Today, I’m excited to bring you a guest post from my friend, Jennifer Simpson Carr. Jenn joined Lowenstein Sandler as a Business Development Manager in 2013. With 10 years of experience working in law firms across the US, she has worked extensively to help firms and attorneys engage target audiences and win new business in competitive markets. She recently attended and presented at the Legal Marketing Association’s Southeast Conference, where she gained some excellent, actionable advice that firms can implement immediately. Below, you’ll see her five takeaways from the conference, which range from client service to analytics to succession, and her advice for what action firms can take to implement them.

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Last week, I had the pleasure of participating in the LMA Southeast Conference (LMASE17), which I found to be one of the most inspiring and thought-provoking conferences in my 10+ years in the legal marketing profession.

I find conferences energizing. They offer the opportunity to connect with the legal marketing community, share ideas and strategies, and gain new perspectives. This conference was no different and set new standards of excellence.

LMASE17 offered three days packed with educational programming, many sessions addressing the topics that are top of mind for in-house business development and marketing professionals as well as the agencies that support them.

As I reviewed pages of notes and contemplated how to use some of this newly-acquired wisdom to make an impact, five themes stood out to me as strategic and actionable, and yet easy opportunities for any professional to affect change.

#1: Succession planning starts now (if it hasn’t already)

63% of law firm partners age 60 or older control at least 1/4 of their firms’ revenue.

Action:

  • Analyze your key clients and identify a plan to integrate younger lawyers into the client team.
  • Allow them to develop strong working relationships and earn trust. We heard this first through a great “Charting a Path for Succession Planning” session and reiterated through the “Voice of the Client” panel. Tom Trujillo, Deputy General Counsel & COO at Wells Fargo Law Department said he gives work to people that he trusts, and that relationship takes years to build not 6 – 12 months.
  • Consider succession planning as a multi-year approach. Expose your clients to other lawyers early and often.

#2: Create client-centric experiences

We are often caught up in processes and forget to customize experiences for our clients.

Action:

  • Gain a competitive advantage by taking steps to truly understand the client journey and what the client is doing at every phase. This deeper understanding will help define and drive client-focused BD and marketing strategies.
  • Build the journey from the client’s point of view, understand their perception relative to their needs, objectives and expectations, and illustrate the journey across multiple touch points.
  • While you should take a holistic approach to addressing the client experience, if you do not have time to build the customer journey just yet, identify small opportunities to make change. Bring the voice of the client into everything you do.

#3: Ask clients for feedback

Just ask.

A very unexpected statistic was shared during the “Voice of the Client” panel, which was comprised of in-house heads of corporate legal operations departments. A panelist reported that of 1,700 law firms he worked with at a prior company, only two formally requested client feedback, and only one of those two was part of his preferred panel.

Action:

  • Do not use excuses such as there is not enough time, clients don’t want to be bothered, everything is fine, and the firm is already receiving all of the client’s available work. This, in fact, is not the case.
  • Clients want the opportunity to have an open and honest conversation about their experience working with the firm, experience working with individual attorneys, and to discuss what adds value to the relationship. (What each client values can be dramatically different.)

#4: Data is available, use it to show your value

As organizations look to better manage expenditures and assess outside counsel, they are relying on metrics to make more informed decisions, evaluate consistency and have greater predictability.

Action:

  • Understand what metrics are important to your in-house operations departments and what metrics they are using to evaluate their outside counsel. Are they evaluating your firm on staffing efficiency, budget to actual spend, a combination of metrics, or something else. For example, if diversity is important to the client, it is not enough anymore to show that the firm is diverse. In-house departments want to see that diverse attorneys are staffing their matters and handling substantive work.
  • You can’t improve what you don’t measure.

#5: Take a strategic approach to content. (In full disclosure, I spoke on the panel addressing this topic.)

If your firm is creating any type of content, you must develop a written content strategy and evaluate your content marketing strategy.

Action:

  • Create a content strategy. This shapes the way the body of content influences people’s experiences with the brand. Understand how you want your clients and prospects to see you, hear you and feel about you.
  • Once you have defined the content strategy, evaluate your content marketing strategy. Determine what content will build the customer base by helping people make decisions at various points in their experience with the brand. (By now you should know your client’s journey. See #2)
  • Content strategy and content marketing strategy will provide much-needed guardrails for your organization and authors.

I was thrilled to be part of a conference that offered such comprehensive programing. A big thank you to Conference Chair Amy Norris and the entire LMASE17 conference committee. The content, speakers, attendees and sponsors made this conference second to none.