The Conversation

A blog by Kysen MD Clare Rodway, capturing interesting conversations she has in the course of her work...

Laura Klysz

I spoke to Simmons & Simmons’ Global Head of Marketing & Communications Laura Klysz for a marketing study we are conducting with New Law Journal. We are exploring how Top 50 firms and leading barristers sets approach their marketing mix - and the Golden Rules they have for keeping marketing plans on track in the busy-ness of everyday office life. The study will be written up in the magazine as a feature at the end of this year / beginning of next.

Laura Klysz

Laura tells me a firm's marketing programme is as much about giving partners confidence to sell, as it is about communication to external audiences.

"Law is a people business after all, and work ultimately comes in through the relationships that partners build.  A big job of the marketing team is to facilitate face-to-face contact between partners and the people with the power to give them business – and, crucially, to build the confidence of internal stakeholders.  We constantly ask ourselves: what springboard do our lawyers need to feel comfortable having strategic conversations with clients, prospects and referrers?  And not just talking to clients  about the issues they are facing, but getting under the skin of how clients feel about it and what support they need to fulfil their roles.   Often this level of engagement doesn’t come naturally to lawyers.  It’s not what they’re taught at law school! We have to remember they are not trained as sales people” … yet as we all know, once they are within sight of partnership, suddenly this is exactly what they are expected to become. "Lawyers will get excited about technical points of law - and for many, straying outside of this brings significant discomfort.  Yet this is where our lawyers create deep and lasting relationships with clients and contacts and become the trusted advisers they turn to whenever they need help. Another point lawyers often find alien, is to learn they don’t need all the answers, but instead can build an effective dialogue with clients by asking the right questions."

So how do you make lawyers more comfortable in this zone?  "Press plays a key part here”, Laura tells me.  "If the firm is associated in respected media titles with an issue we are asking our lawyers to talk to clients about, this goes a long way.  For example if lawyers see the firm regularly invited by the Financial Times or Bloomberg to share their wisdom, this gives them confidence that the firm’s authority on the subject is underwritten. The same is true with our other thought-leadership initiatives.

"We pick a handful of big macro themes each year and organise an array of cross-practice activity under these banners.  We also look at the issues through a sector lens, so we can engage as many teams and individuals across the firm as possible, collaborating together and offering our external audiences a holistic view.  And to make sure our lawyers are comfortable with our campaigns, we invest time creating Client Engagement Packs for them, with an outline of each campaign customized for individual groups and teams explaining how their work fits in, also including some killer stats and key messages about the firm’s credentials around the topic in question – and finally a list of likely questions from clients and suggested best answers.”  Smart.  A huge amount of work, but well worth it Laura tells me.  This is exactly how to focus marketing effort where it really makes a difference.

And what Golden Rules does Laura have for keeping her marketing plan on track and not allowing it to get diverted in the busy-ness of everyday office life?  The key, she says, is to refer back to the firm’s business plan constantly.  "We refreshed the business plan earlier this year and the marketing strategy flows directly from that.  We fall back on this daily.  The business plan is embedded in everything we do.  If we receive an ad hoc project request, we always ask ‘How does it relate to the plan?  What’s the size of the prize?’  Depending on the answer we may redirect the lawyer’s focus onto something more core, or I might even think ‘Why didn’t I include this in my strategy?’. We welcome that challenge to keep things fresh and up to date, especially as the market and client needs change so quickly.  But if it doesn’t fit the plan, we are very clear about the level of central support we can give (or not). Of course we have the same challenges as any marketing team in a large firm: it can be tempting to give priority to the partner who has the most energy. But we have a very supportive leadership team and they will always help us deal with conflicting priorities when the workload is too much to do everything on the wish list."

As I say, a very smart and focused approach.

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