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| 20 minutes read

CMO Series EP60 - Mike Mellor of Pryor Cashman on the role of data in influencing the direction of the firm

Increasingly sophisticated CRM systems and data tools mean firms are now able to take a truly data-led approach to their marketing and business development activities. But with more data available than ever before, creating and implementing an effective strategy can be daunting.

Someone well-versed in utilising data to influence the direction of the firm is Mike Mellor, Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer at Pryor Cashman. Cam Dobinson is lucky enough to talk to Mike about why he is so passionate about data and how it has influenced his work at Pryor Cashman.

Cam and Mike explore: 

  • Mike’s passion for data and his journey to CMBDO at Pryor Cashman
  • How to take a truly data-led approach to develop a strategy and recommendations for other marketing and BD professionals
  • How the data-led approach at Pryor Cashman influenced the go-to-market strategy 
  • The challenges with managing both internal and external stakeholders and how those were overcome
  • Key successes that have come off the back of this data-led approach
  • Advice for any Marketing and BD professionals looking to make the switch to data-driven



Intro: Welcome to the Passle Podcast CMO series. 

Cam: Welcome to the CMO series podcast. I'm Cam Dobinson, Business Development Director at Passle.

Charlie:  And I'm Charlie Knight, Digital Marketing and Content Executive here. And we're here to talk about all things professional services, marketing and business development.

Cam: On this episode of the series, we're lucky to welcome Mike Mellor, Chief Marketing and Business Development officer at Pryor Cashman to talk about the role of data in influencing the direction of the firm. Here's a clip of that conversation.

Mike: We'd love to have a magic potion. We'd love to have the technology as a mid size whose value properly leans on running lean. From a back office perspective, we're forced to be really creative. We're focusing on KPIs that really matter and trying to identify correlations between those three sources of data to uncover unique things. And I think that tribute to the Pryor Cashman management because they really give us a lot of autonomy. They allow us to fail fast and really kind of pilot different things. And I think that's a really important part in legal.

Charlie: Well, I can't wait for this one, Cam, but let's jump straight in and the listeners can join us afterwards as we unpack this fascinating conversation with Mike.

Cam: Mike, welcome.

Mike: Thanks a lot. Good to be here, Cam.

Cam: Pleasure to have you. Mike, we're going to go into a bit of detail talking about role data influencing the direction of the firm and that journey. It's something I know you're really passionate about, Mike. It's something we've spoken about before and how it's propelling your role at Pryor Cashman. Can you talk to us and take our audience through a little bit why about your interest in that topic and how it's evolved over the course of your career?

Mike: Sure. I think in the beginning of my legal career, I don't think much was tracked. We certainly didn't have the solutions that you're seeing today in terms of creating a single version of the truth. And even for mid-size firms that don't have the Ferrari, so to speak, there are still a number of different ways of looking at industry data, individual data, and internal data. Obviously, in a perfect world, you're meshing all of those into some type of prescriptive opportunity. But we've certainly seen a big evolution. Some of the big firms obviously, chief data scientists, you're seeing those types of roles. And I guess before I get into it, when it came as a CMO, I really thought I'd be into marketing and doing a lot of marketing. And it's kind of funny because I think I took my marketing hat off and put on my change management hat when I came, realised the importance of influencing, most notably at the executive committee and sort of executive top management levels. And so you have to think differently. You have to approach things like an attorney would, and that comes from proof points. And so whenever you're arguing against attorneys, you're already sort of an underdog being that most of us weren't educated in that way. But it's the great equaliser. And so we've been using it a lot to inform our decisions, to draw the hard lines in the sand in terms of what we're seeing. Clients are reading and engaging with what they're clicking on, and how things are coming into us in terms of the life cycle. And I think it's made us better business people as a result.

Cam: Yeah, I like the way you coined that in the way that you collect data and practice those into the I think you mentioned the industry data, internal data, and also individual data. And is there any of those categories that you focus on when providing that feedback to the attorneys or is it just a case of amalgamating as much of that information as possible and providing it in a succinct fashion for the attorneys?

Mike: Yeah, I mean, we're still looking at ways obviously such an advance in legal technology and the APIs you're seeing, we're still looking for that single version of the truth. So I'm doing that really on a more informal, I guess, and it's a little more manual than I'd like to, but all of them are important. You're looking at industry data I kind of define as information coming from a B law, Lexmark, LinkedIn, things like that, which can tell you transactional and deal analytics, which can tell you legal spend based on time frames and can give you a lot of different information. That's obviously important to help us to AB test, obviously the individual data where you're getting very granular everything from following folks and following accounts on Sales Navigator, looking at key decision maker actions, understanding lifecycle information for those individual clients. We'd love to have a magic potion, we'd love to have the technology as a mid-size whose value properly leans on running lean from a back office perspective, we're forced to be really creative. And so we're focusing on KPIs that really matter and trying to identify correlations between those three sources of data to uncover unique things. And I think that tribute to the Pryor Cashman management because they really give us a lot of autonomy. They allow us to fail fast and really kind of pilot different things. And I think that's a really important part in legal and not a lot of attorneys really think that way. Being wrong is a cardinal sin in the law firm profession, but in marketing, testing is paramount and so people don't necessarily say what they think when you're doing those types of interviews. And Ogilvy, David Ogilvy is famous for saying that. We've been blessed with that ability to fail fast and try different things and we'll continue to use data to do that in the future. Yeah, and I'm guessing that's a really crucial part of it with so much data being available. As you said, you've got the really granular sort of individual data streams to those wider data sources as well, it is quite a daunting job for anyone in your shoes or in similar situations in the marketing and BD space. Looking to make that switch to a data-led approach. What would you recommend they focus on if there would be one thing in particular that stands out or a number of things?

Mike: Sure. I just know prior to us hitting the report button, you had talked about just the increase in the amount of data we're seeing and that analysis paralysis that can come as a result of people just kind of having so much terabytes of data coming at you and how are you supposed to manage it? I think the easiest thing is don't boil the ocean. Try to start small again, and change management, I'll probably think that we'll see a lot more of those experts coming in-house. How are you getting people a group, as my dad says, a group of millionaires, it’s tough to walk in and tell them that they're wrong, but being able to start small, that kind of chicken egg scenario. I'm not sure if this is going to work. Well, we're not going to know unless we try. And so how are you kind of piloting small, looking at one or two metrics and getting some quick wins, getting some champions and liking to a horror story when I first came here, hadn't really built up my personal equity and trying to sort of affect enterprise-wide change by way of policy. And that certainly was a valuable lesson for my early days as a CMO to understand how your specific law firm works, understanding who key champions are, getting those folks on board, getting them some wins, bringing in some revenue as a result of that and getting them to do your bidding for you. I think that that is really the way to make things happen in a law firm. But again, you've got to have a culture that is willing to kind of try new things and whether that's with small things from social media, whether that's larger things pointing to data to combine practice groups or get rid of practice groups. I think you want to start small and you want to get quick wins and you want to have champions that are helping you. Obviously more is better.

Cam: Yeah. Focusing on the champions. One of my colleagues, he often refers to focusing on the winners. They're the ones who are going to take you forward. And in any change management sort of policy, it's about driving those forward and showcasing them to the rest of the firm. We've already spoken a little bit about the management team at Pryor Cashman and how they've sort of allowed you to fail. And I guess some of that points towards how you really took the approach to be essentially market leaders when it comes to using data. Can you tell us a little bit about those processes that you've really driven forward and the key changes that you've implemented as of using data with your strategic direction?

Mike: Sure. One very visible way was the recent website rebrand, which actually we were fortunate enough to do, along with our partners at Great, Jake's, earn, I think it was three awards. Using that opportunity to get granular, we might have had 50 different practice area pages at one point, which is just unwieldy for a client, you know thinking about the user experience. Can people delineate between the different types of, say, leasing pages that were there, whether that's ground, versus commercial? Do people think in our same definitions? And so being able to look at that data, point to it and say, hey, not everyone gets a trophy. Not everyone gets to lead a practice area just because you want to. Let's think about issues from a client's perspective. Let's look at who's clicking through these, what type of people they are. Let's start combining things that we're very active in or showing value and just measuring the things that matter so we were able to cut down those practice areas into a much more focused, not just service line, but industry-focused. Think of a restaurateur. They don't care who forms a company, who does a restaurant management agreement, who's doing the labour per se. They want to go back to the kitchen and cook and do what they are passionate about. How are we making that easier for them? Pointing to, again, external data. Pointing to internal data. Hey, this doesn't seem to be resonating. Clients aren't into it. Perhaps it's not as key a priority as it may have been or really point to that data and thinking like an attorney when you're making your arguments. We've used different originations, obviously some political tiptoeing, and using Google Analytics that matter and experience data and providing a robust picture so that people really understand, hey, I'm not taking this away from you, but really less is more. We're trying to be focused and we can't be all things to all people.

Cam: Yeah. And obviously, within that process, you've got internal stakeholders, your colleagues and the management team to keep in mind. They want to go in one direction, I'm sure, but almost as equally as maybe even of more importance is the client you've got to keep in mind when you're doing that. So that must have been sort of quite challenging to have the battle. You said you building the argument as one of your attorneys was quite a good way of putting it. And were there any stumbling blocks in that process? Do you have to overcome getting people on board or was it all pretty seamless?

Mike: Yeah. At the end of the day, as I said, it's tough to walk into a room where folks are up 20 or 30% and tell them that they're not doing something right. And nobody likes change. So how are we thinking about friction points for attorneys? How are we making that easier for them? Whether that's through the matter intake auto-populating fields for them so that when you're asking additional questions, they're more inclined to answer them, making sure that you're vetting and getting champions for each of those groups in terms of that process. I like to think about pain points for attorneys as they want to open a matter and they want to bill to it. How are we leveraging those must-do sort of forks in the road to give us the information we want without making it too hard on the attorneys? That's been a lot of it, but you have to realize that one solution doesn't fit all. I think that coming from a big four background. Your role out of KPMG, you move over to Deloitte, it's a very similar role, and the cultures are very top down. You kind of understand what you're getting into and what the escalation and influence process is. I think in law firms, they're so different, and you have to look at that through the lens of culture. And that's probably the most unique part about being a CMO, is that my job is in this, CMO of Denton's job are very different. And even the CMO of a competing mid-sized firm with 200 attorneys is probably different in terms of expectations, the culture. You really got to embed that in your process and make sure that you're checking the right boxes. We can look back at that early lesson for my CMO days as a prime example of that. You've got to really listen well first before trying to affect change.

Cam: Yeah. And when it comes back to, I guess, taking in what you've spoken about there and whether it is comparing your position to a similar firm or a larger or smaller firm, for that matter. But everything that you're doing is really using the data that you've got to support change. And when attorneys do hit those pain points, you've mentioned a few times, if you've got the data there to back up why they need to overcome that and why they need to move in that direction, I guess it makes that all a little bit easier.

Mike: Absolutely. We've even looking at some of the insurance requirements, things like that, where we're able to use influences outside of marketing and BD to say, hey, listen, this intake needs to change. This is why this data really needs to be holistically and we're not just doing it for fun. Here are some examples of how we've used that. Here are some other groups that benefit from that single source of truth. But it really takes a collaborative effort working closely with the CFO, the CIO folks in HR, and whether it's gleaming diversity data for RFPs. You've got to have great communication and you got to have the right technologies. And we continue to search for that utopia.

Cam: Whether it's through the website, and I know you've already mentioned that, and that was a big win to point to in terms of successes. But is there any other thing that really resonates in terms of the successes that you've had since taking this sort of data-led approach? Is there anything that's really been able to get a large chunk of folk on board? Or is it really that measurement of taking the rebrand of the site and showcasing the success of that?

Mike: No, I mean, I think that it's being creative and authentic and realising not one size fits all. I think that going to an industry focus, we've improved a lot of collaboration around the firm, getting our transactional litigation folks together. It's not just on an industry perspective, thinking about issues, whether that's data privacy, whether that's sort of an initiative, not necessarily a practice or something like NFTs, which have been a big push, Web3 things like that. We're having less meetings, but those meetings that we are having are more in-depth. We're seeing, again, a lot more collaboration. People sort of perking up. I think when people are seeing different entry points within particular topics, it's sort of helping them to realize themselves as opposed to sort of being mandated that there's a lot of value in that collaboration. We're seeing increased realisation from fewer write-offs. Folks are really delving down into these areas and really helping each other to understand where folks are coming in along the lifecycle where they're exiting. How are we growing that sort of linear, circular line, I guess, in terms of how folks are coming in. So we're seeing a lot of it. We're seeing a lot of teaming in areas that we hadn't and most importantly, doing these things small. We're pointing to the executive committee and starting to sort of measure these initiatives successfully and saying, hey listen, this is how it works. Smaller pods, very industry-focused, giving the client what they want, bringing additional value and being there so that when things turn hairy or there's a development, there's maturation in their business, they're still looking to us and not sort of in an ad hoc approach.

Cam: And within those collaborations, is that between folk in your team and the BD and marketing team or is that sort of a mix between the attorneys and the BD and marketing team or purely the attorney driving that?

Mike: Yeah, we're the one's kind of setting up the environments and bringing in the right people. My job is to be a mile wide and an inch deep and understand and basically memorize the firm and their matters and understand, hey, you know what, we've got somebody who creates entities here and understands blockchain and this, but we also have this broad person, okay, is that the right one? Who's really great with clients? So we're the one sort of putting them together and letting them get after it and sort of keeping that organised. But we want that integration to be authentic and organic. And while we sort of set that up, we're letting them sort of take it in the way that they think and just kind of setting up guardrails and project management to make sure that everyone's doing what they say and being held accountable for it.

Cam: Just before we wrap this up, Mike, you've mentioned a whole bunch of different really useful insights from as simple as starting small and getting your champions on board and how you're using data to support change and even going back to that collaborative approach that you've just mentioned there. If you had one piece of advice, one takeaway to someone that's listening today within the video marketing field, what would that be? I apologize in advance, put you on the spot here.

Mike: I'd probably say intellectual curiosity. Obviously, you're never going to know as much as we're a mile wide and an inch deep and obviously we're never going to be able to be a mile down into the nuances of blockchain provenance right? But at the same point, caring enough to read up on everything you can, try to connect dots throughout the firm internally that's I think the biggest value we bring is to stop the myopic approach of attorneys who solve the symptom and not the patient. And so you can only do that if you really understand what people do. Every time I come into the office I've got two or three hours, just tell me what you're working on. Tell me how that fits into the bigger picture. Google is my best friend. The amount of acronyms that I'm writing down into the tabs and exploring later obviously lessen as you continue to do that. But I think it's just being intellectually curious. What are people really working on, not just the client? How does that fit into their larger strategy? How we may be able to take some of those anonymized memos or client confidentiality and privilege notwithstanding, how are we able to take some of the deliverables and output that we've had to bring value to other people? And I don't think you can do that if you're scratching the surface of things. That's probably my number one hiring metric, are folks who are intellectually curious.

Cam: I guess when it comes to understanding those areas, it's almost about focusing on the pain points that your attorneys are having. I'm sure they're all very easily sharing the successes they're having, but I guess if there's a group of them that are having similar pain points that perhaps aren't sharing until you have this collaborative approach already going beneath the surface, I guess that's sort of crucial to it, isn't it?

Mike: Absolutely. And being able to demonstrate value by let's just make this small change something that you know is 100% going to work and just building that equity. And the more you build trust, the better seat you have at the table and you can continue to influence all comes back to the data.

Cam: Well, Mike, that's been really gripping loads of fantastic points. So thank you so much for joining us and for everyone that's been listening thank you so much.

Mike: Great. Appreciate it. Thanks, Cam.

Cam: Cheers, Mike.

Charlie: Well, that was a really insightful chat, Cam. So many key points there that Mike covered. I thought it was really interesting what he said about trying to find that single version of the truth. But it really does sound like he's really getting under the bonnet at Pryor Cashman in kind of pulling all of those data sources in and. You know, getting that true picture of what clients need and expect when it comes to kind of the marketing and BD activities at the firm.

Cam: Yes, absolutely. And Mike mentioned the types of data they compile, the industry, individual and internal data and how he's really trying to connect the dots and I thought it was quite a nice way of putting it. He's really trying to understand his client's needs, but also matching that up with the business objectives and all working with limited resources in terms of time and backing as well. So really they're having to be strategic, as a lot of midsized firms are, and how they focus their time and resource and how they can use data to influence decisions.

Charlie: Yes, and that seems to be a common challenge. It's really having the people and the time to kind of sift through the huge wealth of data that's now available to firms. And I liked how Mike put it, that analysis paralysis that you get where you just almost don't know where to start.

Cam: Yeah, and I think Mike really got to grips with that and some of the key areas of focus he mentioned. The website relaunch is one example of success and really focusing on those industries in greater detail. He starts talking about starting small, picking a couple of key metrics and focusing on the winners. That's something that often comes up, is focusing on those quick wins, identifying the champions and really backing them and that's how you're going to get the firm on board. It's something that we've heard a lot of CMOS and business development officers talking about on the podcast. And you have to build that trust with attorneys. That's what's particularly crucial to come across as a crucial theme from a number of these podcasts and really prove that value early on and that will stand you in good stead, as Mike mentioned.

Charlie: Yeah, definitely. Mike talked a lot, actually, about the kind of culture at the firm and how they need to be willing to try new things and that's something we've actually heard from a few other guests on the podcast about. So I know Mark Howe at TDS Law he recently was on with Will talking about having to have that readiness in the firm for change and the importance of that supportive culture. And similarly, Gillian Ward was on with Eugene talking about that readiness, the firm having to be ready for the value that you bring to the table. So, yeah, lots of interesting points there. But Cam, what was your kind of favourite takeaway, would you say, from that chat with Mike? And I'll let you have more than one because I think it might be difficult to choose.

Cam: Yeah, there's definitely a lot to take away. I really liked what Mike spoke about and being creative and authentic, and there's no sort of one size fits all approach. It's about using the data points to understand what clients want, bringing them additional value, and matching that with the firm's objectives as well. But the point that I had circled a few times here was his advice around intellectual curiosity, caring enough to understand what internal and external stakeholders are involved with, and just trying to connect the dots between those. And solving Mike said, solving the patient, not the symptom. That's something that's particularly resonated, and I think that's something that most firms are trying to do, but you always have to back that up with what the data tells you. And like Mike said, think like an attorney when you're making your arguments and you're putting forward those judgments and really using that data to support your point of view.

Charlie: Yeah, I think that's the perfect note to end on. So thank you, Cam. Really great to talk to you.

Cam: Thanks, Charlie.

Charlie: Big thank you to Camp and Mike there for that brilliant conversation. As always, you can subscribe to the CMO series for Spotify, Apple podcasts or Google podcasts. And if you'd like to be the first to hear about our latest product updates here at Passle and Best Practice and all the information and resources you need to drive Passle successfully within your firm, then you can join our Insiders Club for exclusive access. Head to the Resources at to signup. We'll see you next time.




e2e, marketing, professional services, cmoseries, passlepod

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