More than 70 years of total legal marketing ”association” came together to share their experience and expertise at the 6th Annual CMO Forum this March. This year’s panel, hosted again by Shearman & Sterling, featured NYLMA heavy hitters:
- Kelly Ann Cummings, Director of Marketing and Business Development, Cleary Gottlieb
- Luke Ferrandino, Global Director of Business Development & Marketing, Fried Frank
- Michael Mellor, Director of Marketing & Business Development, Pryor Cashman
Yolanda Cartusciello, Partner at PP&C Consulting (formerly the Director of Marketing at both Debevoise and Cleary Gottlieb), served as moderator.
Luke set the tone for the engaging discussion by noting that “law firms are moving more and more to a corporate model.” Explaining that firms increasingly rely on true specialists to run key aspects of a firm’s business, certainly much more than they did a decade ago, Luke pointed out that the 2008 financial crisis “accelerated this trend.”
Yolanda observed that “evolution means the marketing function is changing.”
Kelly Ann added to the sentiment, saying that “it took a while for the legal industry to evolve.” She noted that today there are “more educated consumers of legal services.” That growing sophistication now includes a firm’s lawyers too. “Partners now expect you to understand their business,” she stated. “We have to talk their talk.”
Building on those thoughts, Mike reminded the sold-out room of legal marketers that “you have to earn your seat and earn your opinion.” The burden on legal marketers internally is “getting lawyers one at a time to buy into marketing,” adding you need to “get people to come to you.”
That perspective often places legal marketers in the position of “ambassadors. We have to preach the gospel,” according to Luke. Yolanda quipped that, besides “ambassadors,” legal marketers also need to be “psychologists.”
Kelly Ann said that “where we push the needle is showing the lawyers the many opportunities beyond the comfort zone. ‘No’ means ‘we’ll come back to you later.’”
The panel offered a range of factors that make legal marketers successful. “If people love and believe in what they are doing,” said Mike, “they will be more successful.” Luke raised that thought to another level. “Having top-level support of the Management Committee and firm leaders is critical.”
The CMOs all agreed that having a strong team and support at all levels is also critical to their success. But the responsibility is on the CMO to create an environment that will nurture developing talent for all members of the team.
“I like to work with people who are intellectually curious,” said Mike. “I seek people who are hungry and passionate. I want people who want to own the projects on which they work.”
Yolanda noted a shift in law firm marketing departments of all sizes. “Even at firms with a smaller team, people are specializing,” she said. “It can be more efficient.”
“We want to establish a family of professionals,” said Luke, adding that he aims to create an environment “where people want to come to work.”
Developing the skills of their team members is one of the most important responsibilities for today’s CMO. Kelly Ann encourages her staff her staff to solve the challenges they face for themselves. “I want people to come to me with problems and solutions – not just problems. They will become stronger – and the team will become stronger.”
Luke stressed the importance of celebrating the achievements of his team, noting “You can’t always expect that the lawyers are usually going to give us a pat on the back.”
There has been both a rise in the number of types of CMO roles in our industry as well as the perceived value of the CMO role within law firms – many CMOs now truly have a seat at the table. As Yolanda made clear, “Unlike, ten years ago, marketing now gets involved in all aspects of a firm’s business.” And no one is more involved than the chief marketing officer, exemplified by the participants in this year’s CMO Forum.