After nearly 20 years as chief marketing and business development officer at Womble Carlyle, now Womble Bond Dickinson, Steve Bell joined LawVision as a senior consultant, helping law firms develop, launch and operate sales functions. With former LMA president and Hall of Famer Silvia Coulter, Bell is co-author of the just-published, “SAM-Legal: Turning Key Clients into Strategic Accounts.” In this profile, Bell discusses his early journalism career, moving to legal marketing, and how LMA has played a role in his career.
How did you get started in legal marketing?
I loved daily newspaper editing and reporting, but it barely paid the bills. I was fortunate to find a commercial opportunity as a writer and editor at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Manhattan, which was my first professional services job. Fortunately, the firm invested in its people, so I was able develop new skills and advance. Grant Thornton also was very good about helping its business professionals grow. Then, a progressive law firm, Womble Carlyle, spotted my sales innovations at these two accounting firms and invited me to join as the legal profession’s first sales director. I was at the right place, with the right skills at the right time.
How has LMA positively impacted your career path?
LMA is a one-stop shop for keeping up with developments in marketing, sales, communications, technology, design, and more. And, it’s the home organization of a lot of law firm professionals who are pushing the edge of the envelope in really interesting ways – and sharing about it.
Why have you continued to be a LMA member?
Three Fs: Friends, Fun, FOMO – fear of missing out.
What have you found to be the most beneficial aspects of your LMA membership?
Our day-to-day professional lives center on lawyers, which is great, but we also need a place to hang out with like-minded business professionals with similar experiences, challenges and successes. LMA is the affinity group for folks like us.
What are a few things that you attribute to your career success?
In my life I have been blessed with parents, teachers and bosses who were confident enough in themselves to welcome a rambunctious risk-taker, and at the same time, compassionate enough to pick up the pieces when my professional experiments ran off the rails. I could go on and on about a dozen or more such folks, but lately, I’ve been reflecting on how many of these great leaders in my life were women. For instance, the amazing international tax partner Marianne Burge, who was the first female partner at PwC. Just think about what it took to accomplish that! Working with her gave me the opportunity to travel the world, meet incredible people of all cultures, and expand my horizons. Another tremendous influence in my professional life was Womble’s Press Millen, who, in addition to being a singularly talented litigator, became the legal profession’s “godfather of sales.” He was a true advocate of and partner to me in developing the program, and willingly shared his knowledge with law firm leaders around the world.
What recommendations do you have for great business reads? How do you stay up to speed on business trends?
I read everything in sight, from comic books to tabloids to academic tomes to biographies – wherever there are new ideas to be harvested. In the last year, I have become captivated with Guy Raz’s “How I Built This” on NPR. Each week, an entrepreneur shares the story of how they got the idea for a business and how things progressed. At the conclusion of each program, when asked whether their success resulted from hard work or luck, they invariably say, “Both in equal measure.” Kind of reminds me of a lot of legal marketers that I know. I look forward to reading the book, as well.
What advice would you give to your younger self as it relates to your career?
Treasure and maintain the relationships you develop at each stage of your career, especially early. Tomorrow, today’s colleagues are going to be big stuff! And never, ever stop appreciating those who took a chance on you.
When you aren’t working, what do you enjoy doing?
My dog likes to take me on long walks at Civil War battlefields. She thinks it’s important for me to compare and contrast the roots of that struggle with current events.
Profile by Aimee McKinney, chief marketing officer at Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig