The rise of the marketing and business development function within law firms presents new opportunities for those developing a career in the industry. But how you approach and act upon those opportunities is the key to success.
On this episode of the CMO Series, Ali Bone is lucky to welcome Matt Goffe, Director of Business Development at Eckert Seamans, who shares his journey in legal business development and advice for BD professionals looking to make an impact in their careers.
Ali and Matt cover:
- Matt’s career journey and how he came to his current role at Eckert Seamans
- The pivotal points in Matt’s career and what he learnt from those experiences
- The key opportunities today for having an impact on the firm and building a successful career
- The differences between sizes of firms in how business development professionals need to approach their roles
- The programs currently creating impact at Eckert Seamans and the most significant opportunities for senior business development professionals to have an impact on their firms
- How to make the most of the Legal Marketing Association as an opportunity for growth
- The future of careers in legal marketing & BD
- Advice for others looking to make the most of the opportunities that exist in legal marketing and business development
Intro: Welcome to the Passle Podcast CMO Series.
Ali: Welcome to the Passle CMO Series podcast, where we discuss all things marketing and BD in professional services. So whilst a career in legal business development and marketing is not always top of mind when it comes to career choices, it is certainly one full of opportunities to leave your mark.
As marketing and business development become more prominent and key drivers for supporting the success of law firms, opportunities for those within those functions are only increasing. To talk about his own experiences and insights into this topic, it is a pleasure to introduce Matt Goffe, Director of Business Development at Eckert Seamans. Matt, welcome to the CMO series.
Matt: Thank you, Ali. It is a pleasure of mine to join the Passle CMO series and I look forward to the conversation ahead. Thank you for having me.
Ali: Absolute pleasure, Matt. We're thrilled to have you on. And from the conversations we've had building into this, I know that it's going to be a great one to get into. So without any further ado, I wanted to open up with the first question. So for most, a career in legal business development comes as a surprise and more than something that's probably typically planned. So how did you find yourself in your current role?
Matt: Sure. You're exactly right, Ali. I would say for the most of us in this role, it is an opportunity that we fell into or landed into. But it is certainly a business and a career that I think as legal marketers and business development professionals, we have to advocate and share the successes and great opportunities that we have in these fields. But my role really came out of an opportunity working at Reed Smith in Pittsburgh. I started at the ground floor of the firm and the Duplicating and Copy Center and naturally sort of moved my way around into firm administration positions. I worked in our records department, and by chance, I also sat on the marketing and business development floor at the firm at the time and just was the right time, right place for an opportunity to join the marketing and business development team. And it was just a natural fit for me at that point. From there I earned my Master's degree in Corporate Communications and then my career took off and I have been in legal marketing for the past 14 years plus.
Ali: Yeah, I absolutely love that. And I think what kind of really strikes home for me is there is that opportunity just within one place that can kind of open up so many doors for you. And actually, clearly, this is something that you really enjoy and have thrived in. And it's a message I really want to get out there to people in whatever they're doing, obviously, particularly within this industry. So kind of when we kind of think about that, were there any points in your career that you thought were particularly pivotal and if so, what were they?
Matt: Absolutely. Ali, I think in these careers, and I will echo what you said, the opportunities to take on these roles in these positions really sometimes fall into your lap, but there are also ways that you can seek them out. From my perspective, a pivotal point probably was at the beginning of my career. I started working in the legal industry in 2008. It was the height of the global financial crisis. I think it really set a foundation for me in these roles to understand what A, the lawyers and the partners who own these firms put in on the effort side and B, really understanding clients and the process and the mechanics behind how a law firm operates, as I noted, is when I started my career, I worked in the Duplicating Center. And some of these law firms are massive operations that work around the clock. And I will just say that every aspect of a law firm is critically important. From administration to marketing to lawyers to clients to senior leadership, every piece of the puzzle really drives the engine that makes these law firms run.
Ali: Yeah, I think that's a really sort of pertinent point. In terms of that, every aspect is incredibly important. I think it's probably for anybody in their career, it's quite easy to maybe get lost in thinking that you're a very small cog, but actually it has a huge impact. And when we kind of think about that, early on in the business development career, what do you think are the key opportunities today for having an impact on the firm and building that successful career?
Matt: I think saying yes a lot, Ali, truly does help provide a successful career. In my experience, I've worked on proposal teams, I've worked in specific business development roles, supporting practices, supporting lawyers. And I think when you say yes to those opportunities, new opportunities arise. Ten years ago I was working at my first firm at Reed Smith and had the opportunity to live in London for a summer and onboard a private equity team. Without saying yes to some of those opportunities that came my way previous to that, I would have never had that experience. It's one that I look back fondly on as rewarding and a truly unique opportunity for me to sort of set the groundwork for my career and understand how people work, not only in the US, but around the world. So I would always encourage folks in this world, in this industry, to say yes to these opportunities that come along. I would also say, Ali, one other aspect is look outside your day-to-day at one of my previous firms and I've had the great fortune to be at, now this is my fourth in law firm, but the last firm I was at, I supported our veteran's network, which was a part of the diversity and inclusion effort. And I'm not a veteran myself, I'm an ally of the veteran's causes, but it was a truly unique opportunity for me to have a different lens on how lawyers work, how lawyers conduct business with their clients and how lawyers also give back to their communities through that diversity lens and the veteran space. So I would encourage folks to also look outside your day-to-day and see what opportunities exist inside your firms for growth and development and learning new experiences that help the firm run overall.
Ali: Yeah, I love that. I think with both of them just being able to say yes to something, it just shows the opportunities that it creates. Be that an opportunity early in your career to come over to London and understand the benefits of that broad. But also in your former firm, looking at kind of that diversity element around the veterans and the opportunities that open up and it kind of almost feels like a little bit of a theme coming through in terms of saying yes to things. There's loads of opportunity within actually the place that you're sat at the moment, so it's not necessarily having to look elsewhere for that. I actually want to ask you there, I mean, I know you're saying say yes was one of your big pieces of advice there, but is there anything in your own personal experience where you said no to and you've looked back and gone, oh actually that would have presented other opportunities?
Matt: There are probably a few areas that I could point to that perhaps would have led me may be out of the legal industry and that in my experience, I've only been in the legal industry and I feel that this is home for me. So if I said no to some experiences, I probably wouldn't be on this podcast with you today, and I probably wouldn't be sitting at the firm I am at today. It's a life lesson of balance that you have to understand you make the choices that you feel are the best with the information you have at that time. So there are positives to saying no as well.
Ali: Yeah, of course, I don't disagree and as you say, we wouldn't have the pleasure of you on here today if that had been the case. So actually with that in mind, obviously you've worked in Am Law 50 global law firms as well as some sort of smaller specialist firms. So do you think that there are many differences between those sizes of firms when it comes to how business development professionals need to approach their roles?
Matt: 100% Ali. I would say that from my experience, I've been at some very large global law firms and they are true machines when it comes to following the sun mentality and they have large departments, large support departments inside the marketing and business development function. So every firm has a unique culture, every firm has a unique approach of how they work with their clients, and how they work internally, from technology to support to access. I think every firm has an opportunity to make their own mark. And I certainly would say that when you're at these different firms, take the experiences that you have learned along the way and take the good and implement them and remind yourself of maybe the not-so-good that has kept a reminder of how not to operate and keep it positive, is what I would say. There are challenges across all of these firms, but at the end of the day, everyone is here to help clients and make the firm a profitable place to work.
Ali: Yeah, I can imagine, as you say, take those experiences because it's only going to help to shape you as an individual, be it in a larger firm or a much smaller specialist firm. You kind of bring all of those unique experiences you have and kind of help to develop yourself, I suppose. So, in your current role, you are working on a number of programs to bring an impact to the firm. What are those and what would you say are the most significant opportunities for senior business development professionals to have an impact on their firm?
Matt: Great question, Ali. In my current role, I sit as the first chair here at Eckert Seamans in the Marketing and Business Development department. And I am truly fortunate to have access to firm management, firm leadership, and it is a tremendous benefit that I have the opportunity to hear firsthand: firm vision, firm insights, firm direction. And I think that is a critical piece of the puzzle in these marketing and business development professional roles. And I would encourage folks who are, say, in the mid-management, senior management, or just starting in these roles to ask those questions and to ask those who came before you about how you landed where you did. What aspects did you see, where did you learn to grow your career and how do you work with firm leadership and firm management? And the second part of that question on the programming; I think it's critically important that you understand the vision of the firm. I'm working with senior leadership here at Eckert Seamans on institutional client programs. What drives the business on a day-to-day basis? Where can we expand that business? Where can we introduce opportunities for diversity efforts, and inclusion efforts? Is there a possible event or third-party publication, third-party resource for events profiling highlighting the good that is coming from this firm? So I would encourage everyone to think of programs, such as the institutional client program, think of opportunities, such as diversity and inclusion, and see where you can align yourself to grow the firm and to help the clients that are here at your firm you work at.
Ali: Are there any particular programs that either you're looking to run or have run previously that you felt made a real impact I suppose? I know that you mentioned the veterans one previously, and having spoken offer or something that you said was amazing in terms of diversity that it brought and the opportunities. Is there anything else sort of similar to that that you've done that you think is really notable?
Matt: Absolutely. So I think understanding who the institutional clients are at law firms is critically important. Who those key clients are, those key revenue drivers, who the relationship partners are, who the relationship lawyers are, understanding those aspects and really driving the effort to whether it's cross-sell, whether it is introducing a diversity or an inclusion opportunity to those clients or even partner with them on events. I think it's critically important that you understand the institutional clients that are here at the firm. And you can take a lot of those skill sets, whether it's pitches, whether it's responding to requests, whether it's co-sponsoring an event, and apply those aspects to new or potential clients, Ali. I think it's very important that you have a base and a foundation to understand what drives the law firms from the client side and then implement those skills and those opportunities for new and potential clients.
Ali: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense and really appreciate that advice. So if we start to kind of, I guess, look a little bit outside of the law firm itself that you may be working in, I know Matt, yourself that you've actually been really closely involved with the LMA and you've actually set up the LMA chapter for Pittsburgh. So actually with that, is there any advice that you would have for how to make the most of that organisation, particularly as you start to grow in your career and the opportunities it might present?
Matt: Being an advocate for this position, this industry Ali, is my biggest piece of advice. As you noted, I did start the Pittsburgh chapter of the Legal Marketing Association here, beginning of 2022. I started a new job in June, started the new chapter in January, so a lot of newness, I will say in 2022. But it certainly was an exciting opportunity. The LMA network is truly global. We just launched an international arm earlier this year and it is a network of professionals you can rely on, you can go to with questions, comments, feedback, and what is happening in the legal industry from a marketing and business development professional perspective. And I think as we all work in these positions and we all work through the different asks that we get on a daily basis from our lawyers and law firms, it truly is a network that we can advocate for and rely on because these are very challenging jobs. They are dependent on economic circumstances, they are dependent on client circumstances and it is very rewarding, but it is also a very challenging job on a day-to-day basis. And that Legal Marketing Association is a network you can truly rely on for support and guidance.
Ali: Yeah, definitely. Having had that opportunity to sort of, I guess, tap into a little bit myself. I can really see that. And everyone's incredibly closely linked and as you say, a trusted network that people can rely on. And there are amazing individuals, such as youself Matt, who have been in the legal world since you came out of college and it's been something you've done from the start. But equally, there are other individuals who kind of came at it from different angles. Maybe there are other professional service firms or completely out of the industry. So actually, for anybody coming through and rising to the top, there are loads of different great people that through the LMA, you can probably get in contact with and ask for advice and seek out what they've done and how that has benefited them. So I'm glad that you've been able to set up that Pittsburgh chapter and hopefully can only continue to build it because I know you've got some aspirational goals with it. So that's really cool.
Matt: Absolutely, Ali. And one comment on that, similar to the LMA, I would encourage anybody working in this legal, marketing and business development professionals to keep your network strong. While this industry is global, it is very small in nature and I think we're probably only three or four connections away from knowing somebody who has worked at the law firm down the street as well. So I always encourage folks to be positive, be grateful, be connectors. There are folks around the world that I could talk to in Europe, in Australia, here in the US, that I have had the privilege to work with over the course of my career at a number of firms. Your impact can make a difference. And I would truly encourage people to stay positive and be that connector at your law firm.
Ali: Yeah, certainly. I really do appreciate that. At the top of the podcast, we actually spoke a little bit about how you came to your role. So I guess my question for you would be, do you think that a career in legal marketing and business development is something that we're going to see more people look into in the future?
Matt: Absolutely. We as business development professionals and marketing professionals, need to be our biggest advocate in these roles. These roles are challenging, but at the same time very rewarding. You are working alongside partners, firm leadership, firm administration, guiding clients and guiding internal clients, which are mostly our internal stakeholders, the partners to drive business, to support our clients and to see business success from all angles. I think these are unique careers that not a lot of people know about. But again, it is our job in this field to share the rewarding careers that can be developed at law firms around the world.
Ali: Yeah, I think for me, the key word that comes out of all of that is exposure. We're fortunate enough to speak to so many great people within your world at the very senior level, but also more junior. And it really is legal businesses, law firms. There's so much exposure with them. You mentioned it earlier on in terms of the opportunities you had at Reed Smith to eventually fall into the role that you're doing. But also you get the chance to touch on so many different industries, practices, and really get that understanding of actually the world as a whole, I suppose and what may be an interest to kind of focus on. So I absolutely love that, Matt. So I guess for us, we kind of come into the end here, and we always like to ask a sort of a similar question, but to finish off, it'd be unbelievable if you could please share what would be your one piece of advice, but are they looking to make the most of opportunities that exist within legal, marketing and business development?
Matt: My biggest piece of advice would be to seek out those opportunities and stay humble when you do so. It is an opportunity to work at some of the best law firms around the world, to be a partner to the lawyers who are driving business but don't be afraid to take on a challenge and take on an opportunity because it will lead to the success of your own career in these industries.
Ali: I absolutely love that. Nice and simple and a really great takeaway and a way to finish Matt, I really hope that everything that's been said has been incredibly valuable and I hope that the people who do listen to it take a lot away from it. I'm sure that they will, but particularly we're hopefully able to inspire the next generation of legal marketers and BD professionals coming through. So thanks so much for sharing, obviously all of that invaluable knowledge, Matt.
Matt: Absolutely Ali, it's been my pleasure.
Ali: It's been excellent. So in terms of a little bit more relaxed, as tradition goes, we'd like to finish with a little bit more of a quick-fire round, a bit more relaxed, get to know you a little bit. So Matt, I'm going to kick off with the first question, which is who is your favourite author?
Matt: My favourite author would probably be Bob Woodward. I'm a big political junkie, history junkie, so I am always interested in reading his books and what is happening around the world here in the US on politics and history. So he's a great one to read.
Ali: Brilliant. Secondly, what is your first job? Or what was your first job, should I say?
Matt: Sure. As I mentioned earlier in the podcast, my first job straight out of my undergraduate degree was a Duplicating specialist, Ali, was my official title, but started on the basement floor of a global law firm and just have been driven to advance my career from that day forward. I will note when I was in college I worked overnight at the International Airport here in Pittsburgh. I cleaned airplanes for what was then US Airways and now was American Airlines. But that taught me a lot about life, a lot of life experiences gained doing that job overnight and just again relates back to staying humble in your career and continuing to push forward to do the best you can in the job you have.
Ali: Definitely. And I think both examples demonstrated a lot of hard graft that would have had to have gone into them. So in terms of the third question, what makes you happy at work, please?
Matt: I truly enjoy seeing the success of others, teammates, the firm. Overall, I am a big brand person for the firms I worked at and the current firm I work at. So I am always happy to see the success of the greater good of the law firm I'm at.
Ali: Fantastic. Fourth question, what are you listening to at the moment? That might be podcast, music, audio books, it could be the news, whatever it might be kind of really pertinent for you at the moment.
Matt: Absolutely. I'm a big country music fan. Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, old school country, I would say for me, Ali, the 90s country music, but also listen to AJR. Panic at the Disco, what have you, is out there. My Pandora channel stations really run the course of all types of music, Ali, and just listening or watching. I'm a big fan of the news, similar to the history and political side of the house here. So Face the Nation on CBS here in the States is always a good program to get caught up on the weekly events.
Ali: Fantastic. Thank you for sharing. And finally, Matt, where is your favourite place to visit and why?
Matt: Yeah, that would be a beach. You name a beach Ali, I am all for it and anywhere with my family. My wife, and I have a six-year-old daughter, we had the great fortune of visiting Puerto Rico earlier this year, so it was a great family trip. But we are certainly beach people. So any place that has sun and sand, I would be happy to visit with my family.
Ali: Brilliant. I love that. And I would have to agree, being in London, we don't necessarily get as much sunshine as you like, so any beach is always welcome from my side as well. Matt, it's been an absolute pleasure. Thanks so much for making the time and it's been really great to talk to you.
Matt: It has been my pleasure, Ali, thank you. And to the Passle organisation as well.