Gathering and managing content that is relevant to a firm's buyers of legal services is the bane of every marketer's existence. I've seen this one activity paralyze entire departments. The team is flummoxed by finding the most efficient way to engage lawyers so they provide the information that marketers need for pitches, proposals, Chambers, Thomson League Tables and other rankings/listings.
In my last post about experience management, I wrote about focusing on your top three use cases and on the people who will use this information. Your clients are the ultimate consumers of experience data – how are they evaluating you? What do they need to know about you to make the decision to hire you?
Effectively managing content requires the perfect marriage of people, process and technology. But, as I noted in my last post, don't start with the technology tool. Answer these questions about content contribution:
- What processes do you currently have in place? How are they working?
- Who inputs new matters into your experience database?
- How many fields per matter are too many (a barrier to entry)?
- Post-launch, how much lawyer time is required for each new matter?
- Who is the ultimate owner of the experience database, and who ensures the efficacy of the data?
In the Lex Mundi Americas experience management survey of CMOs that I conducted before a November presentation, the vast majority (nearly 80%) of respondents said the marketing/business development team own the process and database. Lawyers own this process in several firms, as well as paralegals in others.
Lawyers must "own" this data or they won't use it, but we still recommend that the marketing/BD team is the ultimate facilitator and controller of the technology and process.
In the CMO survey, I asked the question: How many people on your team are directly involved in managing experience and keeping it current? 58% of the respondents said 1-2 people, but 32% said 3-5 people. The right number depends on firm size, but we believe that larger firms should have several content contributors and managers. Effectively gathering the right information is a sleuthing exercise and it's time-consuming. Having more people dedicated to this mission-critical task is better – especially on the front end of a project implementation.
Lisa Simon, CMO of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and former international LMA President, is a long-time advocate for effective experience management. We worked together to implement an experience database at her firm and she says the firm has seen the enormous benefits. Lisa has this advice for managing the content:
- Less is more – having some data on a lot of matters is better than having lots of data on only a handful.
- Stakeholders are not always partners – Paralegals and secretaries/admin assistants are as important to the process as the attorneys – their buy-in is key.
- Look beyond the obvious sources – Utilize resources outside your own systems to begin generating content. Sometimes you get more info from your clients' press releases than your own lawyers.
Interestingly, according to the CMO survey, some firms have a database, but they don't give lawyers access to it. I believe it's a best practice to let lawyers be hands-on – to pull data, sort and parse it. Once again, if they see its utility, they'll engage with it, and be invested in its success and health.
I asked the CMOs whether they give lawyers access to the database to enter new matters. More respondents did not have lawyers enter content. At Brownstein, we created a web form for the corporate/securities group – they were clamoring for it, wanting to populate the database themselves. They use the form several times a day and now other groups want forms for their practices. Brownstein will launch these forms for its five main practice teams.
In other posts, I've written that lawyers don't trust the efficacy of the data if they don't own it. Brownstein has figured this out – the lawyers enter the data, and the marketing team reviews it before it goes live (on the website or for pitches/proposals). Lawyers trust it, so they'll use it, and they'll keep contributing to the Deals and Cases Tool.
In the CMO survey, I asked whether firms were adding the matters of lateral hires. As I noted in my last experience management post, effective lateral integration remains one of the greatest challenges firm leaders have today. While it is challenging, I believe it's a best practice to merge laterals' experience with yours as quickly as possible. There are easy ways to tag their experience, so if they leave, you can easily sweep it from your system. Half of the Lex Mundi survey respondents merge laterals' data into their tools and half do not.
Finally, it is early January 2013 and you might be in a position to make the business case for an experience database. Whether a new one or continued investment in an existing database, the arguments for it are compelling:
- It is guaranteed to increase revenue and make cross-selling/relationship expansion more effective.
- It creates practice and lawyer stickiness to your firm.
- As the owner of the experience database, marketing has more power than ever (knowledge really is power) – it leads to respect.
- No more emails! (Does anyone know anyone who knows anyone who does XYZ?) For 25 years or more, lawyers have been sending these dreaded emails.