March 13th Program Recap: Trends in Legal Marketing Career

WorldBy Michael Silverstein

On Thursday, March 13, 2014, LMA Los Angeles members gathered in downtown and in Century City for the panel discussion “Trends in Legal Marketing Careers: Positioning Yourself for Professional Growth.” The panel consisted of the following four senior marketing and business development professionals:

Alan Breslauer, Chief Strategy Officer at Michelman & Robinson. A J.D., Alan has worked in a variety of positions in marketing, communications, and business development in a number of companies and industries; the role at M&R is his first legal industry position. The position is also new for M&R, which has rapidly grown in size over the past decade.

Vincent Cordo, Jr., Global Director of Client Value at Reed Smith. Vince has worked for a number of law firms as well as tech startups, and his experience directly selling clients on company value as well as negotiating pricing has served him well in his current quantitative role.

Melissa Ertek, Director of Client Service Programs at Pillsbury. A self-described “hustler,” Melissa began her career in the real estate and advertising industries before moving into legal marketing. Her role focuses on connecting with clients in order to improve the client experience as well as increase profitability for her firm.

Jennifer Larivee, Director of Marketing at Akin Gump. The only former practicing lawyer on the panel, Jennifer successfully transitioned to legal marketing later in her career and has held positions across the legal marketing spectrum, including Director of Practice Development.

The panel was moderated by Jennifer Johnson Scalzi, founder of J. Johnson Executive Search, a talent acquisition services business for the legal industry. Jennifer began the discussion by noting how, since she started her business in 1998, the demand for legal marketing has increased substantially each year – even during the heart of the economic crisis in 2008-09. Yet despite this continued growth, firms have not reached a consensus on how they should structure their marketing departments or what even law firm marketing should focus on; to prove this point, she noted the wide array of titles among the panelists. What does the future hold for this profession?

The lively hour-long conversation touched on a number of current trends and predictions for the years to come, such as:

• Legal marketing departments shaping themselves to mirror the marketing departments of their clients
• A more straightforward view of how marketing affects profit, and the return on investment (ROI) for legal marketing activities
• Increased emphasis on client service through client interviews and other one-on-one programs
• A shift away from “marketing” toward “business development” and even “sales”

The second half of the discussion focused on what we, the “average bear marketing professionals,” can do to showcase ourselves as rising stars in the industry and move to the next stages of our careers. The panelists emphasized the following as pathways to career success in legal marketing:

• High visibility with key personnel, including partners
• Quantifying the value you bring to the firm in terms of profitability
• Being a “hand raiser” and taking initiative by volunteering for tasks outside of your job description
• Strong writing skills
• High emotional intelligence, especially knowing how to handle strong personalities and egos

Overall the attendees were left with a sense of empowerment toward their futures and their careers. The legal marketing profession is growing, and by understanding the current trends and utilizing the right tools, we all will be able to find success in the industry.

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