4 The Record Podcast

LexisNexis’ Meghan Frank on Big Law’s Biggest Marketing Challenges

April 7, 2021  |. Episode 9

Meghan Frank, global director of marketing at LexisNexis Software Solutions, discusses how marketers need to plan differently, create new ways to connect, and how law firms have been forced to shift their business development efforts post-pandemic.

Also Available On

Episode 9 Transcript

Meghan Frank:

The adapting is constant. I think there was always this thought of we would get over the hump and we would slide into a new normal, and we’d be able to hit our stride again. But what worked last month may not work this month.

Erin Harrison:

Welcome to 4 the Record where we go on the record with today’s leading influencers and experts to discuss the latest trends in legal innovation and the business of law. I’m your host, Erin Harrison. And today we’re joined by Meghan Frank, the Global Director of Marketing in the Software Solutions Division at LexisNexis. And Meghan, welcome to 4 the Record.

Meghan Frank:

Thank you. Thanks for having me, Erin.

Erin Harrison:

Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us today. I know from working with you and speaking with you over the past year, it’s been obviously an interesting year in many respects, but I think for today, we want to focus on the business of law, which is really where the Software Solutions Division really sits, helping practitioners to be more efficient, leveraging data-driven insights across your product portfolio. That includes the law firm CRM Solution InterAction as well as CounselLink, the Enterprise Legal Management Software for legal departments. Before we actually get into questions, Meghan, it would be great, I think, if you could just tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to be in your current role with LexisNexis.

Meghan Frank:

Sure. My background is – I am a marketer through and through, so that’s what I went to school for. That has been my entire career and I have focused mostly on legal technology. So I’ve been at Thomson Reuters, took a brief stint at Cisco Systems in security technology, and then moved over to LexisNexis Software Solutions. I have expanded my role since I’ve been there and have been able to take on the entire portfolio and expand globally, which is really exciting and has allowed me to look beyond specific individual solutions and look more at the overall market and understand the challenges and pain points of practitioners and these operational leaders within these firms and legal departments and speak to them and work with them on a different level.

Erin Harrison:

So I mentioned InterAction and CounselLink, which I think are two of the flagship products within the software solutions portfolio. Are there any other products that you’re working on?

Meghan Frank:

Yeah. We’ve one other additional product called Juris, which is a Financial Management Solution for small to mid-sized firms. It is the industry standard when it comes to accounting and financial management in law firms. It’s one of our mainstays and one of our core products that has been with us from the beginning.

Erin Harrison:

Great. I’m curious, we haven’t obviously completely put the pandemic behind us. In fact, we’re seeing spikes in different places again, but what are some of the learnings from the last year, specifically having to pivot from your initial marketing plans for 2020. How are you able to adapt and what really surprised you the most about getting through this past year?

Meghan Frank:

The biggest takeaway for me was: the adapting is constant. I think there was always this thought of we would get over the hump and we would slide into a new normal and we’d be able to hit our stride again, but what worked last month may not work this month, especially as we saw the Zoom fatigue set in and the fatigue around webinars to individuals. They are continuously adapting to this new normal themselves. And so what is working for them in the one time when you work with them on an individual marketing level is not necessarily going to work for them the next day. So what we really had to think about was planning differently and what marketers had to think about was starting to plan for that flexibility and that agility in advance so that you could pivot as needed.

Meghan Frank:

You were starting with an objective and focusing on what you were trying to achieve and thinking of different activities and tactics that ladder up to that. So if one’s not working, you can easily move to the next and you move them around like puzzle pieces. It was constant change and I think that that is what we’re going to be living in for a while as we come out of this pandemic and start moving it in the new direction forward. Because I don’t think the same direction forward that we were doing before 2020 is the same one we’re going to be doing after 2020.

Erin Harrison:

So I don’t think the strategies have changed all that much, but you mentioned tactics and having to be able to be nimble. What are some of the tactics or the different things that you tried in the last year that you think worked pretty well?

Meghan Frank:

At the beginning, it was all about just building a new way to connect with your audience. It was a lot about webinars, a lot about figuring out a way to deliver content in a new digital way, adapting and adopting digital strategies and tactics that we all knew were there, but we hadn’t necessarily flexed their muscles on as much. From there, it really became about how to build in those more informal connections that you were missing in this virtual world.

Meghan Frank:

So we did things like virtual wine tastings and small group coffee chats and office hours, where people could have this more informal dialogue and it wasn’t so structured presentation style content. It was replacing some of that networking time that you would see at individual events or onsite events that we were all missing during the pandemic. Then it became a lot less about tactics and how we were doing things virtually.

Meghan Frank:

It became more about what we were saying, how are we helping them move from the pandemic and how to recover from what was a big shock to everyone’s system to looking forward and building strategies and building on those foundations and being able to lift themselves out of it. So we’ve tried a lot of things and a lot of things have worked and, to be honest, some things haven’t worked and it has to be okay that you’re going to test and not all tests succeed.

Erin Harrison:

I just want to segue or change over actually, to talk a little bit about what you’ve seen in terms of the ways that law firms have had to adapt. So each year for our listeners who are not familiar, InterAction does a business development marketing survey across The Am Law 200, as well as large global firms. And in the most recent survey, law firms said that cross firm collaboration was one of big law’s greatest challenges. Curious, just to get your perspective on how this may have evolved amidst the pandemic, could you go into that a little bit and speak to why this has traditionally been a difficult area for law firms and maybe how the past year has helped in some ways?

Meghan Frank:

Yeah. I think the main thing around why this is challenging for law firms and why this has historically been a challenge is they are by nature, a siloed organization. They’re separated into different practice areas. The attorneys are often providing the service and also doing the business development. So they create these islands within law firms and it’s not surprising that that turns into challenges of collaboration across the firm, because if you’re creating islands, there’s not a lot of incentive to go beyond your Island.

Meghan Frank:

But we are seeing it improve. And you’ve mentioned the pandemic, everyone going remote forced everyone to collaborate because once you really were on your own little Island and you were all by yourself, you realize that you need more help and support than maybe you thought you did before. So we have been seeing people reach out, especially depending more on marketing and business development. They are turning to their marketing business development colleagues more than ever before, because they weren’t really sure how to handle this new digital virtual world.

Meghan Frank:

They knew that they had people at their disposal that could support them and champion them through what this change was going to be. I think we’re also seeing it improve because technology adoption is enabling collaboration between different practice areas, between different teams, things like our InterAction CRM, we’re seeing firms roll that out globally across their entire firm to all the different practice areas with the intent strategy to develop a more holistic view of the client so that everyone has more access to that information, into that data.

Meghan Frank:

I think also just process improvement. We’ve really seen firms start to build connections between the overall firm goals, the individual opportunities, and individual goals and practice area goals, so that everyone’s working towards the same objective. When you connect the firm goals down to the individual, you align incentives and then you incentivize collaboration in a way that hadn’t really been done previously.

Erin Harrison:

Yeah, and it seems like law firms are in different stages of where they are from a maturity perspective, as it relates to the approach that they take with business development and marketing. I know late last year, LexisNexis rolled out it’s Business Development Maturity Model, which measures the maturity of law firms across seven different dimensions. And that’s really aimed at helping law firm leaders discover where their organizations fly along the spectrum of operational efficiency, as well as best practices. Curious, what are some of the ways you’re seeing law firms mature in terms of how they’re leveraging data now. How are law firms using data to assess customer interactions and client relationships?

Meghan Frank:

There’s a couple of ways that I’m seeing that happen. One is exactly what I mentioned before, which is building connections back to the overall firm goals and incentivizing that collaboration and ensuring that you’re tracking against what you’re achieving for the firm and not necessarily your own individual outcomes. That has provided a way for firms to mature in overall business development; and then that creates a need to use data in a different and more mature way, because you’re tenuously reviewing progress against those initiatives.

Meghan Frank:

The other thing that I’m starting to see with firms is less about looking at the end goal or the end state as a specific dashboard or a specific report. They’re really focusing now on driving a data-driven culture and enabling an overall culture where data is informing every interaction. They’re informing every decision with data versus focusing on that one report. 

Meghan Frank:

For example, surfacing insights about relationship strength or recent news within their workflow. Within Outlook, when an attorney is already going to respond to a prospect email or a potential client email, they can look, see that information and create more tailored and effective communications. Ultimately then that data has strengthened that single interaction. The more you do that over and over and over again, the more overall your client relationships are going to improve, your business development is going to improve because you’re informing everything with data. I think that’s where we’re going in this data-driven world. It’s less about “How do I get that right report?” or “How do I get that right dashboard?” It’s more about “How do I surface those insights that are going to make every little interaction more effective, which then makes my overall firm more effective?”

Erin Harrison:

That’s really interesting. Are there any other examples, Meghan, just in terms of types of data-driven insights, this holistic approach that you speak of that can help firms identify, proactively, some new growth opportunities?

Meghan Frank:

I’ve had multiple conversations with clients and prospects alike, and people in marketing and attorneys, and we all agree that data analysis is part science and it’s part art. Understanding how to balance that has been where we’re seeing firms really excel in this area. It starts with understanding what those drivers for your firm growth are, because data isn’t the answer. Data helps you find the answer and you need to start with a question.

Meghan Frank:

A lot of times, understanding what your market is going to do will allow you to pull the right data, to drive your actions, to take advantage of whatever those market trends might be. For example, knowing that corporations are going to consolidate the number of law firms that they use to ensure that they get the most value out of each individual relationship, law firms then have to analyze their client data, identify clients who might be right for that growth that they can take on more work with that client. And they’re going to have to identify what tells me that they’re right for growth. Well, I may have a strong relationship with them, but I only do a couple types of work, but they have three other practice areas that maybe they would be a good candidate for. And we got to leverage our strong relationship to get that expansion to those three other practice areas.

Meghan Frank:

Another example is just understanding opportunities and why they’re won and why they’re lost and see if there are certain trends that you can identify from that, that maybe there are practice areas that are growing, that you never thought of before. And you need to focus on that and see if you can leverage that data by taking targeted action for growth opportunities.

Meghan Frank:

One example is I spoke with a client on a webinar and they had noticed that this commercial real estate business practice area that they hadn’t really thought of taking off was going gangbusters during the pandemic. And they started doing more research and realized, “Oh yeah, there’s a reason for that.” It’s because with all this online shopping, things like Amazon are taking over malls. They need more warehouse space, they need more distribution center space. So it’s driving these commercial real estate transactions and understanding. They saw an insight, they understood the market trends, and then they developed an entire program about how to market themselves to be the experts to grow that practice area.

Erin Harrison:

I’m going to ask you to do a little prognosticating, which I know is a little bit tough in this climate, but with the survey in the field that’s going to be coming out later this spring. I’m just curious if there’s anything in particular that you might expect to see from this year’s survey.

Meghan Frank:

Yeah. It’s a result of everything we’ve talked about, right? That partners and attorneys are turning to their marketing and business development colleagues and in bigger droves because they need their expertise to navigate this change. I’m expecting to see an increased dependency on marketing and business development and the responses being that they maybe have more of a seat at the table or that they are involved in more meetings and more conversations than ever before. I also expect to see more targeted efforts. One of the biggest takeaways that we’ve had with everything around the pandemic, everything around this rise in data is that it’s super important to be segmented. We saw last survey that was a challenge for everybody. I think the pandemic is going to force everybody to be targeted and segmented in new ways, so I’m expecting to see that come out in the survey.

Meghan Frank:

I think a shift in tactics is going to happen. Law firms are slow to change. Legal’s a slow to change industry, so they’ve really depended on traditional marketing for a long time. There was a slow shift to digital before, but this is going to push it. I think this is going to be the breaking point where we’re going to see digital and more lead gen and more nurture techniques and tactics really take center stage. I’m excited to see the data. As you mentioned, it’s in the field. And so this is a unprecedented crazy year that we’ve had. And so I expect to see multiple nuggets and insights come out of it.

Erin Harrison:

Yeah. I think one of the more interesting points that came out of last year’s survey and this may or may not be a surprise to folks listening, but very few law firms, less than 10%, had been using analytics to track business opportunities over their lifecycle. Do you expect that number to increase substantially?

Meghan Frank:

I really do. I think a lot of this goes to process. The reason it was so low, what we found in our research, is that historically firms have had an annual business development planning process. They go through it at the beginning of the year, they create a deliverable that’s a document that everyone agrees to and aligns to and then it gets put away. What we’ve seen is that COVID has really forced firms to rethink that and take a more continuous and agile approach to their planning.

Meghan Frank:

If you are doing that in the way that you should be, data and analytics become key because you have to be tracking what’s happening on an ongoing basis so that you can adjust if you need to do that. I really do think as firms adopt this approach, which I think COVID is forcing their hand a bit, I expect to see an increase in analytics to track these opportunities, to track how they’re achieving their objectives. So I do expect that number to increase. It’ll be curious to see how much.

Erin Harrison:

And I know we’ve talked a lot about the business of law and law firm trends in particular. Are there any trends happening in 2021 so far, whether in law firms or legal departments that you want to address before we wrap up our discussion here today?

Meghan Frank:

I think for the legal and professional services firms, the main trend we’re really seeing is that more holistic approach to business development and to planning where they’re connecting everything back to firm objectives, down to specific initiatives and then individual opportunities, and then consistently in reviewing and tracking progress against that. I think that has been the way for a while. This has just accelerated it. For marketing in general, it’s similar and it’s unrelated, right? That’s the agile approach that we talked about, planning that flexibility into your marketing plans so that you can test, learn and adjust. I don’t think that we’re slowing down with the pace of change at all. I think that we have to just learn to be okay with an agile environment.

Erin Harrison:

I think we’ve all had to accept that one one way or another over the last year. Well, thanks Meghan for speaking with me today and thanks to our listeners for joining us for this episode of 4 the Record. You can listen to more episodes of 4 the Record, wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts or go to plat4orm.com/4-the-record. Platform helps establish leaders and emerging growth companies articulate how cutting edge technologies and services are reshaping and re-inventing the world we live in. Until next time, this is Erin Harrison.