Legal Marketing Association 2019: Observations From a First-Timer

Every year, thousands of attorneys, marketers and business development professionals attend the Legal Marketing Association’s annual conference, making it one of the biggest events in the industry. I had the good fortune to attend this year’s event in Atlanta for the first time to give a presentation on data-driven storytelling with my colleague Brandon Copple. As a long-time digital marketer who’s new to the legal industry, I went in with eyes wide open, hoping to absorb as much as humanly possible. Below you’ll find my observations, a few things that surprised me about the event and what I think it means for the legal marketing industry at large.

  1. Legal marketers want to embrace data-driven storytelling – but they need help

Our presentation was among a handful that focused on the tools and techniques marketers can use to produce better content and get better results from it. We saw a lot of head-nodding and furious note-taking as we walked 50-plus marketers through things like audience personas, story-mining tools and distribution metrics. Over the next few days, I fielded a ton of questions, from folks who’d been at our session and others who’d heard about it, on how to implement and execute those kinds of techniques. It’s clear that legal marketers know they need to use data and digital tools to drive ROI and business development, but first they need to understand where to start and what investments their firms will need to make. Once they figure it out, I’d expect a revolutionary impact on legal marketing.

  1. The prevalence of technology that sits between the email and CRM

I’ve worked in e-commerce for over a decade, and the marketing technology stack is one of the most critical parts of designing an effective lead generation pipeline. But where e-commerce organizations usually have dedicated teams for each part of the lead generation process with systems infrastructure to match, the legal marketing structure is more complicated. Law firms rely much more on relationship building and referrals; when business development is a shared responsibility between dozens of partners and other individuals, tracking conversations and mapping the relationships between prospects becomes an integral part of the marketing funnel. This technology offers the opportunity to identify inflection points in the sales process that represent a client ready to purchase and understand the relationships that allow attorneys to cross-sell to expand accounts.

  1. For an industry that publishes enormous amounts of content, SEO is often an afterthought

When I first joined the legal marketing industry a year ago, I was impressed at the amount and length of content that law firms produce. Digging deeper, I was dismayed to find that despite their proficiency in content creation and publication, most law firms have little experience or consideration for search engine optimization. SEO is an important discipline for legal marketers to embrace: it extends the value of thought leadership content by making it visible to a larger group of potential prospects, drives awareness of key pages and initiatives such as signature events or annual reports and the increased traffic to their websites provides additional cross-sell opportunities. Additionally, organic traffic tends to perform better relative to other sources: searching is an active task, so audiences looking for information are more motivated.

SEO is content, and content is SEO: they are two sides of the same coin, not separate entities, and it should be a part of all content creation activity.

  1. The future of legal marketing is female

On the first day of the conference, I attended a “first-timers” cocktail hour and was surprised by the group’s demographic makeup: of more than 100 attendees, I was one of only five men. Diversity and gender equality within partner classes at law firms has become a heavily watched topic; the gender distribution of marketing and business development roles is evolving as well. Based on what I saw at LMA, the shift is accelerating, and it will be interesting to watch the profusion of female voices and perspectives throughout the legal industry, as well as the shifting levers law firms use to recruit, woo and retain top talent.

A digital native, John Matthew “JM” drives the creative application of data and digital techniques within Greentarget’s public relations practice.

Obsessed with science fiction and fantasy football, when JM’s face isn’t stuck in a book or glued to the latest NFL player evaluations he’s most likely searching for new culinary experiences in Chicago.