After taking a picture with his phone to show his kids, who didn’t believe he was speaking to such a large group of peers, Lee Garfinkle, CMO at Allen & Overy LLP, kicked off the the NYLMA (New York Legal Marketing Association) Third Annual CMO forum with his response to “what their marketing department does to support making their firm different in the marketplace”. Garfinkle has a large client intelligence group that focuses heavily on collecting information on clients. They then add that information to their CRM to identify opportunities where they can provide value and drive business.  Kate Stoddard, Director of Practice Development at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, spoke about how their partners appreciate being able to know each other. They know each other’s practices on a personal level. That intimacy is reflective of how they interact and create custom solutions for clients. 

Dave Southern, CMO at BakerHostetler, who also has an intelligence group to meet the needs of their clients, concurred with Stoddard that focusing on client’s needs always “makes it easier for their lawyers to build businesses”, but struggled with how to provide more intimacy within the firm so lawyers understand what value their peers offer.

The Panel

panelsThe panel’s initial remarks gave moderator Melissa Seitter, Director of Business Development at Kobre & Kim LLP, and New York LMA President Elect, a perfect segue into “how do you go about getting lawyers to get to know each other?”  Southern noted that “speed dating for partners has been one of the best things we’ve ever done and have carved out time at every major meeting to do so.”  While Stoddard contributed that “internal CLEs have been very helpful as a way for colleagues to see each other in action – they can see the pitch and get to know the partners expertise.”  Garfinkle’s firm relies on face to face interactions and practice group meetings. This allows them to push their initiative forward as an investment. People can then get to know each other and work better together.

Getting partners to know each other is a first step. However, fostering cross selling, as it can be challenging, is the main goal.  Once partners get to know each other, Allen & Overy’s business development team focuses on making connections between research and opportunity to drive cross selling.  While Kelley Drye & Warren LLP works hard to “bring clients to the buffet” by adding industry expertise to clients.

Growth and Expansion

Each panelist agreed that revenue and profit were key drivers to growth and expansion. Still, they were getting their in different ways.  One of the ways they did agree upon in by utilizing client case teams.  At Kelley Drye & Warren, case teams form organically by building upon their client relationships.  At BakerHostetler, things are a bit more formalized. They have a modified version of SPIN Selling to drive a client action plan focusing around client needs.  At Allen & Overy, every major client has a global and local relationship partner (BD role), and some have relationship associates, who communicate on a regular basis.

“Because there is a lot of things going on with a client there needs to be a bunch of communication”.  Each BD person is evaluated and trained on three stages of client listening. These include – 1) pitch 2) matter and 3) relationship level.  “Nothing bad has come from client listening. It is the #1 thing we can do is become closer to a client” noted Garfinkle.

Suggestions from the Panel

If your firm does not yet have a client listening initiative, the panelists have a few suggestions –

  • start with one client, identify what information you want, start asking and researching
  • work with an outside firm to start
  • Asking clients has a bunch of benefits. Either you are the first to ask and look great, or are one of many and look good.

The latter part of the conversation shifted to legal content marketing and how content relates to driving business development targets.  NYLMA_CMO1But what comes first – content or strategy?  Responses ranged from –

  • Both…have a plan, but be flexible because things come up that you want to create for
  • Even though content marketing has been around forever, digital content is still in its infancy. However, there is real ROI happening.
  • Digital content marketing for law firms is very under-served and will see firms focus more and more
  • Content marketing focuses more on thought leadership via blogs that have a lot of SEO benefit
  • Deriving content on issue based campaigns that flow from client needs – what are clients asking questions about, consolidate a team of people and create content

Conclusions on Content Marketing

All agreed that ROI from legal content marketing was difficult to clearly define. It’s because of the long sales cycles and the relationship driven nature of the business.  However, there are smaller metrics that firms can define that will help gauge how much time and effort to put into an legal content marketing effort and if it is successful or not.  Metrics such as website views, downloads, number of meetings, and other firm specific numbers, that will gauge what legal content marketing does different than other activities.  Southern noted “have lots of little metrics that show little success to inspire other partners to get started.”

As the industry is seeing larger clients build up their internal legal departments, the last question from moderator Melissa Seitter asked “What is the biggest challenge in the next 12 months?”  Challenges ranged from gaining market share of a shrinking market, pricing, and understanding what they are spending their time and money on that gives the most amount of value back to the firm….and that is a challenge all legal marketing professionals have.

Photo credits go to – Odgis + Co (@odgisandco) and Amy Hrehovcik (@hRovingChik)