As part of our ongoing series with leaders in the LMA Northeast region, get to know more about Tim Corcoran, a keynote speaker, consultant, author and legal commentator. With deep experience spanning two decades as a corporate executive, he guides law firm and law department leaders through the profitable disruption of outdated business models. He has served as the 2014 president of the Legal Marketing Association, and he is a Fellow and Trustee in the College of Law Practice Management, as well as a committee chair in the Association of Legal Administrators. Tim is the author of Corcoran’s Business of Law blog. We asked him about his career path, his tips for success and why he decided to pursue an MBA degree.
Tell us about what you do. What’s a typical day like for you?
As a management consultant to law firms and law departments, and occasionally service providers to the legal market, every day and every week is different. However, there are patterns: I deliver talks to groups of lawyers, marketers, COOs, at partner retreats and at industry conferences, and my intent is to demystify the market changes taking place. While the market is clearly being disrupted, the changes are good for the profession, good for law firms, and good for clients. But it requires adaptation, and that can come slowly to organizations that have been so successful for so long. I promote the theme "adapt and thrive" rather than preach doom and gloom. When a client hires me for a project -- update their partner compensation plan, reorganize the marketing function, recruit and train better practice group leaders, etc., my goal is to show them how embracing change is good financially and socially. This is a stressful profession, for the lawyers practicing and the businesspeople supporting them, but we make it needlessly complex and stressful. We can do better.
What do you love most about what you do?
As has been noted, law firms aren't generally run well as businesses. So when my advice helps open the eyes of the very smart lawyers who are flying blind, or when I can help reveal the talent in the professional business staff who know what to do if only the lawyers will let them shine, that's a good day. Ironically, I enjoy working with law firms not in spite of their challenges, but because of them. We can make a real difference in this noble profession.
What advice do you have for those legal marketers who are new to the field and looking to build their professional brands?
Law firms are a wonderful place to expand your horizons, which can be both good and bad. In so many cases, marketers are given responsibilities far outside their comfort zone because the lawyers simply don't understand the differences between business functions and so marketing, business development, event planning, communications, website development, and much more all run together in their heads as something the "nons" can do. Such a great opportunity to engage in a spectrum of activity across the marketing function! But it can also hurt us as law firms evolve and deep subject matter expertise continues to increase in value.
My advice is to dig deeply into an area and master it, while constantly taking advantage of the opportunity to expand your tool kit. The best way to make your mark and advance through the ranks early on is to master your craft, not be a generalist. Over time, deep expertise gained in multiple areas will position you well.
Do you have a graduate degree? If so, why do you feel this was a worthwhile investment?
I have an MBA, which I find to be extraordinarily valuable now as a consultant and during the times when I was in-house leading a marketing function.
It was only a few years ago when a prominent marketing recruiter declared that an MBA is a waste of time and a JD is more important to be successful in a law firm. I disagreed strongly then, and I disagree now. While an advanced degree isn't critical in all law firm business roles, having that education, that credibility, that knowledge of how the rest of the business world operates, is a significant advantage when proposing ideas to lawyers who by default assume their preferences are good business decisions.
We have forever left behind the days when success as a legal marketer was simply about keeping the trains running on time, if that meant making partners happy by engaging in sub-optimal marketing and BD efforts. We know better, and more and more law firm leaders are acknowledging this.
How has the Legal Marketing Association aided your career development?
My early days in LMA were as a vendor, and my clients were law firms and law departments. My boss challenged me to get involved in LMA, because he knew I'd have more credibility as a member of the profession, not just selling to it. I embraced the challenge and got involved, and have now been an active and passionate supporter of LMA for 22 years and counting.
I've met many of my closest friends through LMA, and I've developed skills that I might not have otherwise mastered in my business career. And I've had the luxury to work as a vendor, as an in-house marketer and as a consultant without any interruption to my LMA participation. I will always value LMA for providing me with a lifelong professional home.