What Does 2021 Look Like? Perspectives From Around the Region

By Scott Pacheco, marketing and communications manager at Lerch, Early & Brewer, and Gina Eliadis, director of marketing & business development at Goodell DeVries

As we pass the one-year mark of the coronavirus pandemic, law firms have settled into their “new normal” for client relations and business development. Of course, much of what we learned during 2020 will inform how we proceed in 2021. While some things have changed significantly, the basics remain the same. We talked with several marketing and business development professionals throughout the Mid-Atlantic region to learn how they are approaching their 2021 initiatives. Here is what they had to say:

In-person seminars have been a part of my firm’s marketing efforts since our inception. As such, this created a need to think outside the box, and we tried to find the best ways to turn challenges into opportunities while staying sensitive to the pandemic situation. People were, and still are, getting “Zoomed out.” Try a less popular platform with interesting interactive aspects to engage the audience. Go old-school with snail-mail to distribute content and create much-needed touch-points. Utilize the ability to extend your geographic reach, which can include those who typically would not be able to travel for an event. In the grand scheme of things, one year is not enough to establish new marketing, BD, and event planning best practices that are universal. Even when (fingers crossed) things get back to normal in terms of our ability to communicate without a webcam, past strategies will need a lot of alterations. Legal marketers need to work with their lawyers and figure out the best tactics to help them navigate these changes.

Janessa Shaikun, director of marketing at Franklin & Prokopik

In working with my team, we always try to plan as far in advance as possible. This hits home most closely with events and sponsorships. Although, in 2021, we’re taking a step-by-step approach. Rather than considering the full year of opportunities and what works holistically, we’re working with our attorneys and outside organizations on taking the best approach for the event that is coming up first in the calendar. We want to remain engaged and committed throughout the year, but it will make better sense to execute the planning of an event in September, much closer to that timeframe, since we’re still operating with so many changing variables in our world right now. One thing is for certain, all the tips, tricks, and skills we learned last year, and now heading into this year, won’t be lost in in the future. I think we’re going to see a form of hybrid/remote/online approaches to marketing and BD for years to come.

We use a zero-based budgeting approach, so this is no different for 2021. Were the numbers different? A little. But to be honest, not by a lot. We had some certainty heading into the first part of the year that we’ll be virtual, but our engagement in digital efforts, new technologies, and sponsorships (even virtually) remains the same. An area that is more difficult to plan for, but certainly ended up being a different number in 2020 and will have a similar impact in 2021, is the travel related to marketing and BD. I know our attorneys will not travel as much in 2021, as they would have in 2019.

Our team has worked hard to cherish the word “pivot” and help our attorneys embrace it as well! The speed at which our attorneys learned new ways to connect virtually last year is really quite remarkable – across all firms really. And now it’s applying those skills to not only nurture your current client relationships during an uncertain time, but embrace the new format to working, and being diligent about how to build new connections through virtual platforms. Instead of taking the time to travel to an event, use that time to connect with the registered attendees on LinkedIn, become familiar with the virtual conference online platform to actually connect with the attendees through the chat or messaging feature when the time is appropriate during the conference. And most of all, use the phone and use video calls for what they are – our way to connect “in-person” with our long-time clients, close colleagues, and new acquaintances. Do not be afraid to ask, “Can we connect by [insert preferred method here] to discuss…”. Conversations are the true point of connection – and that has not changed.

Terra Liddell, chief marketing officer at Finnegan at Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP

The pandemic has made planning more fluid. We all learned that the ability to pivot was crucial last year; that would likely remain the case for at least the first half of this calendar year. Events that would normally be planned for in-person have obviously shifted to virtual formats. We also knew that we’d need to re-evaluate more often and frequently as it relates to events. Building decision-making into the process and our calendars earlier was a key ingredient this year.

Generally, our approach to budgeting this year did not differ from previous years. As is the case with any budget, we considered the current environment and knew that this year would remain yet another where planning is important, but flexibility is essential.

We have taken deliberate steps to support lawyers whose marketing and BD efforts were largely in-person in previous years. We’ve added a weekly social media digest that we send to everyone where we summarize the week’s social media posts and offer suggestions for continued sharing. We’ve also utilized videos in a two-fold manner: 1) we’ve posted videos on our website and social media channels to show a more personal side of our lawyers and professional staff externally; 2) we create weekly internal videos to communicate updates and information to remote workers. The videos have proven to be a great way for everyone to feel more connected to one another, which has a lot of benefits beyond marketing and business development. “Seeing” people, albeit via video, is crucial to our DNA as humans. We’ve been able to stay connected and make referrals and recommendations to one another because we continue to see each other on a regular basis. Along with the rest of the world, we have fully embraced Microsoft Teams and Zoom to continue “seeing” our clients, prospects, and colleagues through those platforms.

Debra Henry, director of marketing and business development at Gordon Feinblatt LLC

We are meeting remotely and re-evaluating expenses, like sponsorships, where face-to-face networking was a significant piece of the sponsorship. We are making some budgeting changes because of this shift. For lawyers whose marketing and business development efforts depended on in-person meetings in the past, we’re continuing to support those meetings, albeit in a one-on-one format rather than groups or large meetings.

Director of marketing and business development at a mid-size firm

Throughout the region, our colleagues have shifted tactics where needed, but also kept their focus on the fundamentals. After a tumultuous year, it’s useful to reflect on the changes that have been introduced and take comfort in the constancy of marketing and business development basics. We thank everyone who shared their perspectives.

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