We live in exciting times. Myriad think tanks, publications and collaborations have been assembled to tackle the daunting task of divining how our industry will respond to a broad range of challenges.
However, this crystal-ball prognostication, though thought-provoking and engaging in its creativity, is not what will determine our success.
In their book, “Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck,” Jim Collins and Morten Hansen dispel the notion that the most successful companies reap rewards by more accurately predicting the course of future events or more rapidly responding to change (which is somewhat comforting given the death grip most law firms have on traditional business practices). The authors’ key takeaway is, instead, that preparedness is the primary differentiator that separates those who succeed from the rest of the pack. Preparedness constitutes many characteristics, including a disciplined, measured approach to growth and a healthy dose of paranoia. Yet according to co-author Hansen, “The key principle is to be prepared before the storms hit.”
The change in our industry promises to keep many of us engaged and energized for years to come. For some, it may seem daunting. For many, it opens a world of opportunity. It is our vision that teams of us will come together to bring the specialized skills and resources to help us prepare our law firms for a better tomorrow. Following are some of the many trends we envision needing to understand to become tomorrow’s legal marketer.
The T-Shaped Professional: What Is the Base of Your “T”?
The evolution of talent theory advocates for the development of T-shaped professionals — individuals who possess a wide, yet limited, range of general knowledge supported by sophisticated expertise, or depth, in one to two narrow areas. Our role up until recently had been to be experts in legal marketing and students of a broad range of disciplines tied to the delivery of legal services. As our law firms have grown larger and more complex, so has our profession. Today’s legal marketers may not be “marketers” at all; they may be communications specialists, technology advocates or business developers (aka salespeople). Tomorrow’s legal marketers will be even more specialized and their extended wealth of knowledge even greater.
For those of you who are more seasoned in your careers, success skills for tomorrow’s legal marketer include:
- Managing professionals whose depth of knowledge in a specialized area may be greater than your own
- Bringing together and leveraging teams of individuals to create a strategy, resolve an issue or execute a complex plan
- Leading an increasingly diverse group of personalities (as those who excel in distinct areas often vary more markedly than those pursuing similar fields)
For those of you new to legal marketing, examine the following industry shifts with a keen eye to what most interests you. Do you have an interest in developing a specialized expertise and, if so, what is the path forward? LMA’s forthcoming Body of Knowledge (BOK) can help you forge this path.
Demographic Shifts and the Leadership Crisis
The legal industry is fast approaching a crisis of leadership that, combined with changes in the market and organizational and operational structures, threatens to transform the traditional partnership model. According to research by the ABA, nearly 50 percent of all partners in AmLaw 200 firms have been in practice for more than 25 years. At the same time, applications to law schools have dropped precipitously. In effect, law firms are about to experience a “brain drain.” At the same time, the natural dip in the size of Gen X compared to Baby Boomers and millennials means a dearth of qualified, experienced leaders. There are simply fewer bodies to take over the roles, leaving firms to rely more on less mature leaders.
Compounding the challenge for the next generation of leaders are younger generations of talent and clients who are redefining preferred work styles, modes of communication and approaches to motivation.
Success skills for tomorrow’s legal marketer include:
- Developing a broader range of knowledge and understanding of the business of law including strategy, how to influence management and how to drive change
- Adopting new business development approaches to engage up-and-coming generations
- Cultivating an ability to motivate and manage across the generational divide
- Embracing tools and techniques to manage and service a remote workforce
Technology and Transparency in the Age of Information
Access to information has, literally, changed the way clients and law firms do business. With the advent of e-billing and matter management tools over a decade ago, legal departments realized their goal of being able to track, monitor and better control the activities and costs of outside counsel. In addition, legal procurement is involved in the selection of law firms. The “black box” mentality of the 20th century
(during which law firms maintained an advantage by controlling information related to fees, staffing and expenses) is outdated. It has been replaced with an environment supporting the free flow of information. The information imbalance that previously allowed law firms to call the shots simply no longer exists, just as it doesn’t in most other sectors where a quick Internet search provides buyers with a wealth of viable alternatives. New sources provide legal buyers with easy access to billing rates, staffing models, expected variances in overall cost and a host of other data.
On the law firm side, technology has had an equally profound impact. Though slower to adopt available resources, law firms now have the option of tapping into a wide array of tools that enable them to perform sophisticated analyses of internal and external metrics. Financial dashboards, project management trackers and vast databases of competitive intelligence promise to change the way firms do business. The technology and resources will continue to evolve and grow even more sophisticated, as new entrants transform the way we mine available data for useful insights and use artificial intelligence and predictive analytics.
For us as legal marketers, this evolution requires that we become savvy at not only tapping into all of this new information but also distilling it into actionable insights and recommendations for our firms and our marketing strategies. Consider, for example, how predictive analytics may transform our ability to establish expectations about which website visitors have the highest potential of turning into paid clients. Or how an attorney’s use of social media and blog posts translates into new business opportunities. While the list of potential uses for analytics is long, we have narrowed down a handful of areas to consider building into your répertoire. Success skills for tomorrow’s legal marketer include:
- Developing an in-depth understanding of law firm finances, including industry benchmarks and metrics, process improvement methods, project management basics, pricing models, the variables that influence buying decisions, and measures of profitability at the matter, firm and client levels
- Acquiring an understanding of social media platforms and how each influences client buying decisions
- Considering the viability, upside and hurdles of automating tasks both in the delivery of legal services and within the marketing function
- Examining new and changing sales and marketing technologies to streamline processes, add efficiency and/or increase effectiveness
- Creating protocols and best practices to use competitive intelligence in marketing, business development and strategic decision-making, including a clear understanding of the role and limitations of business analytics
- Staying ahead of advances and best practices in knowledge management
The Changing Rules of Engagement
Finally, let us not forget to turn our gaze outward and recognize that the changes impacting the way our firms do business are the direct result of broader economic and demographic shifts that also influence our clients. Minding the evolution of our clients’ industries, including the competitive dynamics and changing regulations, has been a practice we have engaged in regularly for some time. Taking it one step further is to understand the macro trends in how buyers engage and in how global trends impact the way organizations do business with one another
The frenzy surrounding the Internet of Things, the advent of the freelance economy and the “Uberization” of business are just a few of the up-and-coming trends with the power to ignite major shifts in thinking and behavior. It is our job, as legal marketers, to help our law firms prepare for how these changes will transform our relationships with clients and the marketplace. Though the list of “trends to watch” is ever-changing, we offer a few current hot topics.
Success skills for tomorrow’s legal marketer include:
- Leading the creation of a client experience for your firm
- Mastering the art of content marketing and energizing attorneys to engage with their audiences
- Gaining familiarity with the global needs and opportunities for your clients and your firm
Lest you are feeling overwhelmed by the possibilities, please know that it is not our expectation that tomorrow’s legal marketer will possess all of the skills we have outlined. As Deepak Chopra writes: “Good luck is opportunity meeting preparedness.” Look for particular opportunities and start preparing.
Marcie Borgal Shunk is a senior consultant at LawVision Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.