My LMA 2018 Recap - The Big Easy!

Another wonderful LMA Conference in the books – we had a great time with three days of learning, networking and fun down in the Big Easy! While the industry forges ahead towards the increased use of AI, metrics and other analytical tools to enable us to do our jobs better, I was also impressed by the diversity of programming in respect to the other key components of the legal marketing function. I’ve seen some major social media activity around AI and the always-popular general counsel panels, so I will focus on some of my other favorite breakout sessions for the purposes of this article. 

Here were some highlights: 

Law Firm Sales Professionals: Aptly titled as “Unicorns” of the industry, the participants on this panel included Mary E. Hicks, Stephanie Hinrichs and Neel Lilani, who, along with GC Peter Barr, discussed the opportunities and challenges inherent in building and properly utilizing a sales/client facing team of non-billing professionals. Mary referred to herself as a professional matchmaker, which was appropriate as she (and the other professionals on the panel) combine a wide firm lens, superior client listening skills and, importantly, the bandwidth/time to perhaps be more responsive and thoughtful than the service delivery folks. The most exciting part about the “movement” is that these efforts finally seem to be gaining significant momentum around the legal industry; a few of us in the audience were discussing our successes in “front-facing” roles in pitches as well. It’s really about using the business development folks as marshals of the firm, and leveraging their capacity to know the whole firm and its capabilities, something we are often better positioned to do than some of the subject matter experts (attorneys) who may be in the weeds in regards to their “swim lanes.” 

Peter agreed with the value inherent in having someone to “connect the dots across the enterprise,” and said that these folks really can offer more effective client listening and better questioning skills, which are obviously mission-critical traits for any relationship. A must-listen if you get the recordings (which I always do!) 

Client Empathy/Mapping: I had the great fortune of meeting Sue-Ella Prodonovich some time ago, and have been following her blog for some time. Her insights never disappoint, and I thought that this was perhaps my favorite session of the conference, offering a rich perspective on the concept of how to “wow” clients and prospects alike. The key takeaway was that clients often aren’t looking to be coddled; they were looking for a frictionless experience that becomes almost second nature/habitual and easy. In Sue-Ella’s point of view (and now in mine), the best way to accomplish this is through the understanding of the buying journey (Entice, Enter, Engage, Exit, Extend) and subsequently establishing “listening posts” throughout their journey in a continuous feedback loop (and not just at the end of the year). 

For example, how do we ask the right questions and gain intelligence on the “Enter” and “Exit” phases to improve the customer experience to gain loyal clients/evangelists for life? Other key questions to ask during these phases centered on the relationship more generally; determining whether your attorneys are delivering on their promises (timing/deadlines/accessibility), and understanding what your clients are doing/thinking/saying/feeling at each stage of the process. 

Some other great food for thought from Sue-Ella: 

  • Using “day surgeries/secondments” to provide key insights and improve client relationships; 
  • Creating key client feedback posts and questions including SLA/engagement letter analysis; 
  • Having the relationship partner follow up when bills are late (and NOT the billing group); and 
  • Setting up a process for your managing partner to reach out to both clients and referring sources in the first 30 days to specifically thank them and further institutionalize both groups. 

Improving Communications/Public Speaking: This was one of the more intimate panels of the session, as it focused a lot more on improving our skills (as opposed to arming us with skills that help our attorneys and firms). Led by Tracy LaLonde, it was a neat program (if a little too short at just 45 minutes), but maybe it's that the time just flew by! Before getting into beginning your research and how to intro/body/conclude, it’s really important to consider the “WIIFThem” and pay close attention to what the key takeaways and underlying benefit/value you’re seeking – working backwards to achieve the direct result. By marrying the objective with some type of motivation, you will be able to achieve ultimate success. It's something I will definitely be trying for my upcoming panels! Her key steps (an acronym on her company, XAPHES) included EXamining listeners, Accepting Nerves, Passion (Less Content), Harnessing Authenticity, Engaging with Stories and Speaking Well. A fun time with a great speaker. 

Change Management: Perhaps the most packed panel of all, the breakout on change management was a great overview of what I personally believe is the biggest obstacle to any legal marketer’s success. Elena Cutri from LexisNexis led us through how to effect change, doing it through the lens of a team’s position on the “BD Maturity Model” and the key stakeholders that can stop us from effecting the change necessary in order to succeed. The BD team scale was a 6-point scale, and interestingly, most of us seemed to fall right in the middle of where we needed to be to have the seats at the table that could unquestionably drive change. Some compelling stuff for sure, and another hot topic for us legal marketers as we continue to gain authority, buying power and both strategic and visionary respect. 

After a few years here at LMA, I learned that you’re never going to see it all, do it all, meet them all or learn it all, you just have to find what moves you and try to find ways to make it happen and have fun too! Thanks to the strategic partners who exhibited (Manzama Signals shout-out!) A big shout out to the HOF recipients Anne Gallagher and my man Jeff Reade, thanks to Stefanie Marrone and Andrew Laver for their fearless reporting, and a hearty thanks and much love to everyone I met. Until Hotlanta… 

Mike Mellor is the Director of Marketing and Business Development at Pryor Cashman, an award-winning, full-service law firm with more than 160 attorneys in NYC and Los Angeles. He is a frequent speaker and author for the LMA.

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