The 6 P’s of Legal-Product Development

Hard to believe that more than 11 years have transpired since my partner-boss Press Millen (known for his perpetual perch on the leading edge) and I distributed a memo encouraging lawyers to help us develop legal products. In the wake of presentations by @RichardSusskind and @SimonThompson at the @LexMundi Annual Meeting in May, we rummaged through our files to resurrect it. Here is one excerpt from that January 23, 2002 FAQ memo specifying the 6 P’s of legal services product development Makes us look like later day HG Wellses.

“What sorts of services are good candidates for becoming a product offering?

There’s no hard and fast rule. Anything that you have done or could do more than once could be a product. (This includes litigation.) We are limited only by our lack of imagination and creativity. In our experience, though, product offerings perform better in the marketplace as they get closer to meeting the following characteristics. Products:

• can be Pitched (they are easy to describe in sound bites on the phone)

• can be Promoted (it’s easy to communicate with PR, brochures, etc. what we do and what the benefits will be)

• have a differentiated market Position (e.g. unique, proprietary, better, faster, cheaper)

• are Packageable (we can put them in a binder or the electronic equivalent) for distribution to others within the firm

• utilize a predetermined engagement Plan

• have a specific deliverable Product (a report, a finding, a result, a filing)

• are Priced uniformly (by project, percentage of savings).

I still believe that relationships are critical. I also believe that we will see legal products rising in importance in the legal marketers’ toolkit very, very quickly indeed.

What’s your MarkTech (marketing technology) rating?

At a recent gathering of law firm marketers, a panelist asked how many of the marketers knew what a klout rating is, and, if so, if they knew their own klout ratings.  At most 10% of the audience members raised their hands.

I was reminded of the January posting by Kia Motors’s Corporate Counsel D. Casey Flaherty  about his testing of outside counsel associates’ adeptness on four functions embedded within standard software products such as Word, Excel and Adobe; many of these associates failed the test.

Sadly, law firm marketers are more or less in the same pickle in their area of operations.  For instance, based on the reaction to the klout question, legal marketers (even millennials) still have quite a ways to go in mastering social media in business.  Of course we – like associates – need to be competent at basic functions within standard software, but because we are responsible to help our firms stay on the leading edge, we also quickly need to get up to speed on technologies that are exotic to law firms, but not so exotic these days in the “real” world of marketing technology.  Below is a list of some of the products that I like and which I think merit immediate consideration by law firm marketers.  I have listed each product or company along with the category it represents.  The list is excerpted in part from a long (and growing longer every day) list of marketing technologies with which we in law firm marketing all should be at least passingly familiar.  How many of these do YOU know?  What are YOUR favorites?

Apogee – web analytics
Bitzio – gamification for customer engagement
Manzama – listening platforms
PechaKucha – presentations
Prezi – presentations
SAS – predictive analytics
Vimeo – video platforms
Yammer – enterprise social networks

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7 questions for Tomorrow’s Legal Marketers

In Chapter 15 his new book, Tomorrow’s Lawyers, Richard Susskind imagines a young lawyer interviewing for a job at a law firm and wondering whether he/she can envision making a long-term commitment to the firm.  Susskind suggests seven questions for the young lawyer – questions such as “Do you have a long-term strategy” or “Do you have a Research and Development Capability?”

But what about young law firm marketers or salespeople contemplating a long-term commitment to the law business generally, and any one law firm in particular?  What questions should they be asking?  Susskind’s seven questions apply to marketers and salespeople just as well as to lawyers, but here are seven additional questions that marketers might ask as they evaluate their decisions.

  1.  Are you in favor of those without law licenses sharing in the ownership of the business, and what are you doing to encourage bar associations to move in this direction?
  2. Who are the highly respected business people at your law firm currently and how are you ensuring their professional development and advancement?
  3. Can you give me examples of lawyers at the firm who can both lead with distinction in their areas of strength, and also who can follow with enthusiasm when out of their comfort zones?
  4. How willing is the firm to “expose” its business people to current and prospective buyers and referrers of legal services?
  5. Can you name the companies and individuals that you desire to have as clients of the future?
  6. What does ATL say about the identity and character of the firm?
  7. What is your assessment of LegalZoom.com as it relates to the future of commercial legal services provided by firms like yours?

 Please feel free to add to the list. 

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Product Developments

When I transitioned 12 years ago from business development in public accounting to the legal sector, I began advocating the development of legal products.  I had witnessed, as long ago as 15 to 20 years, the development of tax consulting products, first at Price Waterhouse and then at Grant Thornton.  There, I watched (and even helped) tax accountants develop a discrete solution for first one client, and then – via replication – for additional clients with similar fact patterns.  For example, clever accountants would, perhaps through a series of IRS private letter rulings, find a way to restructure a multinational company so as to significantly reduce the global tax obligation.   Arriving at the solution for the first client required an extraordinary investment of time, but even so the reward was high – often a material percentage of the overall tax reduction over the course of a few years.  But that was only the beginning.  True profit leverage was achieved when the accounting firms located additional clients with similar facts and circumstances and repeated the exercise at a fraction of the time of the original solution.

Being able to package and promote a service like this was a business developer’s dream.  For openers, as a proprietary solution, it automatically was differentiated in the marketplace.  We easily could describe the replicable process, define the tax savings that would be generated, accurately price the offering, and identify very specifically (through public information) the target audience.

When I arrived on the legal services scene, I assumed that we could start right away packaging legal services products related to new court verdicts, unique business structures, tax rulings and so forth.  But lawyers have more difficulty than other professionals in coming to grips with the concept that each engagement, each matter, is not bespoke.  Needless to say, this attitude totally chokes the legal services products.

But the tide may be changing.  At a Lex Mundi Annual/Leadership Meeting in Amsterdam last week, I had the opportunity to speak with two presenters, both of whom – to my delight – covered the concept of legal products.  Simon Thompson, former COO of Linkaters and currently president of Change Harbour Ltd. referred three times in his remarks to the potential for law firms to replicate, package and sell legal processes.

The next speaker was Richard Susskind, whose new book Tomorrow’s Lawyers takes the concept of the productization beyond replicable services delivered by human beings and into the realm of delivery over the internet.

“‘Packaging’ of legal services,” he writes in Tomorrow’s Lawyers says, “occurs when lawyers pre-package and make their experience available to clients on an online basis.  It offers an entirely new way of tapping into lawyers’ expertise, under a form of licensing arrangement.  For the client, this can mean dramatically lower costs of service, while for the law firm it offers the opportunity for them to make money while they sleep….because the lawyers’ expertise is used without any direct consumption of time.”

It is said that law firms lag 15 to 20 years behind the accounting and consulting firms in business processes such as sales and marketing.  If that is true, then the time may be right for the emergence of product development within law firms.  At least the discussion has made it to the big time!

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Five CMOs, five minutes each, five thoughts on social media

Last Friday in Washington D.C., I had the pleasure of joining four other CMOs for an LMA Capital Chapter panel on “How Leading Law Firm Marketers Are Positioning Their Firms and People to Succeed.” Among the luminaries on the panel were Milbank’s Ellen Musante, Waller’s Mark Greene, Beveridge & Diamond’s Nathan Darling and Wilmer Hale’s Tim Delaney.

Each of us had five minutes to discuss an assigned topic, and I drew Social Media.  With only five minutes to cover a topic that easily could take five hours, I elected to address my Top 5 Thoughts About Social Media.  Here are the topics I briefly discussed in reverse order.

5.  Social media is well-constructed for attorneys, even though they don’t use it much….yet.  Read Gary Vaynerchuk’s “The Thank You Economy” to see how social media is re-constructing and scaling relationships and community, both of which are critical to the legal profession and both of which have been significantly eroded in the last 30 years.

4.  We are landing clients as a direct result of the utilization of social media.

3.  THAT one utilizes digital media is about as important as WHAT one communicates.  While content is important, so is “search engine findability.”  Being active in social media helps one be found for that which one wants to be found.  As to content, view the world as a reporter and observer until you can become a producer of valuable content.

2.  Social media communicates when nothing else will.  Social media is an effective communications channel even when traditional channels are inoperable due to natural disaster, coups, and censorship.  I experienced this firsthand when, in the wake of the devastating May 22, 2011 Joplin tornado, the Twitter feed was the best way to get information, and the information was very detailed, down to the neighborhood level.

1.   Within the next 3 years, social media will overtake e-mail as the preferred digital communications channel for business, in the same way that e-mail overtook USPS mail.

Again, this list just begins to scratch the surface on the subject of social media. What are your top thoughts about social media and its usage in legal marketing and business development?

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Find ‘em a job.

In my most recent series of blog posts, I’ve discussed ways that professional staff can add value without adding the cost to services.  So far, I’ve covered helping in-house counsel with communications and branding, introducing inside attorneys to potential new clients for their own companies and helping in-house attorneys find other lawyers across the country and internationally.

Here’s another:  Help your inside-counsel friends find their next jobs.

Law firm sales and marketing professionals know how hard it is to climb within their organizations. Many law firm sales and marketing staffs total 10-20 people, and even the largest are perhaps 50.  Within these confines, the upward pathway is a bit difficult and the most-senior roles are very limited in numbers.  The situation is similar in legal departments in much of Corporate America.  Only the very largest companies have sufficient counsel populations to justify management structures and well-defined career pathways. This reality creates one of the best ways for law firm professional staff to add value for buyers of legal services:  pay attention to inside counsel job openings and let our inside-counsel friends know about them at the earliest possible moment.  Local-market openings are important, of course, but because law firms span large geographies, law firm professional staff may have knowledge about job openings in other cities that may not be known to our local inside-counsel friends.  Providing a pathway for growth is one of the kindest, and most-valued gestures that law firm staff can provide.

Certainly, helping to create these pathways for inside counsel currently employed is appreciated.  For those who are between jobs, it is a lifeline. Despite some glimmers of improvements in the economy over the last few months, times still are tough.  I regret to report that in the last two weeks, three of my in-house counsel friends have suffered job losses due to reductions in force.  You can bet that I am turning over every stone I can find to identify opportunities for them.

Beyond that, I think it’s particularly important to make contact quickly and in-person when we learn that anyone, including inside counsel, has lost his or her position.  It is not easy to make these calls, but it is a human gesture of enormous importance to those on the receiving end, who, no doubt, are feeling abandoned, confused and angry.  This gesture never will be forgotten.

BTI Consulting suggests that one of the attributes that differentiates a law firm, and its professionals, is a commitment to help.  What better way to do so than to help improve our inside counsel friends’ career trajectories or helping them find a replacement job?  The rewards for all of this may be tangible, as in getting future legal assignments for our firms, but, personally, I find enormous rewards plenty enough simply in being responsible for supplying a boost to a friend who could use it.

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Share your (and your firm’s) networks

I’ve been talking about ways that staff professionals at law firms can produce value for inside counsel.  In recent posts, I covered helping in-house counsel with communications and branding and introducing inside attorneys to potential new clients for their own companies.

Here’s another often overlooked way that lawyers and staff can produce value:  Help inside counsel find lawyers across the U.S. and around the globe.

Those of us who operate in law firms can use many sources to find legal resources in far-flung locations:  other offices, firms with which our lawyers have worked, formal affiliations such as Lex Mundi, and the all-familiar internal emails that start with “Pardon the interruption, but do any of you know a divorce lawyer in…….”  While finding legal resources is a routine, and relatively easy, part of working in a private law firm, it’s a huge pain for inside counsel.  Many of my GC friends, especially those who work in small law departments, complain about how much time they are forced to invest in finding legal resources in geographies with which they are not familiar.  They just don’t have the extensive current networks that are a strength of private firms.

I’m surprised that law firms don’t make a bigger deal about their networks and more assertively offer to identify resources and connect the dots for inside lawyers.  Certainly, such network-sharing should be an element of great client service on the part of lawyers.  But what is stopping non-lawyer staff from providing the same service for our inside-counsel friends?  Using our networks to find legal resources is quick, easy, fun and valueable to inside counsel.

When I am working to connect the dots for my inside counsel friends, I find that it often is quicker, easier and more efficient to reach out not to a lawyer, but the CMO at another firm.  Most CMOs know more about the breadth and depth of skills within their firms than do the lawyers who work there.   In addition, marketing professionals understand, and most often are able to communicate candidly about, the social skills of lawyers that they might recommend for service to my clients and contacts.

I’d add that marketing professionals have access not only to the law firm’s traditional networks, but others such as LMA, LSSO and other law firm sales and marketing networks.  We could and should access these networks on behalf of our clients and prospective clients, as well.

It doesn’t take a lawyer to identify a resource for inside counsel and then to connect the dots.  If you are a legal sales and/or marketing professional, I suggest you assertively insert yourself into this value-added activity.

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