LMA's Next Big Thing: Service Metamorphosis: Driving Performance Improvement

Did anyone else blink and the end of 2019 is suddenly here? I was very excited to kick this year off when LMA and The Next Big Thing Committee asked me to help present this year’s Next Big Thing, Service Metamorphosis: Driving Process Improvement.

Brenda Plowman, CMO at Fasken, and Deborah McMurray, Founder and CEO at Content Pilot, served as the co-chairs for the 2019 Next Big Thing Committee and quickly identified their hypothesis to drive forward this Big Idea: We have been talking about “service” for more than 30 years, yet our industry deserves an “F” for all its failures.

This spurred the two of them into action. Brenda and Deborah conducted extensive interviews leading into the year of programming, and some of that feedback, highlighted below, presents the very clear picture for how far firms still have to go to fully embrace service as a model.

service as a model

The call to action is this: We, as legal marketers, need to change service from a passive, decentralized concept to an active driver of improved lawyer and firm performance.

Realistically speaking, how do we do this? Service is not limited to legal marketing departments. Service exists across all functions of a law firm—client billing, the receptionist, conference services, etc.; any way in which the firm interacts with a client or prospect impacts the service relationship. Although, it truly starts with the service providers themselves—the attorneys.

Even if change lies with the attorneys, there are a number of ways we as legal marketers can inspire change. Throughout the year, we asked many legal marketers to take a close look at their firm and perform an analysis on service. 

The reason Service Metamorphosis was chosen as the Next Big Thing in 2019, is that it scales to law firms in any geography, of any size and with any type of client base—business to business or business to consumer. We spoke to many who were in firms with under 100 lawyers, and equally as many who felt they had sophisticated service programs in their large law firms. This was also a conversation that resonated with many of our business partners in the legal marketing community. No matter the size or focus of the company, we recommend scaling the tools, analysis, strategies, and tactics to fit your client relationships, staffing, and structure.

Before you start with the analysis, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of the stages of Service Metamorphosis.


Stage 1.jpgStage One: Egg

The Marketing/Business Development team helps lay the groundwork for better lawyer/client relationships, and service and performance improvement. In this stage, you are starting to build the case internally. Begin to get the attorneys talking about and becoming comfortable with client service as an opportunity and understanding that the standards for client service are continually being raised. Gather real input and data from clients around how they see the firm and what clients see as best practices in client service from other firms. This will be the basis for any real evolution of client service in the firm. What the clients say, the firm will do.


stage 2.jpgStage Two: Caterpillar

The process is ‘growing up,’ and attorneys are meeting internally and externally to learn about client expectations. Attorneys at the firm engage in vital, transparent conversations with clients, uncovering ways to help them design a new beginning in the client/lawyer relationship. This easily scales to the size of the firm. Begin to discuss with clients how the firm can raise its bar in a way that is supportive of the client’s priorities and needs. This will transform the relationship and open the way for new opportunities.


stage 3.jpgStage Three: Chrysalis

The law firm takes action based on a mutual and clear vision of the desired relationship and performance improvement goals. The attorneys are accountable for measurable outcomes and ensuring that the needle is moving. This is the stage of action and change management at the firm to deliver client service, and its helpful to remember this stage takes a long time. Based on feedback from the clients, formalize a service improvement program, curriculum, and behavior standards for attorneys and other staff members as they are working with clients. Share this expectation broadly within the firm. Reward those who follow and excel with this program. Ensure additional members of your firm are being introduced to the client and the services your firm provides are growing. Prompt your attorneys to provide important “extras” and “value-adds” that demonstrate commitment and passion for the people at the client organization.


stage 4.jpgStage Four: Adult

Learn what it looks like when clients and attorneys are thriving together. You are breaking out! Some may feel they are ‘done’—but a client’s business is ever-evolving, so client service follows the same path. And firms are always getting new clients, so the ‘butterflies’ need to lay new eggs all the time. Map out how your lawyers will be accountable for measurable outcomes and how they will report on progress to both the client and the firm. Report on the various performance metrics to illustrate to the firm how revenue is growing, and pre-established metrics and goals are being met.


Many firms attest to maintaining a “clients first” culture; we see it emboldened across so many websites. Most firms like to believe their firm embodies thoughtful and attentive attorneys. However, to really understand where your firm stands with regard to client service, the Next Big Thing Committee recommends asking yourself the following eight questions:

  1. Have you analyzed and benchmarked the state of client service in your firm?
  2. Do you have written service standards for your firm?
  3. Have you done or do you conduct written or oral surveys of clients asking, “How are we doing?”
  4. If you have merged or acquired another firm, were each firms’ client service initiatives, protocols or strategies considered in negotiations?
  5. When you are interviewing lateral partners to hire, is there a discussion of client service philosophies/approaches?
  6. Is the CMO, or senior person in charge of marketing/business development in your firm, participating in service discussions?
  7. Do you do client audits including research revenue/matter trends internally, meet with the client relationship lawyers, meet with the client and together build an action plan?
  8. On a scale of 0 to 10, how do you think your firm performing on service?


Apply the metamorphosis cycle below continuously. If you did not get the chance to join the conversation this year, use the following framework in 2020 to expand and improve upon your firm’s client service. As noted above, even if you’ve reached full metamorphosis in one area of the business, or with one specific client, the work and our clients are always changing.

  1. Conduct the full analysis assessment. What Service Metamorphosis stage are you?
  2. Determine your benchmark Net Promoter Score.
  3. Analyze top clients for growth opportunities and relationship risks.
  4. Identify high-reward strategies first. What will move the needle?
  5. Focus on designing collaborative conversations.
  6. Build an accountable team of lawyers.
  7. Measure change and growth.


As you enter 2020, identify two things you will do in the next 60 days to help your firm move to the next stage of Service Metamorphosis. Use the chart below to help you and your team stay accountable.




Additional Firm Support/Resources Needed












By Terra Liddell, Chief Marketing Officer, Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP

Recent Stories
President's Message

2020 Your Honor Awards: Recognizing Our Volunteers

2021 Mid-Atlantic Region Local Steering Committees