Hearing From Our Clients’ Clients

May 1, 2023

As legal marketers, we’re in the business of helping attorneys and firms grow their businesses. So, naturally, we’re inclined to be super-responsive to their requests. Sometimes, though, we can be more effective at what we do and deliver more value in our work if, instead of immediately delivering whatever we’re asked for, we take a moment to consider its ultimate audience or end user: the law firm client.

At this year’s Legal Marketing Association annual conference, a panel of three general counsel offered their insights into what law firm clients actually think about law firm marketing.

This is critical information for all of us!

Aarash Darrodi of Fender Guitars, Peter Nguyen of tech company Descartes Systems Group and Jodi Trulove of economic consulting firm Bates White have different backgrounds and work in different industries but share a common perspective on how maddeningly difficult it can sometimes be to communicate with the law firms they hire to advise and represent them. Here are some key takeaways from what they had to say:

You’re probably working too hard on that client alert. The vast majority of law firm newsletters and eBlasts are never read. The ones that are read and might lead to new business are short, timely and specifically relevant or tailored to the client receiving them. If you’re not going to be first in communicating a new development in an emerging area of law (i.e. your drafting and review process is more than one day long), there’s not much chance your message will prompt new inquiries. If there is a message that a partner particularly wants a client to see, the best way to make that happen is for the partner to call or text the client directly to let them know it’s in their in-box and invite them to talk further about any questions they might have about it.

Events and invitations aren’t nearly as important as we think they are. While Nguyen, based in Toronto, did make it clear that he wouldn’t turn down Maple Leafs tickets if they were offered, for the most part, the GCs didn’t see tremendous value in the many dinner and golf invitations they receive.  As Darrodi half-jokingly put it, “I don’t want to spend time with my lawyers. I don’t want to spend time with my dentist, either.” He added, on a more serious note, “I would much rather [our outside counsel] come to a site and get a tour of the plant with me. I want to see that they’re investing time in understanding the DNA of my organization.”

Marketers and BD professionals have a vital role to play in strengthening firm-client relationships through communication.  We are the keepers and sharers of information. In organizing that information and communicating it clearly, we can help the attorneys we serve be better communicators themselves. The GCs on the panel were very clear about the kinds of things they wanted to know from their legal service providers when they interact with them, such as the current status of all their matters and billings. And they were equally clear about the things they’d like their lawyers to know about them: the fundamentals of their businesses, as well as their personal and professional priorities. Legal marketers are well equipped to create processes and tools to capture this information and make it readily available across our firms, so that, for example, any firm attorney talking to anyone at a client organization can go into that conversation well prepared with an understanding of not only the legal issue at stake but why it matters.

Capturing and categorizing client information — who they are, what their goals are, what the firm has achieved for them, what legal issues are most important for them — and using that information to develop and expand the relationship is the true essence of effective legal marketing.