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Key Takeaways From Managing Partner Panel: State of the Legal Market

By Stacy Pollicino posted 04-01-2022 11:50


Key Takeaways From March 10 Managing Partner Panel: State of the Legal Market
By Alexandra DeFelice

The last two years have been nothing short of crazy. COVID has upended everything, and it’s unlikely to get back to “normal” (whatever that is…) any time soon. So how are law firm leaders thinking about what’s next?

On March 10, LMA’s West Region held a virtual program, Managing Partner Panel: State of the Legal Market. The panel featured leaders of firms large and small talking about what’s keeping them up at night, how their approach to business development and marketing has changed since COVID, and what they see as their biggest opportunities and challenges in 2022.

Panelists included: Christine D. Barker, Co-Managing Partner, Orange County Office, Gordon & Rees; Troy Hunter, Founding Partner, Injury Law Group NW; Harry Nelson, Founder, Nelson Hardima; and Jason Geller, San Francisco Regional Managing Partner, Fisher Phillips. Alexandra DeFelice, Director of Marketing and Business Development, Payne & Fears and LMA SoCal Vice Chair, served as moderator.

The following are some of the key takeaways:

Encourage and incentivize attorneys to participate in marketing/BD

Barker and Geller said their firms offer financial incentives to attorneys for the time they spend speaking at events and serving on various committees, such as a portion of annual hours requirements tied to nonbillable activities. However, it is not all about the money. It also is important to focus on education, championing the idea that bringing in work helps attorneys with their professional development, the panelists said. Some of the firms offer one-on-one coaching and/or group training sessions on the topic.

Remember that marketing isn’t for everyone. There is such a thing a bad marketing, Hunter said. Focus on the willing and the capable. Figure out what types of activities certain attorneys excel at and redirect their efforts to those activities so it will be more enjoyable and not feel like a chore.

Capitalize on new opportunities

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is to never miss an opportunity. While some businesses shuttered due to lost revenue, others shifted the way they went to market, or created all new products and services.

Law firms did the same, with some forming new practice groups, or lasering in on certain industries that needed the most help.

Nelson Hardiman is a niche firm focusing on healthcare. Nelson said he experienced a moment of panic at the beginning of the pandemic, but he soon found that people were more interested than ever before, especially in the area of telehealth. When his firm conducted a webinar in the past, he would see perhaps 150 attendees; during COVID that number soared to more than 2,000. The firm quickly flexed to serve the largest and most immediate need.

Focus on people

While many firms experienced layoffs during COVID, Fisher Phillips began hiring more people for specific tasks, such as a person dedicated to responding to RFPs. The firm also increased its investment in data analytics and knowledge management and can now provide insights tied to information such as how often a judge rules a certain way in a particular type of case.

Because of its small size, Injury Law Group NW turned to outsourcing, with its marketing director spearheading the effort. The firm has outsourced its social media, web design, SEO, videography, and podcasting. Additionally, the firm is more deeply mining their in-house talent, discovering new skills among existing employees.

Gordon & Rees has made Diversity Equity and Inclusion a key initiative, with a particular focus on recruiting diverse populations, mentoring, and highlighting its Women in Construction group.

Not surprisingly, most of the panelists said recruitment and retention is their No. 1 concern at the moment, with some experiencing aggressive recruitment of their employees by other firms, many offering large salary increases. Marketing professionals can play a role in helping show how their firms are positive places to work, both with external messaging and internal communications.