Apr 15 '13
The law’s fastest interview is back and this time Matt Baldwin, editor of Professional Services Marketing Group (PSMG) magazine, is in the spotlight.
Matt has worked with the legal profession for over 18 years including his roles as Head of PR and communications for one of Europe’s largest law firms, Hammonds, and Head of Marketing for Cripps Harries Hall.
He talks to us, in fewer than 140 characters, about legal marketing relationships, threats to High Street firms and professional services marketing getting stronger. Yes, that’s right… a PR person and legal specialist about to keep it brief!
Elephant Creative: What are you up to right now?
Matt Baldwin: Planning the next edition of the PSMG Magazine and writing an article on changes to planning legislation as it effects rural property
EC: Fancy explaining what you do, in fewer than 140 characters?
MB: I’m the MD of a boutique PR consultancy helping professional services firms tell their story. I also write on marketing and BD.
EC: What’s been your career path to this?
MB: Newspaper journalist then US PR firm. First law firm role 20 years ago and have held comms/BD positions before going alone 10 years ago.
EC: PSMG provides lots of advice and examples for firms to work to. How does your approach as Editor of the magazine vary from the advice you give as a Consultant?
MB: I try, but it invariably differs. The magazine celebrates the best marketing activity. Consultancy is often grounded in the day-to-day.
EC: Business development and marketing isn’t really something lawyers concern themselves with is it?
MB: Absolutely they should – where else will their work come from. The days of work arriving just because of a brass nameplate have long gone.
EC: Care to explain legal business development and legal marketing in 140 characters or fewer?
MB: Relationships. There is little to differentiate one firm from the next – relationships are critical.
EC: How do you think law firms in the UK have been affected by the economy?
MB: Job losses, reduced fees, tougher competition, limited growth. But a resilient sector.
EC: What would you be worrying about, if you were a Managing Partner?
MB: Depends on what kind of firm I lead. If large city firm, international competition. If regional, delivery of product and pressure on fees.
EC: And how would you be tackling these challenges?
MB: Really know your clients. Look closely at how you deliver your product.
EC: We’ve heard from the Financial Times, in the UK, that client-advisor relationships are undergoing a fundamental change. Have you noticed this in the UK?
MB: They are and it will continue to change. The customer – for that is what a client is – is in the driving seat like never before.
EC: How have the firms you’ve worked with, or reported on, adapted to this need to change?
MB: Investment in truly understanding the client is a priority. Social media and the way we talk to clients is perhaps the biggest single change
EC: Complacent: is that a word to describe contemporary law practice?
MB: Perhaps not law practices – there are some good practice management teams out there – but certainly some fee-earners.
EC: Law firms have been under pressure to move away from the billable hour model and become more commercially aware… have you noticed many actually changing in the UK?
MB: The death of billable hours has been discussed regularly over the past 20 years, yet it remains. It will be around for a long time yet.
EC: ABSs… threat or opportunity?
MB: A real threat – particularly for the High Street firms. Large chunks of their work will simply walk out the door and are unlikely to return.
EC: How much of a threat, to UK law firms, do you think the new raft of online legal service providers are?
MB: Again, High Street firms are particularly vulnerable. Perhaps not corporate legal services, but certainly low value private client work.
EC: To your mind, how good a job are law firms in the UK doing with marketing and business development?
MB: Having recently judged the CIM awards, professional services marketing has never been stronger. We could teach FMCG marketers a few things.
EC: What about branding?
MB: Law firms find branding particularly difficult. Branding consultants also find law firms difficult. Therein lies the problem.
EC: And social media?
MB: Getting there, although we’re yet to see a law firm delivering a social media campaign that matches the big accountancy firms.
EC: And blogging?
MB: This is a tough one. Law is well documented by professional publishers and work is often confidential. What can a lawyer or law firm add?
EC: I know you’re involved with the PSMG. What does that do?
MB: It is a membership organisation that provides a forum for professional services marketers to meet/share knowledge. It champions education.
EC: What’s your prognosis for the small to medium sized firm in the UK thinking about trying something new?
MB: Do it and don’t be afraid of failure. Firms will need to try many things before they find something that really works.
EC: Are there any law firms or lawyers who are doing exciting things in your eyes?
MB: There are many, but it is the niche firms and those regional firms that are really switched on to their clients that excite me.