Chris Newman is the Director of Practice and Industry Business Development at McDermott Will & Emery. No stranger to the LMA, or LMA leadership, Chris serves as co-chair of the Boston Future Leaders SIG and chair of the 2018 QuickStart LMA Conference program. Among his many previous LMA leadership positions, Chris has also served as a chapter president, co-chair of the regional conference (2013), and chair of the LMA Northeast Board Selection Committee (2016). As part of our continuing interview series with LMA Northeast region leaders, we asked Chris to share his thoughts on what it takes to be a successful legal marketer today. Among other insights, Chris explained why “running toward the fire” has led to his best career opportunities—perhaps more intriguing—why he’s carried an Adidas advertisement with him for 14 years.
What is the best career advice that you ever received?
Early on in my career, Sandra Goldstein — a highly skilled trial lawyer at Cravath and pioneer in her field — said to me, “Chaos creates opportunity.” Those three words turned out to be the single most important piece of advice I’ve received. I attribute much of the successes I have achieved, and the paths that have opened us for me as a direct result of having that mindset. Stepping up when everything around you seems to be crumbling can lead to transformational growth, maturity and discipline — skills that are difficult to achieve when you’re just sitting on the sidelines. The best opportunities in my career have stemmed from running towards the fire and embracing the chaos and thriving within it. These situations will stress test the skills you have and often the ones you don’t. It’s not an easy mindset to sustain, but when combined with optimism, inspiration and passion, chaos can quickly turn into success.
What is your favorite quote?
"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing." – Muhammad Ali
In 2004, Adidas adapted and shortened this quote down to its well-received ad campaign of “Impossible is Nothing.” From the first time I heard the slogan, this three-word statement made an impact on me, and has been central to my thinking in both my professional and personal lives. Over 14 years later, the one thing that travels with me from firm to firm, and hangs right next to my computer is a laminated magazine cutout of the Adidas ad that includes the full quote. Even after reading it 1000+ times, I still find value in looking at it on an almost daily basis, especially in moments when inspiration is needed!
What has been the key to your success?
That’s a tough question! I’ve grown up in Am Law 35 firms (starting right out of college), and there is no doubt that hard work has been the key driver to my success, with passion for what I do being a close second. The latter has been critical to me as it has driven me every day to invest the countless hours and energy to truly know my trade inside and out and, by extension, teach others. But I believe there are other qualities that take form as you mature into different roles. You also use your experiences to evolve and enhance your understanding of what truly drives success in different contexts. I’ve also witnessed firsthand by working with many colleagues over the years that patience, a team-first attitude, confidence, perseverance and personal investment are all key drivers of success. I admire these traits and look for them in the teams I’ve had a chance to work with and/or lead.
What woman most inspires you and why?
I’m obviously going with a highly-clichéd response, but hands down, it would be my mother. When I was in high school, the Providence Journal wrote a profile on her titled “Agent of Change.” As a moody teenager, I didn’t appreciate the message at the time, or the impact my mother made on other people’s lives. As I’ve matured, I’ve come to truly appreciate having a mother who wasn’t afraid to pave paths for herself and others. And today, as she continues to wage a relentless, two-year fight to conquer a rare form of cancer I am so proud to be able call her my mom.
What do you love most about what you do?
Inspiring my teams and paving the path for the next generation of talented people coming up through the ranks. Perhaps my mother’s roots of being a teacher are in me, but I genuinely enjoy spending time with people, sharing my experiences and lessons learned, learning from their skills, and instilling confidence in those around me. Legal business development is at the heart of who I am, and I genuinely love the challenges presented by the brilliant minds I get to work with every day. However, at the end of the day, I love being an evolving, passionate leader and motivating others to be successful and leaders in their own right.