The Event

Last week the Legal Marketing Association of New York, @LMA_NY, hosted their 2nd annual Chief Marketing Officer Panel. It was titled “The Future Of Legal Marketing”. The ultimate goal of every legal marketer is to drive revenue. However, today’s landscape holds the widest array of tactics towards strategic objectives.

Emceed with energetic prose by next year’s NYLMA president Seth Apple of Davis Polk & Wardwell, LLP, who had us “fasten our seatbelts for departure”, the event was informative and thought provoking on what tactics have been successful, which ones firms are still struggling with and where marketing is headed. The overwhelming opinion was that there has been a ton of change over the past five years. Furthermore, a lot lies ahead over the next five.

For those who missed it, here is a recap on the evolution of the legal marketing team. They discuss their increasing role in strategic direction, branding, social media and competitive intelligence.

How would you summarize the evolution of the legal marketing department in the past 5 years?

Jeannie Muzinic, CMO of McDermott Will & Emery, started it off by saying that law firms are undergoing an “enormous transition as we are behind the curve with ‘the why’, ‘the how’ and ‘the value’ of marketing.”

Previously, marketing was more of a facilitation of brochures, pitch materials, business cards and managing events. Now, marketing is starting to become part of the business strategy. Despina Kartson, CMO of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP agreed with Muzinic and added that law firms are challenged with how to communicate their internal expertise so partners can open up more cross-selling opportunities. Kartson stated, “Focusing more on client development has put an emphasis on internal marketing so partners know more about other partners and experience of the firm.”

The Director of Business Development & Marketing leader of Kasowitz Benson, Torres & Friedman, LLP, Gretchen Koehler, was the final panelist to weigh in on the evolution, stating that “…everyone is competing for the same slice so we are all trying to raise the bar with a leaner meaner team.”

Content Production of Law Firm Marketing Departments

The next topic, content production created by law firm marketing departments sparked lots of interactivity. Apple lead the interaction asserting “a law firm’s website is nothing more than a publishing platform.” In a C3PO reference he noted his strategic phrase “Good content that is calculated (targeted) and consistent (distribution) will develop productive opportunities.”

Setting the stage, Apple asked the panelists, “Are you seeing more structure on content strategy, more focus on the message or just raw production?” Koehler took the lead, explaining that although she has identified people in each practice group to be responsible for managing thought leadership pieces, they do limited blogs and newsletters as she is looking for partner commitment beyond issue #1 noting, “many are excited about issue #1, but not #4 and on, so client alerts are more of the norm.”

“Our structure is evolving, we have an editorial and website content team in place,” added Kartson, while citing the 2014 State of Digital Content Marketing Survey as a reason for making the shift to digital a high priority. She referenced the survey to support her digital marketing focus “33% of in-house counsel reading daily business newspaper content digitally in 2014 vs. 55% in 2013” over a 20% decline in reading traditional newspapers. Author’s note: Law firm marketing departments currently have a low adoption rate with video production. However, the video content is organically optimized for mobile device consumption.

Muzinic’s Firm

Muzinic’s firm has the most developed internal processes around content creation with a top down approach from their Chairman. “Every practice group leader has certain metrics, dictated from the Chairman, that they need to hit. Marketing’s role is to help them facilitate delivering that message to hit those targets.”

By far, all agreed they must get a lot done in this changing environment. A few other key take-a-ways from panelists were:

  • Look at responsive website design that is clear and succinct as mobile consumption will continue to rise – Kartson
  • Find a connection between communications and business development, when it works it has been very successful – Muzinic
  • Look at social media  for baseline business development so that you have a trusted network to get referrals. – Apple
  • Each panelist’s firm uses social media for client intelligence to prepare lawyers for meetings
  • Kasowitz Benson, Torres & Friedman, LLP has seen work come in via social media and Koehler has a gut feeling that there is a quicker conversion rate from these leads vs. traditional wining and dining clients

Conclusions on The Future of Legal Marketing

The panelist agreed the emphasis on sales and business development is a slow going process. This comment garnered a laugh from the group when Apple asked, “Will lawyers ever let non-lawyers talk to clients?” There are hurdles in creating an effective compensation model for a sales person. It’s also cumbersome bridging the marketing to sales gap and developing metrics for new billable hours generated from cross-selling.

Stocked with solid insight from top legal marketing professionals, 5 frogs on a log capped off the two-hour event. Apple questioned the group, “5 frogs are on a log and 4 decide to jump off. How many are left on the log?” His answer is analogous to those law firms that will just sit and wait for thing to happen…because there is a difference between deciding to do something and actually doing it.