As a newbie to the LMA annual conference, day one was both thrilling and nerve-wracking. You can feel the energy in the exhibit hall as soon as the doors opened for breakfast. Even though it was bright and early on a Tuesday morning, everyone was networking and connecting. There were many exhibitors and it was nice to see some familiar faces and get up close and personal with products and services that I have had my eye on. The breakfast session was followed by welcome and opening remarks by 2019 LMA President Cynthia Voth, director of client engagement and innovation at Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP, 2019 Conference Co-Chairs, Andrew Laver, business development manager at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, and Erin Meszaros, chief business development and client service officer at Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP. The applause they received was outstanding — the room was electrified! The camaraderie in this packed room was inspiring.
Following the opening remarks, the spotlight session “Is ABA Rule 5.4 Keeping Nonlawyer Competitors Out, or Lawyers In?” highlighted the limitation that the ABA rule has with regard to collaboration between lawyers and allied professionals when making business decisions. Presenters William Henderson, professor of law at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, and Scott Westfahl, professor of practice and faculty director of executive education at Harvard Law School, showed us how this rule is affecting the bottom line as the percentage change in the number of employed lawyers in-house has grown exponentially in the last two decades. The law firm business model has evolved and other common law jurisdictions are taking action, having already lifted the prohibition on nonlawyer ownership. This was a fascinating conversation about how traditional law firms are behind the eight ball and need to take action in order to compete with the big law firms forming within corporations.
The keynote address was filled with nuggets of advice from none other than Jennifer Dulski, head of groups and community at Facebook. Her presentation, “We Can All Be Movement Starters,” was the perfect way to get the room energized for not just the panels ahead but for our careers! Jennifer walked us through the common steps all successful movement starters take and even gave us tips on how to respond to pressure from change-makers. Remember this: I.I.C.D.T.I.C.D.A — “If I Can Do This, I Can Do Anything.” While she admits it’s not the easiest acronym, its one she has lived by her entire successful career. More than anything, we have to be brave enough to start making a difference and create a clear and compelling vision in order to tell our story. Wow, powerful stuff! She even mentioned the naysayers and how equally crucial they are to our success. If we don’t have naysayers then we don’t have a strong enough brand. Well to that I say, bring it on! Jennifer closed with this, “Response–ability: the power to influence your situation and the integrity to do so in alignment with your values.” I know I speak for everyone in the room when I say I was more motivated than ever following Jennifer’s presentation to get out there and attack my goals!
After a quick networking break in the exhibit hall, the breakout sessions were underway. My first breakout session was “Diversity From the Client Perspective: Smart Strategies to Winning Business.” Two words for this panel — PACKED HOUSE! It’s no secret that diversity and inclusion is a hot topic; we’re seeing more and more that clients are putting this at the forefront of their relationships. So long are the historical relationships. The saying “they’ve always been a client” no longer applies. If your team is not diverse, the client will look elsewhere. When pitching to a client, make diversity a selling point and be transparent in your firm’s progress. Clients are looking for the whole team to be diverse, not just those who are in the room.
Another great panel, “From PSO to PSB: A New Model for Creating Differentiated Brand Experiences.” It is important that law firms understand the difference between a Professional Services Organization and a Professional Services Brand. Are we building the firm’s brand or the lawyer’s brand? Using the PSB approach, firms will be able to create an umbrella brand that will foster “client stickiness” focusing on not just the outcome but also the overall client experience. Did you know? Billing is a brand touch point and is a necessary part of the client experience. An umbrella brand positions firms to become a thought leader, which can, in turn, allow lawyers to charge more money for the same work. A differentiated and memorable brand experience drives revenue, attracts and retains new talent, and creates a reputation with the client that will stay with the firm even if a lateral moves.
Keeping with the client-focused theme, my next breakout session, “Power Your Firm’s Growth by Adopting a Key Client Strategy,” provided best practices for navigating the demands from clients with respect to more collaboration and to serve as trusted advisers while supporting the client’s initiatives. The strategy needs to focus on a select list of clients whereby deep relationships can be nurtured. With this in mind, a firm and practice area can sustain substantial growth. We heard from Kelby Luther, associate director of client development at Baker McKenzie, who is responsible for ensuring client relationships are “farmed” rather than “hunted.” This approach creates a specialized and unique client experience.
My last breakout session for day one was “Streamlined, Actionable and Transparent Partner Business Plans.” I know I am not alone when I say yearly partner business development plans can be difficult to accomplish. Whether it is due to a lack of follow-through or implementation, sometimes we just cannot get partners to commit. This session we were introduced to an online platform that personalizes dashboards that can create actionable reminders and due dates that can promote execution. In this tech-focused era, leveraging technology to drive accountability can streamline this partner process plan seamlessly for legal marketers.
Day one of the LMA annual conference was a long one, but I was excited to attend the evening networking reception. What an event! I met so many of my peers from around the world! From Texas to London, our LMA network is diverse. I could not have picked a better way to end my first day at the conference.
Stay tuned for a recap of day two and my overall thoughts of the conference in upcoming newsletters.
Angie G. Litan, MS
Business Development and Marketing Manager