Legal Marketing Trends: Takeaways from 2024 Marketing Partner Forum

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The 2024 Marketing Partner Forum (MPF), which Berbay has proudly sponsored for more than a decade, explored marketing strategies for collaboration and innovation in legal marketing. In case you missed the conference, we are here to provide key takeaways.

AI Is Top of Mind—Even If Most Firms Aren’t Quite on Board Yet

Virtually every session we attended touched on artificial intelligence, and with good reason: it’s a paradigm-shifting tool that isn’t going anywhere. While everyone is talking about AI, few law firms seem to be implementing it in a meaningful way (and some law firms have gone so far as to ban AI completely). It’s important to maintain the perspective that we’re still in the very early stages of AI in the legal industry, but it doesn’t stop us from discussing the impact it may have. As a testament to AI’s capabilities, a group of professors had Chat-GPT take the bar exam and the free version, Chat-GPT 3.5, received mediocre scores averaging a C+, while the paid version, Chat-GPT 4, aced the Bar.

Firms that are using AI capabilities, are using it in areas such as legal research, case management and data analytics, but the consequences of using AI still make many firms hold back. Some firms are starting out small, such as using software they’ve used for many years, but taking advantage of the AI this software has within it. For firms interested in using AI as a research tool, but concerned about privacy, the solution might be a closed-loop AI system like CoCounsel. Expect to see large firms create their own proprietary internal AI systems in the coming years, too.

It remains to be seen whether AI will be transformative for the legal industry, but MPF made it clear that AI will be advantageous in solving issues that have plagued the legal industry like increasing efficiency, making data-driven decisions and being more cost-effective. A panel at MPF suggested team-wide trainings or bootcamps to help firm members understand AI tools and learn how to use them. “Innovation committees” are also being used to lead AI initiatives and other technology advancements.

Strategic Client Teams Are the Key to Strengthening Existing Business

For years, MPF has held many panels on client teams and the importance of using client teams to transform key accounts into true client partners. This year was no different. The shortest path to new revenue often lies with existing clients and remains one of the biggest opportunities at most law firms – growing work with existing clients. Several MPF panels stressed the importance of bringing together professional staff with different skill sets and using these teams to grow relationships and generate revenue. Clients may not be using your firm for certain capabilities simply because they don’t know you can provide them. A strategic client team can help bridge that gap.

The sweet spot for strategic client teams is seven to nine members per team, each responsible for six to eight clients. Early involvement of junior and senior associates fosters a team mentality, experiential learning and smoother transitions as junior members move up.

Panelists at MPF recommended bifurcating strategic client teams into two groups: delivery teams that focus on getting the work done (aka “grinders”) and growth teams that focus on building and maintaining relationships (aka “binders”). Clarify people’s roles for effective collaboration and let them do what they do best. If you are not familiar with the terms grinders and binders, read Berbay’s blog on these terms and their importance.

Marketing Teams are Transforming to Meet Heightened Competition

Heightened competition in the legal industry is driving law firm marketing and business development initiatives, leading to a stronger reliance on the use of data and advanced technology and led by a new class of C-level leaders who are technology natives. This year, we will see marketing teams transform by expanding to include new roles for staff with unique skills aimed to drive innovation, enhance client engagement and elevate a firm’s overall marketing efforts.

Some key insights include:

  • 2024 will be the year of Marketing Operations (MarOps). This trending development will drive a marketing tech evolution as economic and technological pressures drive firms to hone and maximize their marketing tech stack.
  • MarOps should be seen as the control tower of a firm’s marketing initiatives, serving as the heartbeat of the department – bridging the gap between marketing, IT and HR, and managing everything from budgeting to staffing.
  • The rise in MarOps will steer both marketing and business development activities toward increased efficiency and better client service. We’ll see a newly formed synergy between Chief Marketing Officers and their IT counterparts, giving rise to unified data platforms that offer real-time insights that all lawyers can access.
  • Many marketing teams will need to add data analysts who focus on deciphering client preferences, spotting trends and measuring return on investment.
  • Law firms will adopt formal work management platforms, offering collaboration and streamline workflows that, again, can be readily accessed by firm lawyers. Marketing plans will be more focused on adding client value, and client experience will be at the center of these plans. More firms will embrace a client experience strategy to attract new clients and solidify the firm’s position in the marketplace. From our experience, something as small as adding more human touch points, such as face time and regular communication make all the difference.
  • Going back to AI again, AI can greatly aid firms that want to improve their efficiency. It will be imperative for firms to have people who understand and utilize AI tools for content creation, automate tasks, analyze vast data and deliver personalized client communications.

Sales and Marketing Will Become Increasingly Interconnected

The panel, “Trading Routes: Leveraging Marketing Activities for Future Revenue Potential,” focused on the interconnected dynamic between sales and marketing. Although the two naturally converge, many firms lack a dedicated partnership between them. Considering the significant role marketing can play in strengthening leads and binding client relationships to the firm, this is an overlooked opportunity for growth.

Key takeaways from the session:

  • There’s a critical link between sales and marketing at law firms. Strategic marketing attracts potential clients and nurtures existing relationships. Understanding that firms which integrate these two domains will significantly enhance sales leads. An integrated approach to sales and marketing supports success throughout the firm.
  • Marketing is always more successful (and always has more firm support) when there is a tangible return on investment. It’s imperative to continue to crack the code on how marketing illustrates its direct impact on the business, revenue and reputation. It’s also critical to continue to investigate how your marketing initiatives can better align with the firm’s revenue generation strategy.
  • The most effective marketing strategies identified in 2023 include white papers, thought leadership and social media, while top business development strategies include client and prospective client visits as well as client education seminars. These results underscore the importance of client-focused interactions over conventional sales approaches
  • A strategic marketing mix should be created with the intention of driving customers toward the sales pipeline. Some key items to consider include:
    • Be purposeful and proactive with your marketing. This seems like an obvious, but too many firms have been on autopilot.
    • It’s not enough to create content to have it; you need to make it compelling so it resonates with clients. Don’t sell them – make the content about them. If they see themselves in your content, they’re much more likely to engage with it.
    • Hosting events to attract and drive clients toward the sales funnel is great, but how can marketing actively develop and promote these engagement activities?
    • While the bond between sales and marketing is inherently strong, there is a need for a dedicated and synergistic partnership.

GCs’ Roles Are Evolving, and They Need Firm Partners to Evolve with Them

At any legal marketing event, a panel that includes general counsel and managing law firm partners is always the most sought after. Given the hand-in-hand relationship between in-house legal departments and their outside counsel, firms need to understand and anticipate the shifts being experienced by general counsel.

We’ve recapped the panel, “Face to Face: Relationship Perspectives of General Counsel and Managing Partners” to help you navigate this evolving relationship:

  • General counsel is increasingly being brought to the table for strategic conversations that involve every facet of the business, not just legal. GCs are taking on more responsibility with less time and fewer resources, and legal departments now resemble mini firms. It’s imperative that outside counsel recognize and respond to this shift. Since the onset of the pandemic, GC’s responsibilities have expanded significantly from traditional regulatory oversight to now being actively involved in strategy discussions that span across all aspects of their organization. However, these departments are faced with the challenge of doing more with less.
  • Effective communication is key. Law firms should establish open lines of communication, fostering collaboration with their in-house clients to gain insights into their specific challenges and goals. By actively listening and asking the right questions, law firms can better tailor their services to meet the unique needs of each client.
  • Whether in-house or in private practice, you must prioritize developing lawyers’ communication skills and emotional intelligence (EQ) in order to thrive in the modern legal world. Panelists noted that interpersonal skills and EQ were the key differentiators for top-performing lawyers. The emphasis on communication skills and relationship-building highlights a shift in the qualities valued by legal professionals.
  • Invest in building long-term relationships with in-house clients. By fostering trust and understanding, law firms can position themselves as trusted advisors and strategic partners. This involves going beyond the traditional role of a legal service provider to actively contribute to the success of your client’s businesses. Small acts of goodwill go a long way. Find ways to make your clients’ lives easier, whether it’s in your scope of work or not.
  • Once again, AI presents an opportunity to enhance efficiency and service. AI can’t replace the human experience, but it can give you more time to focus on fostering business relationships. By leveraging AI effectively, law firms can navigate new challenges, accelerate and upscale legal processes, and strengthen their business relationships with general counsel.

Want a Seat at the Table? Start by Building Trust

Panelists for “Winning Friends: Key Strategies to Gaining Influence in the Firm” discussed a challenge every legal marketer has faced at one time or another: gaining authority as a legal outsider. It all comes down to trust, but that isn’t always built by achieving big marketing results. Sometimes small moments and one-on-one conversations are where trust is cultivated.

Our thoughts on gaining influence:

  • Listen before you strategize. Before formulating a new plan, take the time to understand pain points and different perspectives.
  • Data must direct your strategy, whether using email insights to plan newsletter content or tracking lead generation patterns to focus business development efforts. Naturally, skeptical lawyers need data to buy into marketing efforts, so the “why” must be articulated and supported by the numbers.
  • Break down marketing strategy into digestible plans that nonmarketing folks can understand, such as a 30-60-90 plan or quarterly goals with monthly check-ins. Revisiting and revising plans regularly helps you stay nimble as goals change. Articulate the broader impact of marketing on the company’s brand, employee brand, client brand and overall brand image.
  • Don’t just attend industry events, bring insightful takeaways and demonstrate your awareness and industry engagement.
  • Value small moments and recognize their potential impact on building influence.

Client Feedback Must Be Your Guiding Light

Are you making the most of your client feedback? Positive testimonials are a potent marketing and business development tool, and the act of asking for feedback alone contributes to client satisfaction and increases the likelihood of referrals.

Highlights from the discussion include:

  • Effective surveys blend open-ended and targeted questions, guarantee anonymity, and are as seamless as possible for the client. Make giving and receiving feedback easy, and you’ll get more actionable information.
  • Prioritizing and acting on feedback with some urgency demonstrates to clients that their viewpoint matters. When done well, asking for feedback is a way to strengthen existing relationships.
  • Survey technology makes the feedback process easier for firms and clients and provides useful metrics on feedback initiatives. As always, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
  • Collaborative and client-centric approaches, backed by real-time feedback, will pave the way for future success.

Partner with a Trusted Los Angeles Marketing and PR Firm

Berbay Marketing & Public Relations has nearly three decades of experience providing law, real estate and financial firms with marketing and public relations services that propel your business forward. Berbay’s dedicated team has demonstrated success securing media placements, achieving nominations and rankings, revitalizing websites and social media, obtaining speaking engagements and more.

Looking to grow your firm with Los Angeles’ proven Marketing and PR team? Contact Berbay at 310-405-7343 or

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