LMASE 2018 Conference Day One
When I applied for the LMASE Conference Scholarship, my hope was that I would get a great sense of what the biggest differences were between LMASE and LMA-Bay Area, my previous LMA Chapter (I moved in 2016, right as the great "Regionalization" effort was starting to be implemented). However, as I looked around the room during my first few minutes at the LMASE Conference there in Greenville, the biggest thing I was struck by was just how familiar it all seemed. I had spent four years in the Bay Area and had become very involved in the LMA Chapter there and the various activities and conferences. Here I was, an entire continent's width away from the last LMA Conference I had attended, and yet the professionalism and camaraderie around the room rang true and familiar from the start.
The first speaker we heard from at LMASE 2018 was our Keynote Speaker, Kevin Krone, the former CMO of Southwest Airlines. You knew this was going to be interesting, as Southwest has built a strong brand and reputation through a combination of smart marketing and key corporate values that have allowed it to stand out from the pack for a long time. I'm also always interested to hear from marketing officials from other industries. For many years, legal marketing was seen as an "other", not truly part of the traditional law firm world, but not quite the same as the marketing departments found in Fortune 500 corporations around the world. Over time that reputation has slowly changed, and in recent years it's been especially true that marketing departments in the legal world have more commonalities with traditional corporate marketing than differences (ok, maybe the marketing budgets still have some catching up to do).
Mr. Krone started off by stating the many challenges that we face in the legal market today: clients are more discerning, competition is increasing, complexity is rising, etc. However, as he went on, one fact jumped out at me. He pointed to studies that show that by 2020, client experience will overtake product and price in terms of differentiation. In effect, you might be able to deliver on price and specific services (product), but if the client experience isn't what the client is expecting/hoping for, you might still watch that client walk out the door to a competitor firm. Law firms must implement programs and processes that don't just deliver the promised legal services at the agreed upon price, but that create, build, and retain a sense of loyalty in their clients. This will require doing things like a market analysis of the client's business, deep dive client interviews, and looking at the world from the client's perspective in ways law firms haven't needed to up to now.
After a brief intermission, I then headed over to my first session of the day. I chose to attend the session on Business &; Competitive Intelligence moderated by Dave Whiteside of CLIENTSFirst Consulting and led by marketers from Pillsbury, Womble Bond Dickinson, and Lightfoot, Franklin &; White. It was an interesting panel, and it was amazing the resources and time that firms the size of Pillsbury and Womble have been able to put into building tools that empower their attorneys to make requests on their own. What stood out to me, however, is that even when you build an efficient, streamlined process, at the end of the day, you need a team of marketing professionals to truly put the materials together in a helpful, compelling manner, no matter how easily the lawyer can make the request themselves.
What also stood out to me was the perspective of Emily Woloschuk, the Director of Marketing &; Business Development from Lightfoot. If I remember correctly, she was actually the first person at Lightfoot to hold that title and was truly helping to build a marketing department essentially from scratch. At times, you could see that she could only listen with envy to the multitude of tools that a firm like Pillsbury was willing to purchase for their marketing and knowledge management teams. In that situation, though, I got the feeling that many of us can relate to Emily and her experiences.
So many of my fellow marketers in the room seemed like they, too, could relate more with Emily that some of the other panelists. For many people at LMASE, we are coming from firms that may vary in size, but all relate in the sense that marketing and business development is not a "top" priority, at least in terms of resource allocation to our departments. While firms are catching up to the value that our departments hold and can deliver, marketing spend in legal still lags behind Corporate America in terms of a percentage of yearly budget. For so many of us, we're expected to build a marketing colossus out of Lincoln logs. Conferences like LMASE, however, at least allow us to put our collective minds together and figure out how to wring the most value we can out of the tools and resources that we are provided.
I will talk about the rest of Day One's sessions in next month's entry.
Fenwick & West LLP
Business Development Manager