It was snowing, schools were closed and we still packed the house for the LMA Capital Chapter's second monthly program of 2015 "Big Ideas from CMOs – Capital Chapter Senior Leaders 2015." Martin Gold, Chief Strategist at Strategic Marketing & Business Development Solutions, moderated a panel of speakers who joined their current firms within the last year. Alison Swenton Arjoon, Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer, Covington & Burling LLP; Tim Delaney, Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer, Ballard Spahr LLP; Jennifer Dolan, Chief Marketing Officer, Dickstein Shapiro; and Alina Gorokhovsky, Chief Marketing Officer, Wiley Rein, shared with the chapter why they were selected for their jobs and how they are approaching their new leadership roles, while sharing with attendees advice for career advancement.
Our panelists advised that if you want to be a chief at a law firm, you should think about your skills and background and how they match with what the firms you are targeting are trying to do. Key experiences that moved our panelists into their current roles involved business development because partners expect their chiefs to be involved in driving revenue. Direct client experience, including client feedback programs, helped them too. For international law firms, demonstrating that you have an international background and experience is useful, as is having lived and worked abroad, and being multilingual. Business experience in non-legal sectors also helped our speakers rise to their current positions.
Our panelists shared with us their firms’ strategic goals and projects. Their top priorities are revenue generation and making firm shareholders more profitable. This may include changing the conversation to focus on revenue generation. Their first year goals and priorities include being internally-focused and getting organized, so that from year two on, they can be externally-focused on marketing and working with their partners to drive business. They are also interested in restructuring their marketing and business development teams to better align with firm needs.
Top priority projects include:
- Creating centralized databases for all department documents
- Rewriting all pitch/proposal materials
- Implementing CRM systems
- Updating and creating department processes
- Creating a new website
- Analyzing clients by identifying and understanding core clients and industries and defining their firms’ differentiating strengths so they can focus on business development opportunities as well as identifying lateral partners
- Creating new three year firm plans
Our panelists recommended that when starting new jobs and evaluating the teams you inherit, you should go slowly and not make snap judgments. Get to know your team and, when appropriate, adjust roles to capitalize on their talent, natural skills, experience and interest, and align them with department needs. Figure out what people are good at and then put them in the role that best uses their talents. Host trainings to address your team’s development needs. Meet with other firm departments to better understand their responsibilities, teams, resources, pain points and goals, and learn how you can work better together. Additionally, encourage dissent - it brings the best ideas to table.
Marketing and business development trends our panelists foresee in the next five years include knowing your firm’s clients, learning your firm's ROI, focusing on projects that support ROI, increasing client loyalty, and implementing knowledge management and connectivity.
The most valuable things you can do to advance your career are to be transparent with what you are doing, do what you think is the right thing, get involved in everything, get a really good mentor, be intellectually curious, do not focus on your job title, and just do the work. Growing includes learning from both good and bad bosses, delegating what you can and experiencing as much as you can by taking on a variety of opportunities.
By Helena Lawrence, Business Development Manager at Proskauer, for the March/April 2015 issue of the Capital Ideas Newsletter.