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| 16 minutes read

CMO Series EP61 - Christa Crane of Loeb & Loeb LLP on the challenges and opportunities of hybrid work for legal marketing teams


The world of work has changed dramatically. People across all industries are adjusting to new ways of working, communicating and interacting. Flexible and hybrid work has become commonplace for many organisations including law firms.

On this episode of the CMO Series, Ed Lovatt is lucky to be joined by Christa Crane, Chief Client Development and Marketing Officer at Loeb and Loeb to explore what a hybrid workplace means for legal marketers and how it impacts their teams, lawyers, and the firm.

Ed and Christa discuss: 

  • How Christa came to her role at Loeb & Loeb and her experience with hybrid work 
  • The impact of mixed and hybrid working on legal marketing teams right now
  • How the new way of working affects the way that firms build their brands and businesses
  • How the new way of working for Loeb is having implications on the "we're all connected" tagline and what that has meant for the firm 
  • Implications of a hybrid or a work-from-home model that specifically or disproportionately impact marketing teams in law firms
  • Advice for marketers adapting to the new way of working



Intro: Welcome to the Passle Podcast CMO series.

Ed: The challenges and opportunities of hybrid work for legal marketing teams are the topic of today's podcast. Today on the CMO series, we look at changes to how people work and how they are affecting legal marketing. We're extremely lucky to be joined by Christa Crane, Chief Client Development and Marketing Officer at Loeb and Loeb to discuss what a hybrid workplace means for legal, marketers and law firms. Welcome to the CMO series, Christa.

Christa: Thank you so much for having me. I'm thrilled to be here.

Ed: Usually we start off with a fairly easy question, but this one's going to be a slightly two-pronged approach to it. Firstly, if you could let us know, how did you come to be in your current role? And also if you can then divulge a little bit more as to what's been your experience with hybrid work throughout your career up to where we are now?

Christa: Sure. So I transitioned. I was CMO of Bingham McCutchen up until about eight years ago when I joined both in the role that I'm in now and prior to that, I was at a variety of different law firms, smaller in some instances, more niche, up to Magic Circle Firms and kind of everything in between. And generally, that experience, as I've been in legal, has been very little hybrid. Unless, of course, you're on the road, you're working, then it makes sense, but a day here or there, working from home, but certainly nothing in a more kind of sustained, mainstream way. However, I will say at the very beginning of my career, so this is going back some 20 years, I was at a management consultant at Accenture, and as we all know, the consultancies have embraced hybrid for many years. So I have had a flavour, though it's been a while, of how well this can work when it goes right. And also I think a lot of work goes into making it go right. So even though it's been a while, I definitely have that experience to draw on and I'm thankful for it.

Ed: Yeah, I can imagine that little, as you said, that flavour of working at Accenture would give you a great experience of almost preparing you for where we are now, which I think has probably been sped up due to the pandemic. But that's probably been a really useful little touch that you had to get to where we are now. Following on mixed and hybrid working seems to be something that's impacting everybody, specifically legal marketing teams. Right now. What impacts are you seeing among your teams but also your colleagues across other firms if you're able to perhaps shed some light on that?

Christa: Sure, I'm happy to. I think the most obvious one that people kind of think about is how we're handling getting our partners out there in front of clients, whether that's one on one or broader events. But the truth is it's had a much wider impact it's really touched on every single kind of lever we have when it comes to marketing and business development. The mix definitely has changed. I think it's going to continue to change. So things like digital marketing and really leaning in on analytics, we're investing heavily. We actually just brought a new team member in earlier this year, who is that is kind of the sole focus. We have a small team that's really kind of steeped in that space, internal communications. We've had to redeploy resources from the team. There's just been more need than there is bandwidth, quite honestly, to try to help bolster internal communications, help people feel connected, help build glue. Thought leadership support is another area when some of our normal ways of getting time with clients weren't as available people really our partners, our attorneys leaned in on the thought leadership and again we've had a demand that outstrip supply in terms of support there. So we've really had to think about in some instances about reappropriating team members. We've had, as things have been a little quieter on the events, the opportunity in our world to be able to have some of our events team members actually take on broader project management roles within our team, which then has freed up people in communications to be able to do more and step out of projects. So we've done some shifting. We've also just done some hiring in these critical areas and I know this is not unique to Loeb as I've been talking to other CMOs. I think a very common thing where we're trying to make sure we have the mix right for today and for tomorrow and going forward. And on that front. In terms of the going forward. Our number one focus for next year is really rethinking every single thing we're doing with that idea of how should we be thinking about what needs to be in person. What really how do we bring people together with purpose. Not just kind of assuming that now we're in hybrid everything should be hybrid. But really thinking about from everything. Client events, industry groups were running, coaching programs that were leading you have to get the mix right. Some of those it really does need to be it's in person or not. Others, maybe you can allow for hybrid. It's not the same in every case. But that idea of really kind of going into next year thinking about getting the mix right and then as well, how we the marketing team can really be a part of bringing people back together by kind of how thoughtfully we are running programs and bringing people together again with purpose, whether that's clients and attorneys or even our internal community.

Ed: That's a brilliant answer. And there was one part in there that obviously the listeners can't see this, but my jaw dropped when you said rethinking everything that we do. That must be a gargantuan task.

Christa: It is. Our team's been spending a lot of time. This fall, we're going to do some just kind of blue sky brainstorming. We want every member of the team to participate in that. Sometimes people have different views, different ideas, different suggestions. We found that our team, often some of the best, most innovative ideas come from unexpected places. So this is an area where we're really going to go in big and really try to be innovative, try some new things. We won't get them all right, but that's okay. Some is trial and error as we go, but we really want the mix to feel different and more appropriate and less kind of haphazard as we get into next year.

Ed: Would that be a task that is almost identify, analyze, and then either improve or develop, as you say, everything that you're currently doing? Is that the methodology?

Christa: It is, yeah. I think we're going to take it in buckets. So thinking about kind of things like, to use an example, how we're running our coaching circles and thinking about what the event experience should be for clients? So I think we're going to come up with several larger buckets that then we can do exactly what you said, kind of what's working well now, what needs to change, what's our ideal end state? And maybe even coming up with it may not be perfect, but maybe it's even like we're going to try a few different versions within this space, but being very purposeful about what that looks like and even starting to say no. There may be times where someone says, can I join this remote? And we have to say, actually have the recording after, but this is going to be it's an in-person meeting that's an important component to it and kind of holding the line there. There may be I think there will be some of that as we go.

Ed: I think that sounds like an exciting and slightly daunting task. Sure. Best of luck with that. I've digressed a little bit from the main topic, but you mentioned a little bit at the beginning of that question that I just asked, and so I wanted to maybe see if we could dive a little bit deeper. What do you think the new way of working means for the way that law firms specifically will build their brands and businesses? I think you mentioned digital. What is your view on that?

Christa: I think that's a great question. As part of the kind of what are we struggling with now. That's a big piece of it to me. What you put outside has to resonate with your people inside. And Loeb, we've got the tagline, we're all connected, which has been a differentiator for us before we went out with that, made sure that it resonated. We ran a variety of focus groups internally before we selected it to make sure that it was going to feel right to people and that they could really stand behind it now. Unfortunately, one of the things we keep hearing is how disconnected people feel from each other, from their clients. So we have a situation we need to kind of think about that. Our challenge is not necessarily to throw it out and to pivot because I think there's still a lot there and a lot we can do with it. The challenge really becomes making it meaningful again. And so one thing that we're doing right now as a part of that, we're in the middle of a campaign asking a variety of people across the firm what it means to them now. And I think we're going to find a variety of ways to use that, whether it's how we then articulate that into the sub-brands below the tagline, as well as maybe using some of the video clips that we're harvesting in a way that's going to be meaningful so people can talk about now what that means. Because the interesting thing is for as much as, and we have, we've lost some of that feeling of togetherness connectivity, feeling a part of something greater as we've been working so differently and independently, but there's been a lot of good that has come out of it too, and early days. But some of the answers we're getting back from our people are pretty inspiring. They're different than kind of where we originally were with us and what we were intending, but they're actually very here and now. So we're going to lean into that for sure in terms of making sure people feel good about it again inside and kind of what it means now, as well as how we articulate that in the broader industry.

Ed: I'm glad you brought up the we're all connected tagline because it's something that I was going to ask about because that being the tagline for the firm. Do you think there was any concern or any issue with that being the tagline when everybody was maybe feeling more disconnected than ever specifically due to the pandemic, I think, but the hybrid model, some people feel that disconnection. Do you think that tagline was causing any issues or do you think it was just something that you had to adapt to or change ever so slightly?

Christa: I think more the latter, that we just had to kind of adapt to it and be very aware of it. That we have to again, that idea of rethinking everything, this is in that mix in terms of things we have to think about. I think when I think about you just earlier, kind of just broadly how firms are building their brands and businesses. I think one of the biggest challenges we are all facing and again. I know this from talking to other senior marketing leaders across the industry. That idea of just erosion on how people are sharing information internally. How we connect what's happening with opportunities and that idea of making sure our people feel good. That it feels different here. It feels special. And so I think really thinking about that as we're going kind of building internal glue and community as well as thinking about our brands and kind of what we're saying to clients, what we're saying to the marketplace, there is an opportunity to rethink that. And I think the firms that get that right and that kind of lean in and are willing to think about it differently, they're really going to have a huge competitive advantage.

Ed: Yeah, I think there's also, and correct me if I'm wrong a little bit of working it out as it goes along, if that makes sense, there's some mistakes that are bound to be made along the way. If you get it right the first time, then you might have that competitive advantage.

Christa: Right.

Ed: Personally, do you think there are any implications of a hybrid or a work-from-home model that specifically impact marketing teams in law firms?

Christa: I absolutely do. I think there's a huge in-person kind of seize-the-moment component to really working strategically with individual partners and or groups on client development initiatives. We've tried running things like client teams or industry groups virtually. And honestly, again, the coaching programs we do, the engagement just isn't there. It's not the same. I mean, it's better than nothing. So you do what you can do, but that's not good enough. So I think we have to be really kind of honest about that and say we need to make sure that we're being proactive and kind of thinking about it differently. I think too, for marketing professionals, the concern there's a little bit in all of this kind of out of sight, out of mind. When I think back to the days when we were in the office together and on a five-day a week schedule, I used to get easily in any given day, I'd have, I don't know, three or four attorneys just drop in. They were walking by, they had a question. They see me in the hallway and it makes them think they need to get some time. And now all of a sudden, when you're not there all the time around the same day, it becomes more formal. It's like, I need to set up a time with Christa or this needs to be a thing or a meeting. And I think that's been a problem. We've definitely seen some erosion there in terms of just kind of that softer outreach, and sometimes those can be the most interesting, productive, kind of in the moment discussions. So I think that's hard for us. We have to make sure we want people to think of us. We want them to call, we want them to ask for help, to check in, to want to brainstorm with us. So that idea of just continuing to get out there, but in different ways, when we are kind of out of sight, out of mind, it's difficult. It's been a challenge for sure.

Ed: I can only imagine how big a challenge it is. Sounds like you've got a fairly good handle on it and some good experience around it, which I think is probably why we've got you on the podcast, giving us some great knowledge along the way.

Christa: Thanks.

Ed: Normally at this point, we finish with a question, but I wanted to go into a quick fire round and ask you a couple of questions just to get a little bit more about yourself if you're okay with that. We're going to fire away with I think I've got four or five questions I'm just going to throw at you. Perfect. Okay. What's your favourite business and your favourite non-business book?

Christa: My favourite business book is, I think, completely appropriate for this topic right now. It's The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. I had read a pre-pandemic and I actually reread it recently and I think in a lot of ways it's more impactful even now than it was before. It really talks about bringing people together and doing it with meaning and with purpose and it applies, by the way, to your personal life as well as business. But when I think about it in the business setting in particular, it's very inspirational and actually very helpful as we're kind of thinking creatively about the way forward. And non-business I'm going to give you a summer read because still technically summer with Labor Day right on the horizon here, we can do it. But the Big House by George Howe Colt is one of my favourite beach reads. I've read it just about every summer. It's worn on my bookshelf. It's still the paper version, but just a really kind of great, easy summer read.

Ed: I have written both of those down and I've seen The Art of Gathering before. I love the front cover. But back to the quick fire. What was your first job?

Christa: My first professional job I know we touched on that was change management consulting. My first ever job was as a grocery store clerk in my hometown. And I have to tell you, it was short lived. I think it was about three weeks. Not a perfect fit in many ways, but I learned a lot in a short amount of time, for sure.

Ed: Yeah, I think it's one of those ones that's a very quick learner and you find out that maybe it's not the one for you. Right. Next question is what is it that you are listening to at the moment? Be it a podcast or music or perhaps an audiobook.

Christa: Yeah. So tomorrow night I am seeing a concert at Wrigley Field, my first in person concert, actually, in a couple of years. And it's The Lumineers. So I've been listening to a lot of The Lumineers this week.

Ed: Good choice. My friend went to see them not long ago and said it was fantastic.

Christa: That's great. I have a feeling I know this answer because he said beach reads already, but where is your favourite place to visit and why?

Christa: You got it, I would say the beach, for sure. I think we're all when we're working, we're so busy, we're running, running. So the idea of going somewhere where you can really the only thing to do is relax and unplug, it's really special to me. And I think it doesn't matter where it is, it can be East Coast, West Coast, in the US. Out of the US. That idea of just hearing the water and feeling the breeze and smelling the salt, it always takes me away. So that's my Zen zone, for sure.

Ed: I think there's a good reason why half a century or centuries ago, they used to go to the seaside to cure some ailments. It makes everybody better.

Christa: Totally.

Ed: Last quick fire question. What makes you happy at work?

Christa: I think feeling busy and challenged. I always say I like to feel on the brink of too much. That's really my ideal. That's where I feel energized. There's an adrenaline, not too much, not over the brink, but kind of right on the line where you're kind of juggling constantly. I love that feeling. You feel needed and you're having to prioritise. There's too much to get done. I love that. So I really thrive on that energy.

Ed: Perfect answer. I think we always end the podcast, as I just mentioned before, with the final question, which is, what would be your one piece of advice for marketers adapting to a new way of working?

Christa: That's a great question. I think I would say really own it, take control. It's not about I think a lot of people are struggling right now with what they're being asked to do in terms of coming into the office versus at home. And I would say don't just kind of go through the motions, but really think about how should I be separating my time differently? What should at home look like? How do I make coming into the office feel meaningful? Don't just wait for people to come to you. Walk the halls. Find people. Set lunches, set up an in person meeting. I think that idea of feeling like you have some control and doing it purposefully is a really important piece for us all to keep in mind right now.

Ed: Pretty solid advice. Proactive rather than reactive, maybe.

Christa: Exactly.

Ed: Yeah. I think that's brilliant advice. Well, Christa, it's been an absolute pleasure to have you on the podcast. I think we could probably talk for another half an hour, maybe another hour if we continued. But it's been great. Thank you so much for answering my questions, and we will hopefully hear from you again.

Christa: My pleasure. Thank you so much, Ed. 


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