Participant’s Perspective: Marketing Partner Forum 2018 Roundup — Metrics Matter!

Topics: Business Development & Marketing Blog Posts, Client Relations, Data Analytics, KPIs, Law Firm Profitability, Law Firms, Marketing Partner Forum, Metrics, Thomson Reuters

Michael J. Mellor, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Pryor Cashman, attended last week’s 25th Annual Marketing Partner Forum in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., and wanted to share his experiences and offer his perspective.

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — I just returned from sunny California to touch down in the cold of Newark Liberty Airport, and my mind instantly started gauging the variations in temperature (especially since I had no jacket) and how my “efficiency quotient” could be improved with such trips on a regular basis. It’s an interesting correlation to the Marketing Partner Forum I attended last week — where we all seemed to be moving to measure, predict, and validate more data in the interest of providing our clients and prospects with more meaningful services, approaches, and experiences.

While some of the discussion centered around tactical approaches and the increasing use of pricing and other specialist professionals, the buzz this year was on digital, artificial intelligence and predictive thinking to not only bring value-added, but in some cases, to drive revenue for the firm by “putting out the milk” and creating a pull strategy for clients. (Credit goes to speaker Bennett Borden of Drinker Biddle & Reath for that one!)

The main takeaway I carried from the Marketing Partner Forum was to get out that whiteboard and define what success looks like to you in the next 1, 3 and 5 years.

We seem to be at a point where everyone is starting to turn on the measurement levers, and we now need to be cognizant to stay nimble but focused on a few KPIs that matter, lest we subject ourselves to “analysis paralysis.” It’s going to be important to filter out the noise and stay on track in 2018 and beyond.

Let’s take a look at some of the sessions:

Using Data to Drive Business Development

Led by Evan Parker of LawyerMetrix, Steven R. Petrie (Faegre Baker Daniels), and Jill Weber, (Stinson Leonard Street) — who I will always go to watch — this breakout session provided sample data from a fictional AmLaw 200 firm, and encouraged us to work in groups to identify some potential opportunities.

We were given data points around margin and leverage, and some key sector information for how the firm compared to the competitors in the market. I thought the exercise was interesting in that there is obviously no right answer in how you would run through the data sets (though some methods are certainly better than others). Were you going to go after low-margin work that may come easier, or were you prepared to dig in and tackle the high-margin work in a more competitive landscape?

The key was working together to develop a few hypotheses that could be brought for further testing and analysis. Could have been a fun day-long project so we could really roll up our sleeves and get to work!

Law Firm Report Cards

Another highlight was the panel titled “A Law Firm Performance Report Card: Client-Driven Metrics & KPI in Legal Technology,” moderated by Samir Bhavsar of Baker Botts.

Having the ability to hear directly from clients on what to do and how they are measuring our work is incredibly invaluable, and this was unsurprisingly one of the best-attended panels of the conference. A panel consisting of Monica Johnson from Ventura Foods, Kathryn Kyle from Laboratory Corporate of America Holdings, Joseph H. Otterstetter of 3M, and Neil Rosolinsky of Citizens Financial Group, laid a wide range of measurement objectives, metrics, and scorecards down for us. In essence, the group provided a roadmap to how to make them and us both look good. They discussed how flags may arise for overbilling and how they keep a keen eye on associate-to-partner ratio. They also discussed moving to more fixed or value agreements where they are giving the external law firms settlement authority within certain ranges, and discussed a shifting landscape with law firms where firms need to assume some of the risk around uncertainty in matters or deals.

Understanding the ways in which their legal departments are measured at an enterprise level is fascinating and gave me with some ideas on how we can improve our scores as a firm, notably in the culture and other softer elements that I may not have appreciated prior to this discussion. I will be bringing these slide pictures to more BD meetings! (Ping me or check out #LEIMPF18 or #LEIMPF2018 on Twitter for more report card images.)

Using Data to Drive Law Firm Profitability

My favorite session of the conference, titled “Signs Taken for Wonders: Evolving Law Firm Data-Driven Strategies in Profitability, Performance and Practice,” probably had enough IQ on that panel to send a ship to outer space — so I was glad they stayed here on Earth for our benefit. I was impressed with all of the panelists’ discussion of horizontal innovation and how they are leading the charges at their firms. While they came from varying law, analytics and intelligence services companies, they all shared a common thread of using computer-aided developments and inventions to drive efficiency and bring value to the end user.

Panelist discuss law firm performance at the Marketing Partner Forum

One panelist quoted Henry Ford in saying that if you asked clients what they needed before the car came along, they would have said “faster horses.” It’s an accurate comparison to where we are today in the legal space — with marketing, finance, data and business development experts needing to lead the way to how firms should be measuring themselves against their competitors. All the panelist described employing different business and data models to achieve success and create sticky relationships with their customers, and it was refreshing to see such innovation in the AI/predictive space within the context of law firms.

In terms of execution, most of these folks were employing the centaur/hybrid model, where computers were analyzing raw data points and law firm folks were adding the analysis as an additional layer of value. This symbiotic approach makes the final product better and is freeing up the time for humans to add a richer texture around environmental and cultural nuance that computers may not be able to capture.

So, the main takeaway I carried from the Marketing Partner Forum was to get out that whiteboard and define what success looks like to you in the next 1, 3 and 5 years. At the very least, employ a simple set of metrics that will help you gauge your next 30, 60 and 90 days. Then get measuring and tweaking so that you can continue to increase your value both internally and externally and start moving that needle. See you next year!