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Spilling the Beans on Secret Horizons

Spilling the Beans on Secret Horizons

Sometimes an event comes and hits you round the face with so much content, it takes a while to digest and work out what you have actually just seen. As one of the delegates and speakers remarked on social media afterwards “I think I need to lie down in a dark room now and process it all.”

Janders Dean’s #SecretHorizons last week was such an event. It promised not to be #sameoldsameold and to bowl us over with food for thought with a diverse array of never seen-before speakers and it succeeded in doing that. Such an event deserves to be covered, so this is my attempt to pick out some of the themes. This is, by the way, hugely caveated by the fact I will not be doing justice to the detail of the expert sessions we saw throughout the course of the day, many of whom I have directly borrowed words from for this, as they are far better than my own.

Driven by you 

Let’s start with the word on the street from those we should always have front of mind – our clients. The GC panel was packed full of golden insights from leading GCs from Lonely Planet, Aviva and John Lewis Partnership. And what do our clients want, really REALLY want? Well, it’s not rocket science. Acknowledgement of their issues. Proactivity in suggesting what they could do to be more efficient, to cut costs, to reduce external legal spend, even if this does impact on law firm spend. They want to see that their firms are LISTENING, consistently shifting the dial and innovating in small ways. They want to see the end result – not the workings out of how we are going to get there for them. They want to see firms thinking outside the box in how to innovate for their wider business. One such example was a firm who offered to support the client in developing their parental leave scheme. Oh, and getting away from the hourly rate. (Yes, we are still talking about this.)

One GC said it quite simply “We want the right people, at the right time, in the right conditions.”

Top take-aways from GCs for law firms? High bake diversity into your teams to ensure diversity of thought; come and collaborate; help GCs upskill and empower their legal teams. Unsurprisingly nobody really fancied a private corporate hospitality box at a major sporting event. Grabbing a Pret lunch and sitting down to get to know the legal team was the preferable option. So STOP with the 1990s marketing.

So much of this is basic. Which brings me nicely on to the next point….


You’ve seen the hashtag – but what does it mean? Throughout the day the theme was a strong one. There’s no point blind-siding our clients with transformational projects if we can’t do the basics really well. We need to recognise those key moments that delight and frustrate in the client journey, to get bills and conflicts right, ensure we carry out matter feedback (apparently still some gaps in firms who do not do this.) Be responsive, be accessible, be proactive, bring ideas and opportunities. Don’t invest in major initiatives if we are failing on simple client service and delivery on a day-to-day basis, which brings me on to…..

Marginal gains approach 

I am firm believer in the marginal gains approach: that it’s the small things that you do consistently and regularly that lead to changes that stick for the long term, so music to my ears to hear this shine through. In terms of innovating for clients, we can implement little things that don’t majorly disrupt, be experimenting and sending signals in the background. As lawyers, good business development is about doing little and often to build good daily BD habits. This is what makes a difference. Fascinating to hear about the development of an app that distils all the habits of a rainmaker in an app which works like a FitBit using habit formation analytics. Keep an eye on to see how this evolves. Which is a nice tech link to….

Technology and data 

Because if this wasn’t a key theme this would be odd, non?! The technology and data are all around us. How do we ensure we leverage this? Digital is where it’s at.  All the information we need on clients is out there on platforms such as LinkedIn. As marketers, we need to use intent data to spot those buying signals, we need to be thinking with data. We should be using social media to listen and tools like Sales Navigator to target and sell, which really work. Yes, really. GCs are also using data to be more analytical and have data driven conversations with their law firms. And it was amazing to see data science applied to inform law firm pricing. But listen, I am not even going to TRY and do justice to Alex Lowe and Jason Ku’s sessions here – just follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter for brilliant insights into social selling and people analytics.

However, in a world of technology and data, we must never forget to….

Be human 

Because the theme of building relationships and being human was also a central one throughout the day. As Monica Parker from Hatch Analytics said: “We can’t let humans become data points. We have to see people in a human way, have compassionate empathy so they respond in a human way. This is how to build collaborative relationships and become a trusted advisor.” This applies to how we as legal marketers work with our stakeholders and how we and they work with our clients. It is so important to recognise those “sliding door moments’ as Dr Brennan Jacoby called them, where we have the chance to turn towards people and build better relationships.

What the partners say 

And what do the partners say? What are the key attributes for value-add marketing? These included having a deep knowledge of your space or jurisdiction, having a level of emotional intelligence to understand partners as well as cognitive diversity and dissonance. And top tips? As #bringbackboring as you can get:

1: Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know

2: Always over deliver

3: Be nice – you never know where someone might end up.

Never a truer word spoken.

A final word 

Janders Dean say they are not an events company – but probably should be. As there is lots to take away here on how we can run events as legal marketers, doing all we can to reduce waste and impact on climate. So the edible coffee cups, the vegetarian food options, the removal of leftover conference food by Streets Kitchen, reusable bottles and straws were all appreciated. As responsible marketers we should all be running events with an eye on how we can best reduce waste.

(The 10am cocktail collaboration was also pretty cool, but that’s another story….)

With huge thanks to all the speakers, sponsors and to Janders Dean themselves for putting on an event to leave us inspired and more curious than ever about how we continue to raise to raise the bar of legal marketing.

For support with legal marketing and the like, I am always happy to have a discovery chat with clients on how we might be able to work together. Drop me a line on, or Twitter or LinkedIn.

9 April 2022

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