By Catherine Iszard, associate business development and marketing coordinator at NERA Economic Consulting
No one planned for COVID-19 or the many tragedies it would bring. Faced with new and immediate challenges, entire countries and industries have been forced to adapt with little to no time to prepare. Within the legal industry, firms transitioned to remote work with little guidance and have developed new approaches to business development, client service, communications and the business of law.
The economy, businesses, individuals – and you – have all been affected by COVID-19 in an unsolicited way. As legal marketers, we have taken on more responsibilities, including balancing full-time work with full-time childcare or homeschooling. Some past marketing strategies are now irrelevant, and new strategies have been formed in record time. As states are starting to re-open, and we may be slowly going back to a different “normal life,” what will this new reality look like for the legal marketing industry? Perhaps there are silver linings in store for business development, law, client services, and communications in a post-coronavirus era.
American Bar Association President Judy Perry Martinez said, “As the pandemic spreads, thousands of Americans will need help – not just with medical issues, but also with legal issues including lost jobs, evictions, insurance claims, family emergencies and obtaining government benefits they need to survive,” (www.americanbar.org, 2020). The fact of the matter is the skillsets of our colleagues will be needed, and it is our job as legal marketers to ensure they are available, at the right time and the right place, to help and be of value during this time and post-COVID-19.
Business development may look different than prior to the pandemic. With conferences and events on pause for the foreseeable future, how do our lawyers network and build their books of business, and become trusted advisors? With increased electronic communication and a shift to more virtual events, digital business development has become a greater marketing priority. The benefits of virtual events and other remote business development strategies include:
- Reduced costs for both event hosts and attendees due to the elimination of travel, meals, hotels, staffing, venue, conference collateral (banners, schedules), etc.
- Event attendance is no longer limited to venue capacity or even time zones as virtual events are much easier to record and upload to the internet.
- Recorded events allow for broader promotion. For example, you can create a social media post about a past webinar by sharing a short video of the live webinar.
- Networking may be less intimidating online than in-person for many people.
Because of the severity and timing, COVID-19 was the reason for court systems to “go virtual.” While there have been hiccups (read Jenna Greene’s Law.com article for a painful and funny commentary), the technology we have today is able to support virtual courts. Not only does virtual court make it easier for the public to watch and listen to proceedings but exhibits written in fine print can now be easily read without a magnifying glass. But the downside to virtual courts is you lose critical features like body language and important cues from jurors and witnesses spurring pivotal moments for cases. While it is highly likely courts will reinstate in-person sessions, COVID-19’s lasting lessons for courts are yet to be seen. Could some cases be handled virtually? Will there be less paperwork?