“The value we create is directly related to how much valuable information we can produce, how much trust we can earn, and how often we innovate.”
– Seth Godin, Author
I have been thinking a lot about value lately. For so many of us, work is busier than ever and our social calendars are finally starting to fill up again. But, as legal marketers, it can sometimes feel like you are doing everything in the world but, accomplishing virtually nothing at all. How does one maximize and demonstrate their value? How can a law firm provide meaningful value to its clients? And how can we all sustain the level of value required in today’s competitive, ever-changing industry? Here are a few simple ideas.
What can a legal marketer do to provide value to their internal clients?
Never sacrifice the planning. I have worked in teams my entire professional career and it remains true that teams who plan, succeed. There is no shortcut to excellent planning. Keeping your goals top of mind, plan what, who, when, and how. Include budgets, KPIs, and anything else that might be relevant. Take the lead in continuously updating and sharing that information with the team as a project or program advances.
Why is this valuable? You are managing expectations and avoiding surprises. By providing everyone with the information they need to succeed, you are positioning yourself as a leader and a person who takes initiative and ownership – a win-win!
Dig deep before you ask. We all want the answer and we want it now! Before you ask someone else to stop what they’re doing to help, think about whether you have exhausted all of your resources. At a minimum, most firms have financial, document management, and client relationship management systems that store data, documents, and correspondence. Learn how to navigate all of these systems so that you are not slowed down when finance is busy, you are working after hours, or, most likely, when a lawyer needs the information “ASAP!”.
Why is this valuable? Being self-sufficient allows you to understand how the firm operates, lets you make informed decisions, and empowers you to ask smart questions. Use this power and be known for providing thoughtful, trusted, well-researched work products.
What can a law firm do to provide value to its external clients?
Communicate, communicate, communicate. We recently asked some of our clients about their views on law firm value, service, and innovation. The strongest theme that surfaced was ‘communication above everything’. These particular clients want lawyers that communicate quickly and often. Unless explicitly requested, they don’t want long-winded legal memos. And most interestingly, they want succinct and creative materials, with effective visuals, for reporting to their senior management teams on the progress of legal matters.
What can firms do to add value? Delegate someone on the matter team as being responsible for communicating to the client. Decide on format and frequency and stick to it. Openly discuss the clients’ internal reporting structure and develop (or reimagine) materials to help them communicate more effectively.
Invest in resources and tools (or at least be thinking about them). Some clients wear a lot of hats and can be responsible for dozens of high-level and high-risk issues. Minimizing their burden can be incredibly powerful. Consider how to leverage legal project managers on major cases and deals. That means, having a business person set agendas, lead meetings, follow up on deliverables, and report on progress. Taking that work away from practicing lawyers frees them up to provide more legal value to more clients. There are also dozens of tools that can help speed up your work, improve collaboration across teams, and make routine tasks more efficient.
What can firms do to add value? Commit to speaking to clients about the challenges that they face and invest in learning about new ways to deliver service. Incremental innovation is possible but, you must be willing to initiate change and be in it for the long haul.
Achieving maximum value is possible, no matter who you are. It means being well prepared, well informed, and dedicated to open communication and continuous learning. It is also important to pause, reflect, seek feedback, and readjust as needed. And if all else fails, at least you have (fingers crossed) real-life, in-person social events to look forward to again!