Since the Great Recession, companies continue to pare down the outside law firms that provide legal services and instead use their in-house counsel for legal work. Their legal budgets are decreasing and they need to find ways to provide the same support at a lower cost.
Law firms have taken drastic measures to meet the financial demands of their clients and still make a profit. Alternative fee arrangements, hiring groups of lawyers to bolster or create new practice areas, mergers, staff layoffs, and outsourcing are just a few of the examples. The landscape has changed and firms are increasingly looking for ways to get the competitive advantage and gain the business.
Marketing departments have become a vital part of the sales and business development process. Firms have increased the number of marketing professionals to better service their attorneys. This process of relying on non-attorneys to drive the business is more important now than ever before.
When pitching for new business with a request for information (RFI), the marketing department has to gather as much information about the areas of expertise of their attorneys and the capabilities of the firm. They not only use external resources to evaluate the competition, but also internal information such as attorney bios, the CRM system (customer relationship management), and measurable data to represent their success in the area of support sought by the potential client.
When a pitch for business represents the expertise of the firm’s litigation practice area, the marketing specialists have to seek as much information from their attorneys and that is usually a difficult process. Sometimes sending out mass emails asking for information is not possible as there could be ethical walls that need to be considered. The data must also accurately reflect the required information. With litigation, sometimes that includes how many cases went to trial, judgments that were achieved on behalf of the firm’s clients, and summary judgment motions filed and won. With intellectual property, the information sought could include how many U.S. trademark applications does the firm file each year, how many patent applications were drafted, and the firm’s success rate in getting patents through the Patent Office efficiently.
The docketing professional is an important part of the business development process when it comes to gathering internal and external information. What better way to determine how many cases a firm has handled in federal court that went to trial or foreign trademark applications filed each year than to ask the docketing professional. Not only should the docketing specialist be able to mine the data in the firm’s docketing system, but they can also use external resources.
In this turbulent time of law firm survival, docketing professionals need to do more than just calendar and track dates. They need to become a valuable resource in helping develop business for the firm.
Docketing is critical to risk management practices. That is well known. But what firms may not realize is that the support docketing specialists provide relates directly to the billable hour and the bottom line. Attorneys can bill more time and concentrate on other legal work rather than routine and mundane tasks. Docketing departments can and should play a crucial role in developing business for the attorneys and their firm.