Use this two-pronged approach to connect with prospective clients.
Legal marketers play an increasingly strategic role in helping firms get in front of business leaders at prospective clients. However, the biggest hurdle is often the ability to get the attention of these business executives and general counsel.
Feedback from a general counsel panel hosted during the LMA Annual Conference in New Orleans suggests there are steps law firms can take that will not only grab the attention of business executives and general counsel, but also engage with them most efficiently over the long term.
This year’s general counsel panel was moderated by Heather D. Nevitt, editor-in-chief of ALM LLC’s publications, Corporate Counsel, Inside Counsel and Texas Lawyer. Panelists Alison Wisniewski, chief legal officer at Epiq; Kristen Albertson, vice president global ethics and compliance administration at Walmart Inc.; Maria Feeley, vice president, general counsel and secretary of University of Hartford; Ezgi Kaya, corporate counsel at Amazon; and Mark N. Klein, general counsel of Burford Capital answered critical questions about what general counsel would like to know from their current and prospective outside counsel.
In a nutshell, it boils down to an approach of "show me, know me" when dealing with prospective clients.
Your attorneys are experts. Your firm has a strong stance on such matters as diversity and pro bono work. But does your marketing material clearly communicate these facts?
When it comes to direct communication, the panelists agreed that timely email alerts stand out, and what keeps their attention within the alerts is the quality of the content. Klein called this a combination of timeliness and quality control. First, don’t wait a week to send out an alert on an important matter. When you do send an alert out, ensure that the content is personable — crafted in the voice of your attorney — and goes beyond the surface of the topic to provide a level of detail that will educate the reader.
But that level of detail should be succinct. Albertson refers to this as “snackable content” — highly consumable, yet rich in context. Alerts and emails should also be written as opposed to visual, according to Klein, who believes this eliminates the chance of any uncertainty of the message.
It is also a good idea to look at your website under a different lens. The panelists agreed that law firms must be clear and direct with their messages, and that the website is the resource they most often leverage.
Albertson noted that a firm’s website must clearly and distinctly communicate its stance on issues like diversity. Walmart has a strong initiative towards working with law firms who promote diversity, and, according to Albertson, those that choose not to staff with diversity have no chance at doing business with the company. In fact, Walmart monitors billing to ensure diverse attorneys that were noted as being part of the matter team are actively billing and looks closely at origination fees.
Wisniewski stresses the importance of knowing her company and understanding the overall needs of the business. For example, while a firm may currently be engaged with her company, Epiq, on an M&A matter, it’s also important to know that data privacy, for instance, is an important and ongoing challenge to the business overall. This opens the door for your attorneys to showcase their expertise in this area as well. Having a deeper understanding of a client’s business not only strengthens the relationship but also presents an opportunity to cross-sell the client.
Feeley likens her role at the university as that of “running a small city,” which means she is continually confronted with unique matters that require distinctive knowledge. She needs attorneys who can quickly understand the unique and difficult challenges she faces, beyond the typical contract and IP matters ― it is more about attorneys who can help her mitigate the human risks that exist on any campus.
An Influencing Factor
According to results of the latest joint research from the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) and Bloomberg Law®, 23 percent of legal marketers are interacting directly with general counsel. As legal marketers gain traction, voice and influence in such interactions, showing a client your firm’s knowledge and expertise on both the matters and their business can help ultimately win the business.