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Talk turns to tech: reflections on #LMANE23

By Alastair Beddow

Talk turns to tech: reflections on #LMANE23

By Alastair Beddow
Growth strategy
Talk turns to tech: reflections on #LMANE23

The 2023 Legal Marketing Association North East region conference (#lmane23) considered the theme 'agility + adaptability = action'. These buzzwords have long been important for the legal industry, but they are front of mind in today's market.

In 2023, with global law firms facing the first real signs of financial pressure since the onset of COVID, CMOs and their teams need to accelerate their function transformation to help their firms remain competitive and profitable. The various panel sessions and keynotes I attended at the conference underlined this in three core areas.

1: Smart technology adoption

Unsurprisingly, both the formal conference agenda and the informal chat in the conference hall was dominated by the theme of technology, specifically AI, and its role in legal marketing. It was surprising and pleasing to see that most law firms have not put outright bans on the use of generative AI - both in their legal deliver and for their marketing teams - but it was clear that this is fast moving territory.

Many firms are still working out how far they want to test boundaries of new technologies and how best to address worries about client confidential information not being sufficiently protected.

The conference keynote from MSNBC's Ari Melber provided the longue durée, an opportunity to reflect on how new technologies are part of a centuries long transition from an oral culture to a read-write culture that may be going full circle.

On a panel discussion considering the adoption of AI, the example of ChatGD from Gunderson Dettmer provides one potential pathway for firms to enjoy the advantages of open source technologies, while protecting against the risks of client confidentiality.

Key takeaways:

  • The AI conversation is likely to remain 'sticky' for the years to come. It is not simply a topic du jour that we are likely to have forgotten come 2024.
  • CMOs and their teams need to play a leading role in shaping how their firm uses these new technologies, both to improve client experience and to enhance marketing and BD capability.
  • There will be a steep learning curve in understanding how these technologies work and associated risks and can mitigated. Most law firm marketing teams lack skills to do this today.

2: A CX-led approach

A number of conferences sessions explored the topic of client experience (CX) and how this is a useful lens through which to think about the areas where CMOs and their teams can have the greatest impact for clients, and in doing so to improve client loyalty, share of wallet and collaboration.

There were important insights on the value of a sector-led strategy, including representatives from Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider LLP and Foley & Lardner LLP, who made the case for a genuine industry-sector go-to-market approach that elevates CX and delivers greater value for clients.

Key takeaways:

  • CX is a critical element of how firms manage their relationships. It should run through the DNA of the firm, not be treated as a side project.
  • There is an opportunity for firms to do more to measure CX in a structured way, providing benchmarking data that can inform strategy, brand positioning and tender responses among other things.
  • A sector go-to-market strategy needs to be supported with proper resource (time, budget, people) and aligned to the needs and priorities of client sectors to really have an impact.

3: BD and marketing fundamentals endure

Despite talk of advanced technologies and new approaches, conferences like #LMANE23 do a great job of reminding us that some BD and marketing fundamentals don't change.

A fascinating panel of legal journalists from publications such as Bloomberg and The American Lawyer reiterated the importance of having a clear strategic vision at a time when the legal sector is facing a wide range of pressures: profitability and pricing; talent attraction, retention and development; a pressure to take a stance on national and international political and social issues; the continued challenges of hybrid working, and the impact of new technologies.

To navigate these challenges ahead, CMOs and their teams need to make sure they have the BD and marketing fundamentals in place, namely:

  • A strong understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing clients and how that is changing demand for legal services.
  • A clear point of view on the issues that matter to clients, supported with a rigorous content strategy.
  • Robust data and insight sources to help make the argument for change and investment in improving CX and outcomes for clients.