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| 5 minutes read

The LMA Canada Conference: Building with confidence towards 2023

Last month Passle co-founder, Adam Elgar, and I trooped up to Toronto for the LMA Canada Conference. It was probably one of the best in-person events I have ever attended with excellent sessions spread over the day. A few weeks later I finally got a chance to sit down and decipher my notes from 8 hours of fabulous content so please see below for a few key takeaways. 

Session #1 was moderated by Chandler Lauzon (Bennett Jones) and looked at Moving In-House: Perspectives from Chief Legal Officers (CLOs) with participation from Shara Roy (Chief Legal Counsel, EY) and Christelle Gedeon (CLO, Canopy Growth). 

So, what are they looking for? 

  • The bare minimum any firm expects is a legal expert. Over and above that, both panelists want someone they can ring up and who will give them meaningful advice and a strategic point of view. Shara Roy shared an example where someone from Miller Thompson noticed that EY were hiring and offered them some of their staff to cover any shortages / help with the process. Truly practical, commercial awareness which makes a difference. 
  • Christelle asked, "How can you help me hit my goals? i.e. be creative around billing, bring fresh perspective." Is what you are doing going to help my bottom line figures and are you even aware of them? 
  • True inclusion and diversity: “I’m not having any more bro lunches," was one of the phrases of the day from Shara. "I want to know who is going to do the work and who I will see day-to-day, not just turn up for the pitch."
  • Shara made another excellent point that as the prospect of an economic slowdown approaches, it is always the moment where firms will consider the value each of their suppliers brings to the table. 

So, with the tone set for what clients want, we moved swiftly into the Session #2 which looked at The Next Generation of Legal Marketing Leaders with Robyn Bews (Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer), Nicole Miles (Chief Clients & Markets Officer, Dentons Canada) and Sarah Mitchell (Chief Client Development & Market Strategy Officer, BCF). This was a fantastic session and three key ideas emerged: 

#1 You are in a unique position to enact change: All three marketeers said that it was imperative to "look up from the day job" and see what will help you achieve the bigger strategic goals.

Robyn waxed lyrical about the advantages of being new and having fresh ideas on “Who are we today?” She used a strong example of how "the lawyers feel very clear on the brand of our firm and who we are. This is often not who I see and my job is to tell that real story to people outside of the firm." Another example of this fresh perspective in a law firm is changing how the lawyers see themselves. Robyn cited the example of how the BD & Mkg function in her firm can help the firm become a leader in areas like energy transition building upon their expertise in more traditional areas like mining, coal and gas.

#2 Start small & demonstrate ongoing success: Sarah Mitchell spoke on the ‘journey’ to help lawyers reposition themselves whilst Nicole Miles talked about proving the value along the way with success stories e.g. lawyers landing their first client just from sharing content. Nicole also mentioned running a 2-month pilot at Dentons around client development. "We tracked tons of revenue, created a sense of community and brought people together. But more than anything, we taught the associates how to sell."

#3 Professionalisation and Changing of the Guard: Just as you are helping the lawyers present and often reposition themselves, you have a duty to reposition and reassert your own role and the value you bring to a firm over time. 

A good example of this, and possibly my favourite anecdote of the day, was Robyn's 'golf ball story': When she relayed the news to her father, a lawyer himself, that she was to become CMO of a law firm he replied, "oh so you are going to be making the golf balls then" i.e. the personalised golf balls used for the client days out. Safe to say the role has changed a lot in recent years! For more on this, check out Gillian Ward's podcast on the Professionalisation of legal marketing and recognising your own importance. 

Session #3 covered Lessons Learned Post-Pandemic for the legal industry, most of which were positive. Harshal Dalal (Head of Mkg Operations, Gowling WLG) spoke on the positive effect of new skillsets created, new technologies deployed and the massive transition made during covid i.e. we are all very adaptable to change and this is change which will stick. 

Felicity Alston (BD & Mkg Director, Field Law) went further by clarifying that Lawyers at last “buy into the importance of staying in touch with clients online, as they can no longer just ‘bump into a client’ at an event”. This leads to a more informal style of staying connected and identifying those opportunities e.g. they do not wait for RFPs to be issued. This can only be a good thing!

This all fed into the final session of the day around Client Experience. The panel put forward two key tenets. 

Firstly, be proactive and "meet the clients where they want to be met from a business, emotional and human standpoint." Secondly, as Paulette Armstrong (National BD Director, Miller Thomson) stated, you need to gather great feedback to deliver on the first point

A good example of this was cited by Oliviana Minagrelli (Senior BD Director, Fasken): It is often the headline person who gets the credit in a business relationship, but there is almost always a team behind them. Forget that team at your peril! So, for one of their important clients they sent over a bunch of Tim Horton gift cards for all the team to say thank you, not just to the lead contact. For the client this small gesture had a bigger effect than any lavish meal or gift as it resonated across their entire business client. Take the time to think about how you can impact them positively. 

And finally, Yohan Sauves (Senior BD Director, Davies) said we didn't need the pandemic as an excuse to talk to clients but it is vital to keep up the momentum on building those personal relationships, take the complication out of the client experience and give people the tools and the infrastructure to be successful across the business.

Lastly, a big thank you to the fabulous LMA Canada team of Adhi Reza, Jessica Horowitz, Lindsey Bombardier, Kaley Green and Alison Janzen for putting on such a fabulous day and making us feel so welcome. 


e2e, marketing, professional services