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| 24 minutes read

CMO Series Special: Your Guide to taking on 2023

Over the past two years we’ve had the pleasure of speaking to some truly inspirational marketing and business development leaders who’ve shared their insights and advice for other professionals on their career journeys.

To kick-start 2023, we had the privilege of catching up with 30 of our CMO Series guests to hear their top tips for legal marketing and BD success in professional services.

From saying yes to new opportunities to personal development and learning, we uncover the techniques and tools used by these top CMOs to help you take on 2023.

From all of us here at Passle, we wish you a very happy and prosperous new year!


Charlie: Happy New Year, and welcome to this special episode of the CMO Series podcast, where we discuss all things business development and marketing in professional services. 

To kick off 2023, we'd like to share some of the advice and guidance from our CMO Series guests to help move the legal marketing industry forward, as we embark on a new year.

Our first group of guests discuss the value of saying yes to opportunities and taking on new challenges.

Amanda Bruno: Hi. My name is Amanda Bruno. I'm a Global Chief Business Development Officer at Morgan Lewis. I have three pieces of advice, so the first is to say yes to every opportunity because you never know what doors will open. And that kind of was my philosophy and getting the role that I currently have. I wish I could say that I had a specific strategy to getting to become the Chief Business Development Officer, but it was really just saying yes to all the opportunities that came my way. The second would be to give 200% to everything you do. Every day is a job interview, and you never know who's watching. And I think that kind of feeds into the first piece of advice I gave. If you give 200% to everything you do, people will notice and they will give you more opportunities. And then finally, this business is all about relationships, so it's really important to build good relationships with your colleagues, with your internal clients, and the different groups of people that you come across in your career.

Kate Pearch: I'm Kate Pearch. I'm the Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at Morris, Manning and Martin. If you are faced with a challenge or a new opportunity, go for it. Even if you're scared. Maybe especially if you're scared. I think those are the times when you can grow the most. And even if it doesn't work out the way that you hope, you will learn so much from the experience, and those lessons will help you navigate the next chance more effectively.

Each year, I try to look for one thing in my career where maybe I've gotten a little too comfortable and I take a hard look at it. How can I improve? How can we do this differently? How can we do it better? And I don't mean change for the sake of change, but looking for things that will help keep the team and our firm evolving and improving over time. And this is a bonus piece of advice, but I highly recommend that you build a team that makes you better. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, and invest in people who are strong where you’re not, learning and growth should go both ways.

Debra Hare: Hello. My name is Debra Hare and I am privileged to serve as the Director of Business Development Training and Coaching at Morgan Lewis. I would continue to push the envelope and try new things, stretch your creativity, and overall stay intellectually curious. I draw inspiration from a variety of companies and not just other professional service firms and I particularly like watching what our clients are doing because that gives me motivation to adapt new and different business strategies into my work.

Jennifer Manton: Hi, thanks for having me. I'm Jennifer Manton, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel here in New York City. Make serendipity happen. You are in control really of your career path and where it takes you and by being keenly aware and a good listener and keeping your head up you can spot opportunities, you can look for ways to connect the dots and you really can make serendipity happen.

Christa Crane: I'm Christa Crane, CMO at Loeb & Loeb. I think the one piece of advice I would give is to take risks and be open to taking chances. I think trying new things when they go well you feel great, when they don't go well, sometimes honestly I've learned more from my field attempts or things that I've tried and thought next time I would do it differently. So hindsight is always 20/20 on those things. You maybe aren't feeling that great in the moment but some of the greatest lessons come from trying things and realising maybe it's a different path next time. So just that ability or that willingness to not just kind of do what you do or do what people think you should do and be willing to try some things that are a little different and out of the box, I think is really it's important and it's also fun.

Charlie: Next up we hear from legal marketing leaders who've learnt the virtue of listening to those around them to help develop their own skills and understanding of the industry.

Roy Sexton: I'm Roy Sexton, Director of Marketing for Clark Hill and I am also the 2023 International President of the Legal Marketing Association. The one piece of advice I have has been hard learned and it has really been galvanised in the last four years of working at Clark Hill and it's going to seem both counterintuitive and a bit twee at the same time. Slow down, pause. Listen to the people around you. We often are there in support of people who have their hair on fire for good reasons and we sometimes want to be doers and we want to respond and we want to react. And we take that chaos energy into ourselves and we just start doing stuff. Lean into your team, lean into the people around you and even if someone's coming at you with heightened energy you don't have to be dismissive of that, be empathetic, say, I hear what your needs are. State a timeline back to them and say, could I do some digging on this? Work with the team. Can I get back to you in a week with a recommendation? Nine out of ten times, unless it's a media crisis or something, people will always understand, but then follow up. Meet the timeline that you suggested. And I also tell the folks that work for me, don't screw up the easy stuff. If someone needs an update on the website, just do that quickly and get back to them and show them that you did it. Because that makes the harder conversations that much easier later because you've earned the credibility. But in short, I would say take a pause, take a breath, assess the situation, and then figure out a solution in collaboration with the smart people that you get to be around every day.

Erin Stone Dimry: My name is Erin Stone Dimry. I am the Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at DLA Piper. The advice I'd give others is never to be afraid to ask a question. It goes without saying that the broader our perspective, the more we learn, the better we are to connect the dots and really excel at our jobs. And that doesn't happen if you're afraid to ask a question. And the other thing I'd say is always listen. There's often times where conversations can stray outside of your day job or outside of your primary responsibility, but that doesn't mean there's not something to be learned. So taking the time to be intellectually curious and really listen to those around you, listen to what's going on in finance, what's going on in talent development or talent acquisition, what's the perspective of the pricing teams or legal project management teams, really invaluable knowledge that makes you a much better spokesperson and storyteller for your firm.

Craig Budner: I am Craig Budner, the Global Strategic Growth Partner at K&L Gates. I'm in a little bit of a weird position as a practising lawyer of 32 years, and I really want to listen to other marketers and BD professionals tell me how to be better. But what I would say is to recognise all of the diverse talents on your team and really make your mission to activate those talents. I find that a lot of marketing business development professionals are not able to do all the things that make them great. And I think what our jobs are as leaders is to unpack that and to liberate them to really do their best to succeed at the highest level.

Murray Coffey: My name is Murray Coffey. Well, I love my fellow marketers or my fellow BD people, whether they're in the legal industry or otherwise. But I will tell you folks, stop talking so much, and also only work with people you care about and that you enjoy their company, then you're not actually doing business development, you're doing relationship development. And remember that people are not transactions. Right? People are never a means to an end. They're the end in itself. And I think sometimes that gets lost. We try to sort of complicate - our what's our sales cycle and where are we at in the funnel? And that's all great and you got to keep yourself organised that way. But every point in your sales cycle, every point in your funnel is a person. And if you are not remembering that that's a person. If you're not sort of person, people forward, I like to say, then you will not have as much success as you could have, and you won't enjoy what you're doing as much as you can.

Charlie: The key to success for many of our guests has stemmed from asking questions, remaining curious, and continuing to learn to help develop and refine their skills.

Dave Bruns: I'm Dave Bruns, I'm the Director of Client Service with Farella, Braun + Martel. So I think that the one thing that's most important is that you're learning and that you're constantly learning and you're figuring out how to learn. And I think that's as simple as reading legal publications as well as getting formal education and getting involved in some kind of professional association where you're learning. But also looking at both what's inside the legal industry, so taking a look at what are other firms doing, what other kind of marketing is happening out there so you know what the marketplace is doing, but also looking beyond the legal industry. Because I think outside of the legal industry, you can see where people are stretching and using new technologies and new ways in which to target and approach their markets.

Chris Hinze: Chris Hinze. I'm the Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer for Steptoe & Johnson here in Washington, DC. So I would say learn the industry, learn how the lawyers practice, learn how the business of law actually works, what the lawyers do all day, and the financial management and the development of the business and everything that goes into that. So that the work that you're doing actually comes into context and you understand what you're doing fits into the day-to-day life of the lawyer, because there's a danger that all of us can get a bit either myopic or suffer from tunnel vision in terms of what we're doing. And it may be the most important thing in our day, but I can pretty much guarantee it's unlikely to be the most important thing in the lawyer's day. And finding how to make that work is critical for long-term success.

Liz Lockett: I'm Liz Lockett. I'm the Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer for Ice Miller. Yes, this one to me is sort of listen and learn. I mean, we did not go to law school. Well, most of us didn't, I think there's a small percentage of us that did. But we can't pretend to know everything. Often earlier in our careers, we might be assigned a practice group or an industry. And I think lawyers love to talk about what they do, as do clients. I think it's important to educate yourself and ask questions, but don't presume you know anything that you don't. Read the industry trade rags. Read the things that your lawyers and clients are writing. Be interested, be curious. And if you have a question, ask them. The more you learn about their practices and the expertise of each of your lawyers and the overall strength of your firm, I think the more helpful you can be and add more value. So I guess to sum it up, it's really listen and learn and don't be afraid to ask questions, but make sure that you're asking an educated question.

Linda Orton: Hi, I'm Linda Orton. I'm the founder of Linda Orton Consulting, and I'm delighted to be here. I want to share two pieces of advice to any folks who are listening. People enter legal marketing for very different reasons. As a leader, I've always said to my team, if you love it now, that's great. But take responsibility for your own career trajectory. Learn new skills, even if your firm isn't paying for it. Ask for more responsibility. Ask for the promotion. Ask for more money. Learn to know and value your own worth. If you're in this profession and you don't enjoy it, get out. Don't stay for the money. Legal marketing, even professional services marketing isn't for everyone. But don't complain. Either embrace the intellectual and wonderful parts of the job or leave. The second piece that I have to share is to learn everything about the subject matter, not just the marketing. If you're working on thought leadership and restructuring, understand what you are writing. Or if you're crafting an M&A press release, ask questions about the deal. Don't just do your jobs. Learn about the context. Be curious. Read everything you can. I promise it will differentiate you. If you want to go fast, go alone. And just know marketing. If you want to go far, go with your team and learn about the lawn business too. That's my version of the old African proverb. Most of all, be grateful to and supportive of everyone around you. We need to support each other.

Charlie: Two of our guests were keen to share the importance of looking ahead, being prepared for what's next, and anticipating the needs of your lawyers and your clients.

Karen Wilcox: I'm Karen Wilcox. I am the Director of Marketing at Taylor English. So one of the things that I had to learn coming from consulting, moving over to the legal industry, is that attorneys will tend to ask you a gazillion questions. They're not necessarily asking you the question, because they don't like the idea, but they're asking you all those questions because they want to understand your thought process and how you got to that idea or how you made that decision. And once you realise that, it makes it a lot easier to deal with the bombardment of questions that you're going to get. It also means, you know you need to be prepared for that bombardment of questions that you're going to get.

Katie Munroe: This is Katie Munroe. I am the Chief Marketing Officer for Zuckerman Spaeder here in Washington, DC. Anticipate and prepare for what's next. This applies to your internal communications and proactively addressing the likely next question that you're going to receive from your lawyers to watching trends in the marketplace to get ahead of ways to service clients, being on the lookout for new technology solutions that answer future needs, or creating forward-thinking budgets for clients that really prioritise their priorities. If you make a habit to anticipate and prepare throughout your responsibilities, you're going to build trust and grow value within your organisation. And it's definitely a recipe for longterm career success.

Charlie: Some of the most successful marketing and beauty leaders have benefited from the support and direction of their peers and professional networks. Kelly Harbour of Goulston and Storrs begins by sharing her thoughts.

Kelly Harbour: So I'm a data-driven person, which I have said many times, and at the same time, this is and will always be a relationship-driven industry, both for the lawyers and for the people in marketing and business development roles. And what I hope that people who are listening will take away from this podcast and from my portion is that it takes a village to achieve real success and our industry, I have found, is filled with people who are ready to help their peers and also those coming up behind us. And so if you are fortunate to be in a position of power and success, try to pay it forward. That's something that I'm really trying to do and I'm happy to do and make time for people who are seeking advice to the extent that I can be helpful, I'd love to. And if you're finding your way and carving your path, be out there and take advantage of this amazing network of people who I again have found to be very generous and helpful.

Catherine Zinn: Catherine Zinn, Chief Client Officer at Bakerbotts. I feel really strongly about now more than ever that we are all in this together. So what I mean by that is really quite literally, people at competitor firms, so peer firms, reaching out to them and sharing what's working and asking for support and ideas from people is, I think, one of the most important things we can do for each other. I very much include top consultants and advisors to partner with, to share what's working in the industry. That is my recommendation to people that you leverage, the people around you that you admire.

Amanda Schneider: I am Amanda Schneider, Chief Marketing Officer of Epstein, Becker & Green. The one piece of advice I would pass on to legal marketers is that they should find a peer group. This serves as an outlet for sharing best practices in their role and for their own professional development. You can find a peer group through an association or perhaps a roundtable forum. And if a roundtable doesn't exist that meets your needs, why not organise your own? These types of peer groups have been invaluable to me and my career.

Susanne Mandel: Hi. I'm Susanne Mandel, the Head of Business Development and Marketing for Lowndes. The one piece of advice I would pass on, that's a tough one, there are so many things on the list, but I think I can narrow it down this way. This profession, this role, it's not for everyone. We're change agents and we're risk takers, and lawyers hate change, and they're certainly risk averse. We're smart and creative, but our lawyers, of course, have to be the smartest ones in the room. So when we finally get some buy-in, priorities change, and then we have to adjust. It can be frustrating, or you can choose to laugh, but here's what's really critical and why I can laugh and the one piece of advice that I'm getting to that I would pass along. Develop a really strong professional support system. It may or may not be within your firm. The lifelong friendships that I've made through my work life were born out of supporting each other, sharing ideas and challenges, and encouraging each other to be our best selves without beating ourselves up.

Mark Hunter: I'm Mark Hunter. I'm responsible for all marketing business development with Hicks Morley, a labour and employment firm in Canada. So when I'm speaking with new marketers in this industry, one of the things I'd like to tell them is lawyers just think differently. They're very linear in how they think, everything is black and white, which is very different from how marketers think and how a lot of the work that we do takes place. And they're also really busy. They're focused on their clients. They don't get back to us when we want them to, or we need them to get responses. It's not personal. It's just this is not what their every day is about. As marketers, we need to be vigilant about getting the lawyers what they need when they want it and making things as easy for them as possible. If there's something we can do for them, I always tell my team, make sure we're doing it for them, then they only have to review something rather than write something or post something that they don't have to be part of. It can be frustrating because we think that they should be caring about this stuff as much as we do. The difference is they do care about it. We just don't see that they care about it. I think the last thing that I like to, not preach, but tell young marketers is to volunteer and participate in our associations and get to know other people. For example, the Legal Marketing Association is a wealth of information, a wealth of people who are willing to share their thoughts, their opinions, their good stories, their bad, a shoulder to cry on sometimes. But we can learn from each other, and we're all willing to do it. So take advantage of those people around you, and you'll be all the better for it.

Charlie: Our next group of guests bestow the importance of being able to demonstrate the value you bring to the firm and to your stakeholders.

Norm Rubenstein: I'm Norm Rubenstein. I'm the managing director for branding at O'Melveny & Myers. You only have an opportunity to make your first impression once. And so I say to young legal marketers who are trying to figure out how best to position themselves for what they hope will be a long and satisfying career, that your writing and speaking skills are going to ultimately tell the tale. People will evaluate you by the cogency of your case and by the clarity of your writing. And if you can nail those things, you win their confidence and you can evolve from doing strictly implementary work to strategic work. So for me, that's the key.

Valerie Brennan: Hi, I'm Valerie Brennan. I am the Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer of Munger, Tolles & Olson. So the advice that I got early on and the advice that I give my team every day and that we try to implement as a team and they've been doing an amazing job doing this is the art of managing up and managing across. And I call it an art because it will be highly dependent on whatever law firm environment you're working in. But generally, there are two things that come to mind when I think about how to actually implement that advice. The first thing that I think about is the importance of establishing relationships and credibility with the lawyers with whom we work. And that means, again, making recommendations based on what you're observing. This could mean you read an article in the Wall Street Journal about a client and sending that article to that relationship partner and saying, hey, we might want to reach out to this client. Or it could mean observing some trends in a trade journal that you're reading and then approaching the practice group leader to say, we should think about this as something for business development. Or if you're a coaching professional, it could mean you having a great idea about how to present materials in the response to an RFI that a company has put out. So whatever the case is, whatever your role is, it really means just demonstrating your credibility and your thinking as a professional. And then the second part of it is to make it easy for lawyers to pursue business development opportunities and marketing opportunities. Because, again, we're one of the only types of companies on the planet that does not have salespeople. So when you make it easy, think about your role as enabling opportunities. That might mean ghostwriting a quick email that a lawyer can send to a client. It might mean giving a firm recommendation to a relationship partner about three things that you could do to expand the relationship and whatever it is, making that effort and making that effort to make their lives easier. Because, of course, so many of them are balancing a full-time practice. I think making it easy to enable those opportunities is really key to managing up and managing across.

Lee Watts: Hi, my name is Lee Watts. I am the CEO and founder of Ashby & Watts Consulting. The one piece of advice I would offer is to really work on your personal brand. I am a big proponent of personal branding, as many of you know, because a lot of what I do now in my own company is helping people develop their personal brands. But never get so comfortable in your position, in your firm that you think you don't have to work on your personal brand. It applies internally to your internal clients for them to have clarity and understand your value and who you are. And then externally, because you never know when you're going to leave a firm, when you're going to leave a position or a job. And you don't want to have to start at ground zero with people understanding who you are and what you bring to the table. So always work on your personal brand and be clear on the value you bring to others.

Charlie: Many of our guests have said that this industry and the role of CMO has its challenges, and certainly isn't for everyone. But a common insight from those who have achieved success is to remain resilient, stay the course, and turn challenges into exciting new opportunities.

Angela Quinn: Hey, I'm Angela Quinn. I'm the Chief Client Officer at Husch Blackwell. My piece of advice is to work with the willing. I've always found that if you work with those who are willing to engage with you, you will get results. And then shortly after, you will have a line of people outside your door wanting to use your services.

Amy Shepherd: This is Amy Shepherd. I am the Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at Ballard Spahr. Wow. One piece of advice. Well, that's always difficult to boil it down to one thing, but I think that I would say don't give up. Don't lose your resilience. Even in those moments where it is severely tested, don't let that ‘no’ stop you in your tracks. Never stop repositioning and rethinking and coming back to it. When you've got a great idea just because you hear ‘no’ you should never give up on that idea. Look for opportunities, step outside your lane, learn and form relationships at every corner of the firm, and then leverage those relationships to help build upon those ideas and build upon that success. It is easy to get discouraged in the face of the pressures that we face and the service that we need to deliver, and the expectations which range from completely unrealistic and unreasonable to absolutely no problem. Never lose sight of what you bring to the table. Try to keep growing, try to keep learning, but never lose your light. Keep that resilience going and do what you need to do. Gather support from your team, from your family, from the industry, from your colleagues, from people across every corner of this world to keep you focused and to get that light back so that you don't ever walk away feeling like you left something on the table.

Bob Robertson: Bob Robertson, Chief Marketing Officer, Jackson Lewis. Stay the course, it’s the main objective, and try not to take things personally. There's a saying of a Stoic philosopher name Seneca that says ‘don't suffer imagined troubles’. Stress and anxiety are often the result of our own imagination, not reality. Remember that.

Julia Bennett: My name is Julia Bennett and I am the CMO of Brown Rudnick. One piece of advice that I'd offer is to maintain your objectivity when advising attorneys on the best ways to market themselves and develop new business. Don't be distracted by annoying requests or focus on the workload. And frankly, along the same lines, don't be willing to do something just because you like or fear the attorney. Have a sound, principled technical reason why you're advising what you're advising. The thing that should change based on your audience is the way you communicate your advice, not necessarily your advice itself. If you keep it consistent, people may not always like your answer, but they will always respect you for staying the course.

Charlie:  Finally, we'd like to end this very special episode with some guidance from three guests who have succeeded by embracing change, setting goals, and bringing meaning to their work every day.

Kalisha Crawford: Hi, I'm Kalisha Crawford. I'm the Director of Marketing and Business Development for Ropers Majeski, a mid-sized national firm. I think I would tell people that change is life, things are always changing, and flexibility will be your greatest asset. We all joke that law firms want to race to be second. So I'm not suggesting that you always have to be the most innovative or cutting edge to be successful, but being able to operate in a constant sea of change and to be future-proofing your firm by figuring out what's next is always a huge challenge and the more flexible you're thinking, and the more flexible your firm and its leaders can be, the better you can do your job and the more success you can have.

Marianne Merritt Talbot: I am Marianne Merritt Talbot. I am the Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at Bailey & Glasser LLP, which is a national law firm here in the US. I have two pieces of advice to give to your listeners. They relate to each other, but they're also very distinct. So my first piece of advice, and I give this to all the lawyers I coach, I've been a coach for 20 years, is set your goals. So, what do you want to be and what kind of life do you want to have? In one, two, five, 10, 20 plus years, you can't design a plan to create the life and career that you want without knowing where you want to go. That also leads to the question: who do you need to be to get what you want? So that is an excellent question for you to think about as you figure out who do I want to be, what do I want my career to look like? What do I want to have my life look like? So related to that is the second piece of advice I have, which is super fun and it's about considering going on more adventures. So have some adventure every day. It's a word we don't necessarily think about in legal marketing, but what constitutes an adventure is really up to each person and what each person wants to do. But some ideas could be as simple as trying something new for lunch. Maybe how you get to work, take an e-bike adventure to work. Or perhaps you take public transportation instead of your car. Maybe you join the 05:00 AM Club and get up super early to work out, to meditate, to learn something new, to start a side hustle, or to do all of the above.

Tamara Costa: I'm Tamara Costa with BLG. The one piece of advice that I would give to those in legal marketing is that law firms are often very involved in their communities, diversity, equity and inclusion pro bono and giving back. And legal marketers are in a unique position to help further and be involved in these initiatives. So I would encourage all business development professionals and marketers to get involved in any way that they can. I think it really helps to bring greater meaning to the day-to-day and an overall sense of happiness.

Charlie: As always, thank you to all of our guests for joining the series and we look forward to welcoming many more in 2023. You can subscribe to the CMO series via Apple podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time.


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