I had the pleasure of attending the Lawyer magazines marketing summit at the end of last week.  The first panel session was a particularly lively affair on the Friday morning with an interesting split of partners (Ray Berg & Mike Polson of Osborne Clarke and Ashurst respectively) and marketeers (Sadie Baron of Reed Smith and Damian Taylor of Dentons) mulling over the future role of BD and marketing  within law firms.  

A lot of the points made on Friday are actually echoed in this Forbes article with the overarching message being that in the current turbulent climate, being a brave marketeer presents a great opportunity to build trust but really importantly it will benefit the end client whilst driving the right change within the firm.

Inside traditional law firms specifically, it seems that the marketing and BD function is changing and those that are 'disrupting from within' are having the most success. It does however, mean that the fee earners and partners are also having to change with them to ensure success.  

The marketing angle on the panel was that marketers need to try everything that they can to help drive change and keep the clients best interests  at heart and that means:

  • Realising that their job isn't to serve the partnership.
  • Bringing people from outside of the law industry into the marketing function
  • Embracing disruptors- lots of employees aren't joining to become partners and they can drive change.
  • Switch from an internal facing function to external.
  • Drive technology adoption within the firm by defining new roles and building out simple sales tool kits that explicitly list how it will help clients.
  • Remove all barriers where possible to help lawyers develop their skillsets outside of law
  • Marketers should learn about the market that their clients are in and find out more about competitors.
  • Using data and the fear factor to help drive change.

On the other side of the coin the partners are having to slowly embrace and acknowledge:

  • CMO's being integral board members
  • The fact that they, and fee earners are actually sales and commercial people as well as being lawyers.
  • It's okay to be part of many law firms that serve the client and collaboration is actually key as it serves the client in the best way.
  • It's okay to fail fast and even more so to at scale
  • The fact that there is a disconnect and gap when trainees are coming out of university and the expectations of the real world at work.

It was really interesting to hear the panels views and opinions and my conclusion was that the marketing and BD functions and roles of the future would indeed be different because they would have been honed, carved out and fought for by the brave marketeers of now.  It was Thomas Paine that stated 'the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.'