How successful have firms been in handling the stress of adjusting to the needs of the market, knowing how to present that message to clients, and understanding how a sustained firm culture plays a critical role in their ability to cope? Barbara Malin, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at Jackson Walker, LLP, and Jennifer Johnson, CEO of Calibrate Legal discuss the critical role marketing, business development, and firm culture play in times of crisis. Our guests tackle some very tough questions about whether firms know and embody their culture and if cultural bias hampers their ability to succeed. They also highlight how firms have adjusted their business development plans to support clients in light of COVID and anti-racism movements.
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Are you feeling inspired this August? We certainly are. From identifying songbirds via neural networks to Deloitte Legal’s AI pro bono project in the UK to pornography suits in Martha’s Vineyard, we share our thoughts on the news of the week.
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Please take the time to rate and review us on Apple Podcast. Contact us anytime by tweeting us at @gebauerm or @glambert. Or, you can call The Geek in Review hotline at 713-487-7270 and leave us a message. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, the great music you hear on the podcast is from Jerry David DeCicca.
Greg Lambert: I love the little soundboard.
Marlene Gebauer: Cue up the happy music.
Greg Lambert: I don’t have a button for that!
Marlene Gebauer: You don’t have a button for that? We need happy music!
Greg Lambert: I know.
Marlene Gebauer: So we’ve had so much sad music lately. We got to get some happy music.
Greg Lambert: I guess I’ll find some music for the next show.
Marlene Gebauer: Welcome to the Geek in Review, the podcast focused on innovative and creative ideas in the legal industry. I’m Marlene Gebauer.
Greg Lambert: And I’m Greg Lambert. Well Marlene, we have taken a month off, but we have a number of episodes lined up for the next few weeks. So we are definetly back with a vengenance. And speaking of back with a vengeance, I understand that you have a new consulting firm that you’ve set up. So first of all, congratulations and and second of all, can you tell me a little bit more about what you’re doing?
Marlene Gebauer: Sure. Thank you. Thank you. The name of the company is Spark Mind Advisors LLC. And basically we’re focusing on legal operations, innovation and knowledge initiatives in the legal industry. So, you know, some projects we do we could do is help you with your innovation rollouts or give you some feedback on what types of innovation might work in your particular instance. So really looking forward to exploring these opportunities.
Greg Lambert: Well it sounds like fun. I know it’s always a challenge to have a startup that you’re doing but I have the ultimate confidence in you,
Marlene Gebauer: I’m glad somebody does!
Greg Lambert: I have a feeling at some point I’m going to be reaching out to you for some help.
Marlene Gebauer: Great!
Greg Lambert: We’ve got a packed show today. We’ve got Jennifer Johnson And Barbara Malin who are joining us. We’re going to talk a little marketing and culture in law firms. But before we get into that, let’s get into this week’s Information Inspirations.
Marlene Gebauer: Greg, I have a nice little inspiration on access to justice in the UK. So Deloitte Legal is supporting the charity law works which is also known as the solicitors pro bono group. In developing and launching free legal answers UK, which is an online platform that connects individuals in need of legal advice lawyers who are able to provide it on a pro bono basis. This Access to Justice Project, which is an early pilot stage helped about 50 clients so far and seeing 90 lawyer sign up. Now looking to attract more lawyers to help it put out offerings to their service for free. Now, Free Legal Answers UK is focused on those individuals on a low income, but also those who are not eligible for legal aid. Deloitte Legal also provided management and technical expertise to assess law works in configuring in testing the website to fit the legal environment in England and Wales. Their efforts relate to a wider mission run, by Deloitte called 1 Million Futures, which aims to help 1 million people to get where they want to be through access to education and employment, raising aspirations, improving skills and developing leaders. I like this quote very much from Michael Castle who’s the UK managing partner of Deloitte legal. This is the quote he made about the platform. “Justice is a fundamental right for everyone. It should not be exclusive for those who can afford it.” Well said Michael, good stuff.
Greg Lambert: I’d like to see them bring that back over the sea into the US.
Marlene Gebauer: Well, apparently the ABA has a similar program and they reference that in the article.
Greg Lambert: Marlene, I’m going to limit myself to one inspiration this week, but it’s a good one.
Marlene Gebauer: Yeah, you shared this one with me before. And, it’s like “you win!”
Greg Lambert: But it’s also one that, you know, I will address in a very tasteful manner.
Marlene Gebauer: So yeah, let’s see how well you deal with that.
Greg Lambert: So there was this woman who rented out her house on Martha’s Vineyard to a company that she later found out film some 14 different pornographic films over a five-month period of time at her home. And so it what was interesting was she actually sued the film company for copyright violations because they had included some of her original paintings and the other artwork that she had in the house in the film. There’s some legal issues here. I think she actually copyrighted material after the fact, but
Marlene Gebauer: So then she didn’t go after him for sort of violating any type of contract in terms of how to use the location.
Greg Lambert: I think later she did but
Marlene Gebauer: So she figured it out.
Greg Lambert: Now in the course of reading this the first question I had was, who told her? Her house was it you know, who was watching?
Marlene Gebauer: And did somebody tell her? She figured out herself?
Greg Lambert: I’m imagining that you know, some friends of hers calls are up and said, “Hey, I was home alone the other day reading the articles on Pornhub and I happen to see your paintings in the background of this movie that I’ve been watching for an hour.”
Marlene Gebauer: Oops.
Greg Lambert: And she had initially, back to your point on the damages, I think she had initially demanded fifteen thousand dollars in property damage. And once she copyrighted materials that the damage claims went up to about $3 million or so. And then the other part that was kind of funny was, the judge said, even though one of the attorneys requested, he denied the request that all the jurors watch all of the films in order to see how much of her artworks showed up in the films. So how was that? Was that tasteful?
Marlene Gebauer: That was pretty tasteful. And I would say if the jurors did sit through and watch all the 14 films, you know, they know it if they saw it.
Greg Lambert: I see what you did there.
Marlene Gebauer: And weren’t embroidered pillows involved in this too?
Greg Lambert: I can’t remember if there were embroidered pillows involved, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
Marlene Gebauer: All kinds of artwork. Oh, yeah, you win. So my second inspiration is happy or scary depending on how you feel. I got this from BeSpecific a great curated legal and technical newsletter by Sabrina Pacifici. If you don’t subscribe you should. It’s free with a requested donation of $5. So, I love the introductory quote from Science Magazine, “It’s a fact of life for birders that some species are fiendishly difficult to tell apart, in particular the Sparrows and Drab Songbirds dubbed Little Brown Jobs.” Distinguishing individuals is nearly impossible. It’s like the podcast is just done so downhill.
Greg Lambert: But again, you did that tastefully as well.
Marlene Gebauer: Yes, I did. And I will continue in that vein. So a convolution neural network tool has been developed at the University of Montpellier, by Andre Ferreira, a PhD students. The AI tool sifts through thousands of pictures to figure out which visual features used to classify a given image. It then uses that information to classify new images. This type of text can use to classify plants and animals, including different animals of the same species. So what Andre did here was take multiple pics of backs of Tag Weaver’s at a feeder, the pictures were fed into a computer and the system could ID individuals 90% of the time. Which is about the same as humans if they can see the front of the bird and their neck rings. Pretty soon expect to have to ID birds and dogs and other creatures that access our roads to prove you’re not a computer. And that wraps up this week’s information inspirations.
Greg Lambert: Marlene we hear a lot about how law firms market their culture both internally and externally. You know, with everything going on in the world today, it’s just crazy out there. You know, firm’s culture.
Marlene Gebauer: It’s a Zoo!!
Greg Lambert: You know, the firm’s culture is being scrutinized more than ever. And probably for a good reason. We wanted to bring on a couple of experts to talk about what firms need to do when it comes to how it views and markets its own culture in a time of COVID, and the societal demands on anti-racism. We asked Jennifer Johnson and Barbara Malin to come onto the show and discuss those very issues.
As most listeners have heard us say on the show before, never let a crisis go to waste as there are so many new opportunities for those of us who are ready and willing to adapt to these challenges. You know, another comment that we like to say during tough times is that a crisis doesn’t necessarily make you better, so much as it amplifies who you already are. And for those of us in law firms, this means that your skills and your overall structure and your culture of your firm were certainly put to the test here in 2020.
Marlene Gebauer: Indeed. We want to discuss how firms are handling the combined stress of adjusting to the needs of the market. Understanding how to present that message to current and potential clients, all the while understanding how the culture of the firm plays a role and how capable the firm and all its pieces are under these pressures.
Greg Lambert: And Marlene, like in the past, you know, I used to walk down the hall but now I have to pick up the phone or instant message people, but I reached out to my one of my own at Jackson Walker, and asked Barbara Malin, our Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer to talk with us about the critical role that marketing and business development teams play within these times of crisis. Barbara, thanks for joining us.
Barbara Malin: Greg, it’s great to be here and always fun to kick things around with you.
Marlene Gebauer: And to discuss the issues surrounding culture. We reached out to Jennifer Johnson, CEO of Calibrate Legal, a legal recruitment company, as well as a prolific voice in the legal marketing world. Jennifer, it’s good to talk with you.
Jennifer Johnson: I’m subscribers to the podcast and I’m so excited that you invited me. Thank you.
Greg Lambert: Good to have you here. So Barbara, let’s start with you. I wanted to start this conversation with you because, you know, I’ve seen firsthand the amount of responsibility that fell on you and your team when all this began back. Actually, February I think, is what we started really looking at it and making potential plans for how we were going to continue operations if the pandemic took hold throughout the world. So how would you say your marketing and business development operations differ from the first of the year until now?
Barbara Malin: So, Greg, as you and I both know, from our experience when we responded to Hurricane Harvey, we learned at that point that developing a business continuity plan isn’t really just an academic exercise. And we were fortunate at Jackson Walker that we have recently updated our business continuity plan just as sort of a normal part of our course of business. So, as we rolled into the COVID timeframe, and it became apparent that we were going back to implement the plan, we had a plan roughly in place, and we’re able to build on that. In the law firm environment, one of the main things that you have to think about in terms of business continuity is obviously how you keep the day to day legal operations of business running and that means really, how do you continue to do the legal work without missing a beat? So the specific question that it can my responsibility to focus on is how can you maintain a culture of clients service when all the normal supporting structures that normally be there to help facilitate that client service has been rendered, available. We went into 2020 with a really heavy focus on identifying and serving client needs, doing that through collaboration, and in a way that was really fortuitous for us. We were about to meet a situation where client needs became really even more urgent. And the requirement to collaborate became really non-negotiable. So we were facing a situation where we had a plan that we had developed for how to implement that client focus, but we needed to completely reframe it nonetheless in the newer environment. So ultimately at a really kind of basic level, we faced two questions as we transition from what we thought 2020 would look like, and what 2020 ultimately did look like. And first was, how can you focus on client needs when you can’t meet clients face to face? Clients also are really fully occupied with really pressing work matters because their world has just changed. And the second thing is how can you sustain a culture of collaboration without those sort of random collisions happen when you meet in the office together?
Greg Lambert: Yeah, I know that you and I rely a lot on our relationships throughout the industry and bounce ideas off of our peers out there to help us handle these novel situations. And I think 2020 is probably the most novel situation we could think of. I know we talked about your involvement with the Legal Marketing Association, and you’ve been working with the professional advocacy group within LMA. It seems like the timing was pretty fortunate for that. So what are you doing to help support each other during these crazy times?
Barbara Malin: Well, you know, as you know, you and I both have pretty healthy networks of peers that we bounce ideas off of, and for me, just having those networks has been a really immensely valuable resource to begin with. There really is no other thing like the ability to walk down the hall, or to pick up the phone or start a zoom call with someone who knows exactly the challenges that you’re facing. Every legal marketer, of course, knows the value of the relationship, the form in the LMA, and the Professional Advocacy Group was a really important resource in this time. Because what the professional advocacy group is setting out to do is to try to provide firms with insight into the scope of the capabilities of their legal marketing professionals and how the teams that they have can help their firms understand client needs and adapt to new and changing client needs. Doing this real world work that helps legal marketers learn how to drive response and to meet client needs and to deal with the economic shocks that have arisen as a result of COVID-19 and to drive you know, diversity, inclusion, equity and equality. The other pressing issue that’s referring this time.
Marlene Gebauer: Jennifer, you recently read great Law360 piece along with Kathleen Pearson, the Chief HR Officer at Pillsbury, where you discussed steps that law firms could take to actually improve their culture. Culture isn’t just feeling the effects of COVID. It’s also feeling a huge societal change around anti racism. That may be a one two punch in which some firms may have had a hard time adjusting. What do you think firms should look at when it comes to culture today?
Jennifer Johnson: Well, it’s a big question, and you’re asking me what I think and so here’s what I think. I think that law firms need to have a hard look in the mirror. I think that they need to do some serious assessment of their cultures. A lot of firms focus their culture only on the lawyers. And it is my wholehearted believes that in order to have a thriving law firm of the future, we need to look at talent on the whole. Every person works within the law firm needs to be included in all of the initiatives that are happening across the firm. I think there’s an incredible disservice incredible inequity going on. We already have an environment, that sort of caste system is right. The haves, the have nots. And even within the haves, there’s that hierarchy. But I think for the future firms to survive and thrive; which don’t need to be mutually exclusive; but I think they could. You’ve got to really break down the silos and think about what is it? Why do people work? And meet them there. And start providing environment that people want to contribute to all of the people. And I just think we are doing a major disservice to the law firm ecosystem by not including everybody in these diversity challenges. The business services people in law firms, if you didn’t have them, you’re out of business. They matter. They play an important, vital role in law firm sustainability. And so I think that you asked me, they need to look at I need to talk to everybody and get a sampling of their workforce and understand who they are as a whole. I also think that I benefit by flipping the questions. So flipping it. How do we comply with the regulations surrounding FMLA? Sort of asking those questions? If we said, How do we create an environment in which we have parents with primary parenting responsibilities thrive in our culture? What if we flip it from being policy or regulation based on our policies, and more about like, playing into what we want to see terms of behaviors and the kinds of people we want to attract.
Greg Lambert: Just out of curiosity, you talked about having a caste system on this. I know, firms rely heavily upon you know, there’s, there’s the attorneys and then there’s the support staff. Do you see firms having to cross over that? Or do you see doing the same message to two different groups?
Jennifer Johnson: If they don’t, they’re gonna have their workforce, vote with their feet. I think that especially when we go back into the four walls, at some point, it’s gonna be noticeable. If you look at, look at these three law firm, go just pick one. Most of them talk about diversity, equity and inclusion. And very few of them have anything that has anything to say about anything other than the lawyers. And at some point, your workforce is going to notice that. From mailroom to your marketing teams to your billing teams, people are going to notice that They’re going to say, Hey, now, maybe they don’t value me. They don’t appreciate me. Maybe they don’t believe in me. They’re gonna move along to a place that does. And I think that’s gonna happen sooner than later.
Greg Lambert: I wanted to ask you a really difficult question right up front here. If you were to ask 50 different people within a law firm, baby boomers, they could be GenZ. They could be attorneys, they could be staff. So ask them to define what that firm’s culture is. How many different answers are you going to get out of those 50? And, is that really is a bad thing if it’s different answers?
Jennifer Johnson: The winning answer, Greg, for $1 million is 50, at least. Depending on the day. And so I’ve talked about this all time to people who have had the opportunity to listen to me opine and I don’t know if they liked it or not, but I made them listen and that’s the thing. So if you look at talent within a law firm, generally speaking there’s the regal talent folks. And then there’s the HR is everything else right? And they’re not usually under the same umbrella. Most often. They’re not. So there’s the legal recruiting a PD folks. And then there’s the HR folks. Inherently, it’s different. And the message that the folks that goes through the Business Services recruiting side is very different. Not even the message but the process, the paperwork they fill out, the level of responsiveness. Every person that applies for job with your firm is receiving you and your brand. And so you could have, even within the lawyers, I mean, associates, let’s start with law students. Then your summer associates, the ones who rejected the ones who gave an offer to. Then you’ve got the associates, the ones who are on the track to all the wonderful things. And then the one who maybe had a baby, or the one who decided to go in-house, what was their story? Then you got lateral associates, lateral partners, you’ve got alumni, what do they say? I mean, that’s just on the lawyer side. So I would say that it’s completely conflicting. I do understand that you have to have a different recruitment strategy, a different situation. Based on the level of years of experience and positioning in the firm, I get all of that. I just don’t think you’re going to find find any threads of similar to anything and there should be.
Greg Lambert: So it’s not a bad thing?
Jennifer Johnson: The first firm that figures it out, it’s going to be called innovation in my book.
Greg Lambert: The reason I ask that is because there’s a like if anyone has gone through rebranding, period. One of the things that they hear a lot from consultants is you don’t define your brand, your clients are the ones who define your brand. And I’m just wondering if it’s a similar thing with culture because you constantly hear the leadership, talk about culture, but I’m not sure that… the leadership may have an idea of what they want the culture to be. But the actual culture is actually interpreted by everyone from the mailroom up.
Jennifer Johnson: I believe that there is a gross misalignment between the perceived culture in most law firms and what the reality of the situation is. And that’s even within the lawyer ranks. It’s, I feel like there’s such a divide between various senior partners, and everybody else. Probably your more junior lawyers are having more similar experience to the reality of the culture, as maybe a marketing or business development manager would experience. There’s just this layer at the top that feeds one another. It’s this bathwater drinking. Drinking your own bathwater where we’re the best, we’re the brightest. That infusion of reality doesn’t occur as often as it should be. If you look at companies who are notorious for culture in a good way, They’re regularly evaluating. They’re regularly pulse surveying to make sure that they’re saying is actually true.
Marlene Gebauer: This is all really fascinating talking about culture. But can a firm really change its culture?
Jennifer Johnson: 100% if it wants to. But it has to have the right environmental factors in place, it has to have the right people that believe that something needs to change. There’s things that must be true in order for it to happen. It can happen. And it’s a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight. And it’s not something that you can just expect will show up and be apparent. There’s change management which is incredible discipline that must be exercised in order for a cultural shift to happen. So, yes, and…
Greg Lambert: Hey we had a whole how on “Yes, and…”
Marlene Gebauer: That’s true, we did.
Jennifer Johnson: It is the best parenting technique I’ve ever learned. Yes, and…
Marlene Gebauer: You have to have everybody on board, right? I mean, it can’t just be people at the top or it can’t just be sort of people, you know, in the workforce. I mean, everybody has to kind of believe in this together. And isn’t that a challenge in firms where, it’s kind of a group of individuals working on their own businesses? As opposed to a corporation which you know, all kind of have the same goal? Arguably.
Jennifer Johnson: I think that different firms see the world differently, and there are certainly some that are firm-first in mentality, and those will probably be the ones that will shift easier, faster, quicker in terms of the pivot. Because it does have strong leadership, everybody believes in the firm and the leadership, and then you fall in line. And then there are some that do operate as individual sole proprietors, you know, sharing healthcare benefits and office space. And that will be much harder, of course. But I do think with the right leader has to start with the leadership and the appropriate change management techniques have to go into play where you bring people into the conversation. And honestly, if everybody isn’t on board, that’s okay. They don’t have to keep working there. You know, they can move on to a place that maybe does feel more comfortable to them, culturally.
Marlene Gebauer: And Barbara, what’s marketing’s role in helping show the world the firm’s culture and how that culture affects the way the firm does business as well as interacts with clients and the community as a whole?
Barbara Malin: As Jennifer points out the first challenge is distilling what the culture actually is because if you ask fifty different people, you’re likely to get fifty different answers. It’s important to distill at least the essence of you know, what the firm is trying to build as its culture because it’s part of a brand. And the brand is of course what you want to market. Ultimately, a lot of client’s satisfaction is going to come down to whether there’s a good cultural fit between the lawyers that they’re working with the client representative and the client company as a whole. Because really at a fundamental level, competence is now these days table stakes in our industry. And so client satisfaction is not going to be driven by whether or not the firm is able to do the work. But rather whether the client and the lawyer can work together smoothly for cultural reasons. A good legal marketing team is going to be able to help lawyers really effectively sit down with the client and assess what the client’s needs are. Then it’s going to be able to take those needs and showcase ways that differentiate the firm. Whether that’s going to be geography that the firm is in, the depth of experience the firm has in the area, the fee structure, the service commitment that the firm brings to the table. All of those are things that bring aspects of the cultural experience with the firm that can help drive that cultural fit between law firm clients and the firm itself. And by highlighting sort of the basic ethos of the firm, and what the firm values and how those values drive what they provide to the client’s value, and what characteristics turn that ethos into value for the client. All will go into what the legal marketing team builds out as the pitch to the client in terms of the importance of the firm’s culture in terms of the engagement.
Greg Lambert: Jennifer, when I was reading your article, you list out six points that you talk about culture. And the last of the six points is that a law firm should hire for culture fit. Now a little side note, a few weeks ago I sent out a tweet and I said well what’s the word that law firms use that may have a cultural bias to it that they don’t realize? And the immediate answer I got back, and I think it was from Jordon Furlong, was fit. Fit can be used in order to only bring people that look and act and have business like we already have. Which on the surface may be perfectly innocent but cumulatively can have an impact. If firms are really looking to improve their overall culture, what are some of the guidelines that they should follow when they are looking to attract new talent who will enhance the improved culture goal?
Jennifer Johnson: Well, I would have to say that you have to go through the first five steps before you’re ready to hire people based on fit.
Greg Lambert: You can’t just go to step six?
Jennifer Johnson: No, you can’t fast forward immediately. But honestly, I think a lot of people miss some of the pieces and again, it’s a journey, it’s not something that can be solved now. But it’s time to start now. So you’ll be ready. I would say that the first is that you have to figure out what that culture is. There’s so many schools of thought, and methodologies for how you could begin attacking this topic. One of my favorites is actually a book called Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation. And they call it “ToMo Score.”
Greg Lambert: And who wrote that?
Jennifer Johnson: Oh, sorry. Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi. And there’s a couple of TED talks that you can look at. And I actually have this wonderful book called The Culture Book, it’s recently published but it’s a bunch of different culture stewards talking about different things. Netflix’s in here. Accenture is in here. DLA Piper is actually in here. DLA Piper is quoted in here as using this ToMo factor within some of their initiatives. But essentially, it’s really looking at why do people go to work? Those that are driven by purpose, play, and potential. So purpose is “I believe that doing this work is good for the world.” Play is “I love it, I’m excited by it, I can’t wait to see what I can do next.” And potential is like “I’m doing this to get someplace on my career.” And you want as much of that as possible. What you want less of are people who are motivated to work because of economic pressure, emotional pressure, or inertia. So, economic pressure is the obvious – I got to work to pay the bills. Emotional pressure is I got to show up and do this or else my boss will throw me under the bus or make me look silly. And then inertia is if somebody asks you, why do you just do this job, you go, I really don’t know why I work here. I just do this. I go every day. So, obviously, you want to attract more people with purpose, play, and potential than you do with economic or emotional pressure or inertia, right. And so, if you can figure out what motivates your people, all of the people, not just the lawyers, what motivates all the people to work, then it will directly correlate with how well they work. And so its layer, right, they have a book for a reason, it’s incredibly detailed. Essentially, if you design a workplace where people have this high ToMo factor then you will have higher customer experience as a result. Again, in these TED Talks you can look at it, but you did it where it was like okay, which audience threw out, which airline do you think has the highest ToMo, and everyone said Southwest. Which one has the lowest? United. And sure enough, when she popped it up, it was them. So it’s really really an interesting concept and I would encourage anybody to check it out. It has to start with unpacking it looking holistically this narrow focus of what works for the lawyers is gonna backfire sooner than later.
Marlene Gebauer: The interesting and it’s a different way of looking at culture than I ever heard from firms before. And I think the categories are looser. And I think that’s a good thing. Because of the types of things that can fit in those and still work.
Jennifer Johnson: Well, and you got to think about what is your goal and your purpose? And then hiring for that. As opposed to setting up these parameters. Again it’s like flipping the question. What are we looking to be? And how do we attract that as opposed to putting barriers in places, just to make sure that people that we don’t want stay away? And you ask the question about hiring? You want to eliminate bias? How about with management level and positions in a marketing department for example, you get rid of a college diploma being a thing? What if we got rid of that in some instances? Where years of experience as a graphic designer, and a really sharp brain, and proven track record of coming to work and contributing, you could be a manager. But in most law firms, you can’t, if you don’t have a college degree. We know that the socioeconomic breakdown is very difficult for certain folks in our country to get a college degree, to go to college. So by making a college degree a thing, we are eliminating the potential for our companies.
Greg Lambert: And I can imagine it’s more than just the college degree. That’s an easy one to point out.
Jennifer Johnson: Yeah, that’s an easy one.
Greg Lambert: And as you were talking through that it just reminded me that a lot of times, we look for someone, that can work 80 hours a week and bring in business. But the three P’s that you you listed there. I didn’t hear 80 hours a week. This is the only thing that drives them. And so, you know, one of the things I think law firms are finally catching on to this, is that if you really do want a diverse workforce, you’ve got to meet them where they are and not expect them to meet you where you are.
Jennifer Johnson: Yeah, I mean when we can undo hours build tied directly to compensation. That would be a really nice step in the right direction because there are a lot of people who can contribute in lots of ways on a team, on a billable team, who might not be able to build as many hours, Barbara I was gonna tell you as you were talking about that, the CMOs and culture. I actually wrote a piece, two years ago called the culture stewards of tomorrow’s law firm and I asserted it should be the CMOs. Obviously there’s a place for talent in all of the pieces, but it’s, if you’re going to be the one putting the message out into the world on the website about who we are, what our value proposition, it seems like a good place for culture to live. Because you’ve got to, marketing people we know to be true right Barbara, they don’t do well when they don’t believe in whatever it is that they’re marketing. And they have to believe in it. And what better place for culture to live than in a place that has to sell the culture?
Barbara Malin: Well and marketing teams are also really good at uncovering implicit messages that are kind of beneth surface that deserve to be surfaced.
Jennifer Johnson: And we have to create safe environments for them to be able to raise those and for it to be heard. As many of them are frankly issues. So we hear it, and we will do something about it.
Barbara Malin: Absolutely.
Marlene Gebauer: I’m really interested about this idea of how we value different contributions. If we sort of take away the whole, it’s only based on billable. Because that’s kind of an artificial construct right? That’s what we have to base it on. But in other environments and in the world in general, that’s not how we do things. So maybe we could look at some other models in terms of how different contributions are valued, and be able to model off of something like that. I mean are there other things out there that might be good?
Jennifer Johnson: The big four have got the closest thing we’ve got to our model in terms of that partnership structure. And so many of them are doing great work and talent analytics for their own workforce in addition to consulting to their client. Accenture’s doing some really amazing things for their talent and their workforce. But it’s interesting, I would say that on this journey, again, we can’t forget about the business services pros right so they get bonuses and it’s typically based on somebody’s opinion, and based on how much, how I feel that day right? It’s completely subjective. As opposed to when we bring people in from outside the industry in, they asked what am I going to be measured against? How will I get my bonus? And that’s something we’re going to have to do as we start looking at truly embracing all of the talent. We’re going to have to put some stuff in place, some infrastructure in place for a career path. For revenue enablers. For what we call them all the revenue generators and revenue enablers. There’s got to be career pathing going in, we’ve got to set. So it’s not the zoo animals making the decisions right that the “HIPPOs,” the highest-paid person’s opinion, are the ZEBRAs, right, the zero expertise but really adamant. We’ve got to get it away from opinions and emotions, making decisions on the business services side, and based on data and facts.
Greg Lambert: I like both HIPPOs and ZEBRAs.
Marlene Gebauer: I’m not sure how I’m feeling about being an enabler. So I’ll just move on to the next question. Barbara, What do you see are permanent changes to how firms are going to engage in business development, coming out of the adjustments to COVID to racism, and just a general shift in how the world’s gonna look, post-2020?
Barbara Malin: Well, first the things I think are probably going away or going away at least to some degree. I don’t think that we’re going to continue to see large chunks of the budget devoted to suites and professionals sporting venues. I don’t see 300 person seminars, being a thing that is going to be continued at least on an in-person basis anytime in the near future. I don’t see these gold plated sponsorships that are apparently are critical to making our clients like us. Being a high priority in budgets going forward. Many firms have either sharply or completely cut these from their budget, and I’ve seen this year 2020, that their business has not suffered as a result of not having those sorts of spends allocated in their budget. What I do see continuing is the need to develop authentic relationships, authentic connections to clients, and authentic connections within people’s firm development success these days really lies in the ability to collaborate across the boundaries. And that’s across boundaries in the firm, not just with other lawyers in the firm but also with the business professionals in the firm. And the ability to collaborate with clients is also critical to the success of any lawyer in terms of business development. I think we’re gonna see a trend of needing to be able to collaborate productively with other law firms. It’s a trend that’s coming and it’s one that we need to be ready for. And it’s only in those ways that you can be prepared to take on the truly complex legal work. Any person who’s not collaborating can do the simple stuff, but when you’re dealing with complex uncertain and volatile needs, you really have to have a team that has expertise beyond your own. So the question then becomes how do you build that culture of collaboration? The culture that people want to be a part of? And that doesn’t necessarily sound like a business development kind of question. But, it’s a question that my team and I have actually been spending quite a lot of time thinking about, especially as we confront the need to build that sort of culture in an environment that may be remote for some time, or that may transition to a more work from home kind of environment for people all levels within the organization. And so you have to think about things like how you transmit the culture of your firm in a world that doesn’t look like the one that senior lawyers in our firm has grown up in where everything from learning how to draft a pleading to learning how to snag a client where things that you learned by the side of a senior lawyer and through sort of informal channels. I think that kind of one of the things that it’s an interesting parallel to think about is some of the leadership that Richard Susskind has around whether courts are places or services. I think we have to ask some sort of question about whether law firms are places or collections of people and services. And so we have to wonder whether the primary benefit of the firms that we drive down to downtown to and park in the parking garage at, is the services and amenities that they provide or whether it’s the relationships that we cultivate there? And some firms you know are really just hotels for lawyers. There’s not much bigger going on there but those aren’t the firms that are going to be successful. As we enter into this new era, it’s going to be the world where there’s something bigger or, we’re looking for synergy that goes beyond just sort of, you know, the creative success. And that’s a cultural challenge that I think is really worthwhile, for a legal marketing team to sink its teeth into.
Marlene Gebauer: I just want to follow up a bit on that last question. Same question but two different groups. So I was wondering if we can expand a little bit upon the firm sort of working together on on business development, and or, doing the actual business. And also, Barbara, you were talking a little bit about sort of a volatile situation. So, what about outside expertise in terms of helping a firm, sort of figure out in terms of you know where they should be developing business, you know, either through use of analytics, or, you know, or other methodologies.
Barbara Malin: I think that there is unquestionably a place for analytics in our world that is much more significant than we are even thinking about these days. Law firms are these vast repositories of data, much of which we don’t really know what to do with. You know there’s you know a world out there that can assist us with that. Then there are people also within our own firms that can help dig into the data and you know the question is, does that expertise lie in the ranks of lawyers? Generally not. That expertise lies elsewhere and in order to harness that, lawyers need to be willing to look around and value the contributions that other people can make either to an analysis of their cases, or just analysis of how to procure new business.
Jennifer Johnson: I guess my initial reaction to the question was, you know, there’s a group, there are so many of these law firm alliances out there that many many many firms are a part of. And it’s interesting I’ve spoken at a few of them. I think that there’s a real opportunity for firms that are in those law firm alliances to kind of more closely curate business with one another. I think they tend to be seen as a referral. I hope they refer me. They have to because I’m in the city that the client might need something in. As opposed to really leveraging or they’re exploiting that that’s what we’re here for. And using it more strategically. I feel like that’s the low hanging fruit for anybody that’s a member of one of those law firm alliances.
Barbara Malin: That’s definitely part of sort of that trend of collaborating across law firm boundaries that I see. Definitely taking advantage of collaborative capabilities and alliances. Where you aren’t even necessarily stepping on each other’s toes. And then there’s the whole other world of collaborating with people that you legitimately see as competitors. And I think that’s another area where we’re gonna see some real changes, a real need for law firms to adapt.
Marlene Gebauer: I mean we’re already starting to see it with some of the big four and law firms, working on projects together.
Greg Lambert: Well Jennifer Johnson and Barbara Malin, I want to thank you both for taking the time to talk with us. This has been fun.
Barbara Malin: It’s been great being here, Greg.
Jennifer Johnson: Thank you.
Marlene Gebauer: Thank you both.
Marlene Gebauer: Greg, I told you it was a zoo out there, HIPPOs and ZEBRAs.
Greg Lambert: Yeah, I felt it when you threw that softball up there at the beginning of the interview. Yeah, the hippos and zebras are out there. Again, thanks to Jennifer and Barbara for coming on. I felt like this is a good conversation to have right now because so many firms are trying to evaluate where their culture is, again, there are so many layers to this and I thought Jennifer really did a good job of talking about the different layers that that are there, and Barbara jumped in and talked about how firms are attempting to use that in their marketing both internally and externally.
Marlene Gebauer: I mean, we were all saying after the recording was over that we really could have done, you know, a much deeper dive. If we had had more time so I really hope that people listen to this and then it sparks further conversation, you know, within departments and firms or you know on social media. Because there seem to be a lot of, not uncompletely answered questions about culture is and sort of the role it plays and then how you present it. And how you get buy-in about that. And also about what are some of these new types of business development that we’re going to see? I mean we just we touched on, but I think there’s a lot of opportunities for some further rich discussion about it
Greg Lambert: So it sounds like a good topic for a webinar that could be sponsored by Spark Mind Advisors, LLC.
Marlene Gebauer: Absolutely.
Greg Lambert: So once again thanks to Jennifer Johnson and Barbara Malin for joining us today. Thanks guys.
Marlene Gebauer: Thank you. Before we go, we want to remind listeners to take the time to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Rate and review us as well. If you have comments about today’s show, or suggestions for a future show can reach us on Twitter at @gebauerm, or @glambert. You can call the geek review hotline at 713-487-7270, or email us at geek and review email@example.com. As always, the music you hear is from Jerry David DiCiccaa. Thanks, Jerry.
Greg Lambert: Thanks Jerry. Alright Marlene I will talk to you later.
Marlene Gebauer: All right, ciao for now.
[more transcript to follow – GL]