The LMA Bay Area has so many wonderful people as members and as leaders - we truly are spoiled! From industry thought-leaders to subject matter experts to C-level executives, our LMA network is rich with knowledge, experience, and accolades. In 2019, we plan on spotlighting some of these incredible people throughout the year. This quarter, we are so excited to feature Lydia Bednerik, who serves as Marketing Director at Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean. She has been involved in LMA since 1995, and has served in leadership positions at the local, regional, and international level, most recently as Secretary for the 2018 LMA International Board. We hope you enjoy reading about a true gem to our community - Lydia Bednerik!
How did you get started in the legal marketing industry?
Like a lot of people in our business, I kind of fell into it by accident. The first time I worked at a law firm I was 17 and the firm was Wendel Rosen. A friend of the family was an executive director here, and she hired me to tidy up conference rooms and help out in the file room. When I graduated college with a degree in theater arts, with an emphasis in design technology, I realized I didn’t want to move to New York or LA, put together a stage lighting portfolio and be a starving artist. I came back to the law firm to figure out what I was going to do when I grew up (laughs). I worked in the accounting department for a while, as a legal secretary for a while. Eventually, I decided the closest “grown-up” job to my theater background was corporate event planning. The closest thing to that in the firm environment was marketing.
I was the only marketer at the firm and I soon realized there was no one at the firm who could teach me how to be a legal marketer. So after a couple of years I quit and started freelancing with other legal marketers I met through LMA. They taught me. They were my mentors. A few years later, the marketing position came open at Wendel Rosen again. All the stars aligned, and I came back. I’ve been back at the firm for over 16 years. This is the only law firm I’ve worked at in-house.
Who were your mentors?
People like Kathleen Flynn, Ellen Blattel and Donna Bedford were some of my early mentors. Really, there have been so many LMA members who have helped me grow over the years.
I joined LMA as soon as I moved into the marketing position. Early on, I was recruited to the program committee. Programming is a huge part of what we do at the local level so it was a great way to meet more people in the industry and to expand my knowledge. It gets you out of your day-to-day box and forces you to think bigger about what is valuable for our community to know.
In 1998, I was recruited as secretary of the local board. I served something like the next 18 years in LMA Bay Area leadership in one capacity or another, including as president in 2006. I just rolled off the International Board after four years. The people I have met along the way have really helped to shape who I am as a legal marketer today.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
So much over the years. One thing that’s important is just staying intellectually curious about everything. Constantly being hungry to learn.
What’s next in your volunteer life?
I’m still helping out with some LMA projects. And I’m active with my community homeowners association. I can’t seem to not join something (laughs). I’m trying to take a little bit of a breather and focus on my job right now.
What projects do you have going on?
We’re working on a brand refresh and website project. We’re doing some intensified focus around a few specific practice areas. There’s an internal reinvigoration regarding business development at the firm. It’s an exciting time, but there are a lot of balls in the air. My role is evolving. I started out a department of one doing everything. Now it’s about making sure our internal marketing team members are all rowing in the same direction and have the individual support they need. For me, personally, the last few years I’ve been focused on a transition into a leadership mindset. Tying it back to LMA, this group is a great place to practice those skills. It’s a place where you get to explore and practice your leadership style. Figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. Hopefully, shore up areas where you might have a weakness. Plus, it’s fun.
What’s your favorite part about being a member of LMA?
I like it all. It fulfills different needs at different times. The social and networking aspect and connecting with people who really get what your day-to-day world is like. LMA feeds that intellectual curiosity I mentioned. I like being able to bounce around ideas with people I know. Watching a webinar is great, and then talking to people about how to implement those ideas in the real world and hearing the war stories is so helpful. People are so giving of their knowledge and experiences.
What is the greatest challenge facing legal marketers today?
The disconnect between the speed of the marketplace in which we operate and the business dynamics within the legal industry.
What’s one secret about working with attorneys?
The short answer is to treat them with compassion. They are human beings and we’re asking them to operate outside of their comfort zone a lot.
The longer answer ties back into my education in theater staging. I had a professor who described the role of stage manager as setting up a safe playpen for the talent – the director, the actors – to create their art. The stage manager is also the liaison who translates between the technical side and the artistic side of the operation. When I’m firing on all cylinders, I feel like I’m doing that at the law firm. I’m providing the safe playpen for the attorneys to practice business development. I provide a bridge between the talent and the technical tools to make BD happen.
What book are you reading right now?
“Purposeful: Are you a Manager or a Movement Starter” by Jennifer Dulski, our keynote speaker at the LMA annual conference in April.
Laura Ernde is a San Francisco-based communications consultant. A former legal affairs journalist and State Bar of California communications director, she helps law firms and legal marketing agencies with content strategy and content creation. Connect with her via LinkedIn and Twitter. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.