At the recent 31st Annual Law Firm Marketing Partner Forum, panelists discussed what new skills will be most in demand among marketing and business development professionals
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — Heightened competition in the legal industry is driving law firm marketing and business development initiatives, leading to a stronger reliance on the use of data and advanced technology and led by a new class of C-level leaders who are technology natives.
That means 2024 is poised for significant transformation in the field of marketing operations for many law firms, according to several panelists at the Thomson Reuters Institute’s 31st Annual Law Firm Marketing Partner Forum held last week. Indeed, this trending development will drive a marketing tech evolution as economic and technological pressures drive firms to hone and maximize their marketing tech stack.
Further, this will lead to a rise in marketing operations as firms seek a renewed focus on professionalizing their marketing operations, to better steer both marketing and business development activities towards increased efficiency and better client service.
But who are these new faces of the marketing department and what new skills are they bringing to law firms to lead this initiative? And perhaps more importantly, how can these new roles drive innovation, enhance client engagement, and elevate a firm’s overall marketing efforts?
First, as panelists explained, firms have to understand the overall role of marketing operations within a law firm’s marketing and business development department. Marketing ops should be seen as the control tower of a firm’s marketing initiatives, panelists said, acting as the heartbeat of the marketing department and managing everything from budgeting to staffing.
Who are these new faces of the marketing department and what new skills are they bringing to law firms? And perhaps more importantly, how can these new roles drive innovation, enhance client engagement, and elevate a firm’s overall marketing efforts?
To achieve this, however, many law firms will need to fortify their marketing teams with data analysts who can decipher customer preferences, spot trends, and measure return on investment. Not surprisingly, generative artificial intelligence (Gen AI) and other advanced technologies have the potential to revolutionize content creation, automate tasks, analyze vast data, and deliver personalized client communications — again, greatly aiding firms that want to improve their efficiency. Panelists identified several other trends driving the overall rise of marketing operations, including:
- Increased account-based marketing — In the quest for client trust and enduring relationships, firms will embrace key account marketing strategies.
- Unified data era — The synergy between CMOs and their IT counterparts will give rise to unified data platforms, offering real-time insights that all lawyers can access.
- Process evolution — More law firms will adopt formal work management platforms, offering collaboration and streamlined workflows that, again, can be readily accessed by firm lawyers.
- Client experience will be at the center — More law firms will embrace a client experience strategy in order to attract new clients and solidify the firm’s position in the marketplace.
The value of a client-centric firm
Driving the further development of marketing operations within law firms is the desire by firm leaders to position their firm as more client centric. To do that, however, panelists explained that leaders have to make sure the firm is adding value and is explaining that value not only to the firm’s clients, but to the firm’s partners as well.
Since just before the pandemic, clients have become more focused on value, often asking, What can my outside law firms do for me? To answer that question, panelists explained that law firms need to be holding more value conversations with clients, establishing regular contact — beyond just that of the relationship partner. This way, firm leaders can expect to get an idea of what value means to a particular client and what that client needs both on a daily basis and in the longer term.
“If value is all about growing revenue and building relationships, then a direct conversation about what clients see as value is necessary,” said another panelist.
Yet, the changes that law firms will need to implement to make their marketing operations more streamlined, client-centric, and successful are not small. For example, there’s not a lot of on-boarding of non-lawyers — data scientists, project managers, and other professionals — and that will have to change. Indeed, firms need to see overall improvement in their project management efforts, panelists noted, as the skills needed in successful project management are critical in order to get matters done, form plans, and see the steps needed for each task. Further, those with great communication skills, especially around technology, will be in great demand in order to explain the value of tech investment to partners.
“There is major change coming to law firms’ talent structure,” said one panelist. “Firms have to be more inclusive, and that means there has to be pro-development for non-lawyers within firms’ hiring processes — and CMOs will have to be the ones pushing this in order to build out their law firms’ competency models.”
This is the first in series of blog posts featuring key takeaways from the recent Thomson Reuters Institute’s 31st Annual Law Firm Marketing Partner Forum.