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Seeing Progress at the 7th Annual General Counsel Forum

I attended LMA Northeast's 7th Annual General Counsel Forum last week. I try to get to this event every year because I always learn so much, and there's nothing like hearing your ideal client tell it like it is.

As usual, there were many interesting insights, but this year there were fewer surprises. I found myself nodding my head yes to practically everything that was said both because I agreed whole-heartedly, but also because I had seen this movie before.

I've been slogging away at this life in legal marketing for more than 20 years, and for probably 18 or 19 of those years, it seemed like law firms didn't really see the need to listen to the advice of their clients. In fact, many didn't even bother to ask, and just continued on their merry marketing way. I believe that this has changed, and I think the panelists advice being somewhat less than breaking news was a bit of proof that we're starting to listen! I hope the panelists agree.

So, you might be wondering, what did the panelists say? A lot. There were only two of them: Stacey Babson-Smith, Vice President, Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer at Terex Corporation and Mark N. Klein, General Counsel at litigation funding firm Burford Capital, but they made it count.

Here are some of the takeaways:

1. They love law firm content and read it all the time. Granted, they don't always read the entire article, and Stacey generally reads the email she's sent rather than searching online, but read they do. They both said that the quality of the content is a huge differentiator for outside counsel and that we should not "make it so complicated." Mark reminded us, "Pithy isn't always bad." I don't think there is a legal marketer alive who hasn't said this to the lawyers that they work with.

2. The complex regulatory and geopolitical environments are top issues. These include tariffs and sanctions, privacy generally and GDPR, in particular. They expect outside counsel to do a little crystal-ball gazing, not just reporting back the details of new regulations.

3. Responsiveness is beyond important. They both really emphasized this point. They expect outside counsel to get back to them within 24 hours no matter what and even if outside counsel cannot answer the question that quickly. A response of some sort is essential.

4. They prefer a substantive event to a social event. Basically, their time is precious, and they need to be both learning and connecting in order to make an event worthwhile.

5. They believe in giving feedback but not necessarily in formal programs. They both want to give regular, informal feedback, and they both like to give both positive and negative feedback (when it's warranted). This made me think that outside counsel also need to ask for regular feedback informally, and they might even consider mentioning that they would be happy to have a colleague take the feedback if the GC isn't comfortable giving frank feedback directly to the relationship partner. Why don't we ask more?

6. Chambers can be a valuable resource. Okay, this was a little surprising. He said that he relies on Chambers when he's vetting outside counsel in a new jurisdiction after he gets recommendations from someone he trusts. Take heart legal marketers, all that work on the Chambers submissions does matter!

7. Make sure your website navigation is simple and intuitive. They want to be able to find anything in two clicks, and this is especially important because both wanted to see a wide range of topics in the content they consume. They both weren't as excited about curated content because they both manage such a broad range of issues.

8. LinkedIn is their go-to social network. They both said they use it to keep up their connections with outside counsel and to find useful articles related to their business or legal issues.

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