Episode 10: For the Fun of Law Firm Biz Dev: Gamification and Coaching with Jill Huse of Society 54
In this episode of On Record PR, we go on record with Jill Huse, partner of Society 54 and 2020 president of the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) International Board Of Directors. Jill is a renowned and trusted professional services advisor. She is regarded for her progressive ingenuity, research-based strategy, and her ability to deliver results for clients. With a master’s degree in law firm management, Jill has obtained several certifications in coaching gamification and change management. She has worked in professional service marketing for nearly 20 years, the first 15 years of which were spent working inside accounting and law firms where she led their marketing and business development efforts. She has spent the last five years in professional services coaching and counseling.
This episode was recorded on April 2, 2020. The host and guest were working from home in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, an interesting time to lead any organization, whether it be one’s own business or an international association of professionals.
What is your takeaway from the early weeks of coronavirus and social distancing?
We’re all in this together. That’s the big takeaway, and it’s nice to see our country and our community uniting. It is a scary, unpredictable, unprecedented time. While the decisions have been difficult, conversations have been difficult; we’re all just doing the best we can to see our way through.
What’s interesting is we’re shifting the way we do business, and we’re shifting the way we think about everything from coaching and business development to how we’re presenting ideas. And you’ve been very much ahead of the game on that with things like gamification. What’s different today? What are you doing differently? How are you advising clients?
It’s all about helping. Coming to the point of trying to get our attorneys that we coach and, and our firms that we’re working with to think about how they can help their clients during this time. Having those conversations, staying in front of them. It’s not about getting business right now. I know everybody’s scared about that, but it really is about trying to find a way to help clients. Whatever resources that lawyers and other professional service providers can provide, whatever connections that you can make, it is about trying to be genuine and helping them as much as possible: not just or clients, but also within our community. That is the crux of what our community is; it’s helpful.
Have you seen major changes in how your clients are communicating with their clients and customers? Are you there?
What we’re seeing done differently is focused around trying to virtualize the experience as much as they possibly can by using Zoom, coffee talks, happy hours and other opportunities to try to stay in front of them. Thought leadership content is certainly one area that I know Furia Rubel has been working a lot with your clients on and that that still resonates. It is a way to stay in front of people to provide that thoughtful and practical information and just a way to help continue that opportunity to be that trusted resource that they need during this pandemic. It is essential to pivot the type of content and counsel given, especially now amid the coronavirus pandemic.
What exactly do you do for your clients at Society 54?
Heather McCullough and I started Society 54 a little over five years ago. We were both at law firms before that. We come with the experience of being in the trenches and knowing what our clients do on a practical level. When we started the company, we wanted to focus on strategy and coaching, and that’s the cornerstone of our business. I’m excited because we’ve tried to think about things from a more practical approach and a long-term strategy. We’ve built a model around not just the training, which includes the coaching and retreats, but we’ve also created a division around talents. We have outsourced marketers that have been in those shoes in the law firms who step in and be that outsource resource for law firms. It’s provided a resource that our clients haven’t been able to find in the past. A lot of times we’ll come on for maternity leave or something like that. The other thing that we’ve been doing is technology. We’ve spent a lot of effort and investment around building technologies, not just for attorneys but also for the marketing and BD departments because that’s where we started. We’re looking to make people’s lives easier, and that’s kind of where the gamification comes in. We incentivize and engage people in tracking their efforts and showing some real value on the investment that they’re making.
What trends did you see in the legal industry pre-coronavirus?
What’s interesting is there are so many threats to our industry right now. One fascinating trend is alternative legal service providers (ALSPs). They are infiltrating the legal market. It’s going to cause lawyers and legal professionals to think differently and to act differently and to do business differently. It’s not just the ones that people are typically thinking of such as LegalZoom and Axiom Legal Solutions. It’s Thompson. It’s accounting firms. For example, once the Big Four can mobilize to provide legal services in a way that’s on the same competitive landscape that many of our biglaw firms, the Big Four have marketing machines in place. They teach you not just how to think, but things like emotional intelligence, how to interact, how to communicate the way someone else wants to be communicated with, how to do that within your time management. And these are things that attorneys do not learn in law school.
What is an achievement of which you are proud?
I’m most proud of starting my own business. That’s something that I wanted to do from about two years out of school. My dad was a serial entrepreneur, so I have it in my blood, and I’m happy that we were able to do that. Having your own business is very rewarding.
Are you often asked how people can pivot careers from the practice of law?
That’s what’s great … people can build new careers overnight. And that’s exciting. It’s like becoming an Uber or Lyft driver – you can just pick up and leave what you’re doing and start your own business tomorrow, driving people around. It’s not as constrained as it used to be.
Do you think law firms will change the way they operate after the coronavirus pandemic?
I do. If you look at most law firms, the occupancy cost is next to salaries. The idea that they’re spending millions of dollars a year on offices that the attorneys aren’t in opens the door to massive savings. They should be thinking about things differently as it relates to staff and how they are positioning staff internally and being able to leverage virtual offices. It could change the dynamic and how our industry operates. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.
What is a campaign or a project that you enjoyed?
One of the first opportunities that had, which kind of launched our technology was, developing a gamification approach for one of our law firm clients. When we get buy-in from the whole firm, it’s remarkable. We’ve had this happen with several clients where the whole firm has bought into a gamification strategy. It allows us to track outreach. That’s the most fun to me because it goes to the heart of engagement. As legal marketers, we’re always trying to figure out how to track things more accurately and using our CRMs. It’s challenging to be able to anecdotally get from our attorneys what they’re doing to be able to draw those connections. When you put something like a gamification strategy in place, they want to tell you because they’re getting points for it. It’s also about the fun of it. And it’s about people engaging in something where they’re going to create more long-lasting habits that are going to effectuate building business within their law firms. So I think for me that’s been the most fun part of it is being able to kind of strategize around what works for each firm.
What parting tip would you like to share?
Be genuine and learn about people as much as you possibly can so you can help them and whatever capacity that is. I personally love connecting people. That’s where I’m able to show my genuine side to be able to connect people.
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