Corporate law companies have fared relatively well thus far during the Covid-19 closure. For every area of law that has suffered a decline in demand — such as litigation and financial accounting — it appears as though others have expanded.
Our contacts at law firms describe an increase in employment and labor litigation, steady work on intellectual property, and an increase in M&A and bankruptcy opportunities as the economic repercussions from the pandemic settles in.
What has proved disruptive to the sector — and to other professional services — is the sector’s sudden inability to do business development in the conventional manner. Historically, corporate development has been highly reliant on business conferences, wine-and-dine events, and in-person meetings and networking.
That is no longer the case. As a result, many businesses have reduced their marketing budgets and reallocated funds to other areas of the business. However, this approach risks missing out on developing prospects and losing relevance with clients due to a lack of interaction.
Law businesses and other professional services firms should increase their marketing efforts while also adapting their techniques to the socially distant environment. Rather of withdrawing, providers should bring clients in, ensuring they are available to offer advise, be of service, and participate in the dialogue. When the faucet is reopened, they will be first in line for work, as clients will remember who was there for them during their time of need.
According to some law firms, their business development teams are busier than ever as they transition from planning conferences and events to hosting webinars, creating films, and developing content for their websites. One of our clients informs us that they offer ten webinars per week, some of which attract 5,000 or more participants.
“We’ve developed certain toolkits, client products, summaries, and sample policies to assist clients in responding promptly to workplace difficulties,” a managing shareholder of that firm explained.
In contrast to mass communication, the most effective mode of communication with clients at the moment will be interactive and intimate. Firms should listen before they speak, attempting to understand their clients’ needs and how their skills may assist.
Numerous marketing teams have responded to the new environment by sending out webinar invitations via email blasts. However, it will be ineffective if it is a one-way flow of information that does not allow clients or prospective clients to express their issues prior to hearing potential answers.
Other firms have used virtual industry gatherings to connect their client base. While these are beneficial for industry participants, engaging in forums where competitors will be present is unlikely to be the best use of legal firms’ marketing expenditures.
Firms must cultivate a more exclusive relationship with their clients, one that facilitates communication and places the client at the center of the conversation. A highly effective method of accomplishing this is to host curated virtual peer-to-peer groups for businesses in a certain industry. This is a micro-cast mindset, in contrast to mass emails and webinar invitations.
An industry peer group provides a place for general counsels to exchange ideas and best practices, while also allowing the law firms that chair them to gain a better understanding of industry pain points and potential without coming across as ambulance chasers.
Peer-to-peer roundtables provide an opportunity for workplace dialogue and deeper cooperation that folks you desire to serve are likely missing during the work-from-home period. For the legal firms that put them together, it establishes a point of contact that enables firms to listen to and influence the individuals who matter.
Additionally, it enables law firms to be opportunistic in terms of modifying clients’ impressions of their areas of expertise. Many firms are well-known to clients for a single practice area, but actually provide considerably more in other areas of specialization.
This is a critical aspect of business development in an environment in which some areas of practice have cooled while others have heated up. Perhaps you are most known for your litigation practice, but also have a world-class debt and finance practice that is more relevant to clients at the moment.
Adopting this strategy should be considered as an investment in the future of business development, not as a temporary reallocation of marketing resources in response to the crisis.
Additionally, it may be appropriate to analyze budgeting from a company development lens. Everything that was done on a yearly basis should be questioned. Are you able to secure work as a result of the conference? Was your sponsored exhibit at an industry event a success?
The legal profession has been one of the most adamant opponents of “going digital,” but in a post-COVID-19 world, the legal profession will be obliged to adapt. Business growth is only one facet of the legal profession that will be impacted by the pandemic, as remote work becomes more common and organizations are forced to reconsider their resource allocation strategies.