Voice of the Client: Justin Ergler, Dir of Alternative Fee Intelligence & Analytics, GlaxoSmithKline

JD Supra Perspectives

The Legal Marketing Association is committed to delivering “the voice of the client” to help members influence and lead change to better serve your clients. As part of that commitment, the LMA Board of Directors invites a client representative to each of our quarterly 2017 Board meetings to share their perspectives. At our March Board meeting, we were joined by Justin Ergler, director of alternative fee intelligence and analytics at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and a member of the Board of Directors of Buying Legal Council.

Justin will also be a speaker at our fifth annual P3 Conference, which will be held in Chicago, May 16-17, 2017.

Justin started his career at GSK in central procurement and moved into the legal department in 2013. He shared his perspective on the role of procurement in the legal buying process, the value business professionals play in client relationships and the importance of pricing and project management in law firms. Following are key takeaways from his presentation:

  • Justin positions his role as the “business-side professional in the law department.” He sees legal marketers as the business-side professionals within law firms. He encouraged legal marketers to find a seat at the client's table. “Once you start being more client-facing, that’s when you become a value provider.”
  • He expects to see law firm business professionals at client meetings. “In fact, at GSK we demand it. Sometimes we’ll cancel a meeting if the firm business professional can’t make it.” He noted there is only one law firm he works with where a lawyer is the primary business contact.
  • “What does value actually mean to the client?” is the key question every law firm business professional and relationship partner should ask at the outset of a matter. Justin notes that the answer may not be what you are expecting and is very likely to be tied to a particular business outcome.
  • Justin encouraged LMA members to help educate their clients on the services and capabilities they offer to streamline communications and improve efficiencies. “Clients are bad at knowing what to ask. Law firms are bad at telling you what they can do. Bring us a story about how you’re using project management to be more efficient and effective in a recent matter.” He said one firm he works with provides GSK with a customized litigation dashboard that summarizes the status of each matter the firm is working on and presents an overall executive summary. “That firm’s name is all over GSK.”
  • He said the best way to promote your firm’s brand is to create a brief summary of your firm’s legal project management (LPM) capabilities, prominently place your firm’s logo on the document and send the PDF to every client, even if they don't ask for it. “If you send that PDF to the client with your firm’s logo, the GC is going to think ‘why aren’t more firms doing this?’ It will be shared throughout the legal department. You could get more return in value from this one PDF than from billions of rounds of golf.”
  • Justin described the importance of a consistent sales process across the firm. He observed that law firms pitch “in different ways depending whose castle (i.e., practice area) the pitch is coming from. You can have a complete disconnect in your own firm — one side may be pitching ‘low-cost provider,’ the other side isn’t talking about costs.” He emphasized the need to “create an enterprise relationship for major clients — look at the client as one client, not an aggregation of multiple little matters.”
  • The Board asked Justin how a law firm could get an opportunity at GSK if the firm is not already doing work. He recommended two tactics: (1) Do your research. Find out who your lawyers know at GSK. It is a relationship business. (2) Identify key statistics that demonstrate the depth of your capabilities. For example, when pitching patent capabilities, a firm might state that it has handled more Inter Parties Reviews (IPRs) than any other firm.
  • He said law firms should ask three questions when evaluating an inbound RFP: (1) Do we know the company? (2) Do our lawyers know people at the company? (3) Are we seeking work at the company? If the answer is “no” to all three, don't respond.
  • He emphasized the importance of diversity in retention of outside legal counsel and said that diversity plays a key role in GSK’s overall litigation scorecard. He described a recent litigation pitch in which two firms had the same overall score, but the firm that presented a team with diverse relationship partners won.
  • He encouraged law firms to “shape your scorecard — define the value you deliver to the client.” In addition to quantifiable statistics — “use charts and graphs” — add subjective measures (e.g., securing a specific patent for a client resulted in millions of dollars in revenue for the company). He noted that management consultancy McKinsey & Company can charge high hourly rates “because they are very good at articulating the value they bring.”
  • “The client expectation is not going to go down.” He noted that he’s heard law firm partners say the pendulum is going to swing back to the way the legal market worked before the 2008 market crash. From his perspective, “If it’s swinging back, it is one slow pendulum.”

For more information about GlaxoSmithKline’s approach to buying legal services, read the Harvard Business Review case study by Heidi K. Gardner and Silvia Hodges Silverstein.


[Jill Weber, the 2017 LMA President, is chief marketing and business development officer for Stinson Leonard Street, where she is responsible for creating and executing marketing and business development strategies, including Fast Forward®, a nationally recognized integrated business development initiative. This post appeared originally on the LMA's Strategies+ blog.]


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