Lise Monette was successfully directing marketing for one of Canada’s top law firms, McCarthy Tetrault LLP, when she got a call from a friend in 2005. On the other end of the line, Monette’s friend, a recruiter, was struggling to pen a job description for a chief marketing officer position at Ogilvy Renault, a firm that would later join Norton Rose Fulbright. Monette agreed to help under one condition: “I’m the only person who can do this job,” she said confidently. “You have five days to put me in it.” Her friend did, and Monette has since been lauded for her visionary campaigns. Below, she shares how legal marketing is evolving and what the industry needs to do to stand out.
Advantage: You received high praise for your idea to brand an entire floor of the Air Canada Centre in Ogilvy Renault’s name. How did you come up with the idea?
Lise Monette: Large law firms are like peanut butter; they’re fungible. It’s very hard to distinguish yourself in such a cluttered market. We wanted to do something different to get noticed and gain brand traction. We stopped thinking of ourselves as a law firm and used every marketing tool in the shed to hammer home the brand. Many firms have suites or boxes at entertainment venues such as the Air Canada Centre [ACC]. We looked at how banks and big brands like IBM advertise and had the idea of branding the entire floor at ACC. We went full-throttle and had prominent signage everywhere, including digital displays at every turn. It was the first time a law firm had done something so bold and brash.
When Norton Rose launched in Canada in 2011, you had prominent advertising in key places such as airports and office towers. What was your goal for this campaign?
Legal services are a high-stakes, high-purchase proposition. We didn’t expect our target audience to look at the ads and think, “That’s the law firm I’m going to use.” Our intention was to build our new brand in Canada and promote our new global platform that clients had told us they wanted. Flooding the market in high-end, selective media outlets allowed us to get our message out that we are a major player in all main markets in Canada as well as globally. The ultimate goal was to be considered for new business.
What kind of response did you get from the campaign?
The response was very positive. Right now our firm’s profile is very high, and I think we can expect it to stay that way for some time. Within a year of the campaign, we had an uptick in the number of RFPs we received by close to 50 percent, and our success rate has increased. Sharp Legal, a legal research company, advised us this year that we had become the top brand in Canada in regard to awareness. I was also very proud when my chairman asked me to speak to a large client company about our campaign. The client said what we’d done was like nothing they’d ever seen before and asked if I would give them some ideas because they were rebranding.
Wins first place from the Legal Marketing Association in the category of Best Recruitment/Professional Development Program
Annually receives the Association of Corporate Counsel’s President’s Award for providing the best law firm programs to corporate counsel globally
Receives the best practice award from Maple Leaf Sports + Entertainment for branding an entire executive floor at the Air Canada Centre, the largest entertainment venue in Canada
Earns the Communications Award for Best Law Firm Website in Canada for Ogilvy Renault’s (now Norton Rose Fulbright) website
Norton Rose Fulbright is ranked as the top law firm brand on Acritas’s Canadian Law Firm Brand Index
You’ve said marketing now encompasses strategic business development. How are you incorporating this in your work as CMO at Norton Rose?
We’re providing a set of services that go beyond traditional marketing. We were arranging events and handing out golf balls and T-shirts when I started some 20 years ago. The profession has since evolved from tactical marketing to “relationship marketing,” which focuses on the clients. It’s about getting to know your client’s business and tailoring solutions to meet their needs. It requires good communication with our clients. Norton Rose has a robust client program in place globally, which I head.
How does this benefit Norton Rose?
Our competitive-intelligence professionals provide our lawyers with background information on our clients’ financial reports, trends in the marketplace, etc. We also have business-development managers who are former lawyers who coach them on how to develop relationships with clients by prepping them for client meetings. For example, last week we provided a list of probing questions for a partner to use at a client lunch to find out more about their objectives for the next year, their challenges, and generally what keeps them up at night. With this information, we are able to be more proactive and commit to their long-term success. We also have senior advisors, including a former Canadian Prime Minister, a former ambassador, and a former CEO of a major bank, who have spent time abroad and help clients with government and international work. This helps us build relationships that go beyond legal counsel.
Where does the legal field still have catching up to do in terms of marketing?
Law firms are struggling to practically apply social media to their practices. We’re looking to B-to-B communications for some guidance on how they use it. We have blogs and LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, but very few law firms have done anything innovative yet. We may need to hire professional bloggers as some companies do in order to add real value. Video is another medium we’re dabbling with in order to engage our clients. A lot of what we do is staged, so I’d like to be more spontaneous with it so [that] it’s fresh.