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My First LMA Conference: Relationships Matter

My first job after completing my undergraduate work was in software engineering at a big technology company where we developed an operating system. After about a year, I had the opportunity to go to an industry event. I came back to the office with the notable realization that customers were people too. It may sound funny but, at the time, the voice of the customer was brought to us from sales, marketing, and product leadership. The event gave me the opportunity to meet users face-to-face. Suddenly, the “customer” wasn’t so anonymous to me. The “customer” had a face, a job, really great ideas, and a family to get home to at night.

Industry events are a valuable way to develop relationships with peers and colleagues, network face-to-face, discuss the big challenges and opportunities, and experience the latest from notable vendors. In the days and weeks that follow all the excitement, there’s an opportunity to digest those “a-ha” moments and reflect on the common themes from the event.

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The 2019 Legal Marketing Association (LMA) conference in Atlanta was no exception. From the main stage to panel discussions and presentations to the exhibit hall, it was such a pleasure to learn alongside clients, partners, and colleagues. I discovered two key themes:

(A) individuals are more powerful in numbers , and

(B) the legal market continues to evolve and is becoming increasingly competitive.

Individuals are More Powerful in Numbers

Since joining the InterAction® team about six months ago, we have had conversations about who we are as a team and what we represent. CRM isn’t new. There are many players out there. What I love about our team is the focus on the power of people. We believe in the power of people doing good work for (and with) others. This has been a key theme in the development of our product, roadmap, and cohesive approach to teamwork. It’s also a key theme for the industry we serve: Your world is all about people doing good work for others. I was especially excited to see this theme throughout the LMA 2019 conference.

The opening spotlight session on ABA Rule 5.4 included discussion about teamwork and collaboration and how these are often top weaknesses for many firms. As firms evolve from pyramid to pancake models, the practical application of collaboration becomes even more important.

This theme continued with the keynote presented by Jennifer Dulski (Head of Groups & Community, Facebook). Twitter lit up with her new acronym: I.I.C.D.T.I.C.D.A. (if I can do this, I can do anything). We can do things (even when we’re afraid) by working towards a defined future that has a clear purpose. Ms. Dulski continued to talk through practical steps for making our personal brand a meaningful movement. One of my favorite parts was the discussion about influencer mapping and how to start something from an unexpected point to drive more efficient change.

LMA members also had a chance to hear from our very own Mary Olson and Elena Cutri, speaking on Collaboration and Communication Skills, respectively. Collaboration relies on trust, communication, and change management. Our success depends on the ability to understand our stakeholders’ needs and adopting a mutually beneficial approach to achieve the desired results. As part of this work, we must understand our own communication blind spots to effectively communicate with partners, attorneys, lawyers, fee earners, IT, and executive leadership. Our work to continuously develop our communication skills will serve us well but also contribute to the success of the firm as a whole.

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Legal market continues to evolve and relationships are the key to differentiation.

Another key theme at this year’s event was the evolution of the legal industry as a whole and the critical work required to

compete effectively. While the idea of evolution isn’t new to the legal industry, sessions included practical approaches for continuous improvement by staying one step ahead of client expectations.

The General Counsel (GC) panel explored the ways law firms can improve to earn their business. Corporations are considering the breadth of capabilities in the market: in-house, traditional law firms and alternative legal service providers. Throughout the conversation, each of the panelists highlighted the value of having a deep relationship with their selected firms and how those relationships differentiate the firms with whom they choose to work. GCs want to work with attorneys who can help set the “goal posts”—effectively equipping them to present to the CFO—and truly partner on the success of their business. Further, the GC panel underlined a desire to better understand the meaningful and sustainable value offered by the firm.

At one point in the discussion, the panelists talked about self-disruption. Ms. Dulski had discussed the same idea using different terminology: a bear hug. As individuals and as organizations, it’s important to embrace competition because it challenges us to see things from a different perspective and, ultimately, improve our craft. The GCs suggested that ALSPs represent another option for corporations as they search for savings and efficiency. They don’t define the end of law firms; there’s room for both options based on the operational strengths of each.

This idea of using personal relationships as differentiation in a changing market was reinforced by Mo Bunnell. Mr. Bunnell helps professionals learn to develop business and often highlights that decisions can be made in the first five minutes of a conversation. He also states that people buy in to what they help create. Accordingly, we have five minutes to show  clients that we know them and want to truly partner on the work to minimize their risk and drive their success. (No pressure!)

The Big-4 have already adopted a model for business development by teaching their attorneys to “sell.” Law firms must help their professionals sell by equipping them to have authentic and personal relationships with their clients.

Relationships and the role of technology.

I’m a firm believer in the value of relationships. It’s no longer about being connected anymore. It’s about the value of that connection. We have all heard that people buy from people so an honest and thoughtful approach to personal connections and authentic caring goes much further than tracking an opportunity through a pipeline.

There’s a lot of technology out there, even in just the marketing technology realm. (Check out Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2019): Martech 5000!) The good news is that the technology can help design a preferred client experience. The bad news is that we have a lot of options in that design and clients absolutely care about what that technology stack looks like because data is powerful and everyone needs to protect themselves and their business. Our clients want to help their businesses succeed and they want partners (and technology) that make it easier to do their work and get home to their families.

I’m really proud to say that InterAction is full of great people who are authentic and smart. We don’t do technology just because it’s available—we partner with our clients to discern the best application of technology given the unique nature of professional services.

Your client data can help empower your professionals to deliver a personalized and comprehensive service—one that is differentiated in meaningful ways. InterAction for Office 365® is the latest piece of our portfolio that makes this even easier—putting your CRM data in the right place at the right time, making it easier to contribute to and benefit from the data. If you didn’t have a chance to stop by our booth at LMA, I invite you to reach out for more information about this offering and the hybrid cloud model that delivers on the belief that your data is yours to protect as you choose.

All of that said, thank you for allowing me to become part of the Legal Marketing community. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to get to know you better and I hope to speak with you soon.

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About Carrie Johnson

Carrie Johnson
Carrie Johnson builds bridges between product leaders, sales, marketing, and clients. She started her career as a software engineer and technical writer before moving in to the management of customer briefing programs, where she facilitated more than 1100 meetings with executive decision makers. Now serving as Director of Product Marketing, she is responsible for harnessing market expertise and bringing the InterAction value proposition to life. Carrie studied Technical Communications at Clarkson University and holds a Master of Science degree in Information Management from Syracuse University. She lives with her husband and twin boys in Raleigh, NC.
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