Meet Susanne Mandel, the Chief Business Development & Marketing Officer at Lowndes, a multidiscipline law firm in Orlando, Florida.
She has been a creative leader and strategic innovator for global, regional and small law firms for nearly three decades, including at two AmLaw 100 firms and has worked with law firms of all sizes around the U.S. as a consultant with Marketforce, a division of Hildebrandt International.
She also brings corporate and nonprofit perspectives to professional services, including several years on the market research team at corporate giant, PepsiCo.
A founder and former president of the Metropolitan New York Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, Susanne is a frequent speaker and author on topics relating to law firm marketing, business development and leadership.
Why did you choose your profession?
Over 30 years ago, after experiencing the less-than-satisfying corporate marketing world, a career counselor helped me identify all that was important to me in work, and how I could best contribute to a variety of businesses.
Actually, she told me I’d make a great funeral director because I was an excellent communicator, able to listen to others empathetically and capable of juggling multiple tasks simultaneously.
Although she was right about those characteristics (and more), the job certainly did not appeal to me! But the new-ish field of marketing for law firms seemed to be a good fit: an intellectual environment needing creativity and innovation, where the stakeholders would need guidance in strengthening relationships and growing their business – without the corporate hierarchy.
I was so fortunate that a visionary leader at an Am Law 100 firm agreed to give me shot and, as that firm’s first marketing director, I loved every day of my 10 years there and my many firms and experiences since then.
What do you think is the key for success in a role like yours?
Although I do not have to deal with a corporate hierarchy, I do have to answer to multiple personalities and often conflicting priorities.
My role is a lot like parenting: each child responds differently to learning styles, to change, to discipline and even to unwavering support.
Regardless of the firms I’ve worked with, it’s the same with the lawyers: each one has different strengths, different fears, different motivations. I have to know when to push and when to pull back, but always to be encouraging.
I quickly learned that the sooner I understood these nuances, the more successful I would be – both as a parent and in my role as a law firm marketing and business development leader.
Do you have a mentor?
I’ve been fortunate to have had two incredible mentors and role models. It may be surprising to learn that both are men – my father and the law firm partner who first hired me.
Both taught me valuable leadership lessons about leaving ego at the door, making sure the people on your team feel valued and are recognized for their talent and hard work, and empathetically helping others learn and grow.
They both supported and encouraged my career choices and growth, and never judged me based on gender or, frankly, even on failures. They encouraged me to take risks, to embrace change, to be confident in my choices, and to learn from those choices, whether successful or not.
Their wisdom helped guide me through so many facets of my life. I can only hope that I have been able to pay it forward by being as supportive, encouraging and compassionate with all the people whose paths I’ve crossed in both my professional and personal life.
How do you achieve work/life balance?
I don’t think you just “achieve” work/life balance. It’s a process that is constantly shifting over the course of life changes, fluctuating based on the varying demands of work, family, friends, home, health.
For me, setting boundaries but being flexible when necessary helps. Having a great support system helps. Knowing that priorities change and being willing to adjust helps. Being “present” in the moment helps. And learning to let go of perfectionism is critical, particularly where it doesn’t matter to those impacted (for example, having the beds made every morning; my family could care less!).
Trying to be perfect at all times, trying to be perfectly balanced at all times, is surely a set-up for disappointment. I think you can have it all – just not all at the same time!
What is a surprising/fun fact about you?
As a teenager, I sang a solo in front of thousands of people at a festival in Jerusalem. The song? “Let the Sunshine In” from the Broadway show “Hair” – in Hebrew!