No Slowing Down: Marketing and Business Development Efforts Accelerate in Legal

by Legal Marketing Association (LMA)
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Results from the third annual joint research study from the LMA and Bloomberg Law®

Legal marketers continue to influence the future of business development in the legal industry — a trend that began to take shape two years ago has hit the accelerator. As benchmarking data from Legal Marketing Association (LMA) and Bloomberg Law® shows, the pace of investment in marketing and business development and the emphasis on these functions remain on an upward trajectory across law firms.

Results from the third annual joint research study from the LMA and Bloomberg Law® were revealed at the LMA Annual Conference in New Orleans this week. 325 respondents (190 legal marketers, 135 attorneys) took part in the survey, which analyzed the progression of four major trends revealed in the 2016 survey. Those four trends were:

  • Law firms increasing their focus on business development and marketing activities;
  • The role of legal marketers becoming highly strategic
  • An increasingly positive relationship between attorneys and legal marketers; and
  • The continued adoption of technology tools for business development initiatives.

Nancy Furman Paul, J.D., director of strategic partnerships at Bloomberg Law, presented the findings at LMA’s conference, and Kimberly A.B. Rennick, chief client development and marketing officer with Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP, and Erin Corbin Meszaros, chief business development and client service officer with Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP, provided further personal perspectives and opened the conversation about the research data as part of a panel discussion.

Level of Focus

The headline statistic from the 2016 survey was the fact that 67 percent of attorneys increased their focus on marketing and business development activities. Two years later, this trend remains strong with 62 percent acknowledging an increase. Furman Paul believes this slight decrease is not indicative of a slowdown but rather of a continuing trend established in the market.

Among the top perceived catalysts for the increased emphasis include more internal pressure to generate revenue (61 percent), the fact that corporate counsel is reducing the number of firms they will work with (51 percent) and pressure from other law firms that are effectively using marketing (48 percent).

Two notable changes in these trends compared to 2016: Attorneys are seeing less of a pressure to generate revenue (73 percent in 2016 vs. 56 percent in 2018), while legal marketers are seeing greater pressure from other law firms that are effectively using marketing (35 percent in 2016 vs. 48 percent in 2018).

When looking at the areas deemed most effective in developing new business, in-person activities lead the way. For instance, firm-hosted events (67 percent of legal marketers and 45 percent of attorneys) and client meetings (61 percent of legal marketers and 54 percent of attorneys) are deemed most effective in developing new business, followed closely by networking (53 percent of legal marketers and 36 percent of attorneys). 

Meszaros finds it encouraging that all of these activities fall under the umbrella of building relationships. She believes this speaks volumes to the efforts that legal marketers have been leading in guiding attorneys to focus more on the value of face-to-face interactions.

Furthermore, new activities deemed effective in developing new business in the past two years include holding in-person events or client visits to foster direct relationships, investments in new technology, increased social media efforts and the hiring or increase of marketing staff.

Roles and Responsibilities

Perhaps most exciting about the changing set of roles and responsibilities is the fact that 85 percent of attorneys are engaging in direct business development activities, while 60 percent of legal marketers are doing so for their firms. Those activities include participation in client meetings and in pitch meetings, and initiating client outreach.

Rennick believes this reflects attorneys’ growing level of respect for what legal marketers bring to the table. In her opinion, this could ultimately lead to bigger opportunities to present more targeted marketing based on client and needs.

Relationship

"Respectful," "collaborative" and "supportive" are three words attorneys are using more to describe their relationships with legal marketers. This is evident in the fact that 81 percent of attorneys are either always or occasionally engaging legal marketers for help (58 percent of attorneys are occasionally engaging legal marketers for help; 23 percent are always engaging them for help).

However, challenges remain as more legal marketers are increasingly finding relationships with attorneys to be ‘challenging’ (65 percent in 2018 vs. 53 percent in 2016) as well as "unresponsive" (18 percent in 2018 vs 9 percent in 2016).

Technology

For both attorneys and legal marketers, technology remains a point of both optimism and frustration. Speaking to the former, systems like CRM (client-relationship management), business intelligence and litigation analytics tools remain the most in use at law firms.

On the flipside, while CRM is highly leveraged, only 22 percent of attorneys find the software to be particularly helpful in comparison to 73 percent of marketing and business development professionals that find it to be helpful. Both Meszaros and Rennick described this gap as one that still requires a great deal of change management in order to overcome.

Looking Ahead

In 2016, data revealed that legal marketers were indeed making progress in their efforts to gain traction, voice and influence in law firms. In 2018, the data reinforces this progress with the notion that these professionals are indeed accelerating their influences on the business of law.

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