Where do law firms turn to find the expert talent to lead their marketing initiatives and grow business? Sometimes they are able to reach within and find a lawyer from their own ranks to step up and answer the call. This was the case for Gretchen Koehler, CMO of global litigation funding firm Bentham IMF.
Koehler completed law school intent on a career in entertainment and music law just as new Internet services like Napster rocked the music industry and caused a contraction in the number of relevant legal and business affairs opportunities available to new graduates. She therefore opted for the more traditional corporate firm of White & Case where, about a year or so into her legal career, she was approached by leadership with a unique opportunity. “The managing partner of the litigation practice told me that the firm was looking for a business development professional who understood their practices and had established credibility and familiarity with the attorneys,” Koehler says. “Though I hadn’t planned to work in business development, the potential to develop a broader skill set, to participate in strategic decision-making, and to help the firm build its business made the opportunity a no-brainer for me.”
At that time only the largest firms were just beginning to get serious about business development; Koehler was essentially a pioneer for her firm. She’s since been instrumental in guiding the evolution of legal industry marketing as it has evolved from basic lead generation and client relations to what she describes as “a game-changing force that has facilitated the success of today’s market-leading law firms.”
The original basic needs that mandated a marketing function at law firms continue to remain the most essential: generating leads, strengthening client relationships and accomplishing business growth. Yet with the advent of digital and social media the role of marketing at law firms has now evolved into a highly strategic function. “Access to tools including cloud-based software, social media, and data analytics, and concepts such as content-marketing, have contributed to the evolution of – and increasing need for – legal marketing,” explains Koehler. “The legal marketing industry has played a significant role in transforming law firms into sophisticated business enterprises.”
It also helped grow her career as she accepted business development positions of increasing responsibility at other large firms before being tapped as CMO for Bentham IMF. In addition to lead generation and building brand awareness, Bentham IMF challenged Koehler with the additional objective to educate and “increase understanding and acceptance of litigation funding throughout the U.S. legal and business communities.” Content marketing and social media are particularly suited to delivering the type of educational messages necessary to inform and establish thought leadership.
Koehler assumed the CMO role to lead Bentham IMF’s effort to create a disruptive new industry in the United States. Doing so requires outreach to many different audiences; her team routinely targets a broad range of executives at law firms and companies of any size that engage in litigation. The targets include managing partners, litigation partners, CFOs, CEOs, COOs, CMOs and executive directors, whistleblowers, legal and business media, the judiciary, and lawmakers. “We’ve made a concentrated effort to deliver content that serves our marketing objectives and provides value to our target audiences.” Koehler emphasizes the importance of producing original content and making it accessible in a variety of formats including video and webinars.
Digital content marketing and social media are essential to achieving the set objectives. “Digital marketing is one of the most important means we use to distribute content and broadcast our messaging,” she says. Investment managers at Bentham IMF – all seasoned litigators – regularly demonstrate and communicate thought leadership via authored articles, blogs and whitepapers, and speaking at industry events.
“Marketing is one of the primary job responsibilities for each Bentham IMF investment manager,” assuring the proper level of attention and focus from all levels of the organization. Koehler says “we knew that outsourcing content creation would not result in the quality we were aiming to achieve.” Implementing a successful digital marketing initiative required her to “establish a process that would result in the type of sophisticated, educational content we set out to deliver to our audience.” The content creation process is therefore a true team effort. “Every person in the company provides input on our quarterly editorial plans and most contribute to the content that we develop.”
Social media ensures the firm’s messaging and all that quality content gets amplified and exposed to a wider audience. “In addition to helping us reach target clients, it assists us in engaging with the media and keeping our contacts informed about our offerings, accomplishments and initiatives.”
Reflecting on her achievements since joining Bentham IMF, Koehler points out that “digital marketing has played a critical role in our ability to generate considerably more inbound leads over the last year. The results we see via inbound inquiries, feedback from our network and requests to speak at the top conferences, law firms and law schools across the country serve to reinforce the value of investing in digital marketing.”
To measure progress, Koehler employs a host of analytics tools – many which are built into the software platforms her team uses for marketing – to measure performance and compare it to competitors and industry averages. They also receive monthly reports from marketing partners, and frequent responses and inquiries from their direct marketing campaigns. “We often hear feedback indicating that our audience views us as being the most ethical commercial litigation finance company in the United States, which we attribute to the messaging we engage in online and via the media, and the reputation we’ve built within the legal community.” Perhaps that explains why American Lawyer magazine has named the global litigation funding firm Bentham IMF among the “Top 50 Big Law Innovators in the Last 50 Years.”
Koehler is still a lawyer. “I still maintain my law license” she notes, “but my passion for coaching attorneys and helping firms engage in strategic growth and client development has kept me steadily focused on the business development and marketing side of the legal industry.” She says “digital marketing is here to stay and will continue to help professional services firms reach their target audience and nurture relationships with clients.”
A long as law firms need to generate leads and attract clients, law firm marketing will remain one of the most essential needs of the business. If you are a legal professional or business executive looking to enhance your online presence through digital marketing and social media, Good2bSocial can help. Contact us and we’ll provide you with a complimentary digital marketing evaluation with insights into your firm and its competitors.