Boston Program Recap: CMO Panel

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(From left) Katherine D'Urso, Jim Durham, Deborah Farone and Jeff Berardi

Causality. Intuitive. Passion. 

These were the responses of the panelists when asked in the style of James Lipton's Inside the Actor’s Studio to identify their favorite word. Bringing the same wit, knowledge and storytelling skills as the famed TV host to moderating the Boston CMO Panel was Deborah Farone, author of the acclaimed book, Best Practices in Law Firm Business Development and Marketing, and former CMO at Debevoise & Plimpton and Cravath, Swaine & Moore. 

Hosted by Brown Rudnick, the June 17 Boston CMO Panel offered to the approximate 40 attendees unfettered access to a group of industry leaders who exemplify their favorite words every day. With scores of years under their belts as legal marketing leaders, and complemented by the shared experience of Farone’s own CMO journey, the panelists spoke candidly about a wide range of topics, including their roles, how innovation impacts their hiring decisions and managing the day-to-day operations of their teams.  

Legal marketers know there is no such a thing as a typical day on the job, and the CMO panelists shared their approaches for how to handle the myriad of demands they face each day. 

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Katherine D’Urso, Chief Client Development Officer at WilmerHale, said the trick is keeping the “to-do” lists going. “Each day is constantly full of surprises,” she said. “If you keep the ‘to-do’ lists going in your head in a more flexible way, you can advance the things you most want and need to advance.” 

Jeff Berardi, formerly the Chief Marketing Officer at K&L Gates and recently named Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at management consulting firm Ankura, added that balance is key. “It’s a balancing act between managing the critical emergencies that come up each day and keeping the ship moving,” he said. 

On dealing with stress, Berardi again pointed to balance. “If you find balance, setting apart some time for yourself, you’ll be able to set aside the fear of making a mistake and better prioritize your time.” 

Jim Durham, Chief Client Service Officer at Shipman & Goodwin, noted that he makes a point of exercising every day, even when he wakes up in a hotel – which is often. 

He added, “Be really confident and learn your craft.” Durham said the most valuable team members are those that exude confidence in their area of expertise within the marketing and business development department. 

D’Urso said that empathy is also critical. “Be helpful to others who are struggling,” she said, which will in turn help one deal with their own level of stress. 

When asked about changes in the profession, the CMOs shared their approach to keeping up with innovation in the industry. 

D’Urso said that she learns from reading industry newsletters, meeting with other senior leaders and listening to what service providers are discussing. Berardi suggested speaking with law firm partners to learn about their evolving practices. Durham reiterated the importance of confidence. “Scan the headlines,” he said. “If you’re confident and competent in what you do, lawyers respect that.” 

On hiring in the rapidly changing legal marketing landscape, the panelists indicated that technical skills and the ability to analyze data have become increasingly important. 

“There are tools at your fingertips.” Berardi said. “How you use those tools and analyze data to advance your objectives is critical today.” Durham asserted that legal marketing departments are only as good as the people within them. To ensure that remains the case at WilmerHale, D’Urso shared that her team has an internal working group looking at professional development for its members. “If we do right by them, they’ll do right by us,” she said. 

Among the list of traits the CMOs look for in new hires are the ability to be both an independent actor and a team member, as well as having intellectual curiosity. “It’s a red flag if someone doesn’t ask questions,” Durham and Berardi both noted. 

While the length of tenure each of the panelists have had at their CMO roles differs, they all agreed that learning is something one should never stop seeking. 

D’Urso takes her marketing and business development skills and applies them in her work with various boards outside of the office. “The greatest gift you can give someone is mentoring,” she said. 

Staying at a firm for a longer time also reaps benefits, as the panelists agreed that it takes time to see the fruits of one’s labor, especially at law firms which tend to grow and evolve with conservative speed. 

Talking to lawyers at the firm as well as clients is also important in developing one’s knowledge – even when work requests seem monotonous or you know your efforts might have a low impact on the bottom line. 

“Give them what they want so you put yourself in the position to give them what you know they need,” Durham said. 

We hope to see you at our July 17 Boston Summer Social at Temazcal Tequila Cantina!

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