In her role as chief marketing officer of Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, Terra Liddell is constantly thinking about the firm’s marketing strategy and helping the firm come up with ways to put that strategy into practice.
“One thing that may be unique about our firm is that our strategy has not changed much over the years. It is to remain the number one intellectual property law firm in the world,” Liddell says. “The tactics to implement this strategy do change. But our top strength is the people we have within the firm and the legal and technical knowledge that those people have, so the focus remains on our talent and experience.”
One recent change that Liddell spearheaded, consistent with the firm’s strategy, was the development of “better bios” for the firm’s attorneys and other professionals. A key part of the firm’s website relaunch in September 2017, these bios adjust dynamically on the website depending on what type of legal experience and what industry is selected by the user.
“This idea grew out of conversations with our website and design business partners. I went on with our marketing team to present the idea to our working group composed of partners and associates, and they were very excited,” Liddell says. “Our strategy there was to reinforce our brand of technical expertise, and the way we went about it was to generate and tee up content-rich bios in a user-friendly way on our website.”
Another important change is how the firm tracks and manages highlighting its experience. The firm has instituted a practice of allocating client permissions for experience summaries into four tiers based upon how much can be disclosed about the matter consistent with client confidentiality. Clients and sometimes specific cases at “level one” can be fully disclosed, while those at “level two” and “level three” can be discussed outside the firm under some circumstances, such as in RFP responses. Those at “level four” remain fully confidential.
Again, Liddell says, the strategic idea is to emphasize the firm’s attorneys’ legal experience and technical expertise in as public a way as possible, and to implement systems to support that ongoing conversation at the attorney/client level.
“This is changing the dialogue between our attorneys and our clients,” Liddell says. “It puts the question to the client: Is there any way that we as a law firm can use this information? Sometimes the client gives full permission, sometimes not.”
Liddell is part of an executive team at Finnegan that meets regularly to update the firm’s strategic approach depending on new developments in business and the law. For example, the IP world was significantly affected by two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions— SAS Institute v. Iancu and Oil States Energy Group v. Greene’s Energy Group (both decided April 25, 2018). Both related to the legality of certain procedures for deciding patent rights.
“Before the decisions were handed down, it was clear that the cases would have an impact on our practice moving forward. Our executive team sat down and discussed what these decisions might mean for an IP firm like ours. What would the impact be on our practice or on how our clients protect their patent portfolios? We talked routinely about how these rulings could potentially affect our hiring, staffing and research, and that helped us come up with recommendations for next steps, along with targeted analysis for our clients” Liddell says.
Liddell has been in her current position for just over two years and has been at the firm — the only law firm she has ever worked for — for 16 years. Her background is as a graphic designer, which is how she began her career at Finnegan, and she holds a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C., and a master’s degree in arts management from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.
“It has been very helpful to me to combine the business perspective with the strong background I have in branding,” says Liddell.
Liddell has an abiding interest in the arts. For three years, she served in a volunteer capacity as a board member of the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association and, someday perhaps, would very much enjoy becoming a museum director.
By Jonathan Groner, Freelance Writer and Public Relations Consultant, for the Second Quarter 2018 LMA Mid-Atlantic Region Newsletter