My colleague Ali Bone and I were fortunate to represent Passle at this week's LMA CMO Virtual Forum. It was an excellent panel discussion lasting around 90 minutes with CMBDOs from McNees Wallace, Lowenstein Sandler, Allen & Overy and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, which covered three main areas: Data, People and Inclusion. 

None of these subjects are new but the previous 12 months have only underlined their importance. In short, the 'Why' is stronger than ever. We have run out of excuses. We all need to change the way we work and the make-up of our teams. These changes will make us more resilient and ready for whatever the next 10 years will throw at us.


DATA AND NEW TECHNOLOGY

'Data' scares people because it sounds expensive and complicated but if you change that definition to 'structured information (hopefully factual!) which informs decision-making' then it becomes a bit easier to broach. 

The crux of the discussion what that legal marketing must become data-driven with all of the inputs and outputs measured so as to better inform the next campaign. 

This information can be anything from analysis of website traffic, feedback on topics that a client is researching, to the notes from a conversation on Zoom last week, but all of this comes together to aid decision-making. The most successful law firms will be the ones that use the data at their disposal in the most effective manner. 

The panellists made the point that with such vast swathes of information available to law firms, the key is structuring information in a way that it can be turned into action. For the attorneys you want all of the information to help them advance their key client relationships and drive new business. 

Implement systems which distill all that data down to 2-3 important messages for the relevant people and, where possible, use technology to automate as much of that process is possible. 


PEOPLE: 

I have written previously about how law firms are creating specialist roles like the Marketing Technology Manager to meet the changing demands of the legal space and this topic arose once again. Kimberly at Allen & Overy gave an example of her expanding team and the resources at their disposal: 

  • Hiring videographers and creating internal studios so as to improve the quality and speed of their output for videos and podcasts
  • Digital marketers to run campaigns that target key sectors with specific messages
  • Hiring external BD consultants to free up their full-time staff to do more of the strategic thinking

All of the panellists agreed that successful marketeers need to have at least one specialism themselves as well as being proficient in the other areas, particularly if they have the ambition to lead going forward. Crucially, she wants to correlate all of these specialist activities with driving new business and showing their value to the wider business.

There were two other notable points from this section of the talk:

1) In a year where most economies are shrinking, the law firms present on this panel were doubling down on investing in people and technology as these were the key tenets. Moreover, as some law firms look to reduce office space by as much as 50%, this leaves greater room for investment in dynamic assets which truly add value to a firm.

2) A question was asked around hiring from non-law backgrounds i.e. bringing in core skills that were not typically associated with the legal space. The message was this: non-law people bring fresh, innovative ideas to your team, give your team an edge, which leads nicely into the next point. Legal firms need to act differently, embrace technology and hire for a new set of skills - as Iris Jones shares, "if we continue to hire within the community we will only get the same white folks. We have to think outside the box".


INCLUSION: 

It would have been remiss to talk about the issues facing law firms in this new decade without touching upon the Black Lives Matter movement which was brought to the fore once again with the murder of George Floyd in May last year. 

In essence, society is not just demanding us to think outside of the box, but rather a structural change to that box and to make the world more equitable and a fairer place where the colour of your skin, your place of birth, your sexuality, the wealth of your parents etc. no longer have such a strong effect on your life opportunities.

In this decade, your clients will want to work with demonstrably diverse suppliers. Global firms like Coca Cola are setting the standard with a visible commitment to diversity & inclusion which will quickly become the norm. They are choosing suppliers based not just on cost but in keeping with their values and a demonstrable commitment to making the world more equitable. They are spending $200 million more each year with minority suppliers. If you don't meet their standards of what 'good' is, they won't work with you!

In short, it has become a business imperative to be inclusive and simple marketing messages are no longer enough. Again, there is friction here for law firms but this was expertly navigated by Kevin and Iris in particular calling it out straight away: "Law firms are not diverse places. Period." However, this does not have to be their fate going forward. 

All of the panel stressed the importance of embracing their current situation, and authentically demonstrating how they will change that: "We are aware and acknowledge our own shortcomings and these are the steps we are taking to change them!"

A wonderful example was Iris Jones mentioning the Legal Equity Advancement Program (LEAP) she and her team have set up at McNees Wallace & Nurick which will provide up to five black-owned or black-controlled businesses with up to a year’s worth of pro bono legal services. In short, they are making legal services and their cultural capital available to people and businesses who need them most, giving under-represented sections of the population a leg-up in a competitive world.

What I love most about this is that firms in all walks of life can use their disposal skillsets, just like Iris' team, to lift up those around them who most need it.

So, how to summarise inclusion? You need to be demonstrably inclusive and this will make you a stronger, more diverse business ready to meet any challenge head-on: This will make you as much as 19% more profitable and the best talent wants to work in diverse workplaces.


SUMMARY

In short, this talk gave me hope. I felt there had been a drop-off in the urgency to promote positive change within professional services. This talk not only reignited my own ambition to promote change but to promote similar change within my own company and peer group. To think differently we need to be different - from our hiring to our WFH policies to our marketing messaging. 

Many thanks to the LMA for arranging such an insightful talk and to the panellists for teaching us all something that we can put into action today.