I recently listened in to a Legal Marketing Association CMO and Small Firm/Solo Marketer webinar featuring the perspectives of three chief marketing officers on a variety of topics (many of them submitted by LMA members themselves), including staffing, hiring, delegating, maximizing time with firm leadership, and their best tips for setting yourself up to be a successful leader in your firm.

This is the kind of webinar that is helpful for legal marketers at all levels and at any size firm, but especially for someone like me who is also a CMO at a smaller firm. 

The webinar was moderated by Amanda Loesch, the Chief Marketing Officer at Porzio, Bromberg & Newman, and included speakers Diana Courson, Chief Marketing Officer at Zuckerman Spaeder; Kathryn Whitaker, Director of Marketing & Business Development at McNair Law Firm and Michael Coston, Director of Business Development and Marketing at McKool Smith.

I actually didn’t set out to write an article about this webinar at first, and I admit that I was only half listening to it while multitasking, but the presenters quickly got my attention (which is hard to do!) and I found myself taking copious notes on their terrific insights. I soon realized that I had the bones of an article and that others who missed the webinar might also gain value from the nuggets of helpful advice that I took from the webinar. So here goes!

  • Learning to say no is one of the most important things that you can do to be successful says Diana, especially if you work at a smaller firm. It’s key to prioritizing projects and meeting expectations. We all have a wish list and a must-do list – and many of us never get around to that wish list of things because we are so busy putting out fires elsewhere or making sure things don’t go sideways. Also, one of the worst things you can do to undermine your success is to over-promise and under-deliver. You will severely hurt your credibility if you do this – you want to be known as the go-to person who does what they say they’re going to do and does it well.
  • Sometimes you just need to think creatively about how to do things when you have fewer resources. (Note – check out my JD Supra on 17 Low Cost (or Free!) Social Media MarTech Tools to Try For Your Law Firm Today for some ideas in the MarTech area on how you can do this at your firm.
  • To be successful, especially as a senior-level marketer, you need quiet time to just think and to be strategic, but you can’t do that if you are spending all day putting out fires. Kathryn suggested to give yourself some time in the morning to plan for the day instead of immediately jumping into work.
  • Another terrific point from Kathryn: At the CMO/senior marketer level, you should be prioritizing your work based on urgency and importance – so your time is best spent on tasks that are important (strategic) but not urgent. Instead, delegate the ones that are important to your team members and oversee them.
  • Something I had not thought of was the idea of tracking your time each day for a month – Kathryn noted that not only is it very interesting but it will help you figure out where you are spending the bulk of your time, and will help you become more efficient. It can help you understand the pressures that lawyers are under as well.
  • Give your team members the space to make mistakes – and learn to be okay with them making mistakes.
  • Be available and visible to your team members, even if you are busy. Visit them in person and ask them how they are doing. Face time is important.
  • Michael said something that resonated with me about always having your team members’ backs and to keep in mind how you wanted to be treated back when you were a junior marketer, and always treat your employees with that in mind.
  • Kathryn made an interesting point that CMOs should consider keeping high-value, client-facing activities in-house for the marketing team versus consultants to do. They have terrific institutional knowledge, the trust of the lawyers, and you can often do it cheaper and faster this way.
  • The group agreed that consultants are very valuable because they have outside perspectives from a variety of other firms and industries (along with best practices) to share with your firm. Also, some lawyers will only listen to their POV (even if they’re saying the same thing that you are) just because they’re a consultant. This point hit home for me – no matter how many times you can tell lawyers something (even with data!) sometimes, they just want to hear it from a third-party expert.
  • Remember to “work with the willing” – so don’t spend too much time and energy on the lawyers who don’t value marketing. You’ll always have the Debbie Downers and Scrooges who don’t think they need marketing help or who don’t see why your firm even has marketing professionals – put those people in a box and don’t let them negatively affect you. Instead focus on the lawyers who see how marketing can truly support their branding and business development efforts.
  • That being said, Kathryn noted that we as marketers should be highly responsive to the lawyers who are naysayers of marketing and go out of our way to show our value to them. Why? Because you can change their minds and chip away at their views if you knock it out of the park for them. You may even turn them into one of those willing lawyers!
  • One more good point made by the panel on managing teams: as a leader, one of your most important responsibilities is to do as much as you can to build up the credibility of your employees with the lawyers at your firm and to demonstrate their value. Never throw anyone under the bus. Give them opportunities to shine and to work directly with lawyers.
  • Promote your successes and show your value (but in a humble way) to move to the next level. Don’t wait until your year-end performance review to tout your successes – make sure they are known throughout the year. Taking the time to market ourselves is something that we often forget to do while we are marketing our firms.
  • In order to progress in your career, some tips from the panelists included always being open to feedback and learning, taking the time to really understand what the lawyers do (practice knowledge), cultivating a strong professional network throughout your career, having a roll-up-your-sleeves mentality and being a team player no matter what your title is. Also be invaluable to the person to whom you report – honing your “managing up” skills will always serve you well.
  • In terms of the kinds of projects these CMOs outsource to outside business partners, they said that it’s mostly public relations, technology and some BD coaching for key rainmakers.
  • On advice for how diverse legal marketers can succeed in our industry, Michael noted that communicating with confidence, knowing your stuff inside and out, finding a mentor who you can lean on for support and guidance, and building a strong professional network have been among his keys for success.

A few closing thoughts

  • The panelists stressed the importance of cultivating relationships with various support departments across your firm in order to be successful. Spend the time to build relationships with paralegals, finance, secretaries, office services, the library, etc. And be kind to everyone and remember to say “thank you.” You will need help and information from them. Also, Kathryn mentioned that it’s important to report back to other departments on what happens with the information they give you – it’s always nice to hear the “why.”
  • The panelists all agreed that the Legal Marketing Association is a terrific way to hone your leadership skills and move up in your career, and open up doors to new opportunities. Consider getting involved on the local, regional or international levels!
  • And maybe the most important piece of advice from the panelists – adding value at all times should be at the core of everything that you do as a legal marketer – if you can’t answer “why am I doing this” and “what’s the value to the firm?,” then stop doing it!

Thank you to Amanda, Diana, Kathryn and Michael for taking the time to share your helpful advice and collective experiences. If you’re an LMA member, you can listen to the webinar here.