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| 23 minutes read

CMO Series EP67 - Koree Khongphand-Buckman and Daljit Doogal on building an effective relationship between the CEO & CMO in a law firm

Marketing and business development continue to rise in importance for ambitious firms, moving the relationship between the CMO and the Managing Partner or CEO into the spotlight.

We're so grateful to dive into this topic, discussing strategic relationships at the highest level, with Daljit Doogal and Koree Khongphand-Buckman, CEO and CMBDO respectively at Foley & Lardner LLP.

Daljit and Koree share how they have established a solid relationship, enabling the marketing and BD team to progress key initiatives and elevate their efforts. 

Ali, Daljit and Koree explore: 

  • How they first began to form a close professional relationship and realised the importance it would have in the future
  • The importance for firm CEOs & Managing Partners to invest in their relationship with Marketing & BD Leaders
  • What it means for the firm's Marketing and BD team to be performing at the highest level
  • What a close relationship with the CEO means for the Marketing and BD functions at Foley as a whole
  • How to work together in practice and typical discussion points
  • Practices and habits that are particularly useful in forming an effective working relationship
  • How to assess the impact of marketing and business development and the most valuable metrics 
  • Where the firm is heading from here and how the role of Marketing and BD at the firm is changing as part of that
  • Advice for those looking to build a strong relationship between the CMO and CEO at their firm


Intro: Welcome to the Passle Podcast CMO Series

Ali: Welcome to the Passle to the CMO Series podcast, where we discuss all things marketing, business development within professional services. My name is Alistair Bone and today we're excited to discuss the topic of building an effective relationship between the CEO and Managing Partner and their Chief Marketing Officer. With a law firm, marketing and business development continued to rise in importance across the legal industry, and in particular for those ambitious firms. This is naturally moving the relationship between the CMO and the Managing Partner or CEO far more into the spotlight. Today, we're lucky enough to dive into the topic of strategic relationships at the highest of levels. To discuss this, I want to welcome Daljit Doogle, the CEO of Foley and Lardner, and Koree Khongphand-Buckman, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at Foley. Welcome both.

Daljit: Thank you.

Ali: Great to have you on. I understand you've both been very busy at the moment, so we very much appreciate you making the time today.

Daljit: Happy to, happy to talk.

Ali: Brilliant. Brilliant. So, without any further ado, obviously from our perspective, we really like to open up with very much a kind of broad question. So actually, just to give the context to the listeners, we'd love to hear about when you both first began forming that close professional relationship and when you kind of realise the importance it would have for you guys moving forward.

Daljit: Yeah. Why don't I start? I think from my perspective, it started very early on, kind of the prehire process. Actually. I was lucky enough to be included in the interview process as we were searching for a new Chief Marketing Officer and I had the opportunity to interview with Koree. And I think it really started that time because we had developed a new strategic plan as a law firm, which was really heavy on marketing and business development initiatives. So there really was a specific skill set that we're looking for, a type of energy, dedication, somebody that was willing to think outside of the box. And one of the things that a lot of people in my firm will hear me say is, I don't know what I don't know. And I'm a lawyer, I'm not a marketing or business development person. I've actually developed  business over my career. But when you're talking about an institution and a law firm that's been around for 180 years looking to really sort of pivot and change as the world is changing in this profession and as the business of law is changing, it's really important that we work hand in hand with whoever we hired as a Chief Marketing Officer. And so during the interview process, it really started between Koree and I developing a relationship. And then as she started at the firm, we just started working together very closely from the beginning. And it was at the same time we had adopted a new strategic plan and we were just starting to roll it out. And Koree, it was and is continues to be a big part of our execution phase on that. So for me, it just really started from day one.

Ali: Thank you very much. Koree, I’d love to understand a little bit about sort of since you landed at the firm. Your thoughts as well.

Koree: Yes, so a couple of things that were really helpful when I started, I asked a couple of key people who are just, in general, who are the people who I need to get to know whether they're on the business professional side or they're the lawyers? And obviously, Daljit came up multiple times for a lot of different reasons. He has been on the management committee at the firm. He's been a department chair. He was an OMP. He's played every key leadership role that you can and now obviously is the CEO, and that wasn't announced at the time when I started. So, naturally, just knowing his background with the firm and that he's also been a part of creating the strategic plan he'd been on that committee, it just made good sense to spend time with him and understand all the parts of the business, but also understand the culture of the firm. And in general, I just know that building these relationships are going to help with me getting input and also basically not making as many foot faults as I probably would have had I not spent time with somebody like Daljit.

Ali: Yes, certainly it speaks volumes for you both in terms of that ability to build relationships within the firm and I guess the culture at Foley & Lardner, because having been fortunate enough to speak to various other people in your position, Koree, not everyone always has that chance. So fantastic you've been able to do that, actually picking up on one of the things you said there Daljit around, you're a lawyer, you don't know what you don't know, and you kind of focus in on your area. It would be really good to understand why you think it's important for the firm CEO or the managing partner to invest in their relationship between those marketing and BD leaders. And sort of another layer to that would be sort of what does it mean for you in your role for the firm's marketing and BD team to be performing at their highest level?

Daljit: I think just generally, as a professional services organisation, our goal is to service people, right. Service our clients. At the same time, you really do need to have an investment in all your people within the organisation. So it's not always about thinking about outside to our service your clients. I mean, from my perspective, I look at it that we have to be committed to investing in all our people, our business development, marketing people, for sure, but also the other people within our firm and all our business professionals. I take the approach that we need to invest in all of them. And for me, it's important for me to get to know them because if I don't develop a relationship with them, I don't think we can perform together well. It's something even as casual as just knowing each other and spending time with each other and socialising with each other, just getting to know a little bit about themselves and their families. And I think that just always provides for a better working relationship. As to our Business Development and Marketing group, it's very important that we invest in that because that is the lifeline of our business is developing clients, continuing servicing clients, making sure we expand our client base and retain our client base and continue to be thinking as a partner with our clients. We have to sort of strategically align ourselves with where the industry is going. And for us, we've really strategically aligned ourselves in four different areas of the evolving marketplace where we are very strong in four sectors energy, healthcare and life sciences, innovative technology and manufacturing. Those are areas that we're very strong in. And we need to continue to build our brand in that area and continue to attract business in those areas. And it's really our business development and Marketing group that helps us and our partners and our colleagues within the firm create that brand and continue to expand and grow on that brand. So I think it's very important we invest in our Business Development and Marketing group. I think it all starts with developing relationships with each other.

Ali: Yeah, certainly. I think with everybody in that sort of marketing and BD group being right at the forefront of what's happening, you say understanding where the market is shifting and then having had that ability yourself to build the team, really get to know people, just means that there's that free-flowing information and everybody knows the direction you're moving in, which is I think is amazing. Having been in team sport myself, I know how important it is to understand everybody on a personal level. And also Koree, bringing you into this, it'd be great to understand from your perspective what it means to have such a close relationship and that support from your CEO. And then also when you think about your team, what does it mean to the marketing BD functions at Foley as a whole?

Koree: So one of the things I think is probably critical to having a good relationship is that what we're trying to do as a department is drive our components of the strategy that we just talked about, really increasing the services for the lawyers and overalls to grow revenue. In order to do those things, you have to be able to pivot quickly. You have to be able to come up with new ideas and new initiatives so that we are able to engage with our clients and get new clients. But traditionally, law firms are a little more in general, they're a little slow to move and having this relationship with Daljit has been really critical because we need to do things quickly. And by getting his input and getting his support, we're able to push forward on a lot of key initiatives that we needed to in order to elevate what we're trying to do around our strategy and our four key sectors.

Ali: That's amazing. Yeah, I think it just demonstrates how key we're not even halfway through and how key that relationship is that you both have in terms of moving everything forward at the firm. So I guess come to understand that a little bit further. It'd be really good to understand, and maybe I'll open it up, first of all, to yourself Koree before maybe Daljit says something. But how do you work in practice together and going into that little bit deeper and health when you meeting? And what are you sort of typically discussing? If you don't mind sharing that with us.

Koree: Sure. Again, it's not rocket science. Daljit and I have a standard set called every other week, and that's where we just walk through. Here are some key things going on in that conversation. I like to tell him, here are the things you need to know. Here are the things I need from you, and here are things that we kind of have in the pipeline that we should be discussing in the future. And then also, it's not just using that time and taking only those meetings and communicating. It's also having the informal discussions. I have no problem sending him a text. He'll send me a text, something we need to talk about right away. IM. And then obviously using the traditional telephone is we'll have a lot of conversations Daljit's on the road a lot. He'll be driving, and sometimes it's just easier to get a hold of him that way and just carving out those few minutes to talk. But in addition to that, as we both are travelling to the various offices, and sometimes we end up in the same cities and just taking that time to say, can we just carve out ten minutes while we're here in person? Because that dialogue is also different and just making sure that we're in constant communication of the different things that are going on. But it has to be a priority. And for me, it's a priority to make sure he knows what's going on, but also for him to engage with me so I know what's going on so I can help further the business.

Ali: Yes, certainly. Daljit I know both of you are incredibly busy. You're on the road the whole time. So is that kind of the call that you have every other week that's kind of sacrosanct in your diary as much as possible? I'm guessing neither of you tries to move it.

Daljit: As much as possible, but sometimes some things come up right after we have to move on. That's the reality of life. But I think what balances that all nicely is what we talked about is we have a lot of those informal discussions and I think that's important because things come up and things evolve and things change and I think we can all efficiently do our work better if we're able to get in touch with each other and just get some quick direction or quick input. I trust her and her team that they're doing an amazing job. Every once in a while it's helpful for her if she has something on her mind she wants to bounce off of me. She just calls me, I'm driving home or if I'm driving to the airport or wherever it is or she'll text me or instant message me. And I really like that because I think that's just a working relationship. I try not to get into the weeds with things because like I said, I trust our team. They're doing a great job. At the same time, I like to know what's going on and it's helpful that I get updates of what's happening and she gets my input on things and I think that's the great relationship we have and I try to have with all of our leaders within the firm and anyone for that matter. I've always told everybody that I'm accessible, I'm hopefully approachable and people feel comfortable talking to me and bouncing things off of me so we can move in real-time because sometimes things can't wait for that biweekly call and a little bit of a quick discussion helps move things forward.

Ali: Yeah, certainly I can imagine so. And it sounds like you really are able to focus in on those four pillars and the strategy and those kind of bigger calls that you have. But clearly from both of you, what comes through is just how important those informal conversations are and how the ability of being able to just have those impromptu chats really brings a lot out in terms of those conversations, I was actually going to ask around kind of whether there are any practices or habits that either of you have found particularly useful when it comes to forming that relationship. I think maybe you can almost answered it with those informal chats are something that's almost really cemented it and allowed you to really develop everything forward, I guess in terms of what you're trying to achieve and both, I guess personally and professionally. Would there be anything else that you would add on to that or do you think actually that has been kind of always the key.

Daljit:  I'll start. I think that has been, I think the key sound like a broken record at some point. But I think it's just important you establish those relationships because I think relationships are key to anything, whether you're working with your team members internally or you're working with clients. If you have those relationships and the trust of each other and you form those bonds with each other it will take you places. And I think that's something that Koree and I had the privilege of doing early on. They got us to this level where we're informal and able to talk to each other very quickly and develop an informal relationship because we kind of all started in our roles at the same time. I was transitioning into my role as chairman of the firm and CEO of the firm, and she had been here probably less than a year or six months at that time. So we're both getting into this task that we're going to be doing going forward at the same time. And that allowed us to sort of just roll our sleeves up and work together and get aligned together and think strategically about what we want to accomplish and then touch base with each other as we move forward on that pathway.

Ali: Yes, certainly. I can imagine. And what about yourself Koree? Is there anything that you add to that?

Koree: Yes, I would add something, honestly. I think Daljit has a style about him which he shared right away. He said, typically when I come up with ideas or I express an opinion, people actually just agree with me. He's like, I don't want people just to agree with me. I'd actually like them to provide their own opinions, or if they disagree, you know, push back so that we actually have a dialogue. And of course, I think that the heart, because for me, it's all about straight talk. I'm like, get to the point, what do we need to do? How are we going to move forward? Because my job truly is to move the firm, really progress the firm for our strategy, really progress the firm in the marketplace. And if he and I are dancing around topics or dancing around issues, it's just going to take that much longer. And so we don't always necessarily agree on everything, but let's have a conversation and let's think it through and get to the right, you know, the right outcome. But that was critical. He was very upfront about that, and I was also very upfront that it is easier for me if he is just absolutely a straight shooter. We can have straight conversations. I'm not very sensitive. So in a good way, I think I'm not very sensitive where it's okay, you don't have to agree with me. He can hate 99 of my ideas, but let's make sure that we're on the same page.

Ali: Yes, I think it's so important having been in environments where you can just be straight-talking to people. Often it lands a lot better, particularly, as you say, if you're not necessarily emotional in that sense and clearly helps the ultimate goal that you're both striving for. I think it kind of summed up there in terms of what you're trying to achieve, which is as the marketing BD function, move the needle, really progress fully within the market. So if we kind of start looking at and delving a little bit deeper into Daljit when it comes to you assessing the impact of marketing and business development, what are you really looking for from Koree and her team, and what's sort of the most valuable metrics for you as the CEO?

Daljit: Well, I think just generally, we are really in an environment that's just changing the competitive landscape, the industry, everything's changing pretty fast. And what I'm looking for is creativity and forward-thinking, as Koree you mentioned. I guess I forgot that I said that to her initially, but that's the truth. I guess one of the downsides, what I've realised in my new position is people sometimes tend to agree with me. And I'm not looking for somebody to agree with me. I want people around me that are going to challenge us and push us to evolve and innovate and move forward and just be able to be more competitive in the new world that we're seeing. So for me, metrics are important, and sometimes I find it hard to figure out how do you judge progress now? There are different ways we can and we're looking at things. You want to see your brand recognition increase over time. You want to see your revenue. Let's be honest, right at the end of the day, in business development, marketing is we want a revenue to increase. We want to do a good job for existing clients, continue to be their go-to service providers, help them think for their business and grow more revenue from them, and then bringing new clients and grow more revenue and service them properly. So at the end of the day, when you look back, we have created a five-year action plan that has some steps in it that Koree has developed, that they sat down with her and we went through and provided some input on that that I'm really happy about and excited about. And we do have to have success metrics to it. And some of that revolves around revenue increasing and also brand recognition increasing in the marketplace. But we've had some huge strides in our first year, and one of the great things that Koree and her team have put together is our social media presence. This is something that probably wasn't there five or ten years ago, and we're law firms thinking about how active they should be on social media. I will say we weren't. But over the last few years with Koree and her team, we have really increased our social media presence and it's really providing dividends where I think we are top of mind of a lot of general counsels and C suites in the marketplace and people know who Foley and Lardner is. And I think some of that's attributable to, not only our great work we do in the marketplace, but just getting that brand out there in a different way. That is just a new way things operate these days.

Ali: Yeah, that's super exciting and sort of shows that, I guess, the new age of where law firms can go and what you can do with the digital sphere, I suppose. And I know you touched upon there, obviously, having that five-year plan and you're a year into it, and I'm very excited to see where Foley goes as you both continue this relationship and take it forward and kind of that naturally leads into something that I'd really love to understand and probably open up to you Koree is actually where do you see the firm heading from here? And with that sort of how do you see the role of marketing BD at the firm changing as part of that?

Koree: So we're headed as a firm is a lot of where we've been and obviously it's doubling down on those things that we're really good at. We just talked about what are we known for in the market? And for things that we're really known for in the market are some key sectors energy, healthcare, life sciences, manufacturing, and innovative technology. Those are things that we know we're really good at. And so we're going to really focus on progressing their action plans, getting them more well known in the marketplace, but capturing client experiences within those sectors and taking those clients and best practices and making sure we're sharing that across those sectors. That is where we're headed as a firm is really focused on looking at data within the sectors so that we can create new innovative business solutions for our clients using data that we have in the firm, but now collecting it and capturing it and leveraging it in a different way so that we can be more collaborative across the entire business, which benefits to our clients. The more seamless we are as a firm and the more we can see through the trends of our data of our clients, it's going to be really beneficial to us now and in the future. And when I joined Daljit is very focused on where can we improve internally on our business parts, where our business function is, what data are we capturing already from our clients and are we syncing them up that data? Are we syncing the data up so that we can actually use it to our advantage to find white space in the market? Where should we be? Who should we be looking at, but also what clients should we be working with, what clients should we be more focused on that we already have in our client list that are really going to benefit from our sector strategy? So that's where we're headed as a firm. It's just really focused on how to better service our clients and using a lot of data to get there.

Ali: Yeah, without a doubt data is king. Moving forward, I think more than any business, particularly law firms sitting on so much of it, can harvest that and really utilise it in a positive way as you're trying to achieve there and by the sounds will definitely do it's only a very very good thing. What about yourself Daljit? Is there anything that you might add around that? I mean clearly technology is going to be really important as you move forward. As Koree touched upon there is anything that you really see happening?

Daljit: I totally agree with Koree. I think the idea of data is going to be very important, technology is going to be important, efficiency is going to be important and also bringing those efficiencies to our clients. One of the things we always talk about in our firm here is, Foley we're 1100 lawyers, 25 offices, a wide range of experience in those four sectors. We talked about healthcare, life sciences, manufacturing, energy and innovative technology. But we have a wealth of knowledge and we need to be able to bring that knowledge to our clients collectively as a whole and we talk about bringing the whole of the firm to the whole of the client. Right. So leveraging all the knowledge base that we have as an institution and bringing that to our clients is important for us. And law firms aren't that quick to innovate, but we have to innovate and we have to be able to provide those solutions to our clients, help them think through issues and help them think through their business, not just be there to solve a problem on a specific day and pick up the phone when they call with a specific issue. We want to be out there thinking for our clients and helping bring solutions to them and help them think about things that they're struggling with and bringing solutions to them. So the more we can leverage our data, our technology, our firm's wealth of knowledge as a whole and bring that power to our clients, I think the more effective we're going to be.

Ali:  I absolutely love the comment that you made of bring the whole firm to the whole of the client because so many firms I think maybe typically are not doing that and it's kind of quite closed off in different areas. So again just another great demonstration of how forward-thinking Foley is in terms of where you're both taking the firm. So that kind of brings us actually round to towards the end and there's one question that we kind of typically round off and it's a little bit more unique to you both. But what we'd love to understand is if there's one piece of advice for those who are looking to build a strong relationship between the CMO and their CEO at law firm. So Daljit, if you'd like to maybe kick us off and then we'd love to hear from yourself Koree.

Daljit: Sure. I guess one advice I would give is lean on your people and trust your people. I think that's one thing that has really helped relation between Koree and I thrive is I trust the people we have working her and the people that we have working in our department, they're great. Let them run with things. Let them challenge the norms and bring ideas to you and think differently and collaborate. I think collaboration is important and the connections that we have are important. But lean on your people. I said earlier I don't know what I don't know. I'm a lawyer. I'm trained to think a certain way, right? Marketing and business development people are trained to think a different way than me. And that's great, and I love that and I want to embrace it. So I want them to really be creative and run with things and bring to the business of law aside that lawyers typically aren't that good at.

Ali: Certainly, it's good honesty there. What about for yourself Koree?

Koree: So my biggest piece of advice is about building the relationship is having a really upfront conversation. When you first start working with somebody, like we talked about is what's the best way to communicate? How can we build a trusted advisor relationship between each other? Where are we headed? But more importantly, it's having those informal touchpoints. And that is the best piece of advice because I think that's what's been really helpful to me, not only at Foley, but in previous roles, is reaching out and saying, let's go grab lunch. Can we grab coffee really quick? Can we just connect on a human level which provides that relationship foundation that you need in order to actually be more honest with each other? That's what I think has been really helpful, but you have to find a cadence that works for you. But as the CMO, you have to make it a priority to build that relationship. The CEO is so busy that it's your job to make sure that you're making the time to build that relationship. He has a lot of things he or she has a lot of things that they need to do, and they aren't always thinking about how to focus on just your department because they have to oversee the entire firm.

Ali: Thank you very much. I think that is a fantastic note to finish on. I mean, I just love the fact that from your point of view, Daljit, you just trust in the people around you, want to learn from them. And from your point of view, Koree really shows that kind of human level of just the fantastic ability you have to build those relationships and strive forward. So thank you very much to both of you for your time. It's been an absolute pleasure and joy to talk with you. So, yeah, thanks again.

Koree and Daljit: Thank you.

Bring the whole of the firm to the whole of the client.


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