If it seems a little drafty in some high-rises, it might be the revolving door of marketing departments in several large firms.
In the past few months, at least four law firms in Pennsylvania have seen the departure of their chief marketing officer or other high-ranking marketing staff.
Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney and Drinker Biddle & Reath are, or soon will be, without a chief marketing officer, and Duane Morris lost two senior marketing directors in recent months.
Ballard Spahr is in the process of searching for a new CMO, Buchanan Ingersoll has brought in someone under a different title and Drinker Biddle will fill the vacancy with two people internally who will retain their respective director titles.
Duane Morris is open to filling its recently vacated senior marketing manager and senior director of marketing/CRM manager positions either externally or from within its ranks.
Despite the turnover, most everyone at these firms who spoke to The Legal Intelligencer for this article was optimistic about the increasing tenure of senior marketers in large law firms. They said firms are taking more seriously than ever before the role of business development as part of a profession that, increasingly, looks like an industry.
The legal marketing scene in Philadelphia, however, isn't picture-perfect.
Marketing consultant Stacy West Clark said the turnover in the city is different from that of places like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. Whereas those cities see turnover due to talent wars and firms plucking off CMOs for more money, Philadelphia is more of a "doom and gloom" scenario, she said.
CMOs and other higher-level marketers are leaving or being asked to leave Philadelphia firms more often because it wasn't the right fit, and those firms aren't always looking to fill the vacant positions, she said.
Blain Banick started at Ballard Spahr in October 2004 as the firm's CMO. He left the firm in the fall of 2007 to take a similar position at Dallas-based Haynes & Boone.
Ballard Spahr Chairman Arthur Makadon said the western Canada native never quite took to the East Coast and moved with his family to Texas.
Despite the gap in a CMO position, Ballard Spahr decided to continue full-steam ahead with its large-scale branding campaign scheduled to be launched in January 2009.
Makadon said there were some concerns within the firm about continuing the branding efforts while looking for a new CMO. The firm had already started, however, what Makadon called a "very expensive" process and hired an "upscale branding firm" to start working on the project.
He said losing a CMO in the midst of this process has been fairly seamless because Banick created a well-trained staff. Marketing directors Ellen Ragone and Paul Bonner are handling the majority of the CMO duties until a new person is hired, and Makadon said he is more involved with firm marketing than he's ever been.
Ballard Spahr spent the first few months after Banick's departure interviewing recruiting firms to help with the CMO search. The firm hired John Lamar of The Alexander Group in Texas, and he has spent the past six weeks to two months finding candidates to be interviewed by the firm.
Interviews are about ready to begin, and Makadon said there are, currently, two definite candidates, with the prospect of a few more being added to the interview list.
While the position doesn't have to be based out of Philadelphia, Makadon said that would be ideal because the majority of the marketing staff -- between 20 and 25 people -- are based in the city.
The two candidates who will be interviewed are both from the law firm world, but he said that doesn't have to be the case. The firm would be open to interviewing marketers from other professional service industries, he said.
Makadon said he isn't sure why legal marketers don't stick around for more than an average of two or three years. If a firm found the right person, he said he would think it could make for a long-standing relationship.
Serving as a CMO in the legal industry is a challenging job because there are so many constituencies to please, Makadon said.
As the evolution of law firm marketing departments continues, he said firms should be learning from their experience.
"We'll be wiser this time than we were last time," Makadon said.
He said the tenure for these positions would continue to increase as legal marketers become more experienced and have more to offer the firms.
Stephen D. Barrett joined Drinker Biddle as its CMO in September 2005 and has been commuting from his Boston home to Philadelphia each week. He would spend the week in the city and travel back to Massachusetts for the weekend.
Despite trading in his long commute, firm managing partner Andrew C. Kassner said Barrett may have felt he accomplished what he was looking to do at the firm.
"He's a builder," Kassner said. "He saw an opportunity here to help us build, and he may be looking for the next challenge, wherever it may be."
Since joining the firm, Barrett helped build the marketing department from around 10 members to 25. There are 12 marketers in Philadelphia, seven in Chicago and two in Washington, D.C., and there will soon be four in New Jersey.
Kassner said he was pleased with the progress Barrett made over the last few years. He said Barrett came in with a vision of how to build a marketing and client relations department in the firm and went ahead and did it.
Building a strong staff, Kassner said, worked out in the firm's favor, given Barrett's coming departure. Instead of hiring a new CMO, Drinker Biddle will split the responsibilities between its two marketing directors.
John Byrne, the firm's director of communications, and Kristin Sudholz, director of practice development, will work together on carrying out the marketing plan Barrett created.
Byrne, based in Philadelphia, started at the firm in July 2006. Barrett hired Sudholz in March 2007 after the firm merged with Chicago-based Gardner Carton & Douglas. She is based in Chicago.
Since January 2008, Duane Morris has seen the departure of its senior marketing manager, Holly Lentz Kleeman, and its senior director of marketing/CRM manager, Pat Purdy.
When the firm saw a changeover in leadership at the beginning of the year from major marketing proponent Sheldon Bonovitz to litigator John Soroko, some people questioned what would happen to Duane Morris' robust marketing department.
All those involved said there has been no decrease in support of the marketing department under Soroko's leadership and Kleeman and Purdy's departures were completely unrelated to the change.
Kleeman, who was the No. 2 person behind CMO Edward M. Schechter, left in January to start her own business, Lentz Productions. She focuses on business development and marketing for firms of all sizes.
She had been at Duane Morris for eight years and said that was one of the main reasons she left.
"Eight years is a really long time for legal marketing," she said.
Kleeman said Purdy's departure may have had something to do with her leaving the firm considering Purdy used to work for Kleeman's husband, and Kleeman brought her on board at Duane Morris.
But more than that, Kleeman said, Purdy had a really great opportunity at another firm. She now works for Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in New York.
While the legal industry is often slower moving than other professional service sectors, Kleeman said she does see legal marketing becoming more accepted and the positions staying filled longer. She said Schechter is the exception to the conventional wisdom that CMOs stay in their positions for only a few years. He has been at Duane Morris for six.
"[Firms] are realizing that, like it or not, they're going to have to behave a little bit more like a business," Kleeman said. "Once they do it, they find out it's not that painful."
Although Kleeman credited the marketing department's existence to Bonovitz and recognized that Bonovitz and Soroko have different leadership styles, she said Bonovitz is still active in the firm. She said she thinks Soroko sees the effect Bonovitz made with the marketing department and would look to maintain that.
"Who knows what's going to happen at Duane," Kleeman said. "With a former chairman and a chairman there, that will be interesting to observe."
Schechter said the leadership change at Duane Morris has had no bearing on the marketing department.
"While marketing and business development is often impacted by the change of a chair, in that regard, we're running against the grain," Schechter said. "[Soroko] is very supportive of what we're doing."
He said Kleeman and Purdy's departures were completely unrelated to the leadership change. The two just had good opportunities, he said.
It is a great time for legal marketing, particularly at Duane Morris, Schechter said. In the process of building one of the largest marketing departments in the country in relation to the firm's attorney head count, the work of the marketers hasn't gone unnoticed. That has presented several opportunities for members of the department, he said.
Duane Morris is looking to fill both positions and will look both internally and at external candidates. He said both Kleeman and Purdy were important members of the team and contributed significantly to the department's growth.
In response to speculation that he may be looking for a position at another firm, Schechter dismissed the idea and said he was staying at Duane Morris. He said the opportunities he has there, in terms of the ability to use innovative marketing and business development programs as well as the support from management, are "incredibly strong relative to other firms."
"It's a great position to be in when you have that level of support from leadership and the partners and have a team here who's awesome," Schechter said.
Buchanan Ingersoll's first CMO, Mark P. Trice, announced in August 2007 that he would be leaving the firm to move to Texas. He had started at the firm in June 2006, right before its merger with Klett Rooney Lieber & Schorling.
He left legal marketing completely, instead joining the marketing team of financial, human resources and information technology company Vcfo Inc.
At the time of his departure, Buchanan Ingersoll Chief Executive Officer Thomas L. VanKirk said the firm might not hire a new CMO but rather bring someone in under a slightly different title. He said then that the firm hired a CMO more for the business development side of marketing given that Buchanan Ingersoll already had a strong communications arm.
VanKirk stuck to his word. A few weeks ago, the firm brought on Linda L. Fleming as its director of business development. She is based out of the firm's Alexandria, Va., office and works alongside Pittsburgh-based Director of Communications and Public Relations Lori K. Lecker.
MORGAN, LEWIS & BOCKIUS
Morgan Lewis has also been making some changes in its marketing department. The firm recently lost its director of communications, Paul Webb, and decided to do away with the position.
Instead, the firm created a new position, chief marketing and communications officer, to oversee what used to be two separate departments.
Morgan Lewis recently hired Michael Baltes, who was the former director of communications at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, to fill the new position.
A firm spokeswoman said management felt the marketing and communications departments should work more closely together and report to one person. She said Mona Zeiberg out of Washington will continue to serve as the firmwide director of marketing.