While in law school, Jaayaa Kumarr found herself interning simultaneously in family court and a consulting firm catering to lawyers. Having exposure to the dual environment of working as a lawyer and for a firm gave her practical insights which helped her realize the importance of business development in law firms.
In this interview with Asia Law Portal, she details the unique challenges and opportunities to marketing and business development for law firms in India in 2020.
You’re a qualified lawyer and have specialized in legal business development and marketing for some of India’s leading firms for some time. What inspired this focus?
While in law school, I was interning simultaneously in family court and a consulting firm catering to lawyers. Having exposure to the dual environment of working as a lawyer and for a firm gave me a lot practical insights which helped me realise the importance of business development in law firms. This was also the time when markets were undergoing a sea change due to recession and business development for law firms was the need of the hour. With the technical knowledge and the flair for marketing I understood to be involved and develop a blueprint that will work for me in the long run. While initially, it was different from what my peers were doing which was challenging, I was able to chart my journey against the odds..
How does your background as a lawyer help you in your work in legal business development and marketing?
It always helps to know the services that you are pitching. As a lawyer it has helped me to understand the legal requirements of my clients (my Partners) and accordingly pitch the various practice areas and sectors Also as lawyer I understand the need of visibility for lawyers which will help them to stand out in this competitive markets. My background has helped me to understand the difference between an M&A and a PE deal and also how a disputes matter is not a DEAL but a case and how a judgement may effect the markets.
With an understanding of nuances of business development and marketing the law firms in India (adhering with the Bar Council of India’s rule) and internationally, it’s the perfect to use the law degree, be abreast with the amendments and maintain the thin line between direct and indirect marketing. The lawyers are the stakeholders of the firm and it always helps them to connect with someone who understands their industry at their level.
What are the unique challenges and opportunities to marketing an Indian law firm in 2020?
In the current scenarios, markets are highly uncertain and rapidly evolving and no single course of action will be appropriate for all law firms. But given the high stakes a long-term strategy towards marketing and brand building is important while moving aggressively on near-term priorities should be the next normal.
If we want to stand out in 2020 and beyond, we need to personalize and refocus our marketing as 80% of clients mention that they are more likely to do business with a lawyer if he/ she offers personalized experiences and 90% claim they find personalization appealing. This also assists in building trust between the clients and the firm. In the legal world “Trust” is the formative base for solid branding.
Social Media has emerged to be one of the most important tools for marketing as we now literally live in a virtual world. Both individual and firm profiles have to be upscaled and one should not shy away from the pro bono work for long term client relationships. People also remember brands for their “acts of good” during the time of crisis, especially if prompted by pure heart and generosity.
A resolution to the duplication of content is possible by opting for collaboration. For instance, we recently worked with a consulting firm and a real-estate executive to create comprehensive content on the post-COVID nuances for the real-estate sector. The material was deemed by the industry to be relevant to the times and holistic. The collaboration provided audience with a cohesive whole instead of three, separate studies, each incomplete in its coverage.
Video marketing and influencer marketing is one of, if not the, most important marketing trend today and likely for the next 5-10 years.
What do you believe is the ideal way to integrate the marketing and business development functions within law firms?
BD is a gamut of strategy, marketing, communication and visibility of the firm with existing clients and potential clients. BD and marketing can be at times two peas in one pod but largely they need to be integrated while BD being the larger umbrella. Marketing as a function should be a part of BD as BD also entails strategy, PR, designing etc.
Much focus is placed on the development of technology to help law firms optimize their practices. How do you see technology as a support function to BD and marketing?
Law firms have to gear up to adopt suave technology to run the firms. Lawyers have a come a long way from filing in courts to e hearings and doing webinars on different platforms. But we need more integrated systems for remote working and appearances. License to softwares like teams and zoom are a must.
According to Techgrabyte: Artificial intelligence is the biggest commercial opportunity for companies, industries, and nations over the next few decades” and “will increase global GDP by up to 14% between now and 2030,” which means that “AI latecomers will find themselves at a serious competitive disadvantage within the next several years.
I do believe that AI is slowly but steadily gaining a very strong hold and will be prominent in the coming future. Thus law firms and independent lawyers must think of adapting them in the future strategies of marketing.
How will legal marketing and business development change in the next 5-10 years?
Business development in law firms, over the next decade will require more astute professionals and being just a “Big Law” will not be enough. The shift from the visibility-oriented marketing of legal services today to the precisely targeted relationship-driven business development will require three critical characteristics not frequently observed in law firms today:
- cultural and intellectual diversity to relate better to an increasingly diverse global client base;
- well-developed business skills and emotional intelligence to focus legal knowledge on anticipating and meeting the expectations of clients better; and
- a shift in the role of in-house marketing managers from promoting the firm’s general visibility in the market to collecting, managing, and disseminating market intelligence to the firm’s partners.
John F. Kennedy once said: “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.