Kim Lyons (she/her/hers) is an experienced legal marketer for the international law firm Holland & Knight. She manages marketing for the firm’s U.S. West Coast offices, which include: Los Angeles; Orange County; San Francisco; and Portland, Oregon.
Kim is passionate about social media marketing and serves as the current Legal Marketing Association Pacific Northwest Regional Co-Chair.
When she is not in the office or posting content on LinkedIn, Kim spends her time with her three teenagers, or surfing in the Pacific Ocean. (Kim and I met through the LMA in San Francisco a few years ago and we have kept in touch through social media (you can follow her on Twitter at @legalMKTmaven).
We spoke the same language and I felt an instant connection with and a warmth from her.
Get to know more about Kim in this Women Who Wow profile.
Why did you choose your profession?
In college I was fascinated by constitutional law, interpretation of the law and supreme court case studies. With a minor in law and an interest in law school, I started out my career with my “boots on the ground” at a boutique law firm as a legal administrator. I moved from an administrative role to one of an estate paralegal, to practice manager and then into several marketing leadership roles, including consulting.
I believe this career path was inevitable for me because I enjoy a challenge, I am a big thinker – always with a focus on the big picture. I am always seeking process improvements with a focus on client satisfaction, quality and growth. I am a story teller, a connector, I absolutely love building things.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love the professional relationships, building credibility, harnessing my creative energy and constantly juggling all of the moving pieces. My days are always filled with so many pieces of the legal marketing puzzle, whether it is focusing on goals and strategy, PR, creating trending content or webinars, coaching, celebrating wins, or working on diversity and inclusion efforts and community involvement. It is extremely rewarding to celebrate the daily “wins” that result from these efforts. I am extremely passionate about what I do and I like to think this passion and energy are contagious.
Which woman most inspires you and why?
Like so many people, I am so moved and inspired by the recent inaugural poet, Amanda Gorman. I think what is most impressive is her unwavering confidence. I think this is the kind of confidence that only comes when you truly believe your message. I loved seeing her strength while she read the inaugural poem, The Hill We Climb. At 22 years old, she spoke with the authority of a woman light years older because she truly believed in her well-crafted and timely message. She knew it was excellent (and important!) work. This is the kind of passion and conviction that gives me goosebumps. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Do you have a mentor?
I first must acknowledge my own mother. I watched both of my parents put themselves through school. As toddlers my mother used to bring my brother and I along on her early morning paper route. She now manages extremely complex teams at one of the largest American multinational tech companies in the world. She has shown me how much hard work can pay off.
Early in my legal career I was given a lot of responsibility by a managing partner and learned to manage every aspect of a legal practice on a broad scale. This high-level responsibility educated me in customer service, people and project management, and politics. I truly believe this type of hands-on learning is only possible with such given trust. For that reason, I really view that person as a mentor. Those experiences have collectively made me who I am – which is strong, assertive, with a holistic understanding of law firms, politics and my value.
I am also incredibly grateful that in my current role, three out of four of my west coast offices at Holland & Knight are led by female executive partners and our current marketing team has more than a few 20+ year seasoned marketing managers who I would describe as even-keeled, dependable and reputable.
Any advice to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
Work hard and earn a reputation as a problem solver – if you find an issue, always be the one to propose a solution. Don’t be afraid of being wrong, of taking on something new or have a fear of more responsibility. Be curious, ask and understand processes. Ask what could be better. Track your accomplishments and make sure to share them in an organized manner. Find allies who will speak of your accomplishments. If you have done this and you are still not feeling appreciated – network and move on, the world has abundance and a place for you.
Take care of yourself as you build your career, both mentally and physically. Learn when and where to delegate, when to ask for help, and when to say no. Seek out relevant professional and networking associations. I am extremely grateful for the Legal Marketing Association (LMA). I believe organizations like this are extremely beneficial to someone growing their career. LMA provides a space for mentorship and education, and the opportunity to hone my leadership skills, while serving as a sounding board and support system for my profession.
What do you wish you could tell your younger self?
The first thing I would tell myself is, “You are going to make it, your hard work will pay off!” and “Don’t allow yourself to be boxed in.” I was once a young single mother of three children. This often comes as a surprise to people in my current field, but prior to working in law firms I worked on a fishing boat in Alaska.
“Quite suddenly I found myself a single mother of three young children. While I had completed two years of college, my official credentials read: GED. My resume listed: commercial fisherman.”
Needless to say, I faced a magnitude of personal challenges and stigmas as a single mother with three very young children. I had an incomplete education and limited financial support. I was juggling school, work, daycare and extra-curricular activities for three young children, alone.
What I did have on under my belt was a history of hard work. I grew up working in my grandparent’s Midwestern greasy spoon diner. In our family as soon as you could see over the counter top at the café you started washing dishes, peeling potatoes and pouring coffee. My brother and sister de-tasseled corn in the summers, and each of us had our turn delivering local newspapers on our bicycles.
During my struggles as a single parent, I have always had my friends and family cheering me on. I committed myself to finishing college and a legal internship all while working to support my family.
We lived in low-income housing, and there was over a year where I didn’t even own a car. During this time I biked to school, my law internship and to the small law firm where I was the sole legal staff. I relied on child-care scholarships, my family, friends and some faith and hope that my hard work would pay off.
After graduating college and starting my career at a boutique law firm – if I had a rare weekend away from my kids I would put in overtime to work on special projects to help my team. When I decided to shift my focus to marketing, I read every relevant legal marketing blog and SEO book I could get my hands on. While juggling all of this was a struggle on such a large scale, I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. I view all these challenges I have faced as real life project management training. I also have such gratefulness now for my career, education and life experience.
The other advice I would give my younger self is – we are all human. I used to beat myself up greatly over very small mistakes. Over time I came to appreciate it is how you handle and learn from your mistakes that matters. When you make a mistake you must take responsibility, focus on quality control and move on in a way that is productive – this is a quality found in seasoned leaders. Be receptive to constructive criticism but also accept the fact that not everyone is going to like you and it might not even be your fault, so let that go. Be authentic, focus on doing good work and everything else will fall into place.
How do you achieve work/life balance?
I will admit this has not always been easy. I do believe a lot of my career progression was due to putting in some really hard years which included: long hours, a lack of a social life; at times what felt like endless travel and networking.
I am a high-energy person always striving to go above and beyond. You need to be careful, burn out is real. You only have one life, and you are only young once. Nurture your passions. Outsource whatever tasks you can afford in your personal life if it reduces stress and improves work-life balance.
I also try to practice mindfulness as much as possible. You realize that the work is always going to be there, this is especially important to remember during the current pandemic and remote working environments. Put out the fires, meet your deadlines, but know when to pause and walk away. Be present with your loved ones.
Surfing is one of my true passions and I am a local leader in Wahine Kai, a women’s surf club. I keep my Surfline camera links up and running to remind me when it is time to get away. Loving your career is important – but living your life fully is even more important.
How has social media helped you build your brand?
I have worked in several large geographical markets and social media has been a very effective tool for building my brand and for helping me stay in touch with my professional network across the country.
Seth Godin writes about the importance of building trust through frequent social media marketing in his book Permission Marketing – and this really resonates with me. Platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter are highly visible and free places to be seen as a thought leader or an information hub so I strive to offer consistent content on these platforms. I also coach my attorneys on this same philosophy: be visible, be engaging, having something thoughtful to share.