After more than 25 years in the professional services marketing business, a person forms an opinion or two. This is extremely true for us at EM Consulting. In our Extremely Opinionated blog, our goal is to share ideas and opinions with you that might stimulate your thinking about marketing and business development.
This ARK Group book was just released. I was pleased to be tapped to write a chapter on the specific steps a legal department can take to increase efficiency, predictability and collaboration with outside firms.
Information about purchasing the book can be found here: http://ow.ly/cw5A30o0lN7
The following is the ARK Group description of the book.
“The contemporary legal landscape is no longer a rigid hierarchy composed of limited and complacent behemoths, but rather an ecosystem, filled with a wide variety of players that facilitate disruption and revolution and jostle for clients’ attention with agility and innovation. This includes – but is certainly not limited to – entities such as technology companies, consultants, alternative legal service providers, and paraprofessionals.
“Law firms are not the only ones in this environment that must adapt or fail; the legal department and in-house counsel, too, must transform in order to remain relevant and competitive.
“The world of the general counsel (GC) has already seen massive shifts – ever-increasing globalization has meant more legal issues and corporate activism, which in turn has generated new challenges and heightened demand. The GC cannot simply act in the role of outsourcer of work to external counsel, as in the past. With the growth of legal departments (it is now not uncommon for legal departments to number in the hundreds or even thousands, often formed of expensive lateral hires) the GC must now wear a number of hats, including that of the “CEO” of their department.
“The introduction of data analysis into the legal space and the oft-repeated mantra of “less with more” has meant that the GC must now think in terms of spend and budget more than ever before, transforming the legal department from a cost-center to a value-add. They must cultivate a breadth and scope of vision, able to organize and lead their department as an innovator. The flourishing legal ops role also provides yet another challenge for the GC. As the incorporation of legal ops within the law department becomes increasingly essential, the GC must work to ensure alignment and manage change.
“The present time has been hailed as the golden age of in-house lawyering, yet – and perhaps because of this – it is an uncertain and challenging time for the GC. Tipping Point: Transformation and Innovation in the Legal Department is intended as a handbook for the GC looking to build a truly modern legal department and revolutionize their role. Encompassing aspects from leveraging influence with the c-suite to reimagining organizational hierarchies and seeking the right operational professional, this publication features contributions from those at the frontiers of the profession as it transforms and embraces new areas of expertise”.
Websites these days can create “high-engagement” if they are designed to offer fresh content which will attract clients, potential clients and repeat visitors. Many law firm websites are outdated and not built with the technology for easy to post strong content which would assist clients in meeting their business goals. Law firms of all sizes should be considering updating to current technologies and website strategies in order to stay relevant and to bring in new business.
When law firms jumped into having websites, most were not designed to extend the firm’s brand and disseminate thought-leadership content. These days, firms must view their websites as more than an electronic version of old-fashioned printed brochures. In this old model, bios and practice area descriptions were considered to be the most important content—and client focused content, such as articles, blog posts, and thought-leaderships pieces, were not offered. Even today, many law firms don’t publish fresh and relevant content on their websites. Rather, they do not update their websites to engage their coveted audiences. Some may post fresh content on their blogs or social media outlets, which does not engage viewers to stay on their website and learn more about the firm, its capabilities and unique differentiators.
Fortunately, this is changing. As the market for legal services has become more competitive firms have begun creating more content as a means of distinguishing themselves from the competition. These firms are seeing their websites as publishing opportunities yielding increased website engagement.
The bottom line is that law firms must invest in themselves and consistently develop fresh and client-focused content to maximize the return on their investment. It only makes sense that now, even firms that have resisted, are stepping up and revamping their websites to maximize the chance that visitors will read the firm’s best reputation-enhancing content and engage more thoroughly on their websites.
With years of helping law firms create client-centric and business development focused websites, we, at EM Consulting, are poised to help your firm maximize the return of investing in your website.
LinkedIn is about content sharing, not social engagements. Clients, referral sources and potential clients develop a strong understanding of an attorney’s or firm’s areas of expertise by reading a steady sharing of industry or practice specific relevant information. Many firms have great success turning content marketing into content sales with this approach. But lately, we seem to be seeing more and more social posts; the kind a reader might expect from other social media platforms such as Facebook.
As changes in the legal landscape continue to increase, most law firms, thank goodness, have given up the dated 16-page full color snail mailed newsletter that covered an ocean of topics and services offered by a firm. Most firms have successfully segued into meaningful and focused snack sized bites of content marketing in specific areas for their various online channels such as websites, blogs, and social media. The goal of content marketing, which leads to content selling, is to increase the position and demonstrate a strong knowledge base of a firm’s and/or individual’s expertise on a precise subject.
Clients and potential clients are always seeking strong and pertinent updates and information. Posting germane industry and practice content and news increases a professional’s relevancy and position in the marketplace. Enhancing a firm’s or professional’s expertise in a specific area can make the difference between not being known or seen or getting on the short list when clients and potential clients are looking for strong expertise.
Is your firm having trouble finding ideas for strong content? There are many ways to achieve this. Consider starting by asking your clients, and those in the industries you are targeting, what types of information would be helpful. This is also a great way to reach out to clients and potential clients to start or to enhance a relationship. We often use an online tool www.answerthepublic.com which can assist in defining and then refining content ideas.
We know it takes time and consistency to raise visibility and make significant inroads into the LinkedIn marketplace. Those businesses and professionals that take content sales and social media seriously will start to see significant upticks in their results. This takes some time and an increase in the comments they make on their connections’ posts. Engagement also increases as professionals share and comment on their LinkedIn connections’ posts. Commenting on a post triggers LinkedIn to send an email to that person to let them know you read and commented on it – fabulous engagement. This does not happen if you simply “Like” a post. The only way a connection will see that you “Liked” their post is if they take the time to visit the analytics LinkedIn offers.
Content should be varied and can include short updates as well as published LinkedIn articles which can both be created on the LinkedIn Home page. LinkedIn automatically places these articles on the writer’s Profile page. These short articles have a two-fold benefit as they also become permanently part of one’s LinkedIn Profile which demonstrates skill and knowledge when others are checking them out.
Lately, it seems there has been an increase in diluting an individual’s or firm’s brand with too many social posts on LinkedIn. The occasional post about an office’s activities or community supported organization can be powerful in expanding a brand message. However, the recent uptick in more personal and social posts, which are more suited for other social media platforms, is alarming.
Have you noticed the recent increase in the number of posts on LinkedIn about pets, restaurants, vacations, or family outings? This type of engagement is more suited to other social media outlets such as Facebook.
LinkedIn, according to Forbes, is the number one business social media platform. We advise our clients to post about business, industry news, sharing information learned at conferences, short articles to help clients achieve their business goals, and even comments or analysis from reposting a relevant business article. Don’t forget to include quotes from clients and industry experts to further round out and demonstrate your business expertise and knowledge.
LinkedIn is a social platform but it is focused on business. You might consider that fact before you post your next restaurant review or vacation photo. Content marketing leads to content engagement and sales. Let’s leave the kitten videos to Facebook or Instagram.
As law firms start to fully embrace collaboration as their way into the future, the Music Man, played by Robert Preston, uses the “Think Method” to teach his young band members how to play – just think the minuet in E minor and you can play it! However, in reality this strategy does not play too well when working to effect real change. This article explains how.
There are a few easy tasks every LinkedIn user can do to easily improve the impact of their LinkedIn profile. Here are several to consider.
The cover image behind your profile picture starts with the default standard turquoise blue background with the lines running through it. You can make a greater impact by selecting a custom image that is 1584 x 394 pixels. (If you are not adept at this, any graphic artist can convert an image for you.) For example, you can take your company logo or an interesting horizontal image from your website and insert that easily into the cover image slot. This immediately makes you stand out from the literally millions of LinkedIn users who stay with the staid turquoise cover image. The down side of staying with this default image is it tends to say, “I don’t use LinkedIn very much.”
Another easy thing to accomplish is to update your Headline statement. Many users type in their firm name in their headline when LinkedIn has already automatically inserted your company name on the right side of your Profile page just under your cover image. Why not take this opportunity to customize your Headline turning it into something that articulates exactly what you do. For example rather than repeat your firm name there, write something more compelling in this space such as, “Trial Attorney Specializing in Business Litigation and Attorney Malpractice.”
Our final tip: review your Profile Summary. You can find it just under your cover image. In your Summary, do you repeatedly say, “I do this, and I do that?” Do you have long paragraphs that seem to go on and on? Or do you take the time to create a more branded approach and describe what you do and how you solve problems for people? We always recommend keeping the copy to two short paragraphs and then perhaps listing specific skills or services that you offer. Keep this simple format so readers can quickly ascertain who you are, what you do and how you do it. Keep some of those details about your firm or company for the “Experience” portion below the Profile Summary.
These few updates can assist those who view your Profile page to get a clearer understanding of what you do. After all, according to research from Forbes, over 60% of individuals will check you out on LinkedIn before they will go to your company website. Don’t you check out contacts or potential contacts on LinkedIn this way?
Law firms are increasingly gaining a deeper and more refined understanding that strong branded efforts can have on a firm’s bottom line. Branding uncovers that unique position and differentiation from other firms in the same space. Corporate America has been successfully utilizing branding forever. When the awareness of branding first began to get the attention of law firms, most were skeptical – it was something new and quite different. Many doubted it was more than just smoke and mirrors. These days, law firms and other professional service providers are gaining client share by developing strong brands and then consistently using their unique messaging throughout their websites, blogs, client pitches, content marketing, events and advertising. This article on JD Supra provides a detailed look at how to use branding as your firm’s strategic asset in developing marketing and business development plans that yield results.
The legal profession has come a long way, baby. Social media marketing has taken a firm hold in the legal profession. At this point only the laggards remain uninvolved in any social media. And to think the ABA Technology Committee published this quote back in 2016, “Taking control of your online presence is a necessity, and there are few better ways to do so than social media. Used carefully, social media can give your firm a voice, amplify your professional reputation, and help drive new business.”
Content marketing is king but the crown jewel of content marketing is allowing your knowledge to shine through storytelling. I mean who doesn’t want to hear a great story? By combining fresh content in your area of expertise or brand with stories about your industry, clients, organizations and experiences, attorneys can provide interesting and compelling reading to clearly and meaningfully demonstrate their knowledge and brand distinction.
Take the boutique law firm of Tredway Lumsdaine & Doyle (TLD Law). They qualified this year to become a member of the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF). Less than 2% of all law firms qualify. The firm recognizes the enormous opportunity it possesses to let its branded culture of diversity and inclusion shine. To TLD, it is more than just having diverse bodies in the firm, it’s also the ability to incorporate a variety of opinions, ideas and concepts when solving challenging legal issues that make this claim come alive. Fortune 500 companies seek out NAMWOLF members to help fulfil their need and/or requirement to hire minority and diverse attorneys. Storytelling, as a part of a well-defined content marketing strategy, can increase the ability for TLD Law to earn more client and potential client engagement.
The firm has embraced storytelling and branded messaging as part of its content marketing to consistently expand its presence in the marketplace with clients and potential clients.
What area(s) do you wish to promote and be known for? Once an attorney or law firm fleshes this out, it’s only a matter of time using consistent storytelling and content marketing to increase your practice’s footprint and business development success.
For attorneys still not convinced that true content marketing is the key to successful social media leading up to new business generation, check out this article.
As your firm continues to expand it’s Social Media presence, this checklist might be of value.
For over 25 years internationally renowned legal futurist Richard Susskind has been researching and opining on alternative ways law firms might work best with their clients. In his book Tomorrow’s Lawyers Susskind writes, “Law firms in the coming decades will be driven relentlessly by their clients to reduce costs.” All of his books, lectures and keynote addresses have intimated for decades that law firms must change from the traditional billable hour and become more focused on service delivery based on client preferences, creating better efficiencies, using more technologies and offering predictability.
During the last several decades many feel law firms were and are calling the shots. They primarily bill by the hour, grudgingly discuss alternative ways of delivering their services and raise their hourly rates almost annually. From the legal department’s vantage point an hourly fee-based model does not encourage true partnering, rather it tends to focus on profitability for law firms. Creating true alternative fee arrangements generally turns out to be disappointing for in-house counsels as typically nothing more gets offered than perhaps a 15% discount on the hourly billing rate. In-house counsels have been frustrated not being able to change processes and service delivery options. They want predictability and efficiencies not championed by the billable hour.
Out of their frustration, about five years ago, a group of in-house counsels from larger corporations started to meet informally. They expressed their specific frustrations with how their departments were run and also surfaced issues surrounding the way legal services were being delivered from law firms. Up to this point legal departments owned a fair share of blame for the dysfunction and inefficiencies in the system as they didn’t know what to do to change things, they just wanted to create an easier and more productive way to work. These soon-to-be change agents started to share information, processes, and technologies such as e-billing, e-discovery and knowledge management to create better efficiencies. In addition they discussed how they might work with outside law firms more proactively and in a way to minimize costs, frustrations and repetitive tasks. They wished law firms would approach them to ask what would make the delivery of services better for the client. These visionary leaders became the founders of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) and included Connie Brenton from NetApp, and includes Mary O’Carroll from Google, Jeff Franke from Yahoo, Christine Coats from Oracle, Lisa Konie from Adobe, Steve Harmon from Cisco, and Brian Hupp from Facebook.
In 2016, CLOC incorporated as a nonprofit trade association and it has become one of the fastest growing nonprofit legal organizations in the world. Since incorporating, CLOC has grown to include over 1200 members, 600 member companies, 26% of the Fortune 500, and spanning 40 states and 36 countries.
“Everybody keeps saying the legal services industry is broken, that radical change is badly needed, but only a few, like industry thought leader Richard Susskind, were even looking at the issues industry wide. No one had tried to set forth what true north is for this industry. Most legal departments focused on law firms as the only ones really needing to change.” said Jeff Franke, Assistant General Counsel of Global Legal Operations at Yahoo and founding member of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC).
But the challenges the corporate legal services industry face go way beyond the billable hour; beyond the intransigence of law firms to change their basic operating model. Said Jeff Franke, “We need lots of change with respect to the six core ecosystem players.”
- law firms
- law schools
- tech providers
- outside service providers
Corporations have started making changes and we will see more radical change over the next three to five years than we have seen in the last twenty years.
The industry has come a come a long way from the days when GC’s were seen primarily as risk managers who relied almost exclusively on outside counsel to support a corporation’s legal needs. Today, forty to sixty percent of all corporate legal work is done in-house. As GC’s have brought legal support in-house to meet the mandate to deliver strategic, efficient legal support, operations excellence has become a critical necessity. Unfortunately, historically the only way to develop that excellence was from the ground up: legal operations did not exist as a discipline. No one offered a “how to guide” on this complex topic.
With the mandate to “Run legal like a business,” thoughtful in-house operations professionals got to work defining the space. It was initially a slow evolution of legal ops. CLOC, through its members and leadership, quickly created a thoughtful, effective base of knowledge, templates, benchmarking capability, and best practices anywhere to help solve the frustrations they were feeling. Their efforts led to the creation of CLOC’s 12 Core Competencies, a reference model for legal operations excellence.
CLOC’s Core Competencies chart goes here.
Among the many resources CLOC offers members, and the industry as a whole, its annual Institute offers a deep sharing of resources, templates, training ideas and implementation strategies. The CLOC conferences, 12 Core Competencies, templates, articles, and materials, are helping legal departments and other core ecosystem players better understand what corporate legal departments need and want.
The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) has jumped into legal operations in a big way as well. Amar Sarwal, Chief Legal Officer and Senior VP of Advocacy and Legal Services, spearheads the ACC Legal Operations program and has aligned it fully with the ACC Value Challenge.
In addition to supporting and advancing the legal operations profession, ACC views its role as assisting the general counsel’s office to fully leverage legal operations. According to Amar, “Our role will not only make the legal operations function more coherent, but also help unify the process for its stakeholders. We help many legal departments that have previously not had a legal ops function open up to the possibilities. Wherever a department finds itself in this process, we can share concepts, leadership strategies, conferences, tools, and written guidelines to enhance the legal ops function. Both the ACC program and CLOC are committed to the success of the legal department.”
ACC legal ops focuses in two areas. It offers assistance to onboard new legal ops professionals sharing and leveraging materials and knowledge with a foundational toolkit. ACC also helps advance those legal operations counsels already immersed by providing continued assistance, strategies and information to get them to the next level.
What Your Department Can Do
As lead operations counsel for Yahoo, Jeff Franke added, “Many in-house legal operation counsels feel a legal department might begin by defining the largest areas of frustration working with outside law firms, vendors and legal project management. Ask your law firms to step up. Invite them to visit and share ideas how you might work together to create better communications and stronger relationships. Legal ops in-house counsels anticipate more and more law firms will get the message and proactively come to them to find ways to create mutually beneficial strategies.
“As an example, we spend money just to pull stats for our quarterly reviews. It would be wonderful if law firms proactively did this for us. Come to a quarterly review with statistics. Law firms need to understand that as legal departments are tasked with running a business within our company’s business, we need law firms on board too.”
Those working in-house looking to deepen their involvement might explore CLOC’s 12 Core Competencies selecting just a few to start the analysis process. What technologies do you already have and which ones are most important? Which will relieve your biggest frustrations and headaches with outside firms? Do you have a legal operations team in-house devoted to creating better efficiencies and partnering with outside firms? How might you start this process?
Pratik Patel, VP of Innovation and Products at Elevate Services, says without a legal operations function, the result is often overworked teams and inefficient practice of law. “Legal operations can tame the chaos of running the legal department,” says Patel, who provides consulting services and technology implementation to in-house legal departments. “Without the legal ops function, lawyers are forced to design and develop the business aspects of their function in self-service models or in silos, often leading to limited or non-existent processes and fairly pedestrian use of technology.”
Pratik explains that developing a framework around legal operations and prioritizing the competency areas can build efficiencies that better align with a company’s business objectives.
He recommends four simple steps to get started:
- Identify the law department’s business objectives.
- Gauge each core competency’s ability to influence those objectives.
- Assess the overall levels of maturity in each area.
- Focus on the maturity areas most likely to “move the needle” towards your objectives.
Today, the legal operations function at major corporations has migrated from an uncoordinated disparate set of actions by individual players to a more carefully defined, cross-disciplinary profession loosely aligned across hundreds of companies and government entities. The focus is on changing not only the way corporate legal departments deliver legal services but on the way the whole corporate legal services industry should function. Corporate legal departments are in the driver’s seat.
The first CLOC conference in 2016 drew 500 registrants. In 2017 there were 1,000 attendees and CLOC leaders are predicting that the upcoming April 22 to 25 Institute in Las Vegas will secure more than 2,500 attendees. https://cloc.org/conference
There is no doubt that legal operations is a growing force in the competitive landscape for law firms to keep and expand client relationships. CLOC leadership predicts 2018 will be a watershed year in which we see many more legal departments jump into legal operations and for those already involved, the prediction is the level of use of legal operations will significantly deepen. Legal operations is a partnership between legal departments and their outside law firms. If the steady and impressive growth of CLOC membership and legal operations professionals who take advantage of the numerous legal ops offerings from ACC continues, it will not be too many years in the future when law firms who resisted learning about legal operations will wish they hadn’t.
Written for the March 30th Publication in Today’s General Counsel