Legal Marketing Trends & Insight: What We Learned at the LMA Conferenc

I recently had the opportunity, along with my colleague Tom McParland, to attend the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) Northeast Regional Conference in New York City (Thanks, Maven!). The two-day event brought together legal marketers and communicators from across the region for networking, reporter panels and education workshops on the latest issues and trends impacting the legal industry. 

From discussions around ethics and artificial intelligence to fostering authentic relationships with media, here are the top three takeaways we brought home for our clients: 

AI is here to stay. 

If 2023 could be marked by one trend, it would likely be the artificial intelligence boom. In fact, according to a July 2023 article in Tech Report, nearly 80% of our devices currently have at least one type of AI. And as we head into 2024, we can expect AI will continue to play an increasing role in our day-to-day personal and professional lives.

Large language models like ChatGPT, a type of AI, have undoubtedly been a topic of conversation for every law firm and business across the country. Whether or not your firm is embracing AI, there are several steps every organization can take to ensure AI is being used responsibility and to mitigate any negative implications – especially as adoption outpaces the regulatory landscape. 

For example, every firm needs an AI policy. In-house counsel should work closely with IT to outline very specific language around what is and is not permitted by attorneys and staff, considering data privacy, client confidentiality and even hourly billing practices. However, it’s not enough just to write a policy – firms need to internally educate and inform all attorneys and staff. Messaging and sample Q&As should also be developed to arm attorneys who will undoubtedly field questions from clients around the firm’s AI practices. 

Be authentic with media. 

A topic we often discuss with our law firm (and all) clients is establishing positive relationships with key reporters. However, at the LMA conference, a big discussion in media panels was the benefit of establishing mutually beneficial and authentic relationships. 

To start, it’s important to remember that access and leverage goes both ways. Legal reporters want to hear from communications teams – they want to understand our sources, including firm practice areas and the attorneys interested and available to serve as a resource to them. However, they also expect transparency in return, including being responsive and providing realistic timelines for connecting with sources (especially when on deadline) and establishing clear on vs. off record and exclusivity parameters in advance. 

Additionally, reporters suggested that all firm spokespersons need to be media trained and coached in speaking in quotable soundbites and become more comfortable providing perspectives that aren’t “100% rosy.” Overall, the general consensus was that communication goes both ways and reporters – just like PR folks and attorneys – have a job to do. 

Several key trends persist. 

As I mentioned, the conference featured the perspective of leading editors and reporters from several industry outlets, including ALM, Bloomberg, Law360 and MSNBC. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, there were common themes that all newsrooms were focused on heading into the new year: 

  • DEI: How firms are improving diversity and inclusion. More specifically, the real and meaningful steps firms are taking and how progress is being tracked and improved upon. 
  • Generational conflicts: COVID-19 has caused a reckoning in where and how we work, with many firms struggling with work from home and return to office policies. Reporters are specifically interested in how firms are aligning management styles across generations and recognizing emotional intelligence as a firm asset. 
  • AI: As mentioned above, AI is here to stay and a major focus for legal reporters. How AI impacts firm management, HR and all client industries will be a topic of interest moving forward.
  • Economic challenges: Talks of an impending recession and widespread economic challenges aren’t a secret. Reporters are interested in how firms will manage these challenges, including an uptick in mergers. 

Interested in more content from the Maven blog? Check out my latest posts, including “Is Threads Dead? An update on Meta’s newest platform” and “Demonstrating Thought Leadership, Without Having to Rely on Traditional Media.” 

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