To see Mr. Ben Kent’s presentation, please click here.
To see Mr. Gordon Brown’s presentation, please click here.
Day 1 – Mr. Ben Kent
On the 18-19 of January an international, precedential seminar took place on the topic of legal marketing. The seminar took place in the Zionist Organization of America House in Tel Aviv, as a joint venture between the Israel Bar Association, international legal marketing organization PSMG, and the Israeli company Robus Legal Marketing.
Amongst the participants who arrived at the seminar were partners from both large and small law firms, business development representatives, department managers, and CEOs of law firms and CPA offices, all of whom arrived to hear two lecturers who are world-class experts on the topics of legal marketing and business development. The speakers were Mr. Ben Kent, CEO of Meridian West, located in Britain, and Mr. Gordon Brown, founder of ClientSavvy in London, both whom arrived to share their knowledge and experience regarding the market and the needs of law firms in Israel.
Ms. Tamar Sacerdoti, Head of the Foreign Law Firms department at Robus, and Mr. Zohar Fisher, Adv., founder of Robus, opened the conference with a warm welcome to those who were present, a brief explanation regarding the seminar and the speakers, and a thank you to the lecturers for arriving from London to take part in the conference.
Zohar continued by speaking briefly about the PSMG organization, the second largest legal marketing company in the world with over 4,000 members, and whom is in constant relations with over 6,500 experts in the realm of business development. He pointed out that the Israeli market has much to learn from the rest of the world regarding both marketing and business development tools and methods, and that this was one of the reasons that Robus became a proud extension of PSMG in Israel.
Ms. Gale Jaffa, managing partner of PSMG, shortly expanded on the work of the organization, and presented the speaker of the first day of the seminar – Mr. Ben Kent. Gale spoke about the beginning of Ben’s professional career as a lawyer, and his position as manager of a leading company in the field of legal marketing for over 15 years. In addition, Gale outlined the ever-growing importance of the field of legal marketing throughout the world.
The first session of the conference was led by Mr. Ben Kent, manager of Meridian West. During the session, Mr. Kent evaluated and examined trends, including those of the legal market.
The lecture was on the topic of changes and modifications in the legal market today, and expectations for the future.
While opening the lecture, the speaker presented a “prophecy of consolation”, stating that throughout the research on the trends of the legal market, it came to light that with the rise of the number of lawyers, there is also an increase in demand for lawyers. This need is due to the rising complexity in making business deals, and as such a rise in the risk of investors, which require a “safety net” from their lawyers. Among the changes that gave rise to the increase in demand includes the increase in number and complexity of litigation being conducted in cooperation with/against large Israeli companies. An increase in law suits, or the amount of risk regarding the same number of suits, require companies to seek out more and more legal services. Other areas which have led to the increase in demand for legal services are the field of information security in the cyber world; matters of compliance with the laws and procedures of different countries (due to the globalization process – large companies must operate in several jurisdictions in parallel, and such they require the knowledge of procedures and regulations in these jurisdictions); increase in the level of complexity of contracts and transactions made in the normal course of business; and lastly – reputation risk management, requiring lawyers to understand the needs of different legal procedures required for the management of which are in the spotlight, and grant packages of services that include preserving reputation, in addition to the usual legal services.
Following his explanation of the rise of legal services, the speaker expanded on the various challenges arising in and slowly changing the legal market.
Firstly, the speaker elaborated on the level of customer demands, as well as the increased sophistication level of various customers. Per research conducted by Meridian West, customers are not satisfied with dry legal counseling that adheres exclusively to the legal aspects of company operations. Today, companies increasingly require legal advisors to provide strategic and business consulting, which surpasses generic legal accompaniment. Customers expect their lawyers, whether if they are internal or external legal advisors, to take an active part in the company’s business development, and frequently involve them in the process of creating business strategy for the company. In addition, customers have raised their requirements for lawyers, and expect them to provide more services for a lower cost. Today, customers require legal advisors more and more to provide increased value, whether it be through the scope of the work, or the quality. To that end, many large companies have increased the amount of work to be handled by internal legal advisors, and are less like to “let out” their work to an external source.
Accordingly, the work which is transmitted externally to law firms and legal advisors is more complex, requiring expertise and understanding beyond the realm of legal work. As specified by the speaker, companies require external legal consultants and law firms to come up with innovative ideas regarding the company’s business, and offer the company ways to manage projects effectively. This way, firms can display innovation and add value to the company, and thus maintain their value in their eyes.
However, despite the change in the demands and needs of major companies, customers today say that they do not see a significant change in their service delivery model. Law firms are very conservative when it comes to supplying their legal services, and refrain from creating modifications that can bring about profound changes in what they offer their clients. Firms don’t see the tremendous opportunity in changing to fit their customer’s desires. Customers are interested in having the office they work with provide them with strategic advice, even beyond the legal field. They are interested in a partnership with the company as opposed to a supplier-customer relationship, and they have a strong desire for creativity, innovation, and change.
In addition to the challenges created by the changes in the customer’s expectations of their attorneys, technology is now trending and will likely change the legal world, as well as affect the existing order. As the entire business world is increasing the use of technology to improve both the supply and provision of services, the legal world has been increasing its use of this tool as well. The technology supports professional bodies and allows them to change the layout of the provision of service to customers. The process during which law firms began using legal technology (Legal Tech) for improving service was gradual, and involved a change in the provision of services and prices, with the creating of sub-services, to save the customers cost, following this is the creation of a service plan to assist customers in solving problems in innovative ways. Following this process, the office is still looking for ways to streamline and improve the way of providing services, and this is where the technology comes in. It supports lawyers on the journey of improving service provision and with methods of expanding the range of their services.
In this context, various companies that provide technological legal support have emerged. The company River View Law allows lawyers to review their cases, with an accurate, extensive, follow-up on the development of the case. The company Legal Zoom sends patent applications automatically. Thought River uses artificial intelligence to review contracts and perform a risk management assessment on the contract and on particular sections as well.
Lex Machina company uses Big Data to analyze the success of intellectual property cases, to help lawyers formulate a portfolio management strategy, and predict how judges will rule regarding the case (in the United States). The Dentons law firm began to create innovative technologies for the field of law.
Per research conducted by Meridian West in regards to the incorporation of technology in legal work, there is a growing trend in the use of these tools, especially regarding the supply of new services, price models, and transferring legal work to law firms in other countries. Over 80% of the offices polled were considering investing in technology to improve the profitability of the firm. 55% of them have committed a significant investment in the area over the past year. Firms that have implemented such services report that customers remain more loyal to the company.
Nowadays, one of the most significant challenges that lawyers face is the increase in the number of lawyers. Per a survey done of lawyers, it was found that one of the most notable challenges for them are competitive fees, low profitability, and competition that comes from nontraditional legal services – whether it the working method is not traditional, such as with freelance lawyers, or whether bodies that are not lawyers offer legal services or other services offered by law firms. Firms that will succeed will be those that provide added value to their customers through a change in their provision of services. The law firm Allen & Overy began this process, through offering different models of service – from the supply of services of lawyers working in countries in which legal services are cheaper (offshore legal services), as well as lawyers working as freelancers, providing support towards the work of the office in a manner that pays off and saves the customer money.
Following a short break, over 100 lawyers, from both large and small firms, gathered in the auditorium. Mr. Kent displayed a graph on the board and a
sked, “What is more important tothe client: the price you charge him, the services you offer him, or whether your commercial offers are based on your familiarity with the market? There is not, of course, a single, clear answer to this question, but research by Meridian West shows that the most important thing to the client isthe quality of a legal offer. This finding is not surprising, but what is surprising is the tremendous importance that clients place on the deep and personal relationship with their lawyer, as well as their availability.
So, how do we create a sincere and significant relationship that allows the client not to feel like “just another customer”? There are several possible answers to this question, some relevant to international legal markets, others are easy applicable here in our small country. Some solutions suit large firms with hefty customer retention budgets, and others can be helpful to a single lawyer’s firm.
Thinking about the customer’s business considerations: When providing legal advice, it’s important to take the business aspect of the advice into consideration: what are the possible consequences for the partners of the deal? What are the relevant taxation aspects, and how will these suggestions affect the business in the long run? One large British firm requires its lawyers to accompany their clients for an entire day to be better acquainted with their type of work, their working hours, their various considerations, and above all – to create a connection between people rather than companies.
It’s time to be User Friendly: For many years, lawyers differentiated themselves from the company with a high level of vocabulary and the use of proverbs in foreign languages (for us – mainly Aramaic and Latin). Sophisticated clients expect their lawyers to be coherent and clear when communicating with them, the formal legal jargon should be kept for legal conversation. How should one be more clear? Beyond the use of comprehensible language, lawyers should interpret to their clients the meaning of every section and why it’s necessary. If possible, one should include more tangible explanations: using graphs, various colors, and a timeline mapping out when the client should pay for the services, dates of each meeting, and what a client should prepare beforehand.
Request Client Feedback: This is the oldest trick in the book, and it continues to prove itself time after time. Following communication with the client, on a large or small scale, request to schedule an additional meeting to receive feedback from them.
Several tips regarding the reception of comments and criticism:
- It’s preferable to meet face to face, if this isn’t possible then send an electronic survey.
- Ask the client about your firm’s competitors: what are their advantages and disadvantages, why does a client use specific firms for particular cases, and so on. The most important to ask during this phase is: “What should I do in order for you to transfer all the work to me?”
- When meeting with a client face to face it is preferable that the lawyer asking questions is not the same lawyer who worked with the client, because it is important to receive feedback that is as objective as possible.
- When receiving feedback put an emphasis on the personal relationship – who among the firm’s employees provided the best service? With which lawyer did you feel the most comfortable to discuss any problems and doubts that had arisen?
Following the reception of all the data from the from the clients it’s imperative to refine any issues and examine where we can improve, and it is of no less importance to ask how we can reward lawyers who provided exemplary service. Honoring staff for extraordinary service motivates the firm to work a little bit harder and give a little more of themselves in regards to customer service.
Get out of the office for congenial meetings: “Get out and meet people, just like that”, declared Mr. Kent, “You won’t keep clients, or retain new ones, from the comfort of your air-conditioned office”. In Mr. Kent’s opinion, lawyers need to free up at least two hours a week in their busy schedules for coffee meetings. During these two hours lawyers should meet with current, past, and potential clients for a cup of coffee. The point of the meeting isn’t business-related, and the conversation should not be steered in that direction, the meeting should relay, “you’re not just another client”.
At the end of the break, the participants returned one after the other to hear Mr. Ben Kent’s third and final lecture on improving efficiency and profitability. One of the first sentences that Mr. Ben Kent brought up on the screen can effectively summarize the reasons for which, as a law firm in the Israeli Market, we must streamline:
“Customers are demanding a wider range of services at a lower cost but with no decrease in quality. In other words, they want to eat the cake and not just leave it whole, but also lose weight”.
In the comparison made by Kent, there is a factor expressed that is urgently signaling to us to maximize the level of efficiency at work with our customers, and that is the competition for legal work against various internal legal departments. Once corporations begin to apply theories and tools in the field of management, while formulating processes to solve problems more efficiently, together with a variety of technological tools and working batteries trained to carry out specific tasks – law firms become a less attractive alternative, because they do the same work at a higher cost and a lower efficiency level.
Of course, blaming a lack of customers and market profitability would be the easiest option, but what about the internal conduct? Are we doing everything in our power to maximize efficiency and profitability?
As presented by Kent – due to many unnecessary mistakes we reach a situation where our profit, literally, leaks, and this applies to every stage of work with our clients:
- Evaluation of the project scope and pricing: Often, firms find it difficult to assess the scope of their work and to price it accordingly, and even worse – to filter out work that isn’t profitable at all.
- Wrong decisions regarding choosing the appropriate staff to carry out the project and the work with a specific customer.
- Difficulty in supervision of cost and duration of a project in real time.
- A low level of communication and a personal relationship with the client throughout the project, as well as a similar issue between the members working on the project.
- Inadequate and unsatisfying explanations regarding the service fee at the end of the project, that exceeded the agreed-upon amount due to an incorrect assessment of the scope of the project.
Additionally, Kent claims that on many occasions, a significant barrier is none other than the mood of the lawyers themselves. Issues such as a lawyer’s lack of understanding on financial matters, the inability to assess the scope of the work both before and during the process, and the lack of confidence when holding a difficult conversation with a client are very common. They are only part of a whole that turns lawyers into key players on an inefficient field.
Of course, we should not despair, from this point on we reached the interesting part – how can we overcome these problems?
Kent offered several practical ideas:
First, we must train the staff to deal with relevant financial issues, and teach them the principles of negotiation on fees, cases, and projects. Second, it is important to invest the available resources to create a tool for the pricing of legal services provided by the firm, based on past experience among other things. This will provide an agreed-upon criteria, and any lawyer charging for his work can run it by a “fresh pair of eyes”. Third, it is important to put a significant emphasis on evaluating the scope of the project, and to hold serious conversations with the clients to deal with the situation if the work exceeds the scope that was evaluated in the beginning of the project. Fourth, it is desirable to create a “standard” procedure for various processes and tasks, and to include as much information as possible into this format – the type of project, time estimates, who carries out what job, and so forth.
On a broader scope, efficiency can be improved in several ways:
- Better utilization of internal structures in the office – increasing efficiency and profitability by managing existing resources effectively. Examples of this include improving supervision, increasing the investment in documentation and self-study, cutting unprofitable workers, and more.
- Improving the pricing of projects and their management with the customer – by using pricing tools, using a management program to track profit, hiring project managers, training for negotiations, evaluating the scope of the work, and more.
- “Reinvention” of the office by implementing technological and management innovation – use of artificial intelligence and computerized tools for managing and analyzing legal documents, computerized analysis of project data such as the profitability of customers and optimizing costs, hiring sales professionals, project management, technology professionals, and more.
In conclusion, the changes taking place in the Israeli legal system puts us in a position where we must face difficult challenges, which often cause us to reevaluate the behaviors and structures to which we have become accustomed. In a reality where customers are becoming more complex, and require first-rate services in exchange for lower costs, our need to raise the level of efficiency and profitability becomes significant, perhaps now more than ever.
On this note Kent concluded his remarks, and with that the first day of the two-day business development seminar came to an end.
The points made are relevant today to most legal markets around the world, and more so the Israeli market itself, that is so saturated with lawyers.
Day 2 – Mr. Gordon Brown
The second day of the PSMG-Robus Legal Marketing conference was kicked off by world renowned business management and strategy expert Mr. Gordon Brown of the ClientSavvy Group. Mr. Brown holds over twenty years of experience in the field of business consultancy, over the course of which he has conducted over 750 high-level strategic conversations with clients’ clients and worked with such business consultancy giants as PWC and Eversheds. The first part of Mr. Brown’s presentation focused on why it is essential for law firms to start thinking like their clients, and how they are to do so. Mr. Brown emphasised that the money ultimately comes from clients, and not from legal expertise, partners, or otherwise. In this context, even some of the biggest firms out there still haven’t got it all right.
Mr. Brown pointed out that, with regard to the provision of professional services, the game has changed immensely over the years, and continues to do so. If, in the past, firms’ focus lay primarily on their internal organisation with little attention paid to clients’ needs, or else sales and marketing mechanisms, today’s business world – one where mutually beneficial exchange is at the centre – requires a fundamentally different approach, where organisations work with and understand each other.
As lawyers are still transactional (and not trading) partners, they still tend to be ‘out of sync’. In the commercial context, Mr. Brown notions inconsistencies such as, for example, a lack of materiality (a $10,000 bill for an asset worth $8,000), and lawyers’ general tendency to avoid risk-based decisions, often leading to unsatisfied clients. In the cultural context, there seems to be a lack of shared values, where clients seek some sort of cultural attachment which is generally hard to find with lawyers. Clients are looking for more than just an execution suite; they want utility for their business.
With the amounts of information and data available to the wide public today, clients have become far more educated, well-informed, and clear on what it is they want. It is now crucial for firms to thoroughly understand what those needs and desires are as well.
Mr. Brown noted an apparent change of paradigm, shifting from a mind-set of setting out to get the money as quickly as possible (with which Mr. Brown believes you’ll end up doing ‘all the wrong things’) to one where the focus lies on ‘doing it right’ for your client, after which the money will follow as a result.
In conclusion, Mr. Brown remarks that while all firms claim to be clientcentric – they simply are not. The only way to grow your business is to begin trying to get inside your clients’ head and understanding what it is they’re looking for. Only once you’ve become outstanding in that respect, will you be able to compete better and differentiate yourself from the rest of the market, and finally stack the odds in your favour.
How Do Leaders Ensure the Future of Their Companies?
During the last lecture on the second day of the seminar, Mr. Gordon Brown shared his wisdom regarding the million-dollar question: How should leaders of firms adjust to the changing market, and lead the firm to a bright future?
First, he shared that lawyers need to think more like businessmen. The meaning of this is that they need to better understand their clients and their working environment. The key is to know how to connect to those of significance in the company – that is – those who make the decisions.
In order to achieve this, he explained, we have to create a compelling offer. One that will make the leaders of the organizations understand that they are dealing with a firm that understands the challenges they face, and that it is in the firm’s power to help them thrive. This needs to be the message. Good marketing regarding a law firm involves knowing how to form a message and successfully share it with potential clients. It’s not enough to build a website and pass out fliers – it is necessary to have a deep understanding of the client and to suit the offer to their specific needs.
Brown drew up three rules of thumb for leaders and marketers of the firm to achieve this successfully:
- Focus: the marketing team of the firm must know the message that they are sending. Know the strong points, and the most attractive offer for the client.
- Repeat the message over and over: Repetition works, when you continue to share the message, it goes through.
- Carrying it out: The message cannot stay on the managing partner’s table, or that of the marketing team, it must pass on to every lawyer in the firm, and they must know how to use it and share it with the client at every opportunity.
Business Development and How to Do It Right
On many occasions, we refer to the efforts of creating a marketing message and to reach new clients as business development. So, what is it? In practice, business development is to sell, and this is what must be focused on during the business development process of the firm:
- Rather than processes and planning, there should be an organizational and marketing culture in the office.
- Remember that it is an ongoing effort, not a one-time process. As a client, a “purchase” from a law firm is much more complex than most his acquisitions. In order to persuade him it is important to understand the strategy of his business, become familiar with the stress level, and know how to respond accordingly.
- A direct business approach. The partners must sell an understanding of business rather than law. Partners are often cautious to do so as they feel they lack knowledge of the subject – there is no reason for this, there is never not an answer for any question, and there is no shame in asking and learning. What’s important is that the partners know how to convey the message and the strong points of the firm, and to provide the client with the sense that the firm understands the challenges they face, and can help.
- Remember that for one “yes” there are many “no’s”. Do not fear this.
- Client feedback is valuable, but is many times done incorrectly, and not worth the paper that it was written on. Clients today are smarter, and expect in-depth explanations about the service and response that they are receiving. Therefore, shallow conversations regarding feedback should be avoided as they are a misuse of time.
At this point, a question was asked by a member of the audience. He shared that in the past he had tried to have a conversation to receive feedback from a client, but feared that it would present him as more of a salesman than a lawyer. He stated that it was an unsettling experience for him to ask a client for feedback.
Gordon began his reply by sharing that this is a common feeling, and that many lawyers share the same sensation. It’s important to remember that in many instances the client needs everything to stop for an hour and that someone from the other side will talk to him about how to improve his business. “We want to give you more for less. For this we need you to tell us how we can improve for you. The goal is to improve your business, that’s why we are here. Help us help you”.
The moment a client is approached in such a manner, there is a significant rise in the chance that they’ll feel that the time invested in the conversation is for a good cause.
- Strong business development is done by the partners of a firm. Thus, everyone must know how to sell, and everyone must be familiar with the message.
- Hunger. The client expects to see hunger and motivation from the firm, and people who will do anything to help his company flourish.
- Confidence, confidence, confidence. There is no substitute for self-confidence. When you are confident of your message, the client is confident of it as well.
Ultimately, the managers of the firm must remember that they are leaders. No process will take place and no change will occur without a deep understanding coming from the leaders of the firm. For most – this is not the case.
Lately, a study in Britain found that most managers in law firms do not know how to do this. Many of the participants, all senior partners in law firms, attested to never receiving formal help or training regarding the right to lead the firm that they are managing.
A typical issue is that these managers lack a holistic perception as to how their firm enters the market and sells more. This is a challenge that does not have a direct connection with the legal profession – success in regard to this issue does not depend on the job or profession of a specific department, but the conduct of the firm itself.
In order to improve and move forward, business development and marketing must be a crucial part of the agenda of the firm’s leaders. This is often a difficult task, as the marketing team and the partners usually pull in different directions, and think differently as well. This is exactly the role of the leader – to steer the ship in the direction of harmony and a shared goal.
The moment the leaders of the firm add business development to their agenda, convey a strong marketing message, and ensure that the partners and the marketing team know how to present it to clients – the firm will go a long way.
Mr. Gordon Brown’s lecture on the topic of challenges faced by law firms, how to improve business development, and the partners as leaders of cases
Mr. Gordon Brown continued his lecture regarding challenges faced by law firms. He began by stating that law firms are not doing enough to become familiar with the needs of their clients and their business. He claimed that a preliminary study of the clients and finding the answers to important questions (Who’s buying? How are they buying? Why are they buying?), can be very helpful towards understanding the client’s needs. Too often firms settle for marketing their legal services for low or reduced fees, or lacking an organized plan and earlier study.
The law firm’s perception of the market begins with their knowledge of what services they can provide their clients with. While the firm is marketing a certain product to their client, the client is something entirely different, and too often law firms make the mistake of marketing in obscure language that the confuses the client, and that he does not comprehend.
For example, Mr. Brown brought up the motorcycle market and that when clients are interested in a “Harley Davidson” motorcycle, the business action falls under the scope of motorcycles, however the market itself needs to be defined and marketed as a “boy’s toy”, in order to be properly define the desired and required services. Mr. Brown states that this is the way the buyer will think as a potential client.
Mr. Brown stated that the marketing plan towards clients needs to be adapted to a “meeting with the enemy” in a way that the plans can be adjusted to changes required in correlation with client’s needs, and to the competitor who can act unexpectedly. An action plan that is too fixated will miss out on the goal.
Therefore, Mr. Brown stipulates that the decision makers of the firm to know his place in the market, and his advantages compared to competitors. The goal is to make the decision-making process of the client simpler in the way that the firm promises to learn what the client wants and needs, to supply it better than anyone else, and make sure that they understand this. With this, Mr. Brown advises firms to work only in what they specialize in.
In the sales discussion Mr. Brown explains that there are many advantages that the firm must emphasize to the client, such as the fact that we came to listen to what he needs as the client knows this better than anyone else, let him define his needs and wants rather than sell to him that we know best. We need to listen to what he feels and is looking for.
Mr. Brown separates between the needs of the organization and the individual, and emphasizes that price is not the prime motivating factor to join the circle of clients, but rather quality. A study found that over 80% of clients were willing to pay a higher price for a product with experience and a smart solution of high quality.
In order to understand how the client thinks and considers, we must define and differentiate between the needs of the individual (vision, inspiration, interpersonal relations) and those of society (branding, prestige, experience).
Clients regard their needs as distinctive and in need of an experienced and effective professional who can take on complex situations like those that he has dealt with in the past, and who is confident in his ability to solve any problem in the most efficient manner. For this purpose, law firms must lead, manage, and supervise the need of the client to understand that at the end of the day, emotions make up 80% of the client’s decision making process.