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Marketing Tech in Law Firms: Starting the Conversation

Technology offers many opportunities, but sometimes law firms have a hard time seeing past the risks.  To help legal marketers introduce various technologies like data integration and marketing automation into their law firms, the Legal Marketing Association’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas will feature a pre-conference track called the Rise of the Legal Marketing Technologist.  This will be an entire day focused on helping legal marketers see the potential of these technologies, as well as case studies of how some law firms and other professional services firms have integrated these technologies into their practices.

Rise of the Legal Marketing Technologist

Legal Marketers are in a unique position to help their law firms embrace technology.  In today’s world where marketing is getting more sophisticated and user experiences are personalized, it’s getting harder for law firms to ignore consumer expectations.  Rob Kahn,[1] co-chair of Rise of the Legal Marketing Technologist, says, “What we’re seeing in marketing technology is leveraging data to understand your clients at a more individual and discrete level, and being able to deliver the right information at the right time to meet their needs. This is the next frontier in marketing technology for law firms. I feel like as an industry we’re a little bit behind in that, and I am invested in getting the word out.”  That’s where these sessions at LMA National come into play. Meredith WIlliams[2], the other chair of the pre-conference track, says, “This will be a different look than just the typical marketing technologies.  It will be a broader perspective, getting a lot of people in law firms and other organizations talking about their perspective through case studies--so if you haven’t done it, this is how you can get started.  It’s a practical view into that side, but with also an eye to the future.” 

Legal Marketing Technology: Fundamental in Today’s World

Kahn points out that the way the consumer experience works in today’s world is that it is personalized--and consumers of legal services are going to expect that same level of service.  They will want information that they need delivered to them conveniently and in a timely manner, and the consumers will go to where that expectation is met.  Kahn says, “Consumers expectations are changing as other industries leverage the tools in marketing technology, and those consumer perceptions of how the world should be impact their perceptions of the law firms they are using.” Williams agrees, saying, “Ten years ago things were just coming on board--Facebook was getting started, the first smartphone was available--but today technology is part of every single process that we have. Whether it is communication, data storage, publications, publicity, whatever it may be, technology is no longer a nice to have; it is a must have to compete in the market today . . . People don’t pick up a phone to ask someone a question anymore, they go to Google to get the information.”

Law firms and lawyers have a reputation for being risk-averse, and that characteristic applies to technology.  Lawyers look at technology and see the reasons why it cannot be used in the practice of law--ethical concerns, government regulations and laws on the books protecting personal information. The avoidance of technology is seen as the avoidance of risk. Kahn says, “One of the greatest values legal marketers bring to their organization is being a translator between what’s going on in the rest of the world and translating that through the attorney’s risk-averse viewpoint and making them understand that the risk is actually not changing your behavior.” 

Considerations for Starting the Legal Marketing Technology Conversation

Kahn says, “As a marketer, you know your first response is going to be ‘No.’ But that has to be the beginning of the conversation.”  So, to be effective in marketing technology successfully within your firm, you must know your audience and how technology might improve your firm’s practice.  Williams says, “You have to know the propensity of your people to accept change and to use technology, because you can’t just say, ‘we are going to be a technology-focused law firm.’  You have to find the right toolset to have these conversations.”  To embrace new technology effectively, you need to know the processes at the firm, the steps the lawyers go through when working on a matter for a client.”  Williams says, “Today it is about learning the processes of our law firms, and figuring out how technology can improve those processes.”  This, of course, varies depending on what types of law are practiced and the clients being served, as those are variables that can dramatically alter what type of technology is appropriate.  So it goes back to understanding the goals and practice of your firm, and how technology can help meet those goals.

Additionally, how you talk about these goals with individuals can have an impact.  In some ways it comes down to good, old-fashioned communication skills, and understanding what aspect of the issue you need to confront with each individual.  Williams says, “You may have a very technology-focused conversation with Lawyer A, but a very process-oriented conversation with Lawyer B; it all depends on the individual, and being able to know your audience.”  Kahn says, “You have to work with the attorneys, IT and risk management to get into the details of what’s important to manage the risk, and what’s important to the firm and the business, and not lump the two together when they don’t need to be lumped together. What at first seems like an obstacle turns out to be an opportunity, if you use an approach that makes sense for your firm.  There is usually an approach that works.”

Not only is technology a must in today’s market, it can greatly improve delivery of service to clients and it can support attorneys in their practice. Williams says, “What we have to do as people supporting technology is to break down the functions and make sure the right tech is available to perform that function at the right time . . . all of these different forms of technology can be broken down to focus on how your practice can be increased.”  In many ways, marketing technology is just the beginning. 

Many of the technologies to be discussed at Rise of the Legal Marketing Technologist intersect with other areas of law firm life, like knowledge management and risk management.  Kahn says, “These tools help increase efficiency and accuracy, and the best practices leverage technology to make it easier for attorneys to contribute their data to provide them with more actionable information . . . it’s not just about marketing, it's about improved delivery of legal service--that is the opportunity.”


[1]Chief Marketing Officer at Fenwick & West LLP

[2]Chief Knowledge Management Officer of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC

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Eilene Spear, Publication Specialist, National Law Review, legal editor
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