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The Law Firm Marketing Director: Breaking New Ground? [by Cary J. Griffith] Two-and-a-half years ago the Legal Marketing Association had fewer than 1,000 members. Today, it has more than 2,400. Founded in 1985, the organization has experienced growth that has mirrored the growth of the acceptance of marketing by America’s law firms.

Twenty years ago, most lawyers believed

plays within the legal industry.”

firms. Most MarComm people have one solid line boss or perhaps a marketing commit-

their work was somehow different from the rest of American business. The same tools,

Roles of Early Legal Marketers

tee made up of a few select partners. But

activities, and practices that characterized

The first wave of early legal marketing usu-

because large law firms are comprised of

the competitive marketplace didn’t apply to

ally involved the tepid process of getting the

multiple partners, the Director of Marketing

law firms or the practice of law. Today, that

firm’s feet wet. Often the professionals who

is also likely to have a dotted-line reporting

perspective has been turned upside down,

were given the job of attending to the firm’s

relationship to every partner in the firm. Hav-

paving the way for a revolution in the adver-

marketing efforts were legal assistants. Ac-

ing to answer to that many bosses, each with

tising, sale, and promotion of legal services.

cording to Greg Wolsky, Chief Marketing Offi-

his or her own strong opinion about what a

cer for the 176-attorney law firm of Lindquist

marketing professional should be doing for

A Brief History of the Marketing of Legal

and Vennum, “the first wave of marketing

the firm, created-and still creates-massive

Services

directors were often paralegals in law firms

headaches for the profession.

In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court decided law-

that knew the law firm and were tasked with

yers had a right to advertise their services

making up brochures, coordinating events,

According to Larry Bodine, a law firm stra-

using television, radio, and newspapers. The

and attending to similar matters.”

tegic-marketing consultant based in Glen

decision sought to ensure that America’s le-

Ellyn, IL, “Up to now, law firm marketing has

gal system would be accessible to everyone-

As more firms began to consider the role of

involved seven different duties: brochures,

not just those with the means and influence

marketing, more true marketing profession-

newsletters, seminars, press releases,

to procure the best available legal services.

als began to get involved. Gradually, experi-

advertising, direct mail, and websites.”

The Court believed competition among law

enced, educated marketers were brought in

Bodine describes the concern with managing

firms would ultimately result in better ser-

from the outside as Directors of Marketing,

and producing these marketing tools as the

vice and lower cost.

Marketing Managers, Marketing Officers, or

primary responsibility of MarComm profes-

under any one of a variety of other titles.

sionals. “But,” he’s quick to point out, “since 2001, everything changed when the first law

True to the legal profession’s characteristic slow progress to adopt new ways of doing

Part of the flux in responsibilities for law

business, it took another seven years before

firm marketing professionals was reflected

the founding of a fledgling organization

in what law firms chose to call these new

Recent Growth and Changes

designed to assist lawyers with marketing.

positions. One marketing professional re-

From 1985 to the start of the new millen-

The Legal Marketing Association (LMA) was

members being given the title of Director of

nium, the effort to convince the legal profes-

established as a forum for law firm partners,

Communications because the firm was sensi-

sion of the importance of marketing has been

marketing professionals, consultants, and

tive about using the term marketing. These

stubborn and slow. But since 2001, the idea

vendors who supported legal services mar-

higher-level non-attorney professionals often

of marketing has gained plenty of traction

keting. Currently, its primary purpose is to

“came from marketing, finance, insurance,

and is beginning to expand. “I think it’s safe

provide its members with a network through

or from other professional services with

to say that this is the best time for legal mar-

which it can share ideas, marketing knowl-

experience in marketing communications or

keting, in terms of acceptance at all levels in

edge, and development opportunities, as well

‘Mar-Comm,’” notes Wolsky.

the marketplace,” comments Carl Wangman,

firm hired a sales director.”

Executive Director for LMA. Wangman points

as continue their education. According to the LMA’s website, the organization was also

During these early years, there was also a

to the remarkable growth in LMA member-

established to educate the legal community

fair amount of turnover in the industry, much

ship as statistical proof of his assertion.

“about the important role law firm marketing

of it due to the peculiar structure of law

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The increased acceptance of the concept

rah Rhodunda, a marketing consultant with

include an insatiable curiosity, love of travel,

of legal marketing has actually led to an

Altman Weil, Inc., stated, “More than 100 law

and an independent spirit which doesn’t like

evolution of the job’s responsibilities. The

firm marketers met at the [LMA’s] Mid-At-

to be confined to a small office. These people

bread and butter of marketing - brochures,

lantic Chapter meeting in February [2003] for

are usually gregarious, with large social net-

advertising, publications, websites, and the

a presentation and discussion of what could

works that include a variety of people, many

other obvious tools of the trade - is still a

be a new trend in law firm business devel-

of whom have differing perspectives. They’re

very important part of the marketer’s job.

opment - the sales director.” The meeting

also characterized by cheerful optimism and

But increasingly, the firm’s chief marketer

participants pointed out that sales is differ-

sometimes tactless directness.

is taking a more active role in all levels of

ent from marketing and has a different focus

the firm’s promotion and sales-from senior

and process but in many instances is being

Cowan believes most of the preceding char-

partner to associate to non-attorney profes-

managed by marketing departments.

acteristics “make one good at the complex

sionals.

sale.” “What you’re doing in a law firm busi“Today,” comments Larry Bodine, “I estimate

ness development situation,” he explains,

Suzanne Donnels is the Chief Market-

there are at least 50 sales directors at law

“is figuring out how to motivate someone. In

ing Officer for Allen Matkins, a large San

firms across the U.S. The difference between

most cases, you don’t know what the product

Francisco-based law firm specializing in real

marketing and sales is that sales involves

is when you go in the door. You don’t know

estate. “Marketing positions in law firms vary

face-to-face meetings. None of the market-

what it is they’re interested in buying. It

greatly,” comments Ms. Donnels. “Some-

ing is face to face. Sales involves developing

requires an ability to switch hats and suits

times a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) in one

leads, taking an existing relationship, or

real quick.”

firm will do one thing, while others attend

building a relationship and turning it into a

to entirely different matters. One of my first

lead. Sales has been around forever, and

Many Take a Wait-And-See Attitude Regard-

tasks was to develop a marketing plan. How

there are various steps to a sales process.

ing Business Development/Legal Services

are we going to staff the department? What

Salespeople know that process and manage

Sales With so few people actually working in

are the department’s major goals and direc-

it. “Sales people,” Bodine concludes, “know

law firm sales, is it safe to call it the latest

tions for the next 6-12 months? How are we

how to close people.”

law firm marketing trend?

going to drive revenue for the firm?”

“Several firms have gone to sales-type Mark Cowan, Business Development Partner

positions and added them to their strategy,”

Ms. Donnels points to an increasing trend

with Patton Boggs in Washington, DC, is one

comments Nathalie Daum, the current LMA

among law firm marketers - the drive to link

of the pioneers in the promotion and sales

President and the Marketing Director for

their marketing efforts to tangible revenue

of legal services. Cowan is Chairman of

the Arizona-based firm of Quarles & Brady.

for the firm. While many firms don’t look for

the firm’s Marketing Committee and works

“They’re getting a lot of press,” Ms. Daum

a direct one-to-one correspondence between

closely with the firm’s Marketing Director.

continues. “I don’t believe that the industry

firm promotional efforts and revenue, others

“We must have exchanged twenty-five emails

has totally embraced it. It’s a new thing, and

consider it the true test of marketing.

just today,” explains Cowan, referring to

a lot of people are waiting until they see the

that day’s correspondence with the firm’s

results.” With regard to her own firm, Ms.

Marketing Director.

Daum notes they’re both taking a wait-and-

At Lindquist and Vennum, Wolsky was hired because the firm was interested in working

see attitude but also beginning to move

with someone who could implement a more

We caught up with Mark Cowan in a Grand

toward the business development model by

“sales-oriented marketing plan.” Wolsky,

Rapids hotel room, where he was attending

working hand-in-hand with the attorneys to

who is both an attorney and a marketing/

to the business of his firm. Cowan sees the

develop that new business.

sales person with several years of direct

primary mission of a business development

sales experience, some of it in the legal

person as “helping the firm’s partners and

“The guys that say it won’t work here - “

arena, was the perfect candidate for the job.

associates develop their own practice.”

comments Cowan, “that’s classic law firm

“Most large law firms,” Wolsky notes, “are

theology. It used to be lawyers don’t sell.

shifting gears to a business development phi-

What Kind of Person Does Law Firm Busi-

That’s smarmy. We sit and wait for the busi-

losophy, which is really a sales philosophy.”

ness Development?

ness to come to you. Those lawyers aren’t

“I’m the quintessential Sagittarius,” jokes

practicing any more.”

Is There a Sales Director in Your Future?

Cowan. “I don’t have some of the traits; I

In “A Sales Director at My Law Firm?” Debo-

have them all.” The traits Cowan refers to

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“Today,” concludes Cowan, “the law business

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is very competitive. Multiple firms pursue the same client.” And those firms demand much more than they used to. “They want to know how you charge, how you’re going to solve the problem, the firm’s background and experience.” They want to know if the firm has done this kind of work, and if so, for whom. Law firm marketing has finally come of age. Widely accepted across the entire legal marketplace, the marketing of legal services is becoming a mature profession. Time will tell if law firm sales is the next promotional trend.

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The Law Firm Marketing Director: Breaking New Ground?  

The Legal Marketing Association had fewer than 1,000 members. American legal system would be accessible to everyone-not just those with the...

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