Get to know Vickie Spang in this Women Who Wow profile. Vickie recently retired as the Chief Marketing Officer of Sheppard Mullin, a 1,000+ attorney law firm with 15 offices worldwide, a role she held for 18 years.
Why did you choose your profession?
When I started out in law firm marketing, it was a new-ish field. My first noteworthy job was as a management consultant with a major (at the time) international consulting firm called Arthur D. Little, Inc. I earned my MBA at night while working there since my colleagues were dripping with MBAs from Harvard and Stanford. Eventually I went to a small consulting firm that specialized in marketing for professional services firms (in the Bay Area). I didn’t know much about law firms or accounting firms, but thanks to my prior consulting experience, I was able to think on my feet and was also a good writer — both of which attorneys value.
What do you love most about what you do?
At the end of the day, I think the most important skill to have is people skills — these enable you to be perceptive about what makes the other person ‘tick’ so that you can develop rapport/trust and speak to their underlying needs.
I once observed to someone in firm management that interestingly, the biggest rainmakers (who often have a lot of outward confidence/bravado) struck me as being very insecure underneath it all. He immediately agreed. This is one of the reasons I think a trusted outside business development coach is advisable so that the attorneys can let their hair down and open up and be themselves.
The other key for success is building a strong team and then stepping out of the way so they can do their jobs. I was always immediately available any time a member of the department needed me for anything, including advice, but I was the opposite of a micromanager so they could stand on their own. I was told in a performance review that I was “too defensive” when it came to my team. True enough. And I recall setting a partner straight about a series of events involving one of my senior managers. The partner’s response was, “So it’s my fault?!” to which I replied, “Yes.”
What is a surprising/fun fact about you?
Years ago I was on the game show “To Tell the Truth.” (It has since been revived/updated and is once again on the air.) The other ‘imposter’ and I had to pretend to be someone else who was the third person presented. Then a panel of four celebrities asked us questions to figure out who the “real” person was. I had to pretend to be a street sweeper in Florida who (ironically) had an English degree. I got 3 out of the 4 votes and the other imposter got the fourth vote, so we stumped the panel. One of the celebs said, “I voted for #1 (me) because she talks like a street cleaner.” At which point I imagined my parents —who had sent me to a fancy boarding school in Connecticut — fainting.
How do you like retirement so far?
I now have time to take cooking classes – okay I’m joking (I actually use my kitchen drawers as a file cabinet). I’m still trying to figure it out but enjoy the freedom to do whatever I want each day, e.g., taking a Zoom class in standup comedy; traveling, (e.g., to NYC and environs where I grew up) and volunteering for a Grassroots Democrats organization to support worthy candidates running for office. I’m also available to do a PG-rated humorous/relevant/stand-up gig at law firm retreats.