CMO Panels are often the most anticipated events of the year for legal marketing professionals, and this month’s CMO Panel in Boston is no exception. On the heels of the recent release of her acclaimed book, Best Practices in Law Firm Business Development and Marketing, Deborah Farone will moderate the Boston event. Deborah has held CMO positions at Debevoise & Plimpton and Cravath, Swaine & Moore, and helped found the business development and communications profession at law firms.
For a sneak peek at the program, we asked Deborah what attendees can expect from the panel presentation, and her views on the past and future evolution of the legal marketing profession.
The LMA is approaching 35 years as a vibrant and constantly-evolving organization. What developments happening presently in the legal landscape are having the greatest impact on legal marketers?
Clients occupy the drivers’ seat today, even more than they did in the past. They curate how they parse out legal work, and are even more judicious as to how they hire outside counsel. If they decide to give work to a law firm, they have additional leverage to ensure that they are getting the best value for their assignments. But even more than encouraging law firms to compete against one another for business, in-house counsel have additional options. They don’t have to turn to a law firm for all of their work. Today, legal process outsourcers and accounting firms are also providing viable options. In addition, with new technologies and operational expertise within law departments, GCs are able to hire junior lawyers or administrative staff personnel who can back-fill on the work previously done by law firms. Recent studies show that law department spending is growing at a faster rate for in-house talent, rather than spending with outside law firms.
Marketers are even more essential today than they were in the past. Law firms need to find ways to compete and be creative as to how they focus on niche markets and impactful technology. These conditions are forcing legal marketers to improve their skill set, and require them to know more about pricing, technology, legal operations and various niche markets. I think it’s an exciting time for legal marketing.
What was it like to make the move from a CMO to consulting, speaking at retreats and authoring a book, Best Practice in Law Firm Business Development and Marketing?
It was a big change of gears with a non-stop take-off. I was fortunate to have several clients during my first year based in New York City, California and Texas. So when I wasn’t traveling, I spent every day from 6 am to 11 am either conducting interviews for the book or actually pulling together and writing the content. It has been a time of great learning, and a time of realizing I still have a lot to learn! I interviewed more than 60 law firm chairs, CMOs and legal visionaries. I wanted to be certain that the book would provide real-world examples and actionable advice.
What do you hope attendees will take away from the panel discussion?
We hope that they will see what a CMO role is really like, and what traits and experience a CMO looks for when they hire and promote talent. We’ll also have a good conversation about careers: what are the new roles that are developing in law firms and also what the next steps might be for professionals after they serve as an in-house marketer.
What can senior leaders in legal marketing do to leave a lasting impact on the industry for up and coming generations of legal marketers?
We often complain that there is great turnover in the profession, particularly among junior folks in the marketing department. We hear that marketers leave positions quickly to take similar roles at law firms down the street. While, yes, people leave for higher salaries and job titles, if they are in a place where they are constantly learning and acquiring new skills, and their work is valued, attrition is less likely. This is an area where managers can play an important role. It is inherent in a leadership position to take responsibility to develop other professionals and help them grow and achieve their potential. Even on a small budget, departments should be cross-training their staff, role-playing difficult situations, and having lawyers meet with groups of marketers in order to foster a strong and productive environment.
Legal marketing departments have evolved dramatically. What functional areas do you think are perhaps still missing or not built out as much as they could be?
The role of pricing and innovation are central to today’s law firms, and whether those spots formally reside within the marketing department depends on the particular firm. Either way, these are important skills. What is also essential, and often missing, is the role of business development analyst. This is someone who is a research expert trained to study internal data – able to understand and mine it for knowledge and patterns – and external data (Bloomberg, Thomson, Pacer and other sources). Firms need this information so that they can do due diligence on prospective clients, but also to understand various markets, be more predictive in their work and bring ideas to the table to help lawyers unearth new opportunities. If you have individuals on staff that can do this type of work, they will be able to bring together external information and internal data and locate all types of new business opportunities.
Register HERE for the CMO Panel.