I recently returned from sunny California, touching down to face the colder climes immediately perceptible as I deplaned at Newark airport. Like most of us would, my mind instantly started involuntarily gauging the variations in temperature and other data points related to a change in climate and the impact of that data. For example, I thought: “Why didn’t I bring a jacket?” and how my “efficiency quotient” could be improved with such trips on a regular basis. I spent the better part of a week in late January at the Marketing Partner Forum, where measuring, predicting and validating data in the interest of providing our clients and prospects with more meaningful services, approaches and experiences was the name of the game.
While pricing and the use of pricing professionals continued to be a significant focus of the conference content and discussion, attendees were buzzing about how to most effectively incorporate digital products, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to raise the value-add bar. But beyond value, participants were talking about driving firm revenue by creating a pull strategy for clients, or in the words of Bennett Borden “putting out the milk.” Before we all rush to take measurements, we need to first determine and be focused on a select few KPI’s that matter, lest we subject ourselves to “analysis paralysis.” It’s going to be important to filter out the noise created by the buzz and stay on our own thoughtful and predetermined track in 2018, remaining nimble enough to embrace developing technology and trends in 2018and beyond.
Let’s take a look at some of the sessions:
Using Data to Drive Business Development
Led by Evan Parker, Steven Petrie and Jill Weber, this breakout session provided sample data from a fictional AmLaw 200 firm with offices in Los Angeles, and encouraged us to work in groups to identify potential opportunities. We were given data points around margin and leverage, and some key sector information for how the firm compared to the competitors in the market.
I thought the exercise was interesting in that there is obviously no right answer in how you would run through the data sets (though some are certainly better than others). Were you going to go after low margin work that may come easier, or were you prepared to dig in and tackle the high-margin work in a more competitive landscape? The key was working together to develop a few hypotheses that could be brought for further testing and analysis. Could have been a fun day-long project as well so we could really roll our sleeves up!
Law Firm Report Cards
Another highlight was the panel titled, “A Law Firm Performance Report Card: Client-Driven Metrics & KPI in Legal Technology,” moderated by Samir Bhavsar of Baker Botts. Having the ability to hear directly from clients on what to do and how they are measuring our work is incredibly invaluable, and this was unsurprisingly one of the best-attended panels of the conference.
Monica Johnson from Ventura Foods, along with Kathryn Kyle from Laboratory Corporate of America Holdings, Joseph Otterstetter of 3M, and Neil Rosolinsky of Citizens Financial Group laid out a wide range of measurement objectives, metrics and scorecards down for us; in essence, providing a roadmap to how to make them and us both look good. They discussed how flags may arise for overbilling and how they keep a keen eye on associate/partner ratio. They also discussed moving to more fixed/value agreements where they are giving the external law firms settlement authority within certain ranges, and discussed a shifting landscape with law firms needing to assume some of the risk around uncertainty in matters or deals.
Understanding the ways in which their legal departments are measured at an enterprise level is fascinating, and yielded me with some ideas on how we can improve our scores as a firm, notably in the culture and other softer elements I may not have appreciated prior to this discussion. (Ping me or check out #LEIMPF2018 on Twitter for report card images.)
Using Data to Drive Law Firm Profitability
My favorite session of the conference titled, “Signs Taken for Wonders: Evolving Law Firm Data-Driven Strategies in Profitability, Performance and Practice,” probably had enough IQ to send a ship to outer space, so I was glad they stayed here on earth for our benefit. I was impressed with all of the panelists discussing horizontal innovation and how they are leading the charges at their firms. While they came from varying law, analytics and intelligence services companies, they all shared a common thread of using computer-aided developments and inventions to drive efficiency and bring value to the end user.
One panelist quoted Henry Ford in saying that if you asked clients what they needed before the car came along, they would have said “faster horses.” It’s an accurate comparison to where we are today in the legal space- with marketing, finance, data and BD experts needing to lead the way to how firms should be measuring themselves against their competitors.
Peter Ozolin, Bennett Boden, Andrew Duchon, Zev Eigen and Timothy Murphy are all employing different business and data models to achieve success and create sticky relationships with their customers, and it was refreshing to see such innovation in the AI/predictive space within the context of law firms. In terms of execution, most of these folks were employing the centaur/hybrid model, where computers were analyzing raw data points and law firm folks were adding the analysis/additional layer of value. This symbiotic approach makes the final product better, and is freeing up the time for humans to add a richer texture around environmental and cultural nuance that computers may not be able to capture.
Using Analytics in Digital and Social Media
Whether using the sophisticated regression analysis and client scorecards discussed earlier, or employing impressions and bounce rate to drive A/B testing as we discussed on my social/digital breakout (kudos to my colleagues Nadia Rahman, Gregory Fleishmann and Jennifer Mir), the time of going with gut decisions on little to no data is behind us. We chatted around increased reporting on client alerts and individualized readership stats to inform topical shifts, SEO strategy and client reachouts, a tactic that has already earned us direct business as a result. We also discussed some of the measurement tools that we use, and how digital is really just a component of a wider “marketing strategy” and should not be viewed as a standalone strategy in itself. We loved the interactive format and hope to chat with many more of you soon around this constantly shifting landscape.
So get out that whiteboard and define what success looks like to you in the next one, three and five years. At the very least, employ a simple set of metrics that will help you to gauge your next 30, 60 and 90 days. Then get measuring and tweaking so that you can continue to increase your value both internally and externally and start moving that needle. See you next year!
Mike Mellor is the firmwide director of marketing and business development for Pryor Cashman LLP, a 160-attorney firm with offices in both NYC and LA. In this role, he works to identify and develop and execute omnichannel marketing and business development strategies to help drive new business for the firm and increase brand awareness. Mike’s nearly 20-year career has spanned various marketing and BD roles in law, consulting and in financial services, working at such firms as Paul Weiss, Katten, Deutsche Bank and KPMG. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.