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| 20 minutes read

CMO Series EP64 - Bob Robertson of Jackson Lewis on the dimensions of client service and the role of marketing

Client feedback programs are nothing new to law firms. But there are a number of other ways that the CMO and marketing teams can contribute to enhancing the client service experience.

In this week’s episode of the CMO Series, Will Eke is delighted to welcome Bob Robertson, Chief Marketing Officer at Jackson Lewis to share his unique perspective on the dimensions of client service, and the role of marketing in truly serving the firm’s clients.

Will and Bob explore: 

  • Bob’s career and how he came to his current role at Jackson Lewis
  • The point in his career he identified the opportunity for marketers to get more involved in client service
  • The value marketing professionals, as opposed to dedicated client management teams, bring to the table when it comes to client service
  • The factors that determine what types of service clients need and how do you identify when they need to come into play
  • How, and if, the approach to client service changes when it comes to serving the larger, key accounts 
  • How the approach to client service can scale in the future to meet the evolving needs of clients across the board
  • Advice for CMOs and marketers looking to improve their firm’s client service or implement a new client-focused program


Intro: Welcome to the Passle Podcast, CMO series.

Will: Hi there, and welcome to the Passle CMO series podcast. My name's Will Eke and really, really lucky to be joined today by Bob Robertson. We're gonna be talking about the dimensions of client service and the role of marketing in that. Client management teams and feedback programs are not new to law firms, but there is a myriad of ways that the CMO and the marketing teams can contribute to enhancing the client service experience. Bob is really well versed in identifying and optimising the numerous layers of client service through legal marketing lens, and has been at many different firms. It's, we're gonna touch upon that in a minute, but Bob, you're now CMO of Jackson Lewis, welcome to our podcast. I've been trying to get you on here for a while.

Bob: Yeah. Schedule has never quite worked out, unfortunately.

Will: Here we are. We've done it now. So I'm gonna, I'm gonna be trying to unpick your brain with, with all of this client service knowledge that's in there. I'm gonna start off with a nice easy one. It's actually gonna be talking through your background, if possible. How did you sort of come about to your, to your role at Jackson Lewis?

Bob: Well, you know, that's a long journey, but I've been working in law firms since the late 1990s, but before then, I had a life in the retail industry in a number of roles, including as an analyst in the corporate planning department of a retail holding company and associate in a consultancy that was focused on the sector and as a buyer for two prominent retail chains. I started working in law firms when I was considering changing my career and going to law school as a way, in a sense of dipping in, trying to understand the environment and what it was like to be a lawyer. Since then, however, I chose obviously not to pursue that path, but I really pursued a different path in law firms. I've served a number of different roles, including those focused on practice management and practice marketing pitches and pursuits, as well as leading the marketing and business development functions at Greenberg Traurig and Cadwalader and Freshfields for the US region. I came to Jackson Lewis about a year and a half ago after consulting for a while with a group of wonderful colleagues and friends after leaving Freshfields.

Will: Great. So you've, you've sort of tasted what it's, what it's like to be the fee earner and you've, and you've come back over, come back over to the marketing side. What point in your career did you see the opportunity for marketers to get more involved in the client service piece?

Bob: Well, throughout my career or my earlier career in retail, everything, literally everything was informed and directed by customer data and feedback. And there was a great, great focus on the client experience or the customer experience, in that jargon. So I developed the perspective that marketing and strategy needed to be clearly grounded in an understanding of what clients wanted and how to enhance that client experience. And that's a perspective that I brought to law firms because it was really ingrained in me. Luckily for me, one of my first assignments in my first job in law firms was to manage a firm's compliance with an outside council program that they had recently adopted as part of an RFP process. The client had adopted a DuPont style convergence initiative and I did the matter reporting and orchestrate a broad range of service-related projects and work closely with the client contacts. It was fascinating because I got looped into a broad range of client service issues in that role from issues around, you know, mundane issues around billing and understanding, you know, what was billed and who would pay for what to actually being a conduit of information for issues around the actual delivery of the legal service and issues around that. So that role allowed me to get under the hood, so to speak, of law firms and actually legal department operations as well, because I worked very closely with the folks in the legal department around those issues. So I saw firsthand the value having someone like myself navigate these issues and how it directly impacted a firm's stickiness and depth of relationship with a client. And it's interestingly enough through that, in that role, I also developed a very unique and informed perspective on both the competition and how to actually get more, get more work from the client, which is really pretty much in the marketing business development wheelhouse.

Will: I suppose from that answer as well, Bob, you're sort of saying the client can be internal and external. Um, you know, having crossed over that side, as you say, you, you know how lawyers tick and, and you can see them as a, as a client as well and, and build that relationship internally so that the external relationships become stronger as well. What value do you think, uh, marketing professionals as opposed to dedicated client management teams bring to the table when it comes to client service? And can you give us, you know, some hard and fast examples from your wealth of experience there?

Bob: Sure, absolutely. So in the best examples, we are actually part of a client service team, broadly speaking, right? And client service teams, you know, obviously take on different forms of different places, but we're part of a client service team, either directly working with specific clients or part of a client service team in terms of providing resources generally to fee earners. Each of us has a role on that team from lawyer to the marketer. To answer your question specifically, I think that marketing and BD can extend a firm's reach and be far more effective liaisons with client departments such as procurement, legal, operations, and a host of other functions that exist in client organisations. We can liaise, and this is based on my experience with the legal department to create a series of internal CLE programs that really customised to the client, but also showcase the firm's capabilities. We can develop relationships with procurement, and I actually spent a lot of time doing that in a firm that I was at that can help you really navigate how to build more business with that client. And you can get perspectives that are broader within the client organisation through that, for instance, because, you know, lawyers actually work with their context directly one on one. But by building relationships with legal ops and procurement, you actually have a much broader perspective on what's going on with the client sometimes. And sometimes those conversations can also highlight red flags in the relationship that could need to be navigated. So that's, that's one way that I've, you know, that I've done that. You know, we can take, take it one step further and try to coordinate and align resources with a client organisation around joint community service or pro bono. Sometimes, and I've done this from time to time over the years, we can also be effective interfaces between a firm's technology professions of professionals and client IT contacts and client legal contacts in terms of trying to map out, and, you know, broadly speaking, what type of innovation the client might want. And innovation in this context is really usually what we're talking about is sort of the automation of some kind of legal service delivery. And sometimes when we bring in like IT professionals from law firms and their counterparts or legal professionals and firms, you know, the conversation doesn't always flow exactly the way you wanted to because they're really speaking different languages in some ways or have different considerations. So marketing and business development professionals could often act as that kind of in-between liaison, and, and help translate things in terms of their overall relationship. I mean, this is just, these are just a range of possibilities really. You know, McKinsey did a study, oh, quite some time ago now that's been quoted in a number of different places where they took a look at the activities firms do to enhance brand perception, for instance, I mean take, let's take it outta the business development context for minute. And they looked at everything that firms do from websites to thought leadership alerts, individual lunches, the whole nine yards, and they identified that activities that directly touched on the relationship, and there were a number of them that they talked about. They talked about stuff like we're talking about navigating internal issues in terms of relationship to, you know, periodic touch bases to all of that actually have the greatest impact on brand perception. And so it can be argued in a sense that this really is marketers work.

Will: So many interesting points there, Bob. And I think, you know, we have touched upon this before with a few of our other contacts that have jumped on, and I think it, it's really interesting because you sort of, you're going beyond that sort of relationship that, that a lawyer has then. So you're really adding, you know, I suppose a bit more like a sort of consultancy value. You're getting to know the business as well as just that transactional sometimes relationship that lawyers and attorneys have with their clients. So adding real value, I always, I always try and get in with the procurement teams, but that's for, that's for other reasons. In terms of the factors that determine what types of service clients need and how, how do you sort of identifying when they need to come into play.

Bob: You know, this question is an opening to yet another way we as marketers can enhance client service. And you touched on it earlier on your comments, which is the traditional way of soliciting and analysing feedback. So through that mechanism, often you can determine what factors need to come into play but more broadly than that, you can do it through a mapping exercise of the touchpoint between clients and the firm. You could do it at a specific client level, but you can also talk about types of clients and how they interact with the law firm, right? And you look at systematically and proactively looking at ways to improve the service experience at each point, you know, from intake to billing, to keeping them informed about matters to how they get alerts, all of the aspects of that interaction. Um, of course what we're talking about here is something that is well known as the client journey, um, and client journey mapping, but I tend not to use that term because it brings up images, you know, new age music and sage burning and bowl somewhere. But this is actually a very, very practical exercise and one that actually provides great value. It's, it's not always easy to do, but when you do it, you definitely can identify clear areas where service can be enhanced and where the perception of the firm can be can be improved.

Will: Yeah, and I, and again, back, back to your earlier point, it's really just if you, we are taught in sales to try and map out the relationships between our teams and, and your teams and try and mirror those you know, in sometimes in a hierarchical sense, but it's exactly, exactly the same way of doing it from, from your side. Does the approach to client service change when it comes to serving the, the larger accounts and not, not jump in the gun, but there normally are the key accounts, right? The bigger ones?

Bob: Well, realistically, it's an issue of scale and focus. I mean, the largest accounts often merit more comprehensive and sometimes dedicated resources because of the complexity of the relationship and frankly, what's at stake for the firm. But the overall approach and focus remains the same. How you deliver it may be different. You know, for the truly large accounts, you may have a person, and firms have been dabbling in this for a while now, who is focused on building relationships and handling service issues, you know, for either a specific client or portfolio or very large bias. We see that in number of firms out there. But for smaller clients, you can undertake an exercise at a firm level that mapping exercise, for instance, that I mentioned, and implement and automate these practices for example, an automated email when they join the firm as a new client, but it easily, you know, allows them to sign up and customise communications or giving every client when they join the firm, a dedicated billing concierge that can help navigate issues for them. And realistically and practically developing a client's service toolkit for every lawyer in the firm, for every fee earner in the firm that, you know, with reporting templates and other resources they can use, like, you know, uh, matter reporting and best practices around managing lawyers across a firm and giving them tools and resources that they can implement and use at their discretion for much smaller clients too. So yeah, the approach is the same. It's still a focus on service, you know, and the elements and the qualities of that service, but the scale is different. Does that make sense?

Will: Yeah, definitely. And, and I think we, we have heard it before, you are, you're basically trying to wow your clients, right? So you're, we've heard it where, uh, law firms have sometimes built bespoke, uh, microsites as you say, to sort of, so, so their clients can log in and they've got their own environment that they can then, uh, operate in. Yeah, there it sounds like it's very successful. What in terms of, I think you just answered my next question, I was gonna sort of say, you know the approach to client service scaling in the future. How, how do you see that evolving and how, how do you see the needs of your clients evolving across the board?

Bob: Well, I think the traditionally law firms have viewed client service in a very kind of narrow way. They've seen it primarily, in terms of legal service, right? The quality of legal services that are provided. And they haven't really focused a lot on the overall experience. Some have obviously just touched on, but I think it's gonna be an increasing focus of firms as they try to differentiate themselves. There was a lot of this going on pre pandemic. There was actually roles being created, people started to look at it. The pandemic took our focus away from that a bit, um, because we were dealing with more, pardon expression than pressing issues, right? At the time. But I think it's shifting back, you know, very few have really focused and executed on a comprehensive program, and it's mostly been ad hoc and compartmentalised to great extent. I think it's gonna be much more of a focus on trying to create scalable, comprehensive programs around this as well as doing really kind of bespoke service initiatives around those key accounts. I think that's kind of where we're going with this. I mean, it mirrors to some extent what the big three have done as well. And I think we're moving in that direction, although, you know, somewhat slowly still,

Will: I think from your comments you probably agree that you see the marketing and the BD team really being the glue there, right?

Bob: Well, it's, there are new functions, right? So there are new functions with marketing bd. You can argue that these functions can exist in many different places within the law firm organisation, right? But they are actually most powerful if aligned with, you know, the marketing BD function because they tend to, again, touch on brand perception, they touch on business development, they touch on how to do, you know, market effectively affirms value proposition. So they tend to align best with their, although I think marketing business development function would, would still, are still struggling to figure out where they fit, right? But I think that the answer is not too far away from us, and I think that they do fit really, really well within the marketing BD function.

Will: Sure. And then, I mean, that leads into you know, another tangent in terms of how you recruit as well, I suppose to fill those growing roles and change ever changing roles. Bob, we always ask this before I go into a quick fire round of questions. We always ask this one question, which is our listeners really like, I think, what would your one piece of advice be to your peers, to other CMOs and, and, and folk in the marketing and BD world to improve their firm's client service or implement, you know, a new client focus program if they're going down that route?

Bob: So I'm gonna start from scratch, and in answering this question, marketers in my experience, and this has been born out time and time again, are most empowered in their roles when they facilitate insights from clients. I mean, I can quote marketing studies all day long. I can be the marketer of the year, um, acknowledged by like a hundred different publications. But the moment I bring perspectives from important clients to the firm and facilitate those conversations, lawyers actually pay attention. So my advice is to start facilitating those conversations again through the very mechanisms that we discussed that have been traditional, you know, client feedback etc, Or bring lawyers, I mean, I'm sorry, bring clients in back into the firm to talk about the issues that are top of mind for them and then have facilitated conversations when they share what's going on in their respective organisations. What I have found is when you start in those kind of, those kinds of conversations, whether that through informal feedback with your informal information sharing, they lead to broader conversations. And those broader conversations often touch on the elements of service that we discuss, you know, today. So I wouldn't start by saying we're launching a client service program. It just typically doesn't work because it sounds too grandiose and it's hard to get your head around. Just start by facilitating conversations, you know, bringing, you know, going out to clients, talking to them, and bringing those insights back to the firm because you'll be in empowered as a marketer, as a CMO, but also you begin to lay the seeds for this kind of broader approach to client service.

Will: Great advice, Bob. And, and it's hard for lawyers, attorneys to argue if you know, they hear it directly from the, from the client's mouth as well. Cool. Okay, we're gonna go into the, the quick-fire round now. Okay, so number one, what is your favourite business and non-business book at the moment?

Bob: Well, my favourite business book is not a business book per se, It's the Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini who was, who is, I should say, a student of psychology now and an expert in it. Actually's a professor I believe in Arizona. And he's written a series of books on the science of Persuasion and the classic, which is called a Psychology of Persuasion, is a great book that everyone should read because you will just see the wisdom of it time and time again. And my favourite, you know, non-business book, people who know me well know that I'm a huge history buff. And there's a book by Norman Davies called Vanished Kingdoms that I find and have found incredibly fascinating. It's really a book about how there were these really important states, kingdoms throughout history. They no longer exist. They were really vitally important to the history of the world, to the political atmosphere of the time. But they simply have vanished away through various means, whether or not through, you know, you know, two important kings marrying, king to queen, marrying, et cetera, or through war and, and, subsequent, you know, subsequent changes in boundaries. But it's a really interesting book on a number of levels. First, again, because I love, I love history, but also because it really speaks to the impermanence of things, right? The transitioning of things, the evolution of things. So it actually, it actually just is not a history book, but also kinda reminds us about, you know, life in general.

Will: Okay. I, I love your answers because normally people just give us the name of the book and you actually gave us a summary of both as well, which is really helpful. I should definitely read that. Psychology, Psychology of persuasion with my role.  What was your first job?

Bob: My first job ever, and I was, I think about 16 years old, was a summer camp counsellor in a New York City program aimed at urban youth from lower-income neighbourhoods. I learned during that job that there were just some jobs that I was not simply suited for, and that was one of them. I think the kids just totally write a muck around me, but that was my first job,

Will: Wow. For if someone asked me that, my mine was in a Turkey factory and I had to take the giblets out. So, I mean, it's a pretty grandiose first job in my book.

Bob: Well, it really wasn't. I mean, I came from one of those neighbourhoods, so it was, it wasn't, I have to say that I, it just taught me a lot about myself, in a way that surprised me.

Will: What are you listening to at the moment? And, and you know, this could be music if you're not comfortable with sharing that list. It could be a podcast, could be an audio book.

Bob: Well, you know, it's interesting. I think, you know, we talked a little bit before doing this, and I shared, and, and I say this and people always like, you know, perk up. I've been a big TikTok person lately. I become addicted to it. So, I tell you what, I, I follow, I follow an Italian travel advisor who talks about developing like these wonderful itineraries you can, you can create while travelling in Italy. And she talks about how you can travel from one place to another and cover all these different places. It, she's fascinating. She's also, you know, talks about tips about what not to do and what to do and,  you know, it just, she's just a tremendously entertaining, as you know, and I mentioned I'm a huge history buff. And there is a British physician and historian, I'm gonna go plug for her name, Susie Edge, who talks about how kings and queens actually died and all of the medical issues around this sounds morbid, but it's not. She is exceptionally entertaining. And really, really interesting because it talks really about, again, my love of history, but also talks about medicine and all of that stuff. It's, it's really fascinating. And I also, from a very practical perspective, follow a Spanish language instructor from Spain who helps me with my colloquial Spanish skills, you know, she has little TikToks on, you know, how do you say certain things, you know, not, not from a necessarily the most proper custodian Spanish, but you know, how how do people on the street speak? So I find that kind of interesting,

Will: Again, a very, a very different way of using TikTok. I wasn't gonna bring up TikTok, but different way of using it that my kids try to use it for.

Bob: It's a plethora stuff, really.

Will: You sort of, you've nearly answered, although I'm not gonna assume anything. My next question of where is your favourite place to visit and why? I'm hoping there's gonna be a city in Spain or Italy maybe in there.

Bob: Well, it's funny because I, I thought about that. But actually it is not a specific place. You know, I, I love Santorini, but that's not, I mean, everyone probably says I love Santorini and talk about the blue, you know, the blue Aegean and all that stuff. But it's actually a type of place and it totally makes sense based on everything I've just said. It's someplace of historical context like a cathedral or a medieval city street, like Bodega del Gotic, in Barcelona or a place like that where you get a sense of a different time, right? And you can imagine all the people and stories that have, and their stories that have walked those, you know, those streets, that place that been there and the energy. And I gonna say something a little, a little, I guess out there it's a bit like time travelling in a sense, because you can imagine yourself there for a moment, right? And again, it puts everything into kind of your in perspective, your place in life, you know, the world, the history of what's be behind before you, what might come be after you. So it's an interesting place, it really kind of energises me and really it makes my mind just go in a number different directions. So I love those kind of places.

Will: I totally get it. We visited a, a little church in a village yet just yesterday actually with my kids, but they, they made me think I was there because they were sort of exactly as you say, they were imagining, you know, when was this built? Who, who was in here when it was first built. So exactly to your point, you can sort of go back in time and try and become those, those characters that were there. What makes you happy at work when you're not on TikTok?

Bob: What makes me happy at work, and this is gonna sound kind of trite, but it actually is actually very real, is being able to provide real value and assistance to someone, to solve an issue for someone, right? To obtain a piece of new business. I mean, and that sounds, again, very trite and very new business developing perspective, but, but it's true. Like, you know, helping the firm win work has always, always, always been incredibly fulfilling for me. Or to give advice to someone, whether it be a lawyer on how to, you know, manage their career and develop new business or a colleague about how to make a good choice for themselves. So really to provide value in the relationship.

Will: Amazing. Bob, it's been brilliant to have you on. Finally. I'm glad I used the psychology of Persuasion to finally get you on. Thank you for your time and yeah, hopefully, hopefully see you again soon.

Bob: Absolutely. It was a real pleasure. Thank you. 


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