Cultivating a Culture Of Awareness
A Better Informed Workforce Is More Likely to Contribute Creative Thinking
By Peter Ozolin
Law firm marketing professionals and attorneys often find themselves at a standoff. The attorneys look at marketing and ask (though perhaps in not so many words), “Why aren’t you going out and getting us business?” The marketers reply (though perhaps in not so many words), “You’re the experts in field A, B or C, why don’t you come to us with opportunities that we can act upon?”
Imagine, for a moment, a slightly more perfect world. A world in which marketing and business development professionals have an excellent sense of current developments at each attorney’s client and, among other entities, in each attorney’s area of practice, and are able to pinpoint opportunities and generate RFPs before the requests have even been generated. A world where attorneys have their finger on the pulse of business developments in the industries they serve, and can likewise identify opportunities and loop in marketing and business development people to help close the deal.
In other words: A beautifully closed circle of business development information.
Content Intelligence Platforms
Such a world is, in fact, in reach. A novel technology category — Content Intelligence Platforms — already exists to automate the delivery of the specific information each stakeholder in the firm needs to stay abreast of trends and developments that impact their work performance. The platforms mine tens of thousands of sources (practice-area-specific blogs, Twitter feeds, even subscription-based content) multiple times daily using search criteria established by the individual user to isolate the information that matters.
Hundreds of firms have embraced the technology to date, a fairly remarkable adoption rate given that the technology has been available less than five years. But, at this stage, usage is largely limited to marketing and or business development staffs. Even in the confines of this limited usage, the technology can be used to perform some valuable tasks, including:
- Staying abreast of activities that might impact the firm’s clients — an important facet of good client service and a great way to generate new engagements;
- Identifying potential opportunities outside the firm’s current roster of clients; and
- Powering their content marketing efforts on a practice-by-practice level
This is a great start. However, what if the firm could institutionalize a structure where every stakeholder could receive a constant feed of customized information and be encouraged to leverage the many opportunities this information represents?
The old marketing strategy in many law firms might be called the rainmaker model. The rainmakers had Rolodexes (or Outlook contacts lists) brimming with captains of industry, a busy social calendar and memberships at some of the better country clubs. When billings got a bit lean, the firm’s rainmakers would work the phones, pour a few drinks and make some tee times. Soon, new engagements and strongly qualified leads would begin rolling in, and business development and marketing staff would be busy inking scope-of-work agreements and pulling together proposals.
Under this model, it was understood that the responsibility of bringing in new engagements fell to a select few. It was the role of the rest of the attorneys and support staff in the firm to get the work done once it arrived … to keep their heads down and focus on the task at hand.
In more recent times, enterprises of all stripes have begun shifting away from such a centralized treatment of idea generation, whether for new business or for product development. It has been recognized that good ideas can come from anywhere in an organization, and even from outside of an organization — from clients, vendors, or some barista overhead at your local coffee shop.
There’s no reason that the democratization that’s been applied to identifying new product features and better processes can’t be equally applied to business generation in the law firm environment. If all the firm’s stakeholders are engaged in the firm’s larger business goals and encouraged to share their ideas for reaching those goals, the firm effectively expands its business development efforts firm-wide.
How does one begin such a cultural shift in a law firm environment? First, firm leaders — managing partners and other leadership figures — must make it clear that it’s not just the rainmakers or the loudest voices in the firm that will be heard when it comes to business development issues. Everyone needs to know that their ideas can be shared without fear, and that everyone’s voice matters. (Once you ask for ideas, people who you didn’t think were at all interested will come out of the woodwork.) The firm will also need to institute a system for compiling and evaluating new ideas. The best systems will be transparent and straightforward. Last, the firm needs to provide an infrastructure that facilitates an atmosphere of heightened business development awareness.
Culturally speaking, stakeholders need to be allotted time away from productivity goals (the task at hand) to pursue innovation goals — that is, to monitor topics of personal interest that relate to the firm’s general business interests. This helps maintain relevancy and engagement for stakeholders, and it also helps the firm begin to leverage the collective brain power to survey a wider scope of information and discovery. Technically speaking, stakeholders need a system to facilitate the identification and dissemination of relevant information — a task that a Content Intelligence Platforms are very good at performing.
Technology and a Culture of Awareness
From a technology perspective, I have found that incremental change is best for cultivating a culture of awareness. For firms that have adopted content intelligence platforms to provide a better understanding of the markets served, I suggest that baseline minimums be established concerning what stakeholders need to know to be effective in their roles.
For example, the platforms can be automatically set up to track developments for each stakeholder’s five top billing clients. This information is readily accessible in the firm’s accounting system; each stakeholder’s account can be pre-programmed by business development or library staff to receive relevant developments concerning their clients. No training is required; stakeholders can review headlines concerning developments that the platform delivers, drill down if deemed important, and move on with their day.
By gaining a better understanding of the current state of affairs with clients, the industries served and the practice areas that are important to your attorneys, the firm will be better equipped to connect disparate ideas together in ways you may have never considered. One idea will build off another. And the circle of business development information will begin to be closed.