This article was co-authored by Gail Hageman and Terra Liddell.
It feels like ages ago now as we head into the holiday season, but the Legal Marketing Technology Conference/West was held on October 14-16 in San Francisco. It was a standout conference. In fact, it’s the largest conference dedicated to technologies that law firm professionals use to identify, attract, and support clients. This was the first year the program opened with pre-conference sessions, offering technology workshops and a lead marketer’s summit. The pre-conference learning and networking opportunities set the stage for an engaging day-and-a-half conference to follow. Kudos goes to Adam Stock and the Bay Area Chapter for a great agenda and flawlessly executed event.
Last month, we hosted a Capital Chapter program, for members only, in the form of a roundtable discussion of the top takeaways from the conference. Three primary areas of focus came to light at the conference – the use of technology from the client service, marketing and communications, and business development perspectives. Legal marketers need to continue to identify and implement useful technologies to engage with key targets, add value to client relationships, empower their attorneys to connect with their networks and act as brand ambassadors for their firms.
Client Service – Go Electronic! Use Technology. Think Differently.
In-house panels discussed the increasing distance between startups and law firms in the use of technology. By not using technology appropriately, law firms are leaving money on the table.
Communications methods have changed. Many in-house counsel and legal officers referred to Slack (www.slack.com), calling it “instant messaging on steroids.” Program like Slack are replacing email at a rapid pace. Firms need to recognize this change, understand the technology, and know how to manage files and agreements when information is shared through communication channels like this.
Information is shared differently today. Clients are expecting firms to go paperless. General counsel are puzzled by hard copies. Don't send confidential documents in paper format. Use DropBox (www.dropbox.com) to deliver documents and get on board with using electronic signatures. This will increase efficiency, and your client will appreciate that you are responsive.
Help them process bills efficiently. This was a hot topic. We heard from both in-house counsel and legal officers about transparency and efficiency when it comes to billing. One in-house counsel stated, “Don’t fight me on Serengeti - I need it and the more difficult you make it - bye! bye!” Others pointed to a new system available, View A Bill (www.viewabill.com). This program requires attorneys to enter their time daily and shows it in real time to the client. It was stated that approximately 150 law firms have adopted View A Bill.
Be transparent and use data metrics to forge solid relationships. Use technology to improve the attorney-client relationship, drive efficiencies and add value. Law firms are sitting on a tremendous amount of data. Share the history of comparable matters with the client so that the law firm can explain why that expense is appropriate. Some companies are developing technology tests. If attorneys and other legal team members do not pass the test, then a percentage of the rate is taken off the billing.
Marketing and Communications – Connect. Engage. Share.
Firms and clients set high expectations for marketers and CMOs. Key expectations include brand awareness, thought leadership, footprint in the marketplace, working with all billers, imparting the strategic plan, understanding financial strains, having the technology down pat, becoming an emotional partner, having perseverance and patience, and being engaged in all aspects of practice. Marketing departments are expected to understand and communicate all this with the firm and the external audience. Develop simple principles and outline them for your organization to see, understand, believe, and ultimately communicate these principles. Build the trust with your attorneys and your clients, and offer help and solutions with the appropriate tools.
Maintaining your brand through a website. It’s important to run searches for your firm (externally) and on practice information (external/internal) to see the clients’ experience with your firm’s branding. Is it obvious that you are the go-to firm for that specific practice or industry? Look to your tech company to be a partner in this effort. They are your ally. You may redesign and launch a site and two years later the technology is out of date, but with a good partner you can keep the site current and flexible without a complete overhaul. Think strategically about SEO, including what you are promoting inadvertently through your SEO efforts. Identify the key terms you want to be known for and use those to tell your story. Simplify navigation, use analytics, and drive change to support strategy. Talk with your website vendor about bringing ancillary content into your main website search (e.g., microsites and blog content). You can add value to your brand with the website by incorporating an effective and useful Google site search within the site. This is also useful for internal tracking for firms to monitor what is being searched, and thus to continue to develop additional resources and content for the website. Report to your attorneys on what is working and what is not working, including what search terms are leading to the site. Additionally, if people are searching for buried content, make it easier to access. Finally, many firms are also using compelling video, identifying ways to highlight attorney bios at a top level, and leveraging analytics to maintain fresh content.
Six SEO Best Practices:
- meaningful URLs
- easily searchable content
- mobile; fresh content
- https:// for privacy & SEO
- semantic page coding
- proper page hierarchy
Curate content and engage through social media. Adam Stock, conference organizer, said it best in his TED Talk for Marketing, “We are maestros! We want engagements - not just hundreds of people seeing the content.” Look at each piece of content and decide what you are trying to elicit. Make sure industry organizations are following and retweeting your content. Clients are tweeting all the time and appreciate when we are tweeting and retweeting their content. There is an opportunity for firms to connect with their audience through a selective voice using the firm’s social channels.
Alternatively, Adrian Dayton of ClearView Social (www.clearviewsocial.com) said LinkedIn is much more important than firm tweets, and our role as legal marketers is to make it simple for lawyers to use social media. He emphasized the importance of furthering the firm’s reach through attorney networks. By emailing lawyers what articles to share on Twitter and LinkedIn, you are empowering them to engage with their contacts and further develop relationships. ClearView Social is a sharing tool, widely used in the AmLaw 100, and allows a designated marketer at the firm to share automated emails to lawyers to share firm articles or content with just a click of a button. Social media emphasizes visual media, today more than ever.
Business Development – Use Your Network. Create Partnerships.
Technology is changing the way attorneys develop business. Nothing made that more evident than hearing Greentarget provide a sneak peek of the Digital and Content Survey they released on November 18 (www.digitalandcontentsurvey.com). In 2010, Greentarget noted that there were 300 blogs and in-house counsel were generally not using social media. In 2015, there are at least 1,000 blogs in the legal marketplace and in-house counsel are now using social media. Firms are increasing budgets to produce more content, staffing accordingly, and developing formalized content strategies to support those efforts. Firms and attorneys need to understand that we are now in a culture of business development and use some of the statistics from the survey to help tailor their BD efforts in a targeted way using social media and technology.
- Value of types of online communication: In house counsel stated they value client alerts (77%); newsletters (76%); websites (39%) then blogs (35%).
- Ranking delivery of information: They rely and value traditional media (98%), LinkedIn (87%), Wikipedia (77%), online lawyer listing services (71%), news aggregators (70%), and blogs (65%).
- Use of LinkedIn: While 68% of in-house counsel use LinkedIn, 70% of that group uses LinkedIn to connect with people. LinkedIn is also used by 71% of in-house counsel for quick company research. Because many in-house counsel are using LinkedIn for professional reasons, it’s a tool that legal marketers need to be prepared to educate their attorneys about. Here are some of the ways that in-house lawyers use LinkedIn.
78% - Connecting with in-house colleagues
67% - Looking up and connecting with outside counsel
42% - Researching outside counsel
70% - Building relationships with outside counsel
58% - Staying abreast of job opportunities
By Gail Hageman, Director, Marketing Operations & Communications at Steptoe & Johnson LLP and Terra Liddell, Senior Marketing Manager at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP for the November/December 2015 Capital Ideas Newsletter