By Rachel Patterson, digital marketing technology coordinator at Crowell & Moring LLP
Legal marketing as a field has really taken off recently, and now is a great time to think about your next steps as a professional. There are more types of jobs available within legal marketing than there once were, according to Toni Wells, principal at Bespoke Marketing Partners LLC.
Wells discussed using your strengths to achieve career success in a webinar for the LMA Virginias Local Group on August 18. She reminded attendees that success is a process, and it’s not necessarily linear. It takes hard work and persistence to achieve the success you desire.
Operating in the Current Environment
Wells began by polling the audience on their current work situation. 95.8 percent of respondents are currently working from home, and 63 percent rated their roles as equally challenging compared to how it was pre-pandemic, with 33.3 percent rating their roles as more challenging. Since they began working from home, 66 percent of respondents said they connect with their internal clients as often as they did pre-pandemic.
“The current environment presents unique challenges to the legal marketing field,” Wells said. Lawyers have to reevaluate how they pursue business development and they must build relationships remotely. According to an article in Corporate Counsel, clients are tired of being bombarded by their law firms and are very sensitive to being marketed to. Attorneys have to be sensitive to clients’ needs, thoughtful about conducting outreach, and should focus on people with whom they have an existing relationship.
Still, cultivating referral sources is a valuable use of attorney time, since networking events are no longer occurring. It also can be useful to grow internal connections.
Marketing and business development can help attorneys craft external messaging, and build their firm and personal brands. Compensation is often determined by originations, but business development activity can be an important part of the determination as well.
“We are revenue enablers,” Wells said. “We make it very easy for lawyers to be doers and sellers at the same time.”
As a legal marketing professional, it is vital to always be message ready, to have an elevator pitch that you can share, know what your team is doing, and be able to help connect the dots for the lawyers at your firm. We always are busy, and if we can know what’s going on, we can become the go-to person for our lawyers. It’s also important to know how your role fits into the department at large, as well as how it connects to other departments, so you know whom to contact if anything comes up that you don’t understand.
Understanding and Leveraging Your Strengths
According to Wells, skills fall into two categories: hard and soft. Hard skills are teachable, can be learned in a classroom or on a job, and are easy to quantify. Soft skills are personal attributes that help define your character such as communication, creative thinking, teamwork, decision making, positivity, and time management. Everyone has both hard and soft skills, and understanding the skills you have is an important step in your career.
Wells suggested using the LMA Body of Knowledge (BoK) to help assess and grow your skills. There is a skill assessment tool available to help identify the skills you already have, and a competency analysis tool that defines the skillsets needed for every level of your legal marketing career. The BoK can serve as a framework for recognizing opportunities for growth, developing a career roadmap, and determining what LMA educational offerings could be right for you.
Another exercise that Wells recommended was to do a personal SWOT analysis, in which you write down your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. In this case, opportunities refer to ways in which you can grow your skillset, such as within your firm or through LMA. Threats refer to roadblocks stopping you from doing so, such as lack of time or lack of opportunity to gain experience.
“It can be hard to see the wonderful things about ourselves that others can see,” Wells said.
Look at your past performance reviews and extract good quotes. Identify past kudos or accolades and keep a “woo-hoo file” for them going forward. Ask friends, family, and coworkers what they think your strengths are. Use online assessments such as VIA Institute and StrengthsFinder. It’s really important to understand what it is that you do well so you can properly sell yourself.
Breaking down your biggest professional wins is another good exercise to learn your strengths. Make a chart including any projects you’ve been part of that have been impactful in your firm. Include the results or outcome, the impact on the firm’s strategic or business goals, and your specific role in the project. You can use these wins to add to your value message.
“Branding yourself is important,” Wells said, “for the same reason that your lawyers need a brand.”
Branding differentiates you in a crowded marketplace, communicates who you are and the value you offer, and builds your credibility. A brand can help you gain work opportunities, media opportunities, speaking engagements, and article placements.
“You have an opportunity to lead the field in an area in which you specialize,” Wells added. Making sure you can define that area is crucial to your success.
What Comes Next
Once you have taken the time to understand your strengths, consider where you want to be, Wells advised. Do your homework on the legal marketing field and what careers are available within the industry. Create a niche for yourself. Put together a list of essential skills you’ll need to achieve your desired position, and figure out who and what organizations can help you obtain those skills. Finally, consider hiring a coach.
Wells ended the session by sharing a fitting quote by Conrad Hilton: “Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.”