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| 18 minutes read

CMO Series EP44: Part 2 - Amanda Bruno and Debra Hare of Morgan Lewis on how to innovate for legal marketing and BD success

In part two of our conversation with Amanda Bruno, Chief Business Development Officer and Debra Hare, Director of BD Coaching and Training, at Morgan Lewis, Ali Bone delves into the detail of how to identify the right BD training programs to invest in, and how to measure their success. 

Amanda and Debra discuss:

  • How to recognise which programs to launch and invest in 
  • How to track and measure the success of these programs
  • The impact of the pandemic on delivering BD programs at the firm
  • Advice for those looking to be successful in the long term in legal marketing and BD

Catch part one of the conversation with Amanda and Debra here, where they share how their unique experiences and approach to innovation ensures future BD success at the firm. 


Intro: Welcome to the Passle Podcast CMO series. 

Ali: Welcome to the CMO Series podcast. In part two of our conversation with two fantastic individuals, Amanda Bruno and Debra Hare from Morgan Lewis, discussing how to innovate for legal marketing and BD success. You can catch part one via Spotify, Google and Apple podcasts. How would you actually, if I suppose time is on your side, do you go about actually implementing programs and deciding which are the ones that are worth investing in and therefore launching? And that's obviously open to either of you, but maybe Amanda, I know you look at these things on the global scale, so maybe best answered by you. 

Amanda: Sure. I guess, first I look at demand, voids and deficiencies. So like I was talking about earlier with having a dedicated BD coach and trainer like Debra or having that high potential partner business development program, there was a demand there. We were getting repeat requests for that. So that would be one way I start to think, okay, how can we take this in house? How can we put something more organised around this? A void - an example of that would be the alumni program. So that's a void or an opportunity and then a deficiency would be for one of the programs that Debra just talked about. One thing that we were hearing from management is that there was a real inconsistency among the practice groups in terms of preparation of the rising partners. So we thought to centralise that with us and an expert like Debra and someone like me who has that institutional knowledge and can kind of look at it through a firm view that might be something worthwhile putting some structure and organisation around. And then, of course, as you said and sometimes management just comes to us and says, hey, can you help? Can you do this? Like they did with the client service program about five years ago. So that's how we start. And then in terms of how do you then take that and turn it into something and kind of pressure test it and see if it's going to be successful? I think in order to make any program a success, you have got to have buy-in from the top. You just do the partners who are going to take their lead from firm management. And if firm management thinks it's worthwhile to invest in, they're also going to think it's worthwhile to invest in. So part of the way I sell it to management is through that business case. I need to make sure on my end that I've done all my homework because first of all, my reputation is on the line and I don't want to be investing the firm's money or time or the resources of my team into something that I don't think is going to be worthwhile or successful. So I do all my homework and I get really organised and I put together a business plan and then pitch it to firm management and firm management is very good about thinking through what the hurdles might be and what the challenges might be and how to tweak things. So they always improve upon what I've suggested. And then I usually suggest doing a pilot. You don't want to jump in with both feet. You want to just tip your big toe in the water to see if it's going to be successful, because if it's not, you want to fail fast and you want to minimise the investment. But if it is successful, you take that little bite and it seems like it's going to be successful, then you can scale up. And I think it's really important to be measuring everything quantitatively and qualitatively along the way and documenting it. And it's important to do it both qualitatively and quantitatively, because at law firms, there's often a long lag time before you see the dollars come through the door. So with our partner business development program, for instance, we measure the baseline of the partners book of business at the beginning before they start the program, and then every six months after that. And we also ask them to document the opportunities that they attribute in whole or in part to the participation in the program. And the reason for that is it might take 18 months, two years to see some of those opportunities that came out of their participation in the program actually come to fruition. Right. They've been courting a new client, but they get the first small matter. The small matter turns into a big matter. They have to wait till the trial is over. Then they've got to send the invoice and they've got to collect the money. So it might take a while for that whole cycle to take place. So we do measure that, but we also ask them to let us know all of the opportunities that come through. So it might be an introduction to a GC of a new client. It might be that one of their colleagues referred them to one of their colleagues assisting clients in a different practice group. So we measure that as well. And if we see traction, we see success, then we can scale up. We're holding ourselves accountable because we also commit to reporting on this, to firm leadership and to the partnership as a whole, just to make sure that we're staying nimble and we're staying on our toes as well. So that's how we do it at Morgan Lewis, and it's worked pretty well so far. 

Ali: It sounds like there's been a huge amount of success, and there's so many different points that I could pick up on that, but it's just great that really fundamentally looking at qualitative as well as quantitative ways of measuring it and those kind of metrics around it. Debra, from your side, do you find that maybe you get a little bit more of the qualitative data comparatively to maybe Amanda, seeing that quantitative, or is it kind of from both from your side? You see a little bit of both?

Debra: I definitely see it both in terms of qualitative - the number of referrals I get from happy clients, which are the lawyers, is where I see success. And then on a quantitative side, the new business that is generated from the work that we're doing, and it can start with just a seed, a small idea that's planted. And I'll use an example of one of the partners I started working with last year, one on one, where he was trying to find a niche in the energy space, and we started brainstorming ideas and he landed on electric vehicles. And so I suggested doing some things working with my wonderful colleague who supports our automotive and mobility group, who was delving into the EV space. And now at least six matters in the last year have come in through both of our efforts and probably a number of other people on the team as well. And he's been published. And if you Google his name, the first articles that are going to come up when it comes to legal issues and electric vehicles are his. So it just took that little feed and it doesn't always happen that quickly, as Amanda said. I've worked with partners where it's sometimes taken two and a half years before new business actually comes in from the relationship. But that's the joy and the excitement that I have when I work with a lawyer and brings me the motivation to come to work every day and do this. And I just love it. 

Ali: That's amazing. It's definitely what's noticeable through both of those answers is kind of the feedback loop that you're creating. Ultimately, that ROI, be it Amanda talking about how you'll measure those books of business with the partners as they grow through that partner program every six months, or be it the example where this individual is now being seen as that go to expert, and fundamentally for them, when business starts to come in on either side, whether they book a business growing or people reaching out to them, that's ultimately what you want to deliver. I think what would be really interesting and it's picking up on the point that Amanda, you said and I really quite liked it, that you'll do these pilots and actually it's better to fail fast and realise that it didn't work, then maybe not give something a go. And from some of the conversations we previously had, I think you're really lucky that Morgan Lewis, that you're in a position you can do that. But what would be good to understand is actually, did the circumstances created around the pandemic have any impact on that ability to successfully execute these various BD programs? 

Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. I think probably like everyone listening right now, we really had to pivot right? We had to rethink the way that we were going to do all of these things and how it was going to be successful. When we developed a business development plan prior to the Pandemic, it relied on a lot of in person meeting, you know, so all the business development plans that we prepared related to all the industry teams, it relied a lot on in person conferences, in person events, in person roundtables, in person, one on one meetings. The same thing with a lot of even the rising partners who are up for partnership. They were supposed to be in person interviews. And the coaching we had done was based on how you would interview with firm leadership in person. And we just had to pivot. We had to kind of throw away those playbooks or at least put them on a shelf. And we just had to rethink how we were going to do that. And it's interesting, Debra and I had to kind of through experience a little bit early on. We had to say, what are the new pain points here, and how do we address those, and what are the new challenges? And then what are the new opportunities? So some of the challenges were, and it sounds silly, but I know everyone listening experienced the same thing, just talking people through and coaching people through how to deal with technology, silly things, what colours you shouldn't wear because they don't show up well, or it might mess with the light or the fact that your audio might have a lot of feedback. And how do you deal with all of those - test your connection to make sure it's okay. The first time we did those virtual interviews with some of the leadership with the partner candidates, we had one person who just had a really bad connection. She ended up just having to dial in. This is probably one of the most pivotal times in her career. So something Debra and I spent a lot of time on in coaching those individuals was making sure they had all the tech right. In terms of all those in person events, I think it was hard initially for a lot of lawyers to get their heads around how meeting with clients virtually could be just as successful and in fact, sometimes more successful. At first it was just kind of saying, just trust us. And then they saw the value in it because it's a big commitment. If you're asking a client to fly from California to New York to attend an event or to a client meeting or even to carve out 2 hours to meet with you, even if you're flying to them, that's a big commitment. These are really busy folks. So I think they quickly saw the value. We switched our roundtable to a virtual event. Attendance really went up, and it was a lot easier to say yes, because what before would have been a one or two day commitment has now turned into one or two hour commitment, and they could still be home with their family for dinner. So they saw a lot of benefit in that. And then I think something else that they just weren't sure about is, okay, well, they're going to come to the event, but I don't get the opportunity like I used to to kind of sit and have a casual conversation with them when we're sitting next to each other at the round table or at the conference or at the event. Like I would have had the event been in person. So we pivoted around that, too. And I'll just use the roundtable as an example. But we have a lot of examples of different types of things like this. We make sure that we have really thoughtful breakout groups so that the lawyers and the clients or potential clients are still getting that meaningful one on one or small group time to connect, because that is important. It's really important to make sure that you're continuing to develop and nurture those relationships, even in a virtual environment. So it was definitely challenging. But one thing that I'm really proud of is we pivoted pretty quickly, and we took Lemons and we made it into Lemonade, and I think a lot of that stuff is here to stay. So although we're starting to do in person meetings and conferences and things like that, again, I've definitely taken that old playbook off the shelf and dusted it off. Some of the stuff here to stay, I think people are… they kind of like some of the virtual stuff. They're going to be a little more hesitant to attend so many things in person because they know they can successfully do things remotely. So it was a really good learning opportunity as well. And I think we did a good job of pivoting. 

Ali: Yeah, it sounds like it is. It's amazing how many of the small things that make such a big difference. And picking up on the final point there, we were saying stuff is starting to come back to normal. The events and the meetings actually stuff like being able to do those online virtual events are still going to be there because for the example you use, people aren't necessarily going to jump on a flight from Los Angeles over to New York, but they will jump onto a Zoom and you can still follow up and have those nice, rich conversations afterwards or arrange the kind of in person stuff off the back of it. Thank you so much for sharing that. There's definitely been so many rich answers, so many lessons for us all to take from it. And it kind of brings us onto the final part of this and just wanted to delve into some of the lessons learned and your plans for the future. So just to kick things off, it'd be great to understand. Would there be any best practices for those thinking of launching similar programs at their firms? 

Amanda: Right. And I already touched on some of this, so I won't labour the point, but I think you have to have the business case for it. In my case, the COO is going to be critical to approving these types of things. And I think that's going to be similar for most CMOs at a law firm. So the COO is going to be critical. And typically they're an operational and finance type of role. That's the type of person that's typically in that role, and they're managing the resources of the firm. So they're going to want to know -  if any business-minded person is going to approve spending $1 to make $5. Right. So you have to be able to make the business case. And you also need the buy in. So you've got to win over their pocketbooks and their hearts and minds. And you have to think of your audience, who's your audience? And so in this case, the dollars and cents have to make sense, but it also has to make good sense for the culture and for the firm. And you have to have buy in. So if you have buy-in from the top, that's great. Then I also think you really need to go and get some early ambassadors, find the partners who are very influential at the firm and who are leaning into what they're good at or what their passion is. So, for instance, if I'm launching something related to technology and we're about to do that, I'm going to think of the partners who I'm going to try to get a diverse group in a lot of ways, maybe one or two who aren't super confident in technology, and people are going to be like, wow, that person to do it, I could definitely do it. And then a couple of people who are known for being really good at technology because then people are like, wow, if that person who's already good at technology, they think the solution is worthwhile, and it really must be because they know what they're talking about. So I try to get some early adopters and early ambassadors, and I get them to be part of creating it so they feel invested in it, and then they go out and tell people and they sell it to other people. Then by the time you launch it, then you do the pilot group, and that's when you work out all the kinks, you pressure test it, and you figure out what are the deficiencies in this? How can I make it better? By the time you get to launching it firm wide, you've already kind of got your political campaign set up because you've got firm leadership on it, and you've got your ambassadors across the firm who are invested in it because they helped create it, and they're spreading the word, and they're telling everyone else to use this. And you've already worked out anything that's wrong with it through the pilot group. And you've already figured out if it's not going to work because you've piloted it. Could surprises still happen along the way? Of course. Are you probably still going to tweak it once it's in production? Of course. But that's a pretty good head start. And then you're holding yourself accountable. You're regularly measuring it. You're regularly going in and checking in with your clients in this case, probably your internal clients, lawyers who are using it. You're checking in with them. You're finding out how you can make it better, how they're liking it, you're measuring it, you're reporting it back. So that's how we do it here. And from talking to my colleagues at some of our peer firms, they usually find success in a similar way. 

Ali: Yeah, I have no doubt, as you say, having that investment from the top in terms of buying and then those internal ambassadors and really using that almost spider network effect that they're sort of internally selling it and nothing better than people being advocates of what you're doing and pushing that through. With some of the points that you raised there, Amanda, did you anticipate any changes to your existing BD platform? I know you mentioned you're bringing in some new technology, and if so, what do you think you're implementing? 

Amanda: Yes. We never let the grass grow under our feet. We're always thinking of the next thing. Right now, we do have a big focus in technology. Deborah and I and a couple of other of our colleagues are very invested in how to leverage technology to make what we do more efficient, more effective and more successful. So that's something we're really focused on right now. And we're always keeping our ears open for new opportunities and constantly evaluating those and seeing if they're worthwhile. I probably say no to eight out of ten and yes to one or two, but that's something we're always looking at. And right now, technology is a big focus. 

Ali: Imagine with that when you're saying no to some of those, it all comes back to that demand, void, deficiency - what's actually fitting in and works with where you're willing to take that next program or certainly the wider vision I suppose. That brings us on to the final question. And as we ask all of our guests, I'd love to hear from both yourself Amanda and also you, Debra, what is your one piece of advice for those looking to be successful in the long term in legal marketing and BD? 

Debra: To build on what Amanda said, in my opinion, to be successful in legal marketing and business development, the status quo is not an option, and you can never stop learning. Now if Amanda says, Debra, you need to start doing Tik Tok videos with BD tips. I'm not sure I would embrace that. But if demand was there, I will do it. 

Ali: Whatever works!

Debra:  Whatever works. But that being said, continue to educate yourself not only what's going on with the legal profession, but also look at other professional services industries to draw inspiration from. And I always like to leave any training I do with a gift of some advice or a handout. But in this case, it is a book recommendation, and it's written by Ranjay Gulati, who is a professor at Harvard business school. He published a book called Deep Purpose In February of this year. And the premise is that deep purpose forms the foundation for the entire organisation, Defining everything about the work experience, including the company strategy, Its operating systems, and its culture. The reason I'd like to recommend this book Is that I really believe Morgan Lewis and the leaders of Morgan Lewis, including Amanda on the BD team and our firm chair, Jami McKeon, go about the business of law and business development with a focus on deep purpose. So check that book out and I think you'll really enjoy it. 

Ali: Love a book recommendation. So thank you, Debra. 

Amanda: Well, I loved everything that Deborah said. So to kind of add on that, I would say relationships are critically important if you're going to be successful within a law firm and you're going to navigate all that there is to it and all the different constituencies. Relationships are critically important. Knowing your clients internally and externally, knowing your practices and the capabilities, you can't sell something if you don't know what it is you're selling. And in our case, we don't sell widgets, we don't sell vacuums or cars. We sell our practice capabilities. So you have to know your firm and its offerings inside and out, and you've got to know the partners and their practices inside now, and you can do so through building those relationships at your firm. So relationships are critical and just kind of one piece of career advice. If you don't see a path to something, make your own. That's kind of how I got to my current position. If you don't see a clear way to get from A to B, be creative and find your own way. 

Ali: Well, fantastic words of advice at the end there, Amanda.Both of you. I just wanted to say thank you so much for making the time today. It's really clear that both yourself, Amanda, and Debra, have such unique backgrounds, and that's really just fed into the success that you've created at Morgan Lewis, and it's really evident just how much at the forefront of BD you really are. So thank you so much for sharing all of those lessons, all of that knowledge. I know that I've learned a lot, and I'm sure that our audience is going to take a huge amount away from this. So thank you both. 

Amanda: Thank you and thank you for having us. 

Ali: Absolute pleasure.


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