management Systems, a global certification company
  • Deborah Ruffins – Business Development Director, Americas at Bingham McCutchen, with many years of experience at leading accounting and consulting firms such as Accenture, PWC, Deloitte and Buck Consultants.

The panelists agreed that law firms lag behind other industries when it comes to realizing the full potential of marketing. They tend to view marketing as a service rather than as an integral part of a strategy to build the firm’s revenue. Part of this perception is natural – marketing is still a new concept for law firms because they didn’t really have to do much of it before the 2008 economic downturn.

Some key takeaways:

Collect and Use Data – Law firm marketing needs to be based

on a systematic, data-driven approach, but lawyers aren’t collecting and using data as well as they could

be. They may be going after business in areas that aren’t going to be profitable for the firm. Ask lawyers what they’re trying to achieve and offer ways to achieve that result.

Ditch the Golf Outings – Clients want something that adds value to their business – not another obligatory social event. Look for additional services you can provide to your clients or ways to introduce clients to people who might help their business.

Find Out What Your Clients Really Think – Lawyers tend to be complacent and overestimate the strength of their client relationships. But little things, over time, can erode those relationships. Establish a program to get feedback from clients at the end of cases or large transactions. For really valuable clients, consider hiring an outside consultant who can get more honest feedback.

Show Them You Care – Other industries have a much better infrastructure to service existing clients. Consider visiting clients, congratulating them on achievements, or holding account-planning workshops where clients share their plans and strategies.

Get More Business from Existing Clients – Unlike professionals in other industries, lawyers have a tendency to think of a client as “theirs” rather than the firm’s. This kind of thinking can lead to missed business opportunities because lawyers fail to market their firm’s services in other areas of practice.

If You Want To Know What’s Going On, Look Beyond the Executives –You can learn a lot about how client decisions are made by talking to the people in procurement. In addition, talk to the more junior people on your client’s team. Not only are junior people more likely to share information, they can be important connections because they will eventually grow into leadership positions.

What Could Other Industries Learn about Marketing from Law Firms? – Interestingly, if not tellingly, none of the panelists could think of anything.

Jane Haskins is a Freelance Writer and Editor specializing in the legal marketplace.

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