Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Alessandra Almeida Jones, Associate Director – Marketing Strategy & Content at Baker McKenzie, during “The Lawyer” Marketing Leadership Summit.
We discussed the dynamic that exists within law firms between marketers and its partners and the challenge many legal marketers face as they try to change the perception of their role within their business.
One of the big obstacles that legal marketers must overcome when working with partners is the fact that many believe themselves to be content experts.
The reality is that lawyers are “subject matter experts”, but that does not necessarily make them “content experts”. They are two very distinct skill sets and should be treated as such.
So how do marketers overcome this perception and demonstrate to partners and the wider team that they should have the final say on content?
Alessandra spoke about her first experience working within a law firm.
Initially she was shocked by the lack of voice that the business development function had at the table.
What Alessandra realised quickly was that lawyers have a very unique mindset, and the key to succeeding as a marketer within a law firm lies in the ability to understand and play to it.
“Lawyers are trained to work with precedent and spot flaws,” says Alessandra. “This can be frustrating as a marketer because essentially what a partner is asking you to do is: ‘Please give me something really innovative that no one has ever done before but before you do it, prove to me that it’s going to work!’”
This is an almost impossible task for a marketer to take on.
In spite of this, Alessandra was able to provide me with some insight into how she has learned to overcome this challenge, formed of a two-pronged approach.
Given the fact that lawyers like to work with precedent, it is really important to pilot programs before looking to scale them up.
In doing so, you are able to prove to the partners that the methodology applied is working and is showing results. This in turn should help to gain their buy-in to place more time and resources into expanding the program for the future.
While it might be tempting to skip the proof of concept (POC) stage, it is a risky strategy as you may find yourself spending significant resources on something that doesn’t work out.
POCs can be difficult and challenging but ultimately, they help marketers make sure they are navigating in the right direction and placing their eggs in the right baskets.
“Start to build expertise in your field,” says Alessandra. “Yes, partners can write content but that does not necessarily mean it’s the right content. We in marketing can tell them if it’s being read, how it is being read, by whom and for how long.”
Alessandra stressed that building this kind of expertise is something you can then own as a marketing function. It will help you to generate trust in the fact that you know what you are doing because you are bringing new and valuable insight into the business.
One of the key mechanisms Alessandra highlighted for establishing expertise and credibility is the use of metrics.
“We sometimes forget how unembedded lawyers are in the world of analytics,” says Alessandra. “Having the ability to be able to tell partners ‘No one is reading this!’ or ‘None of the members from our client program are interested in this’ is powerful.”
Alessandra estimates that she and her team currently only use about 20% of the analytics and information available at Baker McKenzie to inform strategic decisions. There is still room for improvement.
“We still haven’t quite figured out how to capture and institutionalise the information clients give lawyers in meetings,” she admits. “Ultimately it will require greater discipline around using CRM.”
But Alessandra also warns marketers to be careful that they don’t get too caught up with vanity metrics.
“100,000 impressions – what does that even mean? We need to be able to choose and focus on the meaningful metrics and stats if we want to boost and maintain our credibility.”
There are already some good examples of what can be achieved once marketing teams within law firms gain “expert status” however, as Alessandra admits, these examples are the exception as opposed to the rule.
Alessandra envisions a future where this behaviour is more mainstream and where marketers in law firms across the board feel empowered to lead conversations and take a more central role within their business structures.
“But legal marketers need to accept that they are part of a partnership model. Marketing will move up the chain but they don’t own the business.”
Alessandra warns that marketers should not be naïve to how this setup influences the dynamics of a firm. However, she also suggests that legal marketers should not be disheartened.
“A lot of law firms out there are achieving growth by investing into BD and we are witnessing more capabilities being added into marketing, for instance roles in marketing analytics and research.”
Forward-looking firms are doing these things and they are growing as a result.
“Ultimately this shift is inevitable for all firms if they want to survive, but it is the ones that get there first that will reap the greatest rewards and achieve competitive advantage.”
Read more about the work Turtl has been doing with Baker McKenzie below.
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