When I first read that the legal communications and marketing firm Baretz+Brunelle had launched a NewLaw practice to advise law firms “on ways to thrive in the modern marketplace,” my reaction was, “Well, isn’t that what every legal PR firm should be doing for its clients?”
But in a telephone conversation this morning with the two principals of the new practice, legal industry veterans Brad Blickstein and Beatrice Seravello, I came to the realization that this is something more than a PR consultancy. Rather, it is a soup-to-nuts advisory group that will help law firms at every step, from evaluating opportunities for improvement, to building and implementing new tools and processes, and then helping the firms take that message to the market.
“We are heading to a place where clients and the marketplace are going to demand real changes in the way legal services are delivered,” Blickstein said. “There’s all this talk about legal innovation, but a lot of it is not real, and it’s hard to differentiate.”
“Differentiation is the big point here,” Seravello agreed. “What does our legal service delivery look like and how can we improve it.”
The practice will offer four core services:
- Intelligence, in the form of research, insights and analysis to help firms better understand the state of the market and trends in legal services delivery.
- Consulting, in the form of working with firms to identify opportunities for improving and modernizing their processes and services delivery.
- Development, by helping firms develop and implement new technologies and processes for everything from legal services delivery to back-end operations.
- Marketing, in the form of helping firms that develop “newlaw” solutions take that messaging to the market through communications and marketing initiatives.
Blickstein and Seravello are both veterans of the legal industry. Blickstein was cofounder in 1991 of Corporate Legal Times, the first independent publication focused exclusively on law departments (which later became Inside Counsel). His Blickstein Group, which he will continue to operate, provides legal-industry research and advisory services, including an annual law department operations survey, the largest survey of Fortune 1000 legal operations, and the new Legal AI Efficacy Report, the first in-depth analysis of the various AI legal technology products.
Seravello has had leadership roles at several AmLaw 100 firms, most recently as deputy executive director of Arnold & Porter following its merger with Kaye Scholer, and formerly as chief strategy officer and chief operating officer at Kaye Scholer. Earlier, she was chief strategy officer at Blank Rome and firmwide practice group director at Dechert, leading its practice management.
The two said that the focus of the practice will be law firms, but that they expect also to work with legal departments and alternative legal services providers.
They expect to work with firms at any stage of their transition — those that are just coming to terms with the need for change, those that have already begun the process but need help tweaking and refining, and those that are farther along and need help promoting what they’ve done.
Blickstein said the new practice group evolved out of a conversation he had nearly a year ago with Baretz+Brunelle cofounder Spencer Baretz about offering communications and marketing services targeted at so-called newlaw initiatives.
“But as we dug in, we realized it would be disingenuous to help firms market their not-very-effective or not-very-innovative ‘innovations,’” Blickstein said. “We realized that we could help them build new delivery-service models, and that’s when we started talking with Bea.”
“It’s no secret that the changes in the industry have created a great deal of anxiety for law firms, making some question their future,” Blickstein said in a press release announcing this new initiative.
My own observation is that “anxiety” is exactly the right word — that many firms are anxiously struggling to understand what clients want, what changes the firm should make, how to “sell” and implement change within the firm, and then how to communicate that outside the firm.
Providing that guidance as an end-to-end consultancy makes eminent sense. Maybe they should actually describe it as hand-holding.