Interview: Scott Wallingford

Scott Wallingford
Vice President, Law Firm Practice Software Solutions
LexisNexis-horiz

Sunny: Hello everyone. My name is Sunny McCall and I am Momentum’s Vice President of Content and Experience and Program Director of the upcoming GroPro 20/20 Event. It is my great pleasure to be here today with Scott Wallingford, VP and GM, Law Firm Software Solutions and VP for Strategy at LexisNexis. Scott welcome.

 

Scott: Thank you Sunny. Great to be here.

 

Sunny: It’s our pleasure Scott, thanks so much. By way of background, Scott is a seasoned group-oriented executive with strong corporate and management consulting experience that has been developed across the US, Europe and Asia. Possessing a proven ability to improve profits through customer insight and segmentation, new business creation, cost restructuring and operational effectiveness, Scott has significant expertise in B2C and B2B ecommerce, software as a service and technology enabled service businesses.

Scott, let’s go ahead and just jump right in there. For an industry that likes to take its time to adopt new technologies, the professional services industry certainly seems poised to reap tremendous benefit from the current state of innovation and technology deployment. Where do you see the greatest lift for the legal industry with respect to technology?

 

Scott: You know, that’s a great question. Every firm I speak with that is very motivated on how do you grow your revenue, how do you expand your profits per partner, the biggest challenges, is it’s a very competitive space. Technology is part of an answer. It’s not the whole answer, if you will, but it’s been very encouraging to see firms that historically have been using excel files to manage their business development process, their marketing contacts, etc., that now realize there is a better and much more automated way to do things that brings that mobile-centric view. You can really tap into your CRM system and not just use it as a Rolodex but really harness the power of that to understand the contacts that you have at a firm that you are trying to build a relationship with. And not just the number of, ‘hey, do six people know people?’ but how strong are those relationships. And at my firm, do I have lots of people that know lots of people on the other side or is everything concentrated into one relationship? And the technology is really just there to kind of expose the truth, if you will, and then you can act on it. So the power of understanding your relationship strength, to then say, well, how do I go build stronger relationships with this key client, because if I don’t have lots of people on my side that know lots of people on their side, it’s going to be very difficult to win an RFP. And just when somebody throws an RFP over the wall, and we say ‘hey that’s a great client, I should go after it’, your odds are not really good in winning that business, and if you really do want to be their partner of choice for often very complicated counsel that they are looking for real solutions to real business problems, you need to build that trust in that relationship over time so they think of you when they are ready to buy the services, because as we all know professional services are bought, they are not sold. This is not TVs and things like that. This is a relationship, I am here to help you with your business in mind and how do we help you be more successful.

 

Sunny: Perfect. Thank you for that Scott, which actually is a nice segue into my next question, which is what is the single largest knowledge gap inside today’s law firm that you’ve observed and how could an existing or even a theoretical technological solution reduce or even eliminate it?

 

Scott: Yeah, this is the fun part, right. Technology moves so fast and I think you know I guess I am privileged to be working on what’s next on our software products, which is a lot of fun. The challenge I see is actually it’s a bit two-fold where you have people that want to grow but they grow the business, haven’t really applied the process discipline around it and think a software tool makes all the difference. When they do make the pieces line up and you have a strategy about where you are trying to go, that’s key. Then kind of what we have tried to do is make sure that the insight that you have in your CRM and sort of this relationship strength can be exposed to all the people in a sort of mobile first environment. It goes with them wherever they want to work, they don’t have to be in their office, since nobody is in their office these days. Everyone is on your iPad, your iPhone, what have you. You need access to this information on the go, how do we make it easier for you to access the true status of this client relationship that you are building, what’s next in the queue and also to have the system help automate the process. So it’s automatically telling you hey this was the next step in your effort to build the relationship. You need to call X clients, you need to send this piece of collateral, it’s time for this follow-up. So, it’s almost the system reminding you to do things as opposed to having a team full of people that are trying to go track everyone down and harass them. Nobody likes to be harassed in this environment, but it really helps tie sort of ‘hey here’s our goals with this client, here are the steps we put in place, and how can we all see the progress we are making’. I guess I find when you are very clear about which clients you want to build that relationship with, what’s your value proposition that you have to offer, and then you create the plan around how will we bring our team to bear on this opportunity. It’s very powerful as long as we execute and follow through. And when the world gets busy, it’s easy to drop the ball. And so part of the technology we’ve tried to build is how to make that system sort of automated if you will, where you can always see where you are and help everybody move things forward. It also gives you a chance to see if things are behind schedule, how do we recover rather than missing key deadlines or not building the relationship like you wanted.

 

Sunny: Perfect. Thank you so much Scott and speaking of execution and follow-through, they say that technology is only as good as the person using it. Given this, what are the two biggest challenges you see in adoption inside the legal industry of technology, and can you share a story of success on how that challenge was successfully overcome?

 

Scott: You bet! It’s a very common belief right that if I buy this software, everything that I wanted from my business development will be solved and I would love to tell you that that’s exactly how it all works since we do sell software. The reality is it has to fit into the broader firm strategy about do you have a sense of what you want to do and what your priorities are and how can the software kind of complement that to keep everything moving forward. I actually do see the technology adoption rates are improving. I guess in many industries you will see it goes slow for quite a long time and then the inflection point will hit. You will have some pretty rapid adoption but just putting in technology doesn’t matter if you can’t get it fully utilized by the broader teams. And not just housed with three business development people or a small business development team, but how do you even weave in the true practicers of professional services, lawyers, consultants, accountants etc.? We’ve actually had some really great success where for an Am Law 50 firm, they actually reach an 88% attorney adoption rate with some of our tools. That’s just a phenomenal rate; love to get it to a 100 but when you are already in the 80s, that’s pretty impressive. And really the key was having a very clear plan and it’s a bit of top-down management but also clear alignment of this is what we are after so we have the strategy, we have the process on how this works, we have the product, the software that will help do this and then we are tracking the metrics and putting the right incentives in place to make sure it all pulls together. Software alone won’t solve anything but software with the right mindset of where are we going, so we have a strategic focus, we know what our goals are and then we are tracking our progress against these. It really does make a big difference and what we have found is the firm that I mentioned with this 88% adoption rate, is growing faster than they had expected so they set out a goal of growing about X level. Their growth has actually exceeded plans because they are getting better coordinated, better info, having the right information to make the right decisions at the right time and able to build those relationships very consciously. And that has led to a lot of new business. It’s also led to a lot of retention of existing business so their loss rate, if you will, clients that walk out the door and go somewhere else is actually declined, as well. So it’s a really powerful story but it does take many pieces coming together.

 

Sunny: Perfect, thank you so much Scott. We are really looking forward to hearing more from you and your peers in the professional services industry at our upcoming GroPro 20/20 Event taking place on June 22 in New York City. Join us to hear more from Scott who will be leading a discussion on technology as a tool to enhance your commerce world and client delivery strategy. To gain more information on the event, I encourage you to visit gropro2020.com. Again, thank you so much for your time today Scott. Really looking forward to seeing you in a few short weeks.

 

Scott: Look forward to seeing you in New York.