In this Women Who Wow profile, meet Brenda Pontiff, the Chair-elect for the Los Angeles Legal Marketing Association Steering Committee and the managing principal of Partner Track Academy.
Brenda has more than 20 years of sales leadership and marketing experience within the Big Four accounting world and the legal industry for a unique perspective on how professional service providers can innovate client service delivery.
Why did you choose your profession?
I found my way into legal marketing much like Buster Keaton builds a house or confronts a professional boxer: it has been a long series of ambitious goals thwarted by mishaps and gags. I studied acting and had planned on being a big star.
After graduate school, I returned to the Houston area and began working as an actress, writer and standup comic for a successful nightclub called the Houston Comedy Workshop.
It was fun but paid very little. I supplemented my income by working as a paralegal at a large global law firm and was quickly put in charge of selling a new service line.
This skill set was a blessing and a curse and the real money I was making in law firm business development funded my move to Los Angeles to further pursue Hollywood dreams.
As the little successes in show business waned, the realization that my professional services capabilities were in demand drew me further and deeper into a world I had never intended to be a part of for long.
Looking back, I see how writing, acting and even joke telling skills are all ingredients needed for helping lawyers communicate and innovate for better client service delivery.
What do you love most about what you do?
I’m a writer at heart and I’m one of those rare nerds who actually loves to work on a must-win, high-stakes proposal. I enjoy researching what the client needs, and I think it is fun to draw out solutions from the service provider and present them in such a way that we can influence the buyer.
I am also enthused about coaching young attorneys and accountants. I find that many of my coaching sessions have a therapeutic element to them and we get into topics like work/life balance and finding meaning in the work and serving clients.
What advice would you give to women in your field?
If you’ve been bestowed a director or officer title, you are an executive. You and your firm need to recognize and own that title. If you are bringing value to a firm and can point to instances where you’ve contributed to revenue generation or operational improvement, you deserve to have a voice in matters of importance.
If you are not being treated like an executive, but rather an employee who must be micromanaged or kept in the dark about vital decisions impacting your firm’s direction, leave.
Our industry has been talking about inclusion for a long time and if a firm isn’t making authentic progress towards that goal, let them stay in the 20th century and die a slow Shakespearean death.
What is a surprising/fun fact about you?
I was lonely during the pandemic and missed watching movies with my show business friends. I reached out to a fellow peer in the legal marketing industry, Rob Kates at Kates Media, and we put together a fun movie curation show.
Four women watch an old public domain film and provide commentary. It is a bit like Mystery Science Theatre 3000 meets TCM with a twist of Ms. Magazine. We are available on YouTube and are always looking for more movie-loving subscribers. Check it out here.
Connect with Brenda on LinkedIn.