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It’s not just who you know anymore that counts in the business of law. It’s what you know and how you and others can access the information when a client needs it. No matter what size law firm you practice in, let’s face it: Everyone is busy. Partners in medium or even small practices can sometimes be too busy to chit-chat around the water cooler to learn about what their colleagues are working on. The problem is compounded when you practice in a large, multi-office, international firm. When a client calls and asks, “Can you help us negotiate an acquisition of a power plant in Dubai, and do you have lawyers experienced with this kind of transaction?” how quickly can your firm respond? EXPERIENCE MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS Some law firm marketing departments are leading the way with experience management solutions coupled with well-designed processes that collect and manage incredible amounts of attorney experience and expertise so that it’s easily searchable and quickly retrievable. For years, marketers have been keeping track of attorney biographies, practice descriptions, case summaries, deal tombstones, client success stories and more in Word documents, databases or Web site content management systems. But beyond resumes and marketing brochures, there is a growing trend toward needing meaty descriptions of lawyer experience for a proposal or informal opportunity that speak exactly to what a client needs when they want it. And finding the right piece of meat at the time a client is hungry is the biggest challenge. How do you go from experience records scattered all over the firm in documents, time and billing systems, spreadsheets or in the minds of attorneys working on a case or deal to an organized experience management system? It takes a combination of patience, organization, good collection procedures and of course the right technology. THE PROCESS Amy Wegener, marketing information and knowledge manager at Paul Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, took about six months to orchestrate the launch of her firm’s experience management system in the fall of 2006. “When a new matter is opened in our Elite time and billing system, it automatically gets pulled into our experience management system, and we can immediately benefit by appending it to marketing-related information. That is the real value.” For most law firm marketing departments, requests for financial or other client/matter information have to be made of the finance department. At Paul, Hastings, the marketing group now has a system to track deal and case information. Having a solid understanding of your firm’s client/matter intake process and where information is stored is a first step. There are many rich sources of information that exist in the firm such as attorney bios, attorney experience data in HR systems, practice descriptions that highlight representative experience by practice or industry, press releases, client success stories and other content that may exist on your Web site or even your firm’s Intranet. Too many firms think about the technology first and save data discovery and process issues to the last step. Once the data are known, and system integration points have been identified, you can continue toward the process of moving the information into your experience management tool. For many law firms without an organized experience management initiative, it becomes a knowledge management nightmare to try and discern which lawyers performed certain aspects of the matter, what’s relevant about it, or if the work came from a lateral. DATA: A DREADED TOPIC This is a daunting topic when it comes to building an experience management system, especially for marketers at large law firms. How do you go about discovering all the data sources for a project of this magnitude and how far back do you go? Here are some obvious places to start: Lawyer biographies. Many lawyers list bullet-point examples of cases or transactions they have participated in as part of their Web site bios or Word bios used in marketing materials or proposals. Culling through those can take some time but programmatic data parsing and migration is possible. Smart law firms will inventory all marketing materials and look for information on deals and cases that can be databased. Linking these descriptions to client/matter numbers is challenging, but in some cases, programmatically matching that data with client/matter numbers and descriptions from your time and billing system can be accomplished. Proposals. Representative experience is contained in many proposal documents that marketing departments manage or which can be found by searching through your document management system by date range for the last two to three years. Time and billing. Consider requesting an annual or quarterly report from finance on the top five to 10 practice areas sorted by fees billed (including the billing or originating partner) so you can see the types of matters that are likely to be important to track and follow through on. Filling in the missing pieces of information is a challenge. Remember that in addition to your business development staff, associates can also be a great asset. Some can fill in missing pieces of deal information before it is reviewed by a partner for final approval. Client/ matter intake. If you’re in a smaller firm, it may be feasible to get weekly copies of all client/matter intake forms to see what sort of matters are being opened to determine which ones may be useful to store in your experience management system. In most large law firms, experience management systems integrate with time and billing so that no manual process has to occur. TOP FIVE KEYS TO SUCCESS Focus on process first. No piece of technology will fix a broken process. Firms need to do a solid assessment of their client/matter intake process and determine where information is stored and how it gets there first before they embark on a new experience management solution. Make and keep deadlines. It’s important to build deadlines that attorneys will pay attention to, such as for a client proposal or a league table reporting date. This is one way to ensure that you get the information you need. Vision, leadership, patience. Change management is a challenge, particularly at law firms. At Paul, Hastings, the vision started with chief business development and marketing officer Meg Sullivan. Amy Wegener offered, “As the primary project manager, it was my responsibility to identify and implement the tools most appropriate for executing the vision. When you have a large international firm and you are embarking on a project that requires many people to get on board, there are challenges. As we all know, change isn’t easy.” Test. It’s important to test out the data you have by running some queries to see if you have enough useful information or if the searching fields you have set up are sufficient for a particular type of practice. Balance custom versus one size fits all solutions. Be careful about coming up with a blanket solution for each practice area. Criteria for profiling an M&A transaction may not fit other types of corporate deals. The tax practice may want to see criteria and descriptions for their purposes in a different way so thinking through the needs of various practices groups is an important consideration. WHAT COUNTS MOST A recent American Corporate Counsel survey states that general counsel consistently rank expertise as the top criterion for choosing a law firm. Among the top five rankings include expertise of an individual lawyer in a particular area and expertise of the firm in a particular area. Firms that are able to easily access and feed details of their expertise to clients and prospects at the time it’s needed will have a leg-up on firms who take days or weeks to supply this information to a client or prospect. Many of us are used to seeing e-mails circulated within our firms asking if anyone has experience in a particular industry or with a particular set of legal issues for a client or potential client. Now, with experience management initiatives, lawyers and marketers have access to a central, trusted source of rich attorney experience and expertise. Beyond “who knows whom,” it’s managing experience that counts. [bullet] Nancy Manzo is senior consultant at Hubbard One, a Thomson Elite business. She can be reached at ( 206) 633-3624 or at [email protected]. This article originally appeared in Marketing the Law Firm, a newsletter affiliated with The Recorder. � Practice Center articles inform readers on developments in substantive law, practice issues or law firm management. Contact Sheela Kamath with submissions or questions at [email protected].

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