Hard Research Findings on the Value of Submissions
“Is this real?” “Should we be doing this?” “We should be on this!”
These are some of the most common comments I receive in emails about ranking opportunities. Recognitions have become a big challenge for marketing professionals to address. In response, LMA and the Law Firm Media Professionals (LFMP) engaged BTI Consulting Group to assist with a research study on submissions. Some of those findings were presented at the 2016 LMA Annual Conference. The results of the study provide useful facts, statistics and insights that legal marketers can use when lawyers ask, “Should we do this?”
But first, some brief disclaimers. First, talking with lawyers about submissions can be tough, but lawyers typically respect evidence. The findings from LMA and LFMP’s study means legal marketing professionals can now present solid facts on the subject. Second, there are numerous submissions worth pursuing. However, with the increasing number of submissions, it’s getting harder to focus on the quality of the submissions that align with a firm’s strategy. Marketers are spending more of their time separating the wheat from the chaff. So here’s what to tell your lawyers — based on findings from the two leading authorities in this space.
1. ROI is perceived to be low — really low.
According to the survey, 83 percent of respondents estimated that their return on investment (ROI) is below 10 percent. Of this group, 61 percent estimated their return was less than five percent. In other words, only about six percent of respondents believed there was more than 20 percent ROI in submissions.
2. Submissions are a costly business.
Respondents considered preparation time, partner time, out-of-pocket expenses and all other costs to estimate the total time spent on submissions. While the results differ greatly by firm size, it’s clear that firms are spending loads of cash on submissions relative to their size. Large firms (600+ lawyers) average $691,000 annually for their U.S. submissions costs, with the overall average across firms at $157,000.
Several of my law firm colleagues from some of the bigger firms thought these figures were actually low. With one firm reporting that they spent approximately $5 million per year in the United States alone, there is some anecdotal support for the notion that respondents may have unintentionally underestimated their spending. When you start to factor in partner time based on their billing rates, it’s easy to see how this figure could get quite high.
With either the report or the anecdotal evidence as the guide, it’s clear that submissions come with a real cost.
3. Most firms don’t have the right resources or aren’t using existing resources efficiently.
According to the report, 18 percent of firms have professionals dedicated to preparing submissions. While that’s likely more than what we would have reported five to 10 years ago, it means that the vast majority of firms (82 percent) have no dedicated resources for submissions. This means that firms’ public relations, communications, marketing and business development professionals, all of whom are tasked with other priorities, are spending time on submissions — a lot of time. Non-dedicated staff spends on average 220 hours per year on submissions, according to the report. That average spikes up to 771 hours for mid-sized firms (300-600 lawyers) and 458 hours for large firms (600-plus lawyers).
Accordingly, there is an opportunity cost to firms, which — depending on how much time a firm is spending on submissions — has the potential to be huge.
For legal marketing veterans, this may just confirm what you already knew, or at least suspected. But, presenting your lawyers with hard data, instead of suspicions, can help your firm to focus on the submissions — or other marketing projects — that you believe are the most valuable.
To see the statistics for yourself, you can find the full report here.
Are you a member of LMA’s PR SIG or know someone who would benefit from becoming a member? Joining the community of PR and communications pros serving the legal industry is as simple as emailing PRSIG@legalmarketing.org.
Arielle Lapiano is the director of communications and public relations for Paul Hastings and chair of the LFMP Committee on Surveys and Recognitions. She can be reached at email@example.com. For more findings from the study, visit http://www.legalmarketing.org/page/the-roi-of-law-firm-submissions. The 2016 Annual Conference session “Quantifying and Driving the ROI in Legal Directories and Awards Submissions” can be purchased on the LMA Learning Store.