New York-based Despina Kartson leads the global business development and communications department for Jones Day, the largest U.S. law firm, spanning 42 offices across five continents. Prior to joining Jones Day in 2016, she served as chief business development & marketing officer at Morgan Lewis and previously was chief marketing officer at Latham & Watkins.
At the start of her career, Despina worked in print and broadcast media. She began her legal career as a litigation paralegal at Thompson Hine and with White & Case where she transitioned into litigation support/e-discovery (she published two books on the subject). She later worked as an assistant IT director for Cravath, and moved into a business development/sales role for companies that provided outsourcing support to law firms and professional services organizations.
As part of our Q&A series with leaders in the Northeast Region, we asked Despina to tell us about her LMA volunteer experience, her tips on how to effectively manage and balance a legal marketing career, and how to become the best version of your professional self.
Tell us about how you got involved in LMA leadership. How has the LMA benefited your own development?
I joined the New York chapter early on in my career in legal marketing. I was elected to the board, serving as member-at-large and chapter president. I also served on the national board, as co-chair of the national CMO SIG and I am currently as co-chair of the NY CMO SIG. The LMA is one of the best professional associations for legal marketers, and it has provided me with an impressive, built-in network of peers, mentors and mentees. There are so many offerings, both in-person programs and online resources, that I couldn’t imagine any legal marketer not wanting to be a part of the LMA.
What do you love most about what you do?
There are two things:
First, being the head of BD is the culmination of everything I have enjoyed in my professional career: communications, business development and technology. I’ve worked in the news business, as a paralegal, in business development and marketing, and have published books.
Second, I enjoy everything about a team environment: leading, managing, collaborating and mentoring. Working with a strong team of BD professionals – each one making valuable contributions – yields great results and is very rewarding.
How do you achieve work/life balance?
Work-life balance can’t be measured daily but over longer periods. There will be times when work is dominant and times when life is dominant. Recognizing that balancing is ever changing will keep things in perspective.
On a very practical side, for years I have started my day very early with exercise and yoga. I try to preserve early morning hours to get through the critical work and the overnight requests, and I’m always tethered to my devices so that even a 15 minute time slot can be productive, saving the stress and pressure of only working when there is a greater length of available time. As a working mother, excellent child care was a priority. It enabled me to raise my daughter mostly as a single mother with the same child care provider for 12 years. We shared the same values and she was an integral part of the loving and safe home environment in which I raised my daughter.
What is your favorite quote?
“People will not remember what you said, they will not remember what you did but they will remember how you made them feel. “ – Maya Angelou
What has been the key to your success?
Determination, motivation, resilience, intellectual curiosity and creativity. I have always been interested in moving forward in my career and taking calculated risks. Determination and motivation are some of the drivers that have pushed me to identify opportunities or accept new ones. Being curious, asking questions, listening and always imagining that there is more to life and work than the status quo have been important actions for me. Resilience is a trait that I’ve always considered key to embracing new ideas and opportunities and to having a fulfilling life.