As the world of work evolves, law firms face unique challenges when it comes to retaining and motivating their talent.
Someone well-versed in this field is Amanda Schneider, Chief Marketing Officer of Epstein Becker Green, a national super boutique firm focused on healthcare and life sciences and labour and employment. Amanda staffs the firm’s Board of Directors and plays a strategic role in the Deloitte Legal and Epstein Becker Green alliance to provide global workforce solutions.
Amanda joins Jennifer Green on this edition of the CMO Series, to discuss workplace cultures, opportunities and strategies to help law firm leaders retain their people amid a rapidly changing market.
Jennifer and Amanda explore:
- How to create a culture that retains employees even with ‘the great resignation’ at play
- The opportunities for team building and development born out of the pandemic
- How the Marketing and BD team add value to the firm’s culture to provide greater attorney and staff retention
- How ‘the great resignation’ has impacted legal marketing and business development departments
- The potential challenges in the next phase of hybrid work and the opportunities that have come from what we’ve endured
- How clients are impacted by the current workforce trends
- Advice for other legal marketing leaders facing the challenges of the new ways of working
Intro: Welcome to the Passle Podcast CMO series.
Jennifer: Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Password podcast CMO series. I'm Jennifer Green, and for this episode, I'm joined by Amanda Schneider, Chief Marketing Officer of Epstein Becker Green, a national super boutique firm focused on healthcare and Life Sciences and Labour and Employment. Amanda staffs the firm’s board of directors and has been with Epstein Becker Green for 14 years. She also plays a strategic role in the Deloitte Legal and Epstein Becker Green Alliance to provide global workforce solutions. Amanda, welcome to the CMO series. We are so excited to have you here with us today.
Amanda: Thank you so much for having me as a guest.
Jennifer: Absolutely. I would just love to hop right on into questions. We touched a little bit on your background in the early intro, Amanda, but for the benefit of those listening, could you please just give us a little bit more of a look at your journey in legal marketing and how the experiences you've had have influenced your philosophy on how to motivate and develop team members?
Amanda: Absolutely. So prior to working in the legal industry, I worked in corporations and I also consulted with the federal government. Being a leader in a law firm is very different than those environments because you have so many stakeholders. And over the years, as I've witnessed positive and negative leadership styles, from my perspective, I made an active decision that I would create a culture that embodies the positive attributes that I had seen and that did not embody the negative attributes. I've been so fortunate to have strong mentors at Epstein Becker Green, but also in past roles. And I would say the first five years of my tenure at the firm and as a CMO, I was really learning how to adapt my leadership style to meet the firm's strategic needs while also creating a cohesive team. I have learned that I can't always control the whirlwind of requests coming our way, but I can influence the team culture and how we support one another.
Jennifer: Yeah, I really can only imagine how much of a game changer all of that has been when it comes to adding value to your firm. But especially during this war for talent, and much has been made of the great resignation and the war for talent hitting the legal market particularly hard at this moment. So from your perspective, Amanda, what's happening out there in the market and how is that impacting legal, marketing and BD departments?
Amanada: Legal industry chief officers are dealing with tremendous pressures to keep their teams fully staffed. Given this great resignation or what I would say will be a sustained resignation, the pandemic made us consider what's really important in our lives, where we want to live, how we want to work. And given all this, there's tremendous movement in the job market. We are seeing firms go to extreme measures to retain staff. So, for example, to provide really large counter offers when someone resigns or to provide a stable bonus. There is also much more competition for open jobs, and something that I've seen is talent internal talent being promoted much earlier than it traditionally would have been to fill open positions because there are not candidates in the market. So given all of that right now, it's imperative that Chiefs must make employee retention a top priority. Because as employees depart and explore other opportunities, we have to be extremely careful not to burn out our loyal employees who are left - behind because the demands of a law firm don't stop. But the way that you staff projects could be really carefully designed to not cause burnout.
Jennifer: That's really such a good point. And I feel like from the sidelines, I've even noticed I feel like as employees leave firms, the loyal ones, I guess you could call them who are stuck behind or who stayed behind are sometimes the ones who are left to pick up the slack and extra work and whatnot that sort of leads me into my next question. The changing way people are working now is playing a part in the challenges of motivating and developing talent. So what challenges are you seeing come from this new hybrid way of work? And how are you and your team working to overcome them?
Amanda: The biggest challenge in a hybrid work environment is the potential to lose your team culture and also that people start to feel very disconnected. Given many employees were hired during the Pandemic, they may not have created that relationship glue that exists for some of your longer tenure employees. So really now we have to focus on these purposeful interactions that I've mentioned where you create connection points for employees to see one another, whether it be virtually or in person. If leaders can create a safe space that's inclusive for our teams, an employee will choose your team over another career opportunity in many cases because again, it's not just a transactional relationship. And employees are looking at all of the factors that - or all of the benefits that an environment has - not just money. So when you're talking about creating connection points, an example from my own team was a project during the Pandemic where we worked on our website revamp, and we had so many team members working on that. Together we were able to have a shared goal, have constant connection points for check ins and to motivate one another. And then we had a really positive outcome of a project that bonded people and really brought us together. So that's a great example of creating these projects that have larger teams where people can collaborate.
Jennifer: Yeah, it sounds like you really took that website revamp during the Pandemic and turned it to your advantage and sort of found us over lining to be collaborating virtually. So very cool. And alongside the challenges coming from this new way of working, what other opportunities are you seeing that managers and leaders can be turning to their advantage?
Amanda: This ability to work in a hybrid or remote model increases your talent pool when you hire new employees. So pre-pandemic, you might have had a job opening that was historically in New York City, and you always filled it in New York City. Now I think leaders have to look at their firm's geographic footprint and take advantage of the fact that you can hire people in other cities. There might be larger talent pools in another place with less competition for a particular job title. Also, I really do see my team members and other offices so much more in this hybrid model, given the video calls. But a downside to video calls is that I think people are starting to feel a little bit inundated with those, and now we have to find ways to get together in person and create some connection points outside of that.
Jennifer: Yeah, absolutely. I think we sort of looked at video calls as this saving grace when the pandemic kit. But I understand how all of our calendars maybe got a little over saturated, a little over saturated with them at one point or another. But considering what we've covered there and the challenges in the new working landscape, Amanda, how can legal marketing leaders create a culture that motivates, develops, retains, and ultimately attracts employees?
Amanda: Well, now we're entering a new chapter of recovery from the pandemic, and a leadership team's relationship with an employee has to be more than transactional or salary based to make someone want to join your team and stay. I think flexibility is going to be critical for employers in attracting and retaining talent. My firm has been extremely supportive of providing our employees with flexible schedules and hybrid work opportunities. Also, employees want to know that training development opportunities are woven into the fabric of the firm and that they will be able to continue to grow in your environment. When I recruit a differentiator for me is really that our culture is so collaborative and that our team members genuinely care about one another. But we do that through the culture of informal check ins and really valuing team behaviours. And so I do have a very cohesive team that supports one another. And then I would say staff and law firms work extremely hard, and you have to create an environment that is appreciative and also fun. So it is very important to say thank you for efforts and publicly recognise your team members when they have positive behaviours, but also important to really add some fun celebrations and moments where you have either virtual team events together where you can take a bit of a brain break and just spend some time together. Or I like to celebrate milestones for my employees, and sometimes I even send care packages to let them know that I do care about the whole human, all of the folks in my team. So really just being human and expressing empathy can go a long way.
Jennifer: That's so important. And such a good point because I feel like this also ties back to that adding value piece that we previously mentioned, which is so crucial right now, especially. An often underappreciated fact for marketing leaders, is the effect that marketing and BD teams have on retention more broadly in the firm and particularly among the ranks of lawyers. So how would you say marketing impacts the rest of the firm when it comes to talent?
Amanda: Marketing and business development professionals are trained communicators, so we can add a lot of value to the rest of the firm by telling the story of the firm's culture and also building programs that help with attorney retention. For example, in our own firm, we lead an attorney business development planning program that includes peer sessions, other types of virtual training, and also one on one coaching. This type of really tailored effort shows the attorneys that the firm cares about their development and wants to retain them. We also partner with our professional development and attorney recruiting team to run a variety of programs. Our core values program is a great example of that. Through that program, we can recognize attorneys and staff who exhibit the firm's values. So, for example, this year we are focusing on team accomplishments for client service and really celebrating our teams of attorneys who provide positive outcomes for our clients. And last of all, my team plans and executes our firm retreats, which are in person this year. And our attorneys are really looking forward to the chance to be together and to create those connections that are so critical to our culture. Also, in addition to the retreats, we also are planning a number of client events this year where our attorneys will have in person interactions with our clients and with one another. So I think people are really excited to be getting back to some of the business development activities that they might feel more comfortable with or the ways that they feel comfortable interacting now that we can safely be together.
Jennifer: Right. And I can only imagine the excitement or I guess, the extra excitement surrounding the retreats and these events now that we can be in person again.
Amanda: Exactly. It's critical. And while we did our best throughout the pandemic to keep connections going, I do think we're at a point where we're going to have to have some of these purposeful interactions to keep people invested in one another.
Jennifer: Yeah. I feel like everything you just mentioned, Amanda, really leads to a super positive culture within the firm. And I'm sure just again, adding value to making people want to stay and to really enjoying their time there and enjoying being an employee. So finally, Amanda, what would be your one piece of advice for other legal marketing leaders faced with the challenges of the new ways of working?
Amanda: You must be flexible and continue to evolve. Keep changing your model when someone leaves your department. I always view that as an opportunity to tweak the position for what the firm really needs right now because those needs are changing all the time. I also take care to talk to the team members who work with the person who is leaving to find out what they think is important and I'm always really fascinated to see what team members have to say and I take that greatly into account as I'm rehiring employees really want to have a voice in order for them to stay invested with you and your team and that's one way that I do that.
Jennifer: Thank you so much, Amanda, and thank you for being here with us today. It's been such a pleasure having on our podcast and I appreciate you making the time to come on and I look forward to keeping in touch.
Amanda: Absolutely. Thank you so much for the time today.