40 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – JULY 2023 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM THE BACK PAGE HOW MARKETING AND BD TEAMS CAN DELIVER IN A PIVOTAL YEAR BY ELIZABETH DUFFY Law firms need to unleash their marketing and business development teams to better seize critical opportunities in the post-pandemic legal environment. In the U.S., demand for legal services is projected to remain strong — 41 percent of clients say they plan to increase legal spending this year, and only 20 percent expect legal spending to decline. Clients are also looking for legal advice to be delivered in combination with significant industry and sector knowledge, noting that advice presented along with commercial context has more worth than that same advice presented in a vacuum. Law firms’ marketing and business development teams, of course, play a significant role in turning these projections into actual revenue. But much of marketing and business development was turned upside down by the pandemic. With the temporary loss of in-person marketing channels such as events, many marketing and business development teams were forced to experiment with new types of digital outreach, and they are now in a position to compare their effectiveness better. On average, law firms allocate 1-2 percent of revenues to marketing and business development budgets. Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are right to wonder if that’s adequate. Along with those budgets come admonitions to get creative and, of course, do more with less, even though live events — generally quite expensive — are coming back into the marketing mix. Balancing the short- and long-term To meet that mandate, CMOs need to narrow their focus to those initiatives most directly aligned with their firms’ strategic aims. Those aims need to reflect client priorities: the type of work clients need done, how they want advice delivered, and which geographies are most active, for starters. The firm’s strategic aims also need to be informed by market insights. A datadriven approach, or even a data-informed one, helps reduce internal debate. Strong, reliable data that comes directly from clients helps teams focus and move ahead. Equally important, it prevents them from using resources on initiatives that may not have much impact. Responding to clients’ legal needs requires a two-step approach. First are clients’ immediate needs, which our data identifies as most urgent in regulatory, legal and employment, and litigation practice areas. While firms handle urgent client requests, they must also lay the tracks to support clients’ future needs. That way, when clients are ready to address, for example, data privacy head-on, firms will already have the right legal team with the right relationship at the ready. Right now, clients’ longer-term needs appear to be in regulation, data privacy, cybersecurity risk, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. Balancing clients’ short- and longterm priorities requires a balancing act on the part of CMOs, who often are all too aware that they can’t do everything at once. Yet, no matter how urgent or busy short-term needs seem, it’s imperative to carve out the time to look at longer-term client priorities. Marketing and business development Other members of firm leadership seem better positioned than ever to help CMOs perform this balancing act. Those in leadership roles in marketing and business development report that the firm leadership is working together better than ever, which makes it easier for leadership to support other functions, including marketing and business development. In addition, CMOs say that law firm leadership now better understands the value of marketing and business development. CMOs are spending less time convincing lawyers of the value of brand strategy, for example, or defining the importance of marketing to law firms. CMOs are also starting a bit of reckoning over their data strategy — or lack thereof. They are starting to understand the importance of client data, especially client feedback, client insights, and the priorities on their clients’ horizons. CMOs also believe there might be valuable insights within their firms’ datasets; but they also understand that their firms might not have the skills to unlock those insights. Clearly, they see that there is a skills gap when it comes to data analysis. And without the ability to mine the most important insights, they’re concerned about getting bogged down in data without taking effective action — the dreaded analysis paralysis. CMOs, like their clients, are being asked to do two things at once: grow the current business, and transform their efforts to better capture new business over an indefinite time period. Yet growth and transformation require different skills. Growth often requires intensifying existing efforts for bigger results — and is all about faster, bigger, more. Transformation is a different beast entirely, requiring reflection and iteration. Law firm CMOs seem well-prepared to do both, and equally importantly, firm leadership seems to understand the urgent need to support them in this critical task. Elizabeth Duffy is senior director, Global Client Services at Thomson Reuters Asian Legal Business is seeking thought-provoking opinion pieces from readers on subjects ranging from Asia’s legal industry to law firm management, technology and others. Email for submission guidelines.