Why law firms invest in research surveys primarily is to market their firm’s legal expertise. Accordingly, one might suppose they would include in their reports some description of that prowess. Surprisingly, in a group of 10 research reports, four of the firms did not avail themselves of that opportunity. Morrison Foerster MA 2016 (a 6-page report), Littler Mendelson Employer 2015 (a 37-page report) leave not a clue. Tiny buds of marketing appear in two others: King Spalding ClaimsProf 2016 (17 pages) starts with a letter from the group that conducted the survey to a partner of the firm and Berger Singerman SFlaRE 2017 (11 pages) notes as part of its logo: “Florida’s Business Law Firm.”
Those four firms show at the bottom of the plot below, because their ratio of pages with marketing material to total pages equals zero. The remaining six surveys vary widely in terms of how much marketing material they include as a proportion of their total report pages. Berwin Leighton ArbVenue 2014 allocates almost one out of every five pages to marketing itself whereas Wilmer Hale EcCrime 2003 shyly allocates approximately one-tenth as many pages.
Broadly speaking, a report might market the firm as a whole, a particular practice, or individual partners. Out of this set of six firms that used pages or partial pages of their report for explicit marketing, five promote the firm, three promote a practice group [King Spalding ClaimsProf 2016, Berwin Leighton ArbVenue 2014, and Seyfarth Shaw RE 2017], and three of them promote individual partners (Proskauer Rose Empl 2016, with photos and also with three non-partners; Wilmer Hale EcCrime 2003; and Squire Sanders Trade 2014, with the firm overall]. If individual partners identify their practice group, that detail could be said to market both the person and the practice.
To give one example of treatment, here is a portion of the pages that Berwin Leighton devoted to its arbitration practice and its firm as a whole.
Two of these reports also include a letter from a partner, a marketing device [Berwin Leighton ArbVenue 2014 and Proskauer Rose Empl 2016] while one of them includes a page of the firm’s office locations [Proskauer Rose Empl 2016].
Once a law firm goes through the effort to design and conduct a survey, then analyze the data and prepare a report, management certainly hopes for a return on that investment. At the top of the list would be calls from prospective clients asking about the firm’s services related to the survey’s topic. Furthermore, the firm would like potential clients to think more favorably of the firm and its contribution to knowledge (the oft-used term, “thought leadership”). Other benefits of surveys come to mind, but this post is about an aspect of marketing: how much space the survey report devotes to touting the firm.
All the reports have a portion that is “About the Firm.” I estimated how much those sections occupied using a notion of full-page equivalent (FPE). Usually, the description of the firm and its services takes a full page or two, which made it easy to count the FPE. Other firms devoted only part of a page to self-promotion, so I estimated the percentage of a full page that the section took up. I did not include forwards or quotes from partners and only considered pages if there were some text about the firm (i.e., not cover pages or back covers that have the firm’s name).
The resulting data is in the plot below, which has converted each of the 16 firm’s FPEs into a percentage of all the pages in the firm’s report.
With the exception of the firm at the top, most of the firms were relatively reticent with respect to their self-descriptions. After all, at least they can be expected to include some contact information. If you assume some bare minimum of firm information is justified, then the length of the report significantly determines the resulting percentage. Shorter reports tend to have a higher percentage of report pages devoted to the firm.
To understand a client better, legal managers could generate what we might call “data profiles.” The initiative can benefit law departments, but let’s use a law firm example. The profile would assemble several kinds of figures for a client for each of the past three years. That trend data could include what kinds of work the client generated based on types of matters (and maybe sub-types) including counts, hours and fees. It could show the number of partners and associates who recorded time on those matters. It could tally who at the client called to give assignments and their level. Perhaps there could be data on the email traffic or the conference calls associated with the client. The profile could extend to fee write offs and discounts and to margins.
A finance group or practice group that researches, ponders, and assembles such data will be able to create client profiles, akin to dashboards, and probe trends over time. All kinds of analyses would be invited once the data set has been pulled together.
A “client profile” would be a guideline for the kinds of services the client needs, who its key players are, the direction its business initiatives are going, preferences for firm lawyers, and anything else that would enhance client service and client satisfaction. It could lead to better cross-selling, better use of associates and paralegals, proposals for fixed fee billing, increased client satisfaction, and more. With data profiles, the firm could segment client groups into categories, such as “high maintenance” or “risk embracing” or “transactional.” Once you collect the data, your firm will be able to mine it!