Sector-Based Go-to-Market Approaches for Law Firms: New Research Shows Positive Outcomes - and Challenges

Wed 08 Mar 2023

Many law firms using sector-focused client teams report success in winning new clients and in winning more projects that cross practice groups, according to a new white paper from Gardner & Co. Sector groups bring together partners from multiple practices and work with marketing teams to jointly pitch business and create visibility for the firm through industry events and thought leadership for the industries the firm is targeting.

The research, led by industry expert and strategist Dr. Heidi Gardner and her team, included a survey and follow-up conversations with CMOs from 25 AmLaw 200 law firms. 

While many respondents report success with sector-based initiatives, some have encountered challenges in going beyond a marketing focus and building truly collaborative, cross-practice working teams that provide significant value for clients.

For those firms still struggling to demonstrate the value of a sector approach, the report suggests greater investments in three aspects of these initiatives:

  • The Sector Leader role. Many of the firms facing challenges indicated that the role of the sector leader did not entail any significant increase in power or influence. As a result, the leaders spent a relatively small share of their time developing the role of their sector teams.
  • Accountability to sector performance. Few firms identified any strong links between the performance of the targeted sectors and partner compensation, including the sector leader’s compensation. Leaders depend on other partners to make the sector initiative successful, but without compensation incentives that might drive greater engagement.
  • Lack of appropriate IT systems and tools. The research found that the firms’ collaboration software, time and billing systems, and experience management/knowledge management systems were not effectively deployed in support of the sector approach. The respondents who found that such IT tools supported the sector initiatives were much more positive about the outcomes their sector units achieved.

The white paper recommends that firms who want to drive sector initiatives successfully must address both the IT issues and the “softer” leadership and compensation issues to realize the potential of a targeted sector approach. The Litera-sponsored white paper, How Law Firms are Embracing and Prospering Through a Sector-Based Approach, is available for download.

You can also find out more about this research in our recent webinar with the report authors, Dr. Heidi Gardner and Prof. Andrew von Nordenflycht. Watch the on-demand webinar here.

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