“I have a dream job,” says LMA member Kelley Keener, Coordinator, Events and Community Relations at Ober Kaler. She leads the Firm’s events efforts in the way one would traditionally think--firm socials, retreats, client-facing functions, etc. But Kelley also fuels Ober Kaler’s long standing commitment to support the volunteer work of its attorneys and employees, partnering with community-based, non-profit and volunteer organizations to host events in the Firm’s stunning Baltimore location. It is this work that affords her vast amounts of personal as well as professional satisfaction.
Kelley’s career path in events was far from traditional. She started out as a paralegal at Ober Kaler in 1987. She left the firm and took on a role as Director of Membership for a family-owned, private golf club. It was in this role that her passion for events was born. You may be asking yourself as I did, Director of Membership…and love of events? Let me explain. The golf club underwent a massive renovation and began providing space for weddings, private parties, and golf outings geared toward businesses in its quest to grow its membership. As such, Kelley became immersed in event planning. Membership grew to all-time-high levels, ultimately leading to the members buying the club from the family who owned it. She returned to Ober Kaler eight years ago as the firm’s events coordinator and transformed the role to include aspects of community relations.
Outside of work, Kelley is an avid traveler, reader, and of course…she loves entertaining!
When I spoke to Kelley, she was eager to talk about her work and share some of her event-planning experience:
Q. What are the biggest challenges you face as an events coordinator and how do you handle them?
A. “Budget. Deadlines. Managing expectations. Problems occur when space or layout isn’t 100% conducive to the proposed event.” Kelley tackles the challenge at hand by setting expectations up front, clearly communicating through the planning process, and being flexible.
Q. What types of projects are you working on now?
A. “Currently, I’m in the middle of planning the 9th Annual Women in Construction Leadership and Networking Forum. “ Kelley relayed that due to the event’s exponential growth since the Firm inherited the conference 4 years ago, she and her marketing team have engaged an outside vendor to support this year’s event.
Kelley is also in the beginning stages of planning Ober Kaler’s Community Grant Program launched in 2003 in conjunction with the firm’s 100th anniversary celebration. Each November, the program awards two $10K grants and one $15K grant to Baltimore and DC organizations that support education and welfare efforts for at risk youth. Kelley and her team have put out a call for nominations and are in the process of planning the event, where this year’s winners will be announced.
What advice would you lend other LMA members as they navigate the world of legal marketing and events?
“Being flexible has been critical to my success. As an example, I am planning an event in our Denver office and have to work with a time zone difference. Taking that call or responding to an email after East Coast hours is the right thing to do.”
“Don’t be afraid of events.” Kelley said that as a paralegal, she would volunteer to help with firm events because nobody else would volunteer, and it was a great experience. She encourages all LMA members to embrace events as a powerful tool in the marketing toolbox. She also says when it comes to events, “keep it simple.”
How long have you been a member of LMA? How has it been helpful to you in your career?
“I have been a member of LMA for five years. It has been incredibly useful in bridging Baltimore and DC while helping me to put names with faces and expanding my network in both cities.”