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A Law Firm CMO is the Voice of the Market

A Law Firm CMO is the Voice of the Market-header-1

“The CMO is the voice of the market – the voice of the client,” said Amy Fowler, chief marketing and business development officer with Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC.  “In both instances marketing is highly valued and has a seat at all the right tables.”

She says the role of the CMO is critical to the planning process in a law firm and that the process should begin with a  review of external data and then mapping it back to a law firm’s practice areas, clients and the “attorney bench strength.”

This is how law firms can best begin to identify and prioritize practice areas – and establish budgets and recruiting plans.  She’ll be participating in a panel on the topic at ALM 6th Annual Law Firm Marketing & Business Development Leadership Forum.

We recently had a chance to catch up with Ms. Fowler and posed these four questions:

1. What do you expect the biggest challenges facing law firm business development will be over the next 12 months?

We are in a stagnant or declining legal market, so to grow, firms must gain market share from other firms.  This requires us to stay hyper-focused on client satisfaction. We must shower our clients with value including:

    • CLE’s and customized client briefings;
    • pre- and post-matter client interviews;
    • Managing Partner Client Satisfaction interviews
    • annual client satisfaction survey with our top 100 clients
    • pro-actively discussing win-win alternative fee structures

We need to really know our clients so we understand what they will value and then provide it.

In this digital age, we are experiencing analytics overload.  We are very active with social media and thought leadership distribution. We have more data than ever on who is reading our information and what they find interesting and compelling.  It is a challenge to figure out what to do with all of it – how to prioritize it, how to use it without being perceived as big brother, how to effectively, in real time, react to it.

Law firm culture requires that the Marketing and Business Development staff support all attorneys. It is sometimes a challenge to stay focused on the high priority areas when there is so much “noise” out there.  It is a choice my team makes every day to spend time on the major projects and the most important initiatives to ensure we move them forward.

There is a real lack of differentiation in the marketplace.  I began my career in advertising so I understand the value of being able to effectively differentiate one firm from another, but it is a challenge.  When you really study the legal landscape, no firm is effectively doing it.  And, at the end of the day, I wonder if it is truly important in our industry.  Because it is such a relationship industry, it is difficult to translate personal relationships into a firm brand.

2. How would you describe the competitive marketing environment among large law firms?

There is a battle out there for talent – both for laterals and for business development staff.  Many firms are relying on laterals for their growth strategy, so the competition is fierce. We have developed a lateral integration program for new laterals that, I would bet, is second to none.

It ensures laterals are quickly and efficiently integrated with partners across the firm and introduced to relevant clients within the first 6 weeks of coming to Mintz Levin.  Our laterals report that it is incredibly helpful to them and that they get real value from the program. In terms of business development talent, we are fortunate that we have had very little turn-over.  However, when we do need to recruit, it is difficult to find experienced people who are operating at the strategic, and not just at the execution, level.

As competitive as the legal market is, the Marketing and Business Development professionals in law firms tend to be very collaborative. I enjoy close relationships with several CMOs and the firm benefits from the ideas we share and the best practices we learn from one another.

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3. Do you have a sense there’s a renewed focus, emphasis or sense of urgency from partners in law firm business development?

Yes, I do. Firm Leaders are driving it. They are managing performance more tightly and expectations in the area of business development are part of that.  At Mintz Levin, we are requiring more of our Partners but we are also providing a great deal of support. This support takes many forms:

    • First-rate business development team – to help them with their business plans, pitches, RFPs, etc.;
    • Comprehensive and phased transitions – a training program for attorneys at all levels of the firm designed to teach BD skills and offer experiential learning environments;
    • A Managing Partner who leads by example – he is willing to go to with any attorney to help expand a client relationship or bring a new client to the firm.  He consistently models the right behavior;
    • A change to our production credit allocation – our firm has changed our production credit allocation in a way that incentivizes team selling and the important role of expanding existing client relationships.

4. How has the rise of digital marketing changed or affected law firm marketing and business development?

It has provided more opportunities for showcasing our attorneys and their capabilities.  This helps to credential our attorneys and the firm.  It allows the attorneys to reveal a bit about themselves…to bring their personalities into the message, and in a relationship business, that can only be good.

We have thirteen blogs at Mintz Levin.  A few years ago, we would periodically hear about how a blog post or tweet had resulted in a call from a reporter or a potential client…but they were infrequent.  Today, we have a database that captures these leads to monitor the effectiveness of our strategy. In a few short years, we have come a long way.

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Readers can connect from the law firm on its news and events site – even subscribe by email or following the firm on social media:  LinkedInTwitter, Facebook, Google+ or YouTube.

For readers interested in attending the conference ALM is graciously offering a discount code, on their own accord, to the event which is being held on May 19- 20 2015 in New York. The code is: BLaw200    

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Law Firm CMO Opportunity: People Powered Advocacy

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About Frank Strong

Frank Strong
Frank Strong is the communications director for the LexisNexis software division located on NC State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh. In this capacity, he leads communications efforts in support of software products for law practice and law department management and also litigation tools – across large law, small law and corporate counsel segments. With more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector, Strong previously served as director of public relations for Vocus, which developed marketing, PR and media monitoring software. He has held multiple roles both in-house with corporations, ranging from startups to global organizations, and has also endured the rigors of billable hours, having completed gigs at PR firms including the top 10 global firm Hill & Knowlton. A veteran of two year-long deployments, Strong has concurrently served in uniform in reserve components of the military for more than 20 years, initially as an enlisted Marine and later as an infantry officer in the Army National Guard. Strong holds a BA in Film and TV production from Worcester State University, an M.A. in Public Communication from American University, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University. He is a PADI-certified Master Scuba Diver and holds a USPA "B" skydiving license.
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