Robyn:

Hi everyone! Welcome to LISI’s News+Views+To-Do’s where we invite legal marketers and legal industry professionals to talk about what’s going on in their world, their insights about what’s changing in this world, and advice that they have for us and for our audience. So Bob, you have a diverse and tenured career in legal marketing and business development and I’m so excited to sort of talk about what’s going on in your world. So let’s dive right in. I’m interested to hear what’s news with you. What’s going on with you and what projects are you working on now?

Bob:

Well, at the moment I’m doing some contract work at a couple of law firms and one in particular, it’s a major law firm. I just got pulled into a project this week for a practice that really needs some assistance in both raising awareness and hopefully not only expanding existing business, but identifying possible new opportunities. And this project is in my opinion, extremely unique. We’re working with a vendor to develop an experiential visit for potential clients and current clients. And it will allow them to learn about the firm, it’s strength and in particular areas within the real estate practice, what makes the firm unique, what’s its value add, and it’s doing it in my opinion an extremely creative and different way, than we’ve seen these types of programs in the past and the legal industry. I mean, as you know, Robyn, typically the legal industry has been viewed as not very innovative and stuck in their old ways, but this, I’m excited to say is very innovative. And it’s exciting that the attorneys at this firm are allowing the marketing and business development team to try something different with them. And my hope is that when they see how effective this project is, in achieving the goals that they have articulated, we’ll be able to do this for other practices or even industry groups at that firm.

Robyn:

That’s awesome. That sounds very exciting. How did this sort of come to be, was there, what was the key driver, and what are they, I heard you talking about expanding sort of their, knowledge base and their thought leadership, but how do you think they’re going to measure success?

Bob:

I’m hoping that, well, first of all, I believe it came to fruition because, you know clearly the pandemic has hit the real estate market quite hard in a number of ways. And so the real estate attorneys, came to the business development team at this particular firm, and essentially said, “We’re open to anything, help us, you know help us raise our awareness, help us be a thought leader, help us be recognized as a key resource for this industry.” So, you know, clearly the goals, it’s hard as you know, to measure the effectiveness of a marketing and business development campaign like this. But to me, the goals will be the traffic that we receive, especially the repeat traffic, the new opportunities that may arise as a result of this program. And hopefully seeing increase billings and collections perhaps even seeing increased media activity.

Robyn:

That’s awesome. Yeah, it’s something you said in there about law firms not always being cutting edge. I think Andy Laver was the first person who said this to me. “Law firms love to be first to be second.” And when I heard that, it just clicked, because I don’t know if there’s any truer statement in our industry. It’s hard to break out of the mold and try something new especially in an industry that is so well-established throughout history and it tends to be a more sort of buttoned-up industry. So that sounds really exciting. I’m excited to see what you and your team are able to accomplish with it.

Bob:

Yeah, we are too. And I completely completely agree, you know and this is a firm that has been around for more than a hundred years and you would think that they wouldn’t be so cutting edge. So it’s a great testament actually to their leadership and how they feel about the team.

Robyn:

That’s awesome. Well, so that’s a nice segue too, to my next question in terms of, you know, views on the legal industry, what is something that you see changing, and what do you think the impact of that change is going to be?

Bob:

Well, again, we’ve seen a lot of changes based on the pandemic, people have had to pivot. So the way that we do marketing and business development has completely had to change, to meet the challenges of this last year. Where in the past, we were able to be in person and have that face-to-face contact and develop those interpersonal relationships whether it was through our conference, a CLE, a dinner or a pitch, or a proposal presentation. A lot of it has been exactly what we’re doing right now via the internet. And so people have been very creative. I think that what we’ve learned is to temper our approach with clients and prospective clients. And what I mean by that is, we need to be more empathetic. They’re facing a lot of challenges that we’re facing. And so I think if we try to be not only a resource for them, for instance, you know, here’s some suggestions on childcare support or tutoring support because all of a sudden you are in the legal department of a major corporation, but you’re also having to be a part-time teacher for your students. Well, you know, we’re facing the same thing as opposed to saying, “Well, I want you to get on this Zoom and we’re going to touch base.” And then I’m going to ask you for more work. So I think that we have to be more thoughtful about our approach, and I really don’t think that, that strategy should change or is going to change. Here it is, it’s a year later, millions of people are being vaccinated, but I don’t see us going completely back to the way it was before March of 2020. So I think we, as professional marketers and business developers continue to need to be quick on our feet, we need to pivot. We need to work with the attorneys and encourage them. We need to be sensitive to how much noise are we making. And what I mean by that, is at the beginning of this pandemic, every firm was developing client alerts and webinars and just blasting to the point of spamming people. And so I’m hoping that in the last year we’ve learned how to balance that. People are getting tired of Zoom meetings and webinars and they’re craving for interpersonal contact. And if we can pepper in between some opportunities like, you know, a cooking class or a paint night or a virtual visit to let’s say Tuscany. I think the clients and prospects will appreciate that A, we understand what they’re facing and B we can be a resource for them.

Robyn:

I think it’s so right what you’re saying. There’s somebody that I follow on LinkedIn who has nothing to do with the legal industry. He has a technology solution for sales enablement and email. And his tagline is always, “the email inbox is triage.” The number of communications, the volume, the length of those communications. We have to get used to getting to the point and respecting people’s time and energy. I agree with everything that you said, the number of client alerts and virtual programs that were being done at the beginning of the pandemic, I get it. And I think especially the firms that were quick to market with those solutions really, you know we’re able to provide some service and provide help, but we can’t one, the teams can’t keep up that pace. And two, even if they could, should we be? Because you know how much of that is actually useful whereas meaningful interpersonal connections even digitally are far more valuable today. I mean, I think that’s really hitting the nail on the head.

Robyn:

Okay, so now my more difficult question, people find this one a little bit more challenging. I’m interested to hear what you think should be changing in the legal industry, but might take longer than we’d like.

Bob:

I would like to see professionals like us, the marketing and BD professionals, have more client interaction, prospect interaction, direct, not be behind the scenes with the attorneys. And I say that because it’s extremely valuable, to get that face-to-face reaction and connection, so that we can be more effective for the lawyers and the firms and helping them achieve their goals. And I’ve seen some firms try it and succeeded to a point, I’ve seen some firms try it and completely failed because they didn’t get the buy-in from the partnership. And so I would hope that we can take baby steps and perhaps a firm will pilot it with a particular practice group, demonstrate success. So then, you know, cause we all know lawyers when they see that something works, there’ll be like, “Well, wait a minute you did that for so-and-so. Why aren’t you doing that for me?”

Robyn:

Yeah.

Bob:

Yeah and I think that that is going to take a long time to change in the industry because at the end of the day, it’s an interesting challenge because when I made the transition into the legal industry, I was told, “Oh, people became lawyers because they don’t want to be salespeople.” But yet they have to sell. So here we are as a resource and they’re not comfortable because it’s my relationship. I don’t want you to mess it up. Wonder if they ask you a legal question. So while I think intellectually they know they need our guidance. They’re much more comfortable having us stay in the background. And my hope is that in my career span, I will see that our profession, will no longer be in the wings, but in the right situation, be side-by-side with the attorney in interacting with the client.

Robyn:

I love that. I find it so interesting because again, I agree with everything that you’re saying, and I find it interesting to think about the lawyers apprehension having to do with yes, their relationship, etc. But also if you did that almost put the business developer in a position of power that the lawyers are not willing to give up. Not even just power of the relationship, but also power that the business developer might understand or have opinions about the best match personality wise, relationship wise, or skills wise for the client need. And that’s just part of a bigger potential overall shift in the importance of business professionals in law firms, you know, law firms are business and it would be great if they could be run like one. Maybe we’ll see that day.

Bob:

I hope so, I mean, it’s great when you get an attorney that is willing to give you that opportunity.

Robyn:

Yeah.

Bob:

My experience has been that’s few and far between.

Robyn:

Yeah.

Bob:

And I, you know, in the last number of firms I’ve been at, even just getting them to do client feedback, and allowing someone besides the relationship partner to be the individual that’s obtaining that feedback. That can be a challenge.

Robyn:

Yeah.

Bob:

So I think we have a ways to go.

Robyn:

And how many on that client feedback point, how many partners or just how many attorneys say, “Oh, I don’t want to bother them for the feedback positive or negative,” you know, “I don’t want to hassle them,” etc. And I don’t think that that comes from like a dubious malicious place. I think it has to do with, you know, genuinely thinking that they’re doing the best client service by not bothering them, but really we’re not able to get better. They’re not able to get better if they don’t hear the good, the bad, and the ugly of how that engagement went. Or I would love it if, sorry, now I’m getting up on my soapbox, but I would love it, if firms, if lawyers were more comfortable doing win-loss interviews especially the losses. It’s a really hard question to ask when you lose an engagement or you don’t win an engagement, you know but how are you going to get better and potentially when the next time, if you’re not really sitting down and thinking about why that was? But I mean, again, I get it. And in professional services I understand too, it’s personal it’s somebody’s talent, it’s somebody’s skill. And that those are hard questions to ask, when it feels so personal.

Bob:

It is, and I love when they say, “Well, they love me. I know they love me if they didn’t, they’d tell me” and we’ve had experiences where, you know, yes they really liked the the person with whom they’re working, but there’ve been some challenges.

Robyn:

Yeah, yeah, for sure. Obviously, we could go on and on about this topic.

Robyn:

Yeah, okay, so Bob last and final question. What advice do you have, you know, for our audience be it attorneys or legal marketers or anybody at any stage in their career. I’d love to hear what wisdom you’d like to share with our audience.

Bob:

For the attorneys I would like to say, please leverage the business development and marketing resources within your firm. They can really be very valuable and help you and their goal is indeed to help you. I know that times we may come across as a nudge and a pain, but we’re persistent. Most of our personalities are we truly do want to work with you and help you. And so let us do that. That’s what I would say to the attorneys. To people that are just starting off in the legal industry, I would say for me, it’s been a phenomenal experience. I would encourage you to get involved in the association. I have made lifelong friends. It has enriched my career, my personal life. And I have to tell you, when I made the transition from the accounting and consulting world and to legal world, I was pleasantly surprised because, when I was in the accounting world, if you saw someone from one of the other big firms on the street, you walked the other way. You didn’t share information, you didn’t talk, nothing. So this is a great community. And I would also say as hard as it is because a lot of us have similar personalities, don’t take it personally. When you have someone not being the most pleasant to you, I’m trying to be politically correct, or positive to you, just listen, don’t argue. I don’t think you should be spoken to disrespectfully. And that’s something that you should go to your supervisor about. And this took me a long time. Try to let it roll off your back. What helped me in particular, was to basically say to myself, “Oh, they’re having a bad day. And I’m the one they’re taking it out on. And hopefully we can overcome this.” And that took a lot of practice for me because I do wear my heart on my sleeve. So that’s what I would say to you, is do your best not to let it get you too much. Because at the end, when you have those little successes, it is the most rewarding feeling in the world. I mean, there have been days when I’ve turned a partner around, and I’ve literally either like walked out of their office or hung up their phone and I thought, “You know what, great day I’m going home now.”

Robyn:

Yep. Yeah. I always say it, might to sort of piggyback on that, I always say the reason I stay in legal is because my favorite thing to do is win over difficult people. And if you like to win over difficult people this is a great industry because exactly to your point, you know, it might be rough. It might be challenging, but when you have those wins you feel like a million bucks.

Robyn:

Yeah, well, thank you so much, Bob. I appreciate you being on the show with me and your advice is great and I can’t wait to share it with our audience.

Bob:

Well, thanks for inviting me, Robyn. I’ve enjoyed our conversation.

Robyn:

Thanks, me too. Have a good one.

Bob:

You as well.