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The Law Firm Marketing Director: Breaking New Ground?


The Legal Marketing Association had fewer than 1,000 members. American legal system would be accessible to everyone-not just those with the means and influence to procure the best available legal services.

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									WEEKLY RECRUITER SPEAK                                                                                                       1. 800. 973.1177

The Law Firm Marketing Director: Breaking New Ground?
[by Cary J. Griffith]
Two-and-a-half years ago the Legal Marketing Association had fewer than 1,000 members. Today, it has more than 2,400. Founded in 1985, the organiza-
tion has experienced growth that has mirrored the growth of the acceptance of marketing by America’s law firms.

Twenty years ago, most lawyers believed           plays within the legal industry.”                  firms. Most MarComm people have one solid
their work was somehow different from the                                                            line boss or perhaps a marketing commit-
rest of American business. The same tools,        Roles of Early Legal Marketers                     tee made up of a few select partners. But
activities, and practices that characterized      The first wave of early legal marketing usu-       because large law firms are comprised of
the competitive marketplace didn’t apply to       ally involved the tepid process of getting the     multiple partners, the Director of Marketing
law firms or the practice of law. Today, that     firm’s feet wet. Often the professionals who       is also likely to have a dotted-line reporting
perspective has been turned upside down,          were given the job of attending to the firm’s      relationship to every partner in the firm. Hav-
paving the way for a revolution in the adver-     marketing efforts were legal assistants. Ac-       ing to answer to that many bosses, each with
tising, sale, and promotion of legal services.    cording to Greg Wolsky, Chief Marketing Offi-      his or her own strong opinion about what a
                                                  cer for the 176-attorney law firm of Lindquist     marketing professional should be doing for
A Brief History of the Marketing of Legal         and Vennum, “the first wave of marketing           the firm, created-and still creates-massive
Services                                          directors were often paralegals in law firms       headaches for the profession.
In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court decided law-      that knew the law firm and were tasked with
yers had a right to advertise their services      making up brochures, coordinating events,          According to Larry Bodine, a law firm stra-
using television, radio, and newspapers. The      and attending to similar matters.”                 tegic-marketing consultant based in Glen
decision sought to ensure that America’s le-                                                         Ellyn, IL, “Up to now, law firm marketing has
gal system would be accessible to everyone-       As more firms began to consider the role of        involved seven different duties: brochures,
not just those with the means and influence       marketing, more true marketing profession-         newsletters, seminars, press releases,
to procure the best available legal services.     als began to get involved. Gradually, experi-      advertising, direct mail, and websites.”
The Court believed competition among law          enced, educated marketers were brought in          Bodine describes the concern with managing
firms would ultimately result in better ser-      from the outside as Directors of Marketing,        and producing these marketing tools as the
vice and lower cost.                              Marketing Managers, Marketing Officers, or         primary responsibility of MarComm profes-
                                                  under any one of a variety of other titles.        sionals. “But,” he’s quick to point out, “since
True to the legal profession’s characteristic                                                        2001, everything changed when the first law
slow progress to adopt new ways of doing          Part of the flux in responsibilities for law       firm hired a sales director.”
business, it took another seven years before      firm marketing professionals was reflected
the founding of a fledgling organization          in what law firms chose to call these new          Recent Growth and Changes
designed to assist lawyers with marketing.        positions. One marketing professional re-          From 1985 to the start of the new millen-
The Legal Marketing Association (LMA) was         members being given the title of Director of       nium, the effort to convince the legal profes-
established as a forum for law firm partners,     Communications because the firm was sensi-         sion of the importance of marketing has been
marketing professionals, consultants, and         tive about using the term marketing. These         stubborn and slow. But since 2001, the idea
vendors who supported legal services mar-         higher-level non-attorney professionals often      of marketing has gained plenty of traction
keting. Currently, its primary purpose is to      “came from marketing, finance, insurance,          and is beginning to expand. “I think it’s safe
provide its members with a network through        or from other professional services with           to say that this is the best time for legal mar-
which it can share ideas, marketing knowl-        experience in marketing communications or          keting, in terms of acceptance at all levels in
edge, and development opportunities, as well      ‘Mar-Comm,’” notes Wolsky.                         the marketplace,” comments Carl Wangman,
as continue their education. According to the                                                        Executive Director for LMA. Wangman points
LMA’s website, the organization was also          During these early years, there was also a         to the remarkable growth in LMA member-
established to educate the legal community        fair amount of turnover in the industry, much      ship as statistical proof of his assertion.
“about the important role law firm marketing      of it due to the peculiar structure of law

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The increased acceptance of the concept          rah Rhodunda, a marketing consultant with        include an insatiable curiosity, love of travel,
of legal marketing has actually led to an        Altman Weil, Inc., stated, “More than 100 law    and an independent spirit which doesn’t like
evolution of the job’s responsibilities. The     firm marketers met at the [LMA’s] Mid-At-        to be confined to a small office. These people
bread and butter of marketing - brochures,       lantic Chapter meeting in February [2003] for    are usually gregarious, with large social net-
advertising, publications, websites, and the     a presentation and discussion of what could      works that include a variety of people, many
other obvious tools of the trade - is still a    be a new trend in law firm business devel-       of whom have differing perspectives. They’re
very important part of the marketer’s job.       opment - the sales director.” The meeting        also characterized by cheerful optimism and
But increasingly, the firm’s chief marketer      participants pointed out that sales is differ-   sometimes tactless directness.
is taking a more active role in all levels of    ent from marketing and has a different focus
the firm’s promotion and sales-from senior       and process but in many instances is being       Cowan believes most of the preceding char-
partner to associate to non-attorney profes-     managed by marketing departments.                acteristics “make one good at the complex
sionals.                                                                                          sale.” “What you’re doing in a law firm busi-
                                                 “Today,” comments Larry Bodine, “I estimate      ness development situation,” he explains,
Suzanne Donnels is the Chief Market-             there are at least 50 sales directors at law     “is figuring out how to motivate someone. In
ing Officer for Allen Matkins, a large San       firms across the U.S. The difference between     most cases, you don’t know what the product
Francisco-based law firm specializing in real    marketing and sales is that sales involves       is when you go in the door. You don’t know
estate. “Marketing positions in law firms vary   face-to-face meetings. None of the market-       what it is they’re interested in buying. It
greatly,” comments Ms. Donnels. “Some-           ing is face to face. Sales involves developing   requires an ability to switch hats and suits
times a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) in one     leads, taking an existing relationship, or       real quick.”
firm will do one thing, while others attend      building a relationship and turning it into a
to entirely different matters. One of my first   lead. Sales has been around forever, and         Many Take a Wait-And-See Attitude Regard-
tasks was to develop a marketing plan. How       there are various steps to a sales process.      ing Business Development/Legal Services
are we going to staff the department? What       Salespeople know that process and manage         Sales With so few people actually working in
are the department’s major goals and direc-      it. “Sales people,” Bodine concludes, “know      law firm sales, is it safe to call it the latest
tions for the next 6-12 months? How are we       how to close people.”                            law firm marketing trend?
going to drive revenue for the firm?”                                                             “Several firms have gone to sales-type
                                                 Mark Cowan, Business Development Partner         positions and added them to their strategy,”
Ms. Donnels points to an increasing trend        with Patton Boggs in Washington, DC, is one      comments Nathalie Daum, the current LMA
among law firm marketers - the drive to link     of the pioneers in the promotion and sales       President and the Marketing Director for
their marketing efforts to tangible revenue      of legal services. Cowan is Chairman of          the Arizona-based firm of Quarles & Brady.
for the firm. While many firms don’t look for    the firm’s Marketing Committee and works         “They’re getting a lot of press,” Ms. Daum
a direct one-to-one correspondence between       closely with the firm’s Marketing Director.      continues. “I don’t believe that the industry
firm promotional efforts and revenue, others     “We must have exchanged twenty-five emails       has totally embraced it. It’s a new thing, and
consider it the true test of marketing.          just today,” explains Cowan, referring to        a lot of people are waiting until they see the
                                                 that day’s correspondence with the firm’s        results.” With regard to her own firm, Ms.
At Lindquist and Vennum, Wolsky was hired        Marketing Director.                              Daum notes they’re both taking a wait-and-
because the firm was interested in working                                                        see attitude but also beginning to move
with someone who could implement a more          We caught up with Mark Cowan in a Grand          toward the business development model by
“sales-oriented marketing plan.” Wolsky,         Rapids hotel room, where he was attending        working hand-in-hand with the attorneys to
who is both an attorney and a marketing/         to the business of his firm. Cowan sees the      develop that new business.
sales person with several years of direct        primary mission of a business development
sales experience, some of it in the legal        person as “helping the firm’s partners and       “The guys that say it won’t work here - “
arena, was the perfect candidate for the job.    associates develop their own practice.”          comments Cowan, “that’s classic law firm
“Most large law firms,” Wolsky notes, “are                                                        theology. It used to be lawyers don’t sell.
shifting gears to a business development phi-    What Kind of Person Does Law Firm Busi-          That’s smarmy. We sit and wait for the busi-
losophy, which is really a sales philosophy.”    ness Development?                                ness to come to you. Those lawyers aren’t
                                                 “I’m the quintessential Sagittarius,” jokes      practicing any more.”
Is There a Sales Director in Your Future?        Cowan. “I don’t have some of the traits; I
In “A Sales Director at My Law Firm?” Debo-      have them all.” The traits Cowan refers to       “Today,” concludes Cowan, “the law business

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is very competitive. Multiple firms pursue the
same client.” And those firms demand much
more than they used to. “They want to know
how you charge, how you’re going to solve the
problem, the firm’s background and experi-
ence.” They want to know if the firm has done
this kind of work, and if so, for whom.
Law firm marketing has finally come of age.
Widely accepted across the entire legal mar-
ketplace, the marketing of legal services is
becoming a mature profession. Time will tell if
law firm sales is the next promotional trend.


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