No one can deny that we are experiencing a time of change in the legal industry and law firms will need to be agile in order to succeed. So I wasn’t surprised when I was approached by the Editor of the BC Legal Management Association (BCLMA) ‘Topics’ Newsletter, to write a piece outlining some practical tips for outsourcing in the field of legal marketing.You can read the article below and I’d encourage you to take a look at the entire issue of ‘Topics’ for articles including The Legal World is Changing – Essential Strategies Needed to Thrive, Cyber-Security for Law Firms and Conference Networking Tips.
Practical tips for working with external consultants
Previously printed in BCLMA ‘Topics’
Law firms are under increasing pressure to add value and justify fees from clients whose legal budgets are coming under greater scrutiny and are responding by bringing work in-house. Competition is coming from virtual firms and new market entrants and the billable hour can no longer be increased as a matter of course year over year. Do you find your firm bracing for a storm that you hope will not come but are looking to cut expenses ‘just in case’? If your gut reaction is to cut your marketing and business development budget, stop and put down that pen. Now, more than ever, it’s time to differentiate your firm, shore up your client relationships and focus on building revenue. This means investment in your firm’s future in the form of marketing and business development.Whether you have a team of in-house marketing professionals, a single junior team member, or no dedicated marketing and business development resource, there are circumstances when outsourcing is a good use of your budget. Reasons for outsourcing will differ by firm, but they can include access to skills, knowledge, tools or proven experience that you don’t possess in-house, the opportunity to contract with marketing professionals with the expertise you need without the overhead associated with recruiting and hiring, or simply to get an external perspective or viewpoint.
Examples of outsourced work could include a one-off project such as strategic planning or the redevelopment of your website, an ongoing retainer for the development and implementation of a client feedback program or social media initiative, or the outsourcing of your entire marketing and business development function.
Having been on both sides of the legal marketing and business development consulting table, I offer the following practical tips to consider if you have already assessed the cost benefit of your situation and are thinking of outsourcing all or part of your marketing needs.
PRACTICAL TIPS WHEN OUTSOURCING
- Know what you want to achieve and share your visions and goals with your consultant: The clearer you can communicate what success looks like to you, and your consultant demonstrates that they understand, the better chance you have of achieving it.
- Evaluate an outsourced marketer as you would an employee: Be clear on the skills and experience that you need and hire a consultant accordingly.
- When possible, hire a consultant with in-house law firm experience: The culture within a law firm is different from just about every other company out there and if your consultant starts the project with a thorough understanding of that, you’re ahead of the curve from day one. In BC we are lucky that there are a number of consultants that fit this criterion.
- Clearly define the scope of the project and set measurable objectives: Ensure that you and your consulting team have discussed in detail, and have agreed upon in writing, the scope of the services they will be providing to your firm and the objectives of the project. This will assist in the success of the project and will allow realistic timelines to be put in place. Be cognizant that if the scope of the work changes significantly, the consultant should, and probably will, propose changes to their pricing and timeline. Don’t resent them for this – remember that this is how they make a living and if, for example, the project is going to take twice as long as planned due to change in scope, this is time that they won’t have available to work with, and bill to, another client.
- Designate a point of contact within the firm: If the consultant is hired for a finite project, for best results designate a knowledgeable, and readily available, contact at your firm for project decisions and approvals. There is nothing worse for a project than mixed messages being delivered to your external resource or the project stalling if the point person is so busy doing legal work that they can’t provide feedback in a timely fashion.
- Be open to making your consultants “part of the team” – without knowledge they can’t give you their best: The most successful projects that I’ve worked on were those that embraced me as part of the team and shared as much as they could about the history of why I was hired, any internal politics that may derail the project and were honest with me every step of the way in relation to the feedback requested. Having your consultant be part of your team will also lead to increased skills transfer into your organization.
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