In an increasingly competitive and crowded legal field, law firm business developers and marketers are turning to outside data sources at an accelerated rate to identify new business opportunities, differentiate their firm’s offerings, and drive continued revenue growth.
But how are they actually using internal and external data sources for business development (BD)? To better understand what law firms are really doing, UniCourt partnered with Baretz+Brunelle’s New Law team, co-led by Brad Blickstein, to conduct research on how Am Law firms are using data to win business from both existing and new clients.
Over a span of three months, Baretz+Brunelle interviewed 17 chief marketing officers (CMOs), chief marketing and business development officers (CMBDOs), and other members of the C-Suite responsible for business development at leading firms to produce the report, Marching Toward Data-Driven Business Development: Industry Insights from Am Law CMOs.
In this article, we’ll review the five key findings from the report, provide some candid insights from our Am Law interviewees, give a preview of The Law Firm Business Development Data Maturity Model, and share how you can learn more.
The Current State of Marketing and Business Development Strategy
Throughout our interviews with BD and marketing leaders at forward-thinking Am Law firms, including Akin Gump, BakerHostetler, Cooley, Paul Weiss, Perkins Coie, and Wilson Sonsini, five key findings crystallized from our research.
Finding #1: Most firms (76%) have a data strategy for business development, but most are not systematized firmwide.
Though we did find that a clear majority of firms have a data strategy in place, we also saw that many firms lacked the people, processes, technology, and/or data needed to enact their data strategies for BD on a systematic, firmwide basis. Further, few marketing and BD teams have developed the infrastructure or automation capabilities needed to fully enact their data strategies, as this was largely seen as “a lofty undertaking,” according to one respondent.
However, most firms do have dedicated teams tasked with using traditional research tools to manually pull data and use it to respond to attorney or marketing team requests. These teams are either driven by, or collaborate closely with, the leaders of the marketing efforts, such as Luke Ferrandino, Chief Marketing Officer of Paul Weiss, who firmly believes in “the power of numbers [and data] to generate ideas for clients and to inform strategies.”
Finding #2: While the majority of our respondents are using data for business development, no one has fully automated the collection of that data.
One of the defining features underlying our second finding is that even though firms are actively tracking potential business opportunities that might be worth reacting to, such as newly filed litigation or a reported transaction, the current processes they have in place for collecting data often lead to information being received much too late in the sales cycle to be leveraged effectively.
This has sparked increased interest from firms to move from manual to automated data collection for their business development and marketing efforts. From the firms we interviewed, 35% reported using completely manual processes for data collection, while the remaining 65% reported having a hybrid mix of manual/automated processes in place. As Iris Jones, Chief Marketing & Client Development Officer of Akerman, shared, “It’s very exciting that our firm leadership is supportive of pursuing new opportunities to automate.”
Finding #3: Most firms (65%) have built a strategy for identifying qualified leads. But there is little process built around how to manage leads through the sales funnel, with most leads skipping any nurturing phase and going straight into a sales cycle.
The legal industry lags far behind others in terms of having mature processes for lead generation, nurturing, and conversion. Firms are often limited in the use of data for lead identification and primarily use data for warm leads, with their maturity levels ranging significantly from ad hoc to responsive to proactive. This remains a major untapped area for potential gains and competitive advantages for law firms.
On the more sophisticated and proactive end of the spectrum, both Nancy Kostakos, Chief Marketing Officer of Cooley, and Despina Kartson, Chief Marketing Officer of BakerHostetler, highlighted the critical importance of their competitive intelligence teams in supplying key data to their marketing and business development teams. “We have a solid Competitive Intelligence team that has become the primary resource for providing reports to attorneys regarding new leads from both clients and prospects,” said Despina. “The team pulls data from many data sources to identify and assess potential opportunities.”
Finding #4: Most firms (82%) proactively monitor for potential opportunities with current clients, but the process is too slow to be fully effective.
Every one of the firms we interviewed shared that they have lost potential business from current clients because they didn’t learn about the opportunity before it was awarded to a competing firm. The “need for speed” was seen as a core problem by a strong majority of our respondents, with many firms seeking to build better systems to address needs connected to:
- Getting information faster;
- Integrating data into usable information more nimbly;
- Automating alerts to react more quickly; and
- Obtaining more targeted and normalized data to empower faster analysis.
“We leverage data to identify and track practice and industry trends, support lawyers in developing novel business development strategies, and deepen client relationships,” said Amy Shepherd, Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer of Ballard Spahr. “Access to that kind of information helps us be more proactive and is what clients expect.”
Finding #5: Limited information, speed, and especially lack of collaboration inhibit the ability to proactively turn data into usable insights.
The sheer difficulty of collecting data on a timely basis, normalizing it, and instantly putting clean data into systems remains a pivotal pain point for many firms. To better manage their data quality, most law firm marketing and BD teams are fully controlling data entry. They reported that their attorneys have limited or no access to their experience databases and CRM (client relationship management) systems.
Data culture appears to be a critical distinguishing factor in the ability of firms to proactively leverage data for actionable insights. Kathryn Whitaker, Chief Marketing Officer of Burr Forman, underscored that her firm is “trying to very much instill a culture where data quality is everybody’s job.” Adam Severson, Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer of Baker Donelson, also shared that “Gathering any data that is available to us is a key part of getting smarter about our clients.” From Severson’s vantage point, “As an officer in this firm, if I’m not trying to improve our data practices, then I don’t deserve to be in this chair.”
The Law Firm Business Development Data Maturity Model
In analyzing the results of our research, one important outcome was the recognition that an industry-standard for law firm business development maturity in connection with leveraging data would be a powerful tool to help CMOs understand and level up their firms’ data maturity.
From Baretz+Brunelle’s collective work with many leading law firms over the years and UniCourt’s legal industry experts, we developed The Law Firm Business Development Data Maturity Model, which includes five varying levels of data maturity across five different areas.
5 Levels of Data Maturity
- Data Blind
- Data Aware
- Data Proficient
- Data Savvy
- Data Driven
5 Areas of Data Maturity
- Data Infrastructure
- Business Readiness
- External Data Usage
- Data Culture
- Team Development
To help Am Law CMOs better understand the findings of the report, UniCourt and Baretz+Brunelle are hosting a webinar on October 3, 2023 from 2-3pm EST, where we’ll be releasing an expanded version of The Law Firm Business Development Data Maturity Model that outlines the pivotal steps firms can take to advance their data maturity and further professionalize their BD and marketing functions.
The webinar will also feature industry insights and strategies for more data-driven business development from Nancy Kostakos, Amy Shepherd, and Brad Blickstein.
Jeff Cox is the Director of Content of UniCourt, a Legal Data as a Service (LDaaS) company that provides real-time court data and legal analytics you can trust. UniCourt’s mission is to make court data more organized, accessible, and useful for Am Law and Fortune 500 companies. UniCourt’s API-first approach empowers the combination of internal data with external litigation data to find new business opportunities, optimize litigation strategies and outcomes, and power innovative solutions. Jeff is a Florida attorney, who worked in-house at Citi managing legal operations before joining UniCourt. He currently serves on the board of Bay Area Legal Services, a nonprofit, public-interest law firm, and on the Corporate Content Coordinating Team of the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA).