Strategic Experience Management and Proposal Best Practices

Amid a changing industry landscape and shifting client demand, the way law firms approach experience management is changing as well. Firms recognize the need to leverage all of their information to serve clients effectively. While tracking experience is not a new concept, modern tools make firm data come alive. Today’s experience management systems overcome the limitations of traditional marketing technologies and blur the lines between firm departments to enable an unprecedented level of collaboration. It is vital that Marketing Technologists understand both the tactical and strategic value of these tools for greater efficiency, data-driven planning, and enhanced client service.

The following articles reveal a myriad of ways firms can leverage experience data strategically. Cindy Thurston Bare relates the value of capturing robust client data to enhance client service and industry-focused strategies. Keith Wewe addresses the strategic value of proposal and process automation to win new business. Helena Lawrence discusses how experience data can identify new markets and business opportunities, while Rachel Shields Williams invites us to extend the uses of experience management systems well beyond the marketing department. In each article, the value of aggregating data into one platform becomes clear. When firms turn to one trusted source for client, matter, and people experience, they can collaborate more efficiently, identify and win new business opportunities, and grow deeper client relationships.

Know Your Client With Modern Experience Management

By Cindy Thurston Bare, Foundation Software Group

Traditional experience management systems focused on matter details with limited client information. Client Relationship Management (CRM) systems store limited client information but are inflexible and cannot capture robust matter experience. Today, modern experience management systems excel at both. Client-focused firms such as Troutman Sanders and Hunton Andrews Kurth are using experience management to gather and leverage rich client data to enhance client service, client teams, analytics, marketing, and practice management, with impressive results.

Gone are the days of "having to go to different sources for different data," reports Keli Whitnell, Experience Database Administrator at Troutman Sanders. The firm captures enough client detail in their experience system to rely on it for robust client search. Simply having a place to enter client descriptions with rich keywords has greatly enhanced search capabilities at both firms. Stephanie Bishop, Business Intelligence Manager at Hunton Andrews Kurth, describes their experience system as a sophisticated data aggregator that they are always “thinking of new ways to leverage as much as possible” for client intelligence, especially since their recent merger.

Mining client data
A good place to start is with client history. In addition to work performed and results, firms use experience systems to collect a wide variety of client-level data points, including client open date to calculate client age, last time entry activity date, matter value, fees billed, and total hours. The data can be used to better understand clients through a variety of easily configurable metrics. Client data can also be rolled up to client groups. At Hunton Andrews Kurth, their experience tool provides practice team managers, pricing, and LPM teams with quick snapshots of the work they do for a client or a client family based on matter type and area of law.

Targeting client industry
Both firms agree that the ability to integrate external sources of client data is a key feature for experience systems. Firms commonly ingest company data from Dun & Bradstreet or Capital IQ, including links to their proprietary profiles so more detail is a click away. Headquarters location is invaluable, to quickly answer questions like how many technology companies from Singapore the firm represents. However, the most popular item captured from external sources are industry codes.

To support firm strategies, build client teams, and enhance client service, firms are augmenting external industry data with internal industry tags that are both broad and deep. In their experience system, Troutman Sanders created macro level industry categories while at the same time adding vertical tags. Verticals include hot areas in emerging technology that are difficult to define as an industry. Hunton Andrews Kurth uses their system to align clients with target industries. “Industry focus is a key driver for our firm. A lot of our research and planning is driven by industry trends and opportunities,” says Bishop. Both firms can now find relevant lawyer expertise, and analyze matter and client data, by any level of industry the firm chooses to define.

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Responding to client needs
For Troutman Sanders, the goal of their experience system is to anticipate lawyer and client needs. A client recently asked for detailed descriptions of the work the firm had done for similar industry clients. The firm very quickly provided a redacted yet comprehensive list, and the relationship has already expanded. Whitnell asserts "without a system that brings the data together, it just would not have been possible” to respond so quickly. At Hunton Andrews Kurth, Bishop measures the success of their system by the growing usage every month and notes “the statistics speak for themselves.” Both firms were recently listed on the 2018 BTI Client Service A-Team, recognized for client service that is surely enhanced by how well they know their clients.

How Technology Can "Win" the Winning Game

By Keith N. Wewe, Content Pilot LLC

Let’s face it, pulling together pitches and proposals is not fun for business development teams.


Because lawyers often make requests at the last minute – and on days that coincide with other high priority tasks. BD teams can never seem to put their hands on the right content. Their automated proposal system, if they have one, isn’t flexible enough to create the best proposal possible. Matter information that resides in Excel spreadsheets is difficult to navigate and inadequate, or completely non-existent. And once the proposal is out the door, BD teams never hear back from the lawyer about whether the work was won or lost — and why. It’s a mental beatdown.

However, what is fun is winning. And with a properly configured proposal automation solution, technologist can help their business development counterparts solve these problems and turn pitches and proposals into a joyful process by following these four examples, implemented by real law firms across the globe.

Start with strategy
How are you going to properly build or configure a solution if you don’t know the pitch and proposal goals of the firm? The answer is — you can’t. So ask your BD team questions like these, which will lead to novel technical solutions:

  1. What type(s) of work are the most profitable or strategically aligned with firm objectives?
  2. Are there specific pain points or problems the team is hoping to resolve?
  3. What are the limitations of the current process?
  4. Can you outline a typical proposal request, from cradle to grave?
  5. How will success be defined in 1 year, 3 years and 5 years?

Create a culture of collaboration
The firms that are most successful in creating pitches and proposals have created fail-safe, methodical approaches when responding to lawyer requests. These plans details what the firm can provide based on how far in advance the BD team receives the original proposal request — from 6 hours to 12 hours to 24 hours to 1 week to 2 weeks.

As the lead time increases, different processes and workflows, aided by automation, kick-in and assist the business development team in creating a best-in-class response. For example, at the 1-week interval, imagine the Competitive Intelligence, Library Services and Pricing teams being alerted with an email that requests tasks on a specific proposal without additional work from the business team? And with the ability to log the responses in a database? These types of processes are invaluable by creating an “we’re all in this together” mentality, as well as aiding the BD team in putting the firm’s best foot forward.

Aggregate all the sensible data you can
The old saying that “content is king” holds true in the proposal automation realm, too. There is a constant fear that BD teams do not have access to the right and most recent content. Therefore, integration with third-party systems is an absolute must.

But you must look beyond the website, experience management, and time and billing systems for content. These integrations are considered table stakes. Your intranet, HR database, data warehouse and document management systems have tons of actionable content that the BD team may not have otherwise considered. It’s often the furthest beneath the surface where we find the diamonds, so make it easy for BD teams to excavate this rich content.

Automate a win/loss debrief
It seems that no one has the time these days to ask why the work was won or lost, which is invaluable information in formulating an ongoing, winning pitch and proposal strategy. And even if the information is available, it’s not captured in a singular system that can be searched.

So — create one.

Work with your BD team to determine the most important questions to know in the win/loss debrief and create an easy method to get this survey into the hands of the lead lawyer(s) — or potentially, clients (though, if a possibility, I suggest face-to-face meetings with clients is the way to go). And keep the survey as brief as possible. More is not more in this instance. “More” simply increases the height of the hurdle to complete the win/loss debrief task. The goal is asking the right questions.

In closing, technologist can great value to proposal automations — so get off the sidelines, get in the game, and help create a system that wins more business.

Beyond Matter Lists

How Experience Management Supports Strategic Business Development Initiatives

By Helena Lawrence, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

While business developers inherently understand the value of experience management to respond to pitches, they may not have considered how experience management can support strategic initiatives. When developing new markets and expanding service lines, experience platforms provide informed opportunity spotting. By properly recording, tagging and syncing matter details from key firm systems, the firm gains new perspectives. Armed with experience information, and viewed in the context of market trends, market differentiators and gaps in key legal expertise become clear. Both are key to creating value for clients and firms. 

How to evaluate expertise and market trends
A thorough evaluation of new business opportunities begins by studying your experience. Use your experience platform to understand your work at a variety of practice and industry levels. Your system can help you analyze matter size, profitability, and trends for growth and decline. In addition to matter level analysis, experience systems help identify core client industries you service. Once you understand the trends and your firm strengths, map them against client and market insights:

  • Market: How does the market view your firm? 
  • Clients: Why do clients hire your firm? How do they perceive your firm and offerings? 
  • Prospects: What keeps your clients up at night? How do they prefer to buy legal services? 
  • Trends: What macro factors, such as politics, economics, social or competition, may affect your organization? 

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Create a strategy
Once you have identified opportunities, review them against your plans, goals, priorities and culture. Does pursuing the identified opportunities make sense? What resources do you need to strengthen your market position? What can you do to differentiate your firm?

At Orrick, we embarked on this strategic planning process to introduce a new line of service. By tracking and tagging experience records, we identified an upward trend in privacy and cybersecurity matters. While at first our matters were classified in broad categories in our experience system, over time we started tagging more specific sub-areas, such as cyber insurance and government investigations, and digging deeper into client and market trends.

Our clients told us that they were concerned about privacy, security and increasingly complex regulations, while market studies such as the ACC Chief Legal Officers Survey reported the same. In response, we created a cross-practice initiative to organize lawyers, maximize client value and pursue business opportunities in these key areas. When the European Union Parliament approved the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), we had the perfect opportunity to map a firm strength (EU privacy) to market insights about this looming regulation. With the opportunity defined, we leveraged experience data to identify priority clients for cross- marketing activities and successfully grew both our revenue and market awareness. We can now do the same exercise in reverse, to prioritize new firm clients that are currently “GDPR only” and to consider how we can expand both the services and value we provide.

Experience Management – So Much More Than Just Pitches, Proposals and Rankings

By Rachel Shields Williams, Sidley Austin LLP

Why does experience management matter to your department; to your firm? Because it’s why clients hire our firms!

In business development training, lawyers are coached to look for client pain points and consider how they can help solve a problem rather than just pitch services. As technologists, we can follow that same advice by trying to identify pain points in other departments that can be solved by sharing the firm’s collective experience. Rather than each department recreating the wheel, a central source for experience data can create efficiencies within our departments and contribute to the firm’s bottom line.

For example, imagine the potential efficiencies for Recruiting departments by leveraging your experience management system. Recruiting managers can quickly and easily identify lawyers with certain experience to create an ideal candidate interview schedule. Let’s imagine your firm is actively recruiting a candidate leaving the government, the competition is fierce and the investment is substantial in terms of both time and money. The candidate tells the Recruiting Manager they are debating between your firm and your major competitor firm Beta, but they want to talk to a few more of your lawyers before making a decision.

The recruiting manager turns to the firm’s experience management system to identify all the lawyers, from senior partners to recent laterals, who joined the firm from the government including which branch of government they worked in. Then with another filter, they can quickly see who from that group also worked at law firm Beta. In a matter of minutes, the Recruiting department has a short list of lawyers for this highly desirable candidate to speak with. By using the experience management system, Recruiting can arrange powerful interviews to better assess the fit for the firm and the candidate to hire more effectively.

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In another example, a recent lateral partner is working to create a pricing proposal for a new engagement. While they have their own experience to guide the estimate, how can they leverage the collective knowledge of their new firm? The firm’s experience management system! The lawyer can look for matters that have similar characteristics to the new engagement, and work with the pricing team to examine estimated vs. actual work billed. With the matter numbers of similar work, the lawyer can also more efficiently identify relevant documents in the firm's DMS.

The experience management system can also help the new lawyer identify others in the firm they have not met, but who have relevant experience to enhance the client experience. The tools can help identify the most experienced professionals to staff the matter, and experts who should be consulted for best practices for that type of matter or unique aspects of the client industry.

Although experience management was traditionally a tool for marketing and business development, consider how your firm could leverage experience management to help many other professional staff departments. By effectively managing and sharing the firm’s experience to enhance client service and gain efficiencies, experience management can also help your firm grow the bottom line.


By Cindy Thurston Bare, Vice President of Consulting, Foundation Software Group; Keith Wewe, Vice President – Strategy and Solutions, Content Pilot LLC; Helena Lawrence, Senior Marketing Manager, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP; and Rachel Shields Williams, Senior Manager, Experience Management, Sidley Austin LLP; This article was originally published by the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) in the ILTA Marketing Technology White Paper, September 2018 and is republished here with permission. Click here to view the full ILTA White Paper.

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