For those of you who did not make it to this year’s LMA (Legal Marketing Association) Annual Conference in Atlanta, you missed a great conference. It was well attended, which made it good for networking, and there was plenty of good content to absorb. Here are some of the highlights from my perspective.
LMA did a good job with choosing the venue, The Hyatt Regency. There was plenty of room and opportunity to network with LMA members throughout the conference.
This year’s keynote speech was delivered by Jennifer Dulski, Head of Groups and Community at Facebook. Although her speech was not specifically tailored to the legal community, I thought her message was a good one, which was in so many words, “don’t wait for someone else to start an initiative, rather be that person who takes the bold step to start it yourself.”
She used examples of the woman who started the Woman’s March, the man who started Plum Organics food for children, and even people who are the first to start a standing ovation. People, in general, are more apt to follow and less likely to start a movement, whether it be is big or small. The main takeaway I had was not to wait for something to happen, rather set it in motion myself.
The GC Panel
I thought this panel had more substance than other GC panels in prior years. Instead of hammering the point home that law firms charge too much, they emphasized the importance of carrying business conversations with prospective clients rather than just legalese talk.
The GC for DHL said that it is the business people like the ones sitting in the LMA audience who are the more important people for him to meet because they are more likely to understand his business needs.
He also made two other important statements that stood out:
1. The Big 4 firms pose a greater threat down the road when they enter the legal space because they have the stronger relationship with the CFO. The GC doesn’t always make the final call when selecting a law firm. It is often the CFO. The CFO also has the ear of the CEO. And,
2. the ALSPs shouldn’t be the bigger competitive threat to law firms. It is in the in-house team. Due to law firm fee fatigue, GCs are continuing to look at hiring more attorneys to work for them in house.
Our panel – Business Development Best Practices and Insights from the Big 4
I presented this topic with Deloitte’s Nationals Sales Leader, Tom Lutz. The Big 4 firms focus on training all of their professionals on business development early and often. They start with them right when they join the firm and continue throughout their career at the firm. They leverage both internal and external trainers to drive comprehensive programs that stick. They also work with external coaches to coach professionals who earn the right for coaching.
The biggest mistake is to coach a professional who is “broken”. This coaching resource is best allocated for those who have the greatest potential and want to learn.
Lastly, we talked about the importance of leveraging client-facing sales professionals. It’s a program that works for all four firms. There is even cultural pushback from partners at the Big 4 firms however, it only takes a few “champion” partners to help break through the cultural barrier and show the other partners that position players such as sales professionals can make a tremendous difference in the overall firm’s revenue growth.
One of the key sessions I missed, but I heard was good, was the one led by JD Supra's Adrian Lurssen on data. Data can be everyone’s friend, especially for those in law firm business development and marketing. Having the right data to drive key decisions can turn a conversation from a subjective one to an objective one. For those who have a hard time getting approval from the law firm executive group, consider using more concrete data to back your point.
There were other sessions that were insightful such as The Million Dollar Bootcamp led by my friend, Beth Healy at Beth Healy Consulting, and her client, Liz Lockett at Miles & Stockbridge PC. They shared how they are leading successful business development bootcamps at Liz’s firm that drive results.
The vendor turnout in the exhibit hall was impressive. More this year than prior years. Several representing AI, CRM and digital marketing. It seems like many are still looking at ways to improve the compliance and user experience of CRM programs, which is so important for law firms.
Overall, through a consultant’s lens, I thought this year’s conference was a worthwhile investment of time and money. Next year it will be held in Denver, a much shorter trip for those of us on the West Coast!