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Serle Court – embracing the new normal

Earlier this year, leading chancery commercial set of barristers’ chambers Serle Court was awarded ‘Silver’ by Citywealth for ‘Best Events Programme’ at their prestigious Brand Management and Reputation Awards.  Charlotte Davidson, Business Development Manager, and Shana Garioch, Marketing Manager at Serle Court talk about the lasting impact that the working from home restrictions have had on their events programme, the importance of webinars and online learning from barristers, and how the programme has strengthened relationships with their clients. 

Serle Court has always had an impressive events schedule – our events varied from small social gatherings to large international conferences. It’s an important element of our marketing plan which aims to profile our brand, showcasing barristers’ expertise and specialisms and builds relationships and rapport with clients and potential clients. 

Every November, Serle Court hosts an International Trusts and Commercial Litigation Conference in New York often attended by clients in over 10 jurisdictions.  The last conference in 2020 was held at the Rainbow Room in the Rockefeller Centre, New York.  We also host a series of commercial conferences in London, including a Company Law Conference and Property Law Conference.  Throughout the year there are more focussed presentations on cases and specialist areas of law.

Over the past 18 months, reacting to the pandemic, our marketing offering has adapted to our clients’ needs.  We shouldn’t underestimate at this moment in time the importance of getting our clients’ views.    Their insight is crucial to the success of our barristers and chambers, and we have found that in the past year, our clients have valued wider discussions around current issues and legal updates.  Building relationships isn’t a straightforward task but it’s made easier by understanding what our clients want to hear.  We have also found that our remote events programme has given us valuable analytics which informs and shapes our business development programme moving forward. This ensures that Serle Court’s events programme is bespoke, adaptable, and relevant to our client base. 

Turning the tide

As soon as everyone became familiar with the online meeting facilities such as Teams or Zoom, we saw a complete change in how to deliver events. The main change we noticed was the level of interest from barristers and clients to take part in the new virtual format – and the uptake and enthusiasm were the success factors of our remote events programme.  

One successful event organised during the pandemic was the DIFC Practice Guide webinar series. The series consisted of five webinars on the different chapters of the DIFC book written by one of our leading Silks in the Middle East together with a leading silk at another set This event generated not only ROI but allowed our barristers to deliver their expertise to instructing solicitors in the region – a valuable resource for both new and existing clients. We are still seeing results coming from this event a year later, especially in terms of social media engagement, and in July 2021 due to high demand, the same barristers delivered an update webinar attracting almost 100 attendees. 

A personal touch

Remote webinars and round tables meant engagement with our clients on a regular basis, something that we didn’t have before the pandemic when organising events. The process was done via email or a phone call and we never managed to put a name to a face.  Video calls helped to build stronger relationships as we could see the people we were working with via live cameras and along the way having informal conversations before each session.

A successful example of a more personal approach was our bespoke events programme, launched in April 2020. A strategic move from Serle Court to deliver meaningful and quality content to our most cherished clients via Zoom. This initiative created a great sense of dedication from our teams to our clients which could participate in the choice of content suitable for their teams.  This was not just a marketing initiative, but a commitment from Serle Court to keep in touch with clients and ensure that they receive educational and insightful content.

Internal communications and buy-in

The events schedule is challenging, particularly from an organisational point of view – setting up times to speak, Zoom invites, editing recordings, following up with clients and so on.   On the plus side, it has brought the sales side and marketing side of chambers together – our BD team and our clerking team.  There has been a real strong team effort, where the BD team feed the clerks information and vice versa – which leads to stronger collective results. 

Since the start of 2020 we have delivered 150 online webinars and round table sessions and last year Serle Court saw a record turnover.  There is real enthusiasm across all marketing channels.  In July 2020 we launched #SerleShare, a digital marketing initiative which aims to deliver informative legal content to our clients and followers via the website and across all social media channels.  It has generated over 50k views to date.

With better awareness and increased engagement, and more focussed digital marketing strategy there is now evidence that our marketing is affecting potential clients’ decision-making.  One client that hadn’t instructed chambers in over 10 years said that their reason for getting back in touch was that they had been receiving our marketing material for years, “…so the name was just in my mind when I was thinking of commercial barristers…”

Remote events in a post-Covid world – watch this space

In summary, opportunity has greatly overridden the challenges posed.  This period has broken the ice for our BD team to engage with both Partners and knowledge development professionals within firms and this will continue post-covid.  Lawyers are busy people and the remote style of our recent events programme has allowed us to generate best results in terms of attendance and engagement, sometimes across lunchtimes in short online sessions.

There is also real opportunity to use data to analyse results and measure ROI from the online events.  There is a much closer relationship with several teams within the same client firms.  For example, we have presented both commercial and IP sessions to the same teams within a single client firm.  We can also correlate events activity on the website to demonstrate that website marketing is directing traffic to individual web profiles as well as encouraging clients to contact our clerks.

Barristers and staff are generating meaningful conversations with new clients and reaching out more than we would in comparison to pre-pandemic. 

Moving forward the challenge will be developing a successful hybrid programme of online and in-person events.  The separating criteria may be for CPD-style webinars to take place online to fit in with the busy working week, and more substantial whole day conferences and networking events to take place in person.  There’s certainly a place for both in our legal business development calendar. 

There is also scope to deliver diversified marketing using improved technology, such as live webinars, webcasts and podcasts, video content, social media interactive posts, infographics, collaboration with external digital platforms focusing on thought leadership pieces, PR, etc. a breakthrough in the way we do marketing – something we have been planning for a long time.   This will maximise the strength of our brand to provide a better overall service from both barristers and clerks.

We’ve also seen a much more focused approach to social media and all digital marketing – the question is whether such focus will be maintained or whether it will reduce once teams go back to the office.

All in all – there’s definitely an increased confidence in business – people are happier just to reach out, find out what’s of interest and adapt to changing circumstances.  It’s exciting that the learning curve of the pandemic will continue to allow us to approach marketing and events in this way.

Charlotte Davidson is a business development manager and Shana Garioch is a marketing manager at Serle Court. Visit www.serlecourt.co.uk

Matt Baldwin
Matt Baldwin
Co-founder – Coast Communications

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