The Big Show #LMA18

Key Takeaways from #LMA18

Summary by Stacey Hall, Proposal Writer, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

As an experienced legal business development professional and member of the Legal Marketing Association for most of the past 17 years of my career, I was honored to be the 2018 LMA Southwest Region Scholarship recipient to what I affectionately call “the big show!” I wanted to walk away from the 2018 LMA Annual Conference, as a first-time attendee, with new knowledge to bring back to my day-to-day, and through the insightful programming I attended, that goal was achieved.

As law firms have evolved, so to have our roles as business development and marketing professionals. At this year’s conference, I was most interested in the sessions relating to client services and the business of law. I feel that those sessions are not only important to my role as a firmwide proposal writer, but they are crucial to the future of our industry.

From Steve Hughes discussion on Socrates’ Briefcase: The Three BD Conversations Every Lawyer Needs to Master – The Bridge and T.H.R.L lines most resonated with me, especially in creating a winning proposal response. My number one take-away from this session was to pump the brakes on how awesome your firm is and not lead with who you are but to think of the client first – no one cares about you. Spend the majority of your time in their problems/needs/industry. Engage them by using a T.H.R.L. line: clients turn to us when, clients hire us when, clients reach out to us when, and clients look to us when all with the intended result of benefits, results and outcomes, oh my! (Did you sing this a la Dorothy?) This coincided nicely with the General Counsel panel’s insightful discussion around what gets the attention of general counsel and business executives. Of course, I honed in on their responses focused on RFPs and pitches. What the GCs want in their counsel includes: to have researched them and the organization first; to the extent you can, know what is important to the business and what keeps them up at night; to make suggestions of additional experience and value the firm/lawyer could bring to the relationship; to suggest value-adds such as secondments to help strengthen the relationship; to offer AFAs, and while important they should be dependent on a particular matter; and to have the industry experience, substantive experience, experience with opposing counsel and offer up a winning strategy that is as specific as possible.

Speaking of value from above, James Durham’s session on “Are Your Pricing and Project Management Investments Offering Real Value and Differentiation to Your Clients,” offered up best practices for communicating value: what are we doing well, what can we do better and what can we do to keep your business. Show what you are doing to add value by putting it on the bill. The value equation for the people with whom you do business is: value = what they get – what they paid. When an RFP is issued, ensure that you do deep research and collaborate on the pain points and goals as this is key to getting the pricing and workflow right, pose questions to help the client find the value, and invest time with the client’s accounts payable.

The “Deep Dive on Process Improvement and Project Management for Law Firms: Inside and Out,” not only benefits my day-to-day work, but also my own professional development. Led by Catherine Alman MacDonagh and Timothy Corcoran, this session focused on using Lean, Six Sigma and project management to manage your many projects and competing requests and how law firms are employing process improvement and project management to deliver real value to clients, and the benefits to both the client and the firm. This session focused on the principle of doing the right things…right. Experience and project management equals predictability. Results matter: where can marketers add value, where can marketers lead, what obstacles do marketers face, what skills gaps face marketers, and what opportunities emerge for marketers.

To conclude, the 2018 LMA Annual Conference exceeded my expectations. There is no equivalent to in-person peer-to-peer connecting – networking and relationship building – and in-person learning – asking questions and engaging live with thought leaders.

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