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| 3 minutes read

What Type Of CMO Are You?

There are multiple CMO-related articles swirling about on a seemingly daily basis within professional services and particularly within the law industry.  I read an intriguing one today in The American Lawyer written by someone who has been there and done it, Murray Coffey.  The relationship between CMO and the partnership can be delicate and it needs to be the right fit culturally.  Murray explains that there are five distinct CMO types and that law firms should choose wisely.  I have summarised each of them below:

The Diplomat:

  • Can often be lateral hires from across professional services and are often from peer firms with similar stature and footprint
  • They are often very good at honing an overall message for firm leadership
  • Carry themselves with restrained authority
  • Good at providing managing partners with updates and insights in a timely way
  • They aren't as strong in rapidly growing firms or entrepreneurial environments
  • Often need an experienced and strong team already in place

The diplomat is most suited to firms that are organically growing with a well-thought-through and highly respected culture.  The brand is already in place and needs to be integrated through the firm at all levels.

The Improviser:

  • They work at a high pace that can exhaust their teams
  • Multiple ideas and projects on the go- not afraid of failure along the way
  • Not that keen on micromanagement, marketing committees and administrative tasks
  • Good at helping define the firm's main goals and vision and then helping to achieve them
  • Very quick at identifying marketing staff strengths and gaps  
  • Not that interested in repeating the same marketing effort numerous times
  • Don't particularly like the long-term projects

The improviser is well-suited to fast-growing firms whose culture and brand are often in flux.  The client base is diverse and rich with untapped opportunities.

The Technocrat:

  • They want well-defined goals often linked to detailed road maps
  • Appreciate room to work and resources including data stores
  • Will happily collaborate with the firm's operations and tech teams whilst helping the managing partner to build out a message stream to support continued investment in technology
  • Good at developing willing team members into tech-powered marketers
  • Maintain a focus on the detail as well as evangelizing the need and value of integrating all of the firm's systems
  • Not so strong on branding and identity development as well as some aspects of communications
  • Not always warm and fuzzy and not that keen to bring resistant team members along for the ride

The technocrat belongs to a firm that has invested heavily in technology system upgrades to roll out across the firm.  However, this often doesn't apply to the marketing team who may well still be using Word documents and spreadsheets on a daily basis.

The Healer:

  • They want to make a difference and are curious and accurate when developing insight into people and process
  • Their teams love to collaborate and often have longer tenures than in most law firm marketing departments
  • They thrive on problem-solving on often bring order to chaos.  This can lead to an intense and short stay
  • Very good at hearing all voices and being empathetic to all opinions and needs
  • Great at developing team members and their skill sets through humble and consistent leadership
  • Not always good at staying in their lane or having a consistent focus on detail
  • Don't like to leverage new technology

The healer works well at a firm where the marketing department isn't well aligned with the firm's vision or has gone rogue.  

The Change Agent:

  • Love to make an instant impact, manage the unknown and propel change
  • Can often be seen by partners as a breath of fresh air, however, once they have introduced and  implemented initial projects and benefits, they may become restless and look for more change for the sake of it
  • Excel in helping partners develop client communications that are tailored around service changes 
  • Enjoy helping the recruitment drive by collaborating with recruitment partners to help make sure key messaging is understood
  • Good at selling in and getting buy-in around the firm to any new changes, especially around look and feel
  • Not always that strong at developing the team or being in the background

Change agents thrive in firms that have been successful in the past but are now seeing profit and growth decline or fall flat.  Often multiple projects will need to be undertaken and legacy teams re-galvanized as well as behavioural change amongst many of the partners. 

It goes without saying, that not every CMO falls distinctly into one category and many of the best have traits in all.  If you could only pick one though.....what would you be?

Your firm may need a Change Agent if it has been successful for decades, but growth and profits are flat or, for some practices, declining. You have engaged in a thorough evaluation of the firm’s business model with an eye to the future. The conclusions and recommended actions are, in some cases, gut wrenching but needed, and you have heard from your clients that they are in favor of the kinds of changes you are making.


e2e, professional services, marketing