Q&A with Jennifer Scalzi on Key Findings from Law Firm Revenue Enabler Compensation Study

Scalzi Jennifer 2017.jpgIn this Q&A, Jennifer Scalzi, CEO of Calibrate Legal, tells us more about the 2018 edition of the Law Firm Revenue Enabler™ Compensation Study, which surveyed more than 880 marketing and business development professionals from across North America. The survey was conducted by ALM Legal Intelligence and Calibrate Legal, Inc. during June and July 2018. 

Some key findings of the study include: most “1st Chair” marketing and business development leaders report directly to their firm’s managing partner, career progression is not clearly defined within most firms and total compensation varies widely between firms. The study also found that marketing and business development departments are hiring most quickly in middle management and business development roles. 

Read more for Jenn’s thoughts on other aspects of the survey. 

How did the survey come to be at this point in time? 

Our last salary survey was completed in 2015, and we felt it was time to have more updated information especially given the various legislations that came into play this year regarding salary disclosures. It has really changed the way that employers are going to market for talent; we’ve seen a shift in firms to increased consistency in setting salary bands up front and sticking to it rather than offering a standard percentage increase to a candidate’s current salary. 

We used to have clients that would say “we have a policy that only allows us to offer a 9% bump to outside candidates,” which felt very arbitrary. We used to see two people with the same title inside a firm with as much as a $50K spread in base salaries because of this. Now, salaries are more standardized, bringing more fairness and internal equality. 

What was the most surprising thing you personally learned from the survey results?

We added career progression question following a hunch that the most respondents would say that there was really no clear career path laid out for them internally. Turns out we were right! 

77% of respondents said that their firms do not set out any specific metrics or milestones that they need to strive for in order to move forward in the organization. This explains why we see a fairly high turnover in business services positions in law firms; while there are professionals dedicated to career pathing and professional development for the lawyers, this is not common practice for “non-lawyers.” 

What’s more, the majority of respondents said that their firms do not facilitate secondments to other offices or teams and do not allow flexible work arrangements. I am certain that the firms who pay closer attention to their non-billable talent will have higher retention and job satisfaction, which will lead to less recruiting and higher profits. 

What trends did you see with respect to compensation?

There is a big disconnect between those first-chair marketing professionals who hold a “chief” title versus those who hold a “director” title. I think this can be attributed to a mindset that is deeply engrained in the law firm culture. If you think about how long the legal profession has been around in the form of a law firm, we are going back in history nearly 450 years and, until the beginning of the 20th century, there was really only one demographic that went to law school – wealthy, Caucasian males. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that we saw law firms add non-lawyer professionals to help them run their businesses. Increasingly influenced by their client organizations in the Fortune 500, we began to see firms inheriting structures and titles that mirrored those relationships – that’s where the “c-level” title originated. It spread from the West coast to the East coast. 

Even today, many New York-based law firms do not have c-suite titles on their organizational charts, while others have embraced these titles. In terms of the gap, we will see it close when the disconnect in compensation, you see a huge gap between New York-based firms and others. But outside of that, the gap is still substantial and it’s really due to the mindset previously noted. Once we change that, you’ll see the titles change and compensation adjust accordingly. 

The discrepancy between what women and men earn is disappointing. To what do you attribute the big salary gap?

This gap was shocking to us. It is really disappointing, and our hope is that by shining a light on this discrepancy, we will help our profession make a quick course correction. I can only suppose that, generally, men are more likely to negotiate (or even demand) a higher salary, whereas women are less inclined to articulate their value. Of course, we’d need to examine this more closely so we can all take measures to close the gap once and for all. It’s a serious issue and I am so glad we’ve uncovered it. 

What are the most important things for legal marketers to take away from the survey?

The impact of our profession is getting measured. We are finally making great strides to show our value and the necessity of our profession in a competitive market, but resources are required to keep the momentum going (note that budgets are going up!). 

You use the term “revenue enabler” – can you tell us more about how the role of the legal marketer has changed and what this term means to you?

We are on a mission to eliminate opinion-based discussions surrounding the value of marketing. The marketing and BD function, far from being “overhead,” is essential to the business of law firms. Calibrate Legal is committed to replacing the outdated concept of “non-lawyers” or “overhead” with Revenue Enablers™ who work in tandem with Revenue Producers to achieve sustainable growth and advance the strategies of law firm leadership. It takes all types of professionals to effectively run a business, and marketing professionals are at the heart of this effort and justifiably due for this credit. 

Read highlights of the study and download the executive study.


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