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Creating confidence to

challenge the status quo

Jeff Berardi
Chief Marketing Officer, K&L Gates

Building Your Business by Thinking Like a Client

In today’s legal market, it’s more critical than ever to cultivate quality client relationships. Law firms know that better client service can result in better business development – more business from current clients and opportunities with new clients.

K&L Gates HUB (1:54)

Jeffrey J. Berardi, Chief Marketing Officer at K&L Gates, kept this top of mind while devising a new client platform. This platform would offer clients access to the firm’s proprietary content, including research and alerts, so that customers can gain valuable insight into industry trends and legal developments, and even glean business opportunities too.

The resulting site, named K&L Gates HUB, has not only become extraordinarily popular with K&L Gates clients, it completely altered the way the firm and its lawyers view their interactions – laying the groundwork for other successful customer-centric offerings that elevate the firm’s standing with those they serve. “It came to be quite a change in how our whole marketing, business development and client development team is viewing the world now,” Berardi says. “It really changed our mindset.”

And to what does Berardi owe this success? His habit of thinking like a client.


Laying the foundation for success

When the firm launched K&L Gates HUB two years ago, Berardi sought to design a site that offered valuable and relevant content, but with one difference: an orientation around industry groups as opposed to practice areas like the vast majority of law firm websites. “We wanted a resource that would provide content in a more intuitive fashion for clients, reflecting how they self-identify,” Berardi says.

“I think a lot of what law firms offer is very inward looking and self-focused,” he adds. “But clients don't see the world along practice group lines. They don't say, ‘I am in the M&A industry or in the IP industry. They would say, ‘I am in the construction field or in the technology sector.’”

"We wanted a resource that would provide content in a more intuitive fashion for clients, reflecting how they self-identify."

Jeff Berardi

Jeff Berardi
Chief Marketing Officer, K&L Gates

Moreover, this shift in thinking allowed Berardi to focus much of the firm’s marketing communications efforts toward business development, something he had pushed the firm toward since he joined in 2006.

Now, with the success of K&L Gates HUB sparking client engagement, the firm has created another function, client development, which is a natural extension of business development, Berardi explains.

Client development allows the firm to focus more on building and strengthening key client relationships, meet directly with clients or even develop a client service team with lawyers from practice areas across the firm. “Now we have the ability to think about the client relationship from start to finish, and determine how we are delivering on that promise of the value proposition,” he says.

Where fearless confidence can take you

If Berardi has to say what it means to him to be a leader in today’s legal industry, he says it comes back to how you look at yourself. “I think it’s crucial to believe in yourself, and to be confident about where you see the market going, and how the firm can change to adapt to that,” he explains. “It might take years, but to have some sort of influence and to be a change agent, and do it for the greater good of the organization rather than personal credit – that’s being a leader.”

Berardi says he began looking at how the firm approached clients and what its lawyers brought to the table. He realized the firm had to make their client interactions less about the firm and what they thought they should be doing, and more about making sure that everything the firm did had an end-goal for the client in mind. “And that really requires listening to the clients,” he notes.

This psychological shift is perhaps not so surprising for Berardi, who received his undergraduate degree in psychology at Boston College. “I was always very interested in social psychology, and asking ‘Why do people respond in certain ways?’” he adds. “The psychology background helped me round out my edges, and gives me a better understanding of how business operates in a holistic fashion.”

"The psychology background helped me round out my edges, and gives me a better understanding of how business operates in a holistic fashion."

Jeff Berardi

Jeff Berardi
Chief Marketing Officer, K&L Gates

After Boston College, Berardi got his MBA from the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester. From there he joined Nixon Peabody in its business development department. “I learned that if you really understood the client, then you could understand how you could fit the needs of the client with what the offerings are from the firm.”

Berardi joined K&L Gates in 2004 and two years later he threw his hat in the ring for the CMO role – and landed it. Of course, that role has changed a lot in the 11 years since he took over, but that is to be expected. “It’s shifted in terms of the focus, and I think that just makes sense based on the market forces we are up against right now,” he adds.

Today, his greatest pleasure remains spending time with his wife and two kids – a daughter, 9 and a son, 7 – whether watching them play sports or skiing. “I am a big skier, and my family skis with me,” he says. “So, that is something that I think is incredibly beneficial to me – getting out on the slopes as a family and doing the activity together.”

From customer trust grows greater success

One thing that didn’t go downhill was clients’ response to K&L Gates HUB. “We get a lot of overwhelmingly positive feedback directly from clients about how this is a valuable tool,” he says. “They really like the idea of receiving this in a way that doesn’t feel like we’re trying to sell them something or be promotional.”

Not long after HUB was up and running and the firm was gauging this feedback, K&L Gates noticed that clients were very interested in continuing legal education (CLE) opportunities. Once classes were being conducted online through HUB’s on-demand CLE center, the contact from clients greatly increased as CLE attendees could offer detailed feedback about the content, Berardi says, adding the firm has been able to show clients how K&L Gates is using innovation to be more efficient and provide useful tools and information to their in-house legal teams.

"We get a lot of overwhelmingly positive feedback directly from clients about how this is a valuable tool."

Jeff Berardi

Jeff Berardi
Chief Marketing Officer, K&L Gates

More importantly, the firm has noticed an increase in client work from those customers that are more active or frequent users of HUB; and recently, the firm even built a customized HUB page for a particular client, Berardi says.

Going forward, he would like to see HUB evolve further to offer customized and even subscription-only content. “I think we are giving a lot away for free right now, which is great to build awareness and build relationships, but you feel like maybe if people are seeing enough value there, then it might be worth charging for a beneficial resource.” One thing is certain: that the firm’s client satisfaction is priceless.

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