Legal Managers: The Invaluable Dot-Connectors Within Law Firms
The challenges we all currently face make managing more difficult. But now, and even on the best of days, law firm managers are vital assets of law firm operations. For marketing and business development (M&BD) professionals like ourselves, legal managers are indispensable resources and allies for our profession and daily work. Your efforts play a meaningful role in our mutual goals to build the business, foster meaningful connections with clients and align work streams.
KRISTINE O’CONNOR, CLM Director of Administration, Cooley LLP
One of the commonalities we see between legal managers and M&BD professionals is we are inherent dot-connectors who ensure the right people and resources are aligned for success. Aligning this shared “superpower” can benefit a law firm’s bottom line immensely by:
Thinking creatively and working together to charter new territory.
Extending invitations to hear others’ points of view.
Slowing down to consider if the procedures in place today are the right ones for tomorrow.
Staying engaged and pushing the development of and adherence to best practices.
Stitching the strengths of your people together to form the highest efficiencies.
Another commonality is that M&BD professionals and legal managers have a bird’s-eye view of the firm, its capabilities (both from a practice and capacity standpoint), and the nuances and preferences of the individual attorneys. It’s paramount in today’s climate that business services teams work to strengthen their relationships internally to fortify the firm’s success for the future. Together, M&BD professionals and legal managers can benefit by connecting the following dots.
DOT 1: IN-PERSON/OFFICE EVENTS AS RESTRICTIONS EASE
As physical spaces begin to reopen, some discussions are taking place regarding what will and will not be permitted in the office. Legal managers are shaping what new parameters will exist, and marketing can play a role to communicate them internally and externally. Developing the protocols and corresponding messaging through teamwork is key so that the voice of the client is among those at the table. Legal M&BD teams can provide this critical point of view.
One of the key responsibilities of M&BD professionals is to help unearth the client’s voice and translate which overarching issues keep a firm’s clients up at night. Working alongside legal administrators, the team only gets stronger in shaping the advice ultimately given to clients beyond the legal details of the matter.
Together, we can collaborate to conduct and distill industry research and competitive intelligence to support lawyers in their efforts to stay abreast of topics that directly affect client business. In cases where lawyers have the opportunity to target clients and prospects via industry organizations and gatherings, legal managers and M&BD teams can relay knowledge that helps identify which groups may garner the desired audience and assist with tips and tricks for navigating the networking process therein.
DOT 2: COMMUNICATING INTERNALLY AND EXTERNALLY
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all learned the importance of striking the right balance of voice and tone in your firm’s internal and external communications. M&BD teams can work side-by-side legal managers to develop messaging for internal and external audiences on behalf of firm leaders. Legal managers offer valuable input regarding guidelines and best practices for reopening, while M&BD professionals lend communications expertise to ensure the messages resonate.
This group can team up to deliver instructive messaging internally regarding how to keep talent engaged and part of the team when working remotely, how things will change in the office when things reopen, and essential health and wellness actions that need to be taken.
Great things can happen when M&BD is connected to the training team, whether it resides with HR, professional development or IT. Herein lies a tremendous opportunity to make an impact on all aspects of firm communication that requires consistent knowledge sharing and processes.
DOT 3: FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING
Bridging gaps between finance/accounting and M&BD is a great and welcomed service facilitated by operational leaders. Together, these departments can most effectively assess new business that has come in and based on that data recommend resources and tools to develop new clientele, as well as provide guidance on opportunities, challenges and other considerations that are unearthed. In terms of the client experience, M&BD can provide assistance in tailoring messaging to ensure that the communications with clients are consistent with the overarching brand as it relates to billing and collections.
DOT 4: NEW FRONTIERS OF DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS
In the shift to working from home, it became clear to many of us just how important the connection is between M&BD and IT. Zoom meetings, webinars and other virtual events may become the norm or preferred tools to reach and meet with clients. As digital procedures and technologies evolve, together we can strengthen the use of tech-oriented tools and the effectiveness of the professionals who use them (think Microsoft Teams, Zoom Breakout Rooms, ON24 Platform). For example, M&BD teams can create guidelines for conducting online events and meetings, provide tips for etiquette, and advise participants about headshots, virtual backgrounds and proper attire. If clients have preferred tech tools, we can assist by developing and implementing training resources in collaboration with IT.
Also, as firm management of intranets and websites evolves and more remote work is on the horizon, IT may appreciate input from our teams regarding guidelines for use. M&BD can add value to discussions surrounding ABA Model Rules and other best practices for communication.And documents that may be crafted on personal devices during remote work will need to be merged with the firm’s systems appropriately. M&BD can review instructions for tone and clarity, assisting the governance or record-keeping department in their need for compliance.
At the end of the day, whether you are a lawyer or in IT, HR, finance, administration, marketing or any other department, every action rolls up to the firm’s reputation. Together, taking the time to collectively shore up these actions will help ensure positive branding for the firm.
ALA’s 2020 Compensation and Benefits Survey is now available. It includes data for marketing and business development positions. Order your copy today at alanet.org/compsurvey.
About the Authors
Despina Kartson is the Chief Marketing Officer for BakerHostetler. Active in the Legal Marketing Association, Kartson is the Co-Chair of its New York Chief Marketing Officer Shared Interest Group, a past member of its
International Board of Directors, and a Past President of its Metro New York Chapter.