Member Profile: Rachel Shields Williams, Senior Manager, Experience Management, Sidley Austin LLP

Rachel Shields Williams.jpgThe LMA Mid-Atlantic Region set its sights on “Perfecting the Pitch” for this edition of its newsletter. I was lucky to sit down with LMA member and leader, Rachel Shield Williams, to gain her insights into how the pitch is evolving and how legal marketers can best stay ahead of the curve.

I asked Rachel to tell me the elements of the perfect pitch. She relayed: 1) know the purpose of the pitch, and 2) answer the questions asked rather than stating what you can do. She emphasized that there is no one-size-fits-all approach anymore. The industry is in a state of great transition due to advances in technology, generational shifts and diversification of firm cultures. Keeping a focus and a deep understanding of the clients’ needs is paramount to any engagement.

Rachel started her legal marketing and business development career at Sidley Austin as a Coordinator. Her hard work and agility in a rapidly evolving landscape was recognized by the firm, leading to a series of promotions and ultimately her current role as Senior Manager, Experience Management.

Rachel draws on her prior experience to create the foundation for meaningful pitches and proposals, those that capture the stated but more importantly the unstated needs of the client. Rachel works closely with the Director of Market Intelligence to support both the Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Knowledge Management Officer. With a deep understanding of the industry, Rachel and the team can coach attorneys to have the right conversations with their clients, mitigating risk and keeping them steps ahead.

One of the bigger initiatives Rachel is leading is the roll out of Foundation, a web-based experience management system that allows users to pull on all the firm’s data sources to see the firm’s experience and identify areas where they can leverage it. In addition to becoming the firm’s point person on the platform, she is also doing extensive training on all of the capabilities and opportunities the platform creates for the firm’s users, and in turn, helping to create a culture of consistent pursuits and professional development.

One example Rachel relayed is training associates to use the platform to identify on what types of projects they would like to be working and which partners are doing that type of work. “Internal business development is just as important as external business development,” Rachel said. Once identified, she helps prepare associates, as she would a partner for a pitch meeting, and helps best position them for their work on the project/with that partner or practice group.

The challenges Rachel faces are familiar to all legal marketers – so much to do! She advises colleagues to identify opportunities and requirements that add value and re-direct time and talents to initiatives that contribute to the bottom line. Recognize when you are not the appropriate messenger, and find champions who are better suited to have the appropriate conversations.

When asked about her greatest achievement, Rachel pointed to her team. She takes a lot of pride in mentoring and is always asking herself how she can help people grow into what they want to be.

Rachel has been an LMA member since 2012, holding a number of leadership positions for the then Capital Chapter and helping through the recent transition. On her time with LMA she said “On a personal level, LMA is an amazing tribe who know a niche market. Together, we share both struggle and success.”

By Michelle McWhinney, Founder, Navigate Recruiting, for the Third Quarter 2018 LMA Mid-Atlantic Region Newsletter

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