How Law Firms and Professional Services Have Adapted to Survive COVID-19

It’s all about being interactive and intimate with clients and understanding their concerns.

Matt Ulrich
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK WRITER
Managing Director and Partner at Profitable Ideas Exchange

September 21, 2020 5 min read

To see the article as originally published in Entrepreneur click HERE.

Corporate law firms have ridden out the Covid-19 shutdown relatively well so far. For every area of
law that’s seen a fall in demand — such as litigation and financial accounting cases — it seems like
others have presented new opportunities.

Law firm leaders we work with are reporting a jump in activity in employment and labor cases,
steady work on intellectual property, and are expecting opportunities to pick up in the M&A and
bankruptcy arenas as the economic fallout of the pandemic settles in.

What has been disruptive for the sector — and other professional services — is the sudden inability
to carry out business development in the usual ways. Traditionally, business development has relied
heavily on business conferences, wine-and-dine events, and travel for in-person meetings and
networking.

That’s all gone now. In response to this, a lot of firms have cut their marketing spend and
redistributed it to other parts of the business. But that approach risks missing out on new
opportunities emerging from the crisis and losing relevance with clients through a lack of
engagement.

Law firms and other professional services should be doubling down on marketing, but tailoring
their strategies to the socially-distanced world. Rather than withdrawing, providers should be
pulling their clients close, making sure they are there to offer advice, to be of service, and be part of
the conversation. When the faucet gets turned on again, they’ll be first in line for work because
clients remember who was there for them in times of need.

Some law firms report that their business development teams are busier than ever as they switch
from organizing conferences and events to hosting webinars, producing videos, and material for
their websites. One of our clients tells us they host 10 webinars a week, some invite 5,000 people or
more.

“We’ve created some toolkits, products for clients, summaries, sample policies that make it easier
for clients to respond quickly to challenges in the workplace,” a managing shareholder of that firm
told us.

However, different from presenting to the masses, the most effective form of communication with
clients at this time is going to be interactive and intimate. Firms should be listening before talking,
seeking to understand clients’ concerns, and how their expertise could help.

But it won’t be effective if it’s just a one-way flow of information that doesn’t give clients or
potential clients the opportunity to air their concerns first before hearing potential solutions.
Other firms have turned to virtual industry conferences in an effort to bring their client base
together. While these can be helpful for industry players, investing in forums where competitors
will also be present is likely not the best use of legal firms’ marketing dollars.

Firms need to foster a more exclusive connection with clients that opens up lines of communication
and puts the client at the center of the conversation. A powerful way to do this is by running
curated virtual peer-to-peer groups for companies in an industry. This is a micro-cast philosophy,
as opposed to the broadcast approach of mass emails and webinar invites.

An industry peer group gives company general counsels a forum to exchange ideas and best
practices while allowing law firms who chair them to understand industry pain points and
opportunities without coming across as an ambulance chaser.

Peer-to-peer roundtables give those you wish to serve an outlet for the office conversation and
deeper collaboration they are likely missing during the work-from-home period. For law firms who
put them together, it creates a touchpoint that allows firms to listen and drive an agenda to the
people who matter.

It also gives law firms a chance to be opportunistic in shifting clients’ perceptions of where they
have expertise. A lot of firms are known by clients for a core practice area, but in reality, have much
more to offer in other specializations.

This is an especially important part of business development in an environment where some areas
of practice have cooled off while others are hot. Maybe you’re best known for litigation work but
also have a world-class debt and finance practice that is more relevant to clients right now.
Adopting this approach shouldn’t just be viewed as a temporary reshuffling of marketing resources
in response to the crisis, but as an investment in the future of business development.

Furthermore, perhaps it is time to review budgets with a business development lens. Everything
that was done as an annual expense should be challenged. Do you actually win work at the
conference? Did your sponsored booth at the industry event move the needle?

The legal industry has been among the most resistant to “going digital” but in a post-COVID-19
world, the legal industry will be forced to adapt.. Business development is just one aspect of the
legal world that is going to be transformed by the pandemic as remote working becomes more
normal and firms are forced to rethink how they allocate talent.

To see the article as originally published in Entrepreneur click HERE.