Business handshake and business people

The once-ephemeral tenure of chief marketing officers among Am Law 200 firms has, for many, morphed into a much longer-term position as the legal marketing industry has matured. But nothing lasts forever.

A few longtime CMOs have made moves in the last few months, with the most recent departure coming from Drinker Biddle & Reath.

Chief Marketing Officer John M. Byrne is leaving the firm by month’s end to start his own “content marketing communications strategy firm,” Byrne confirmed.

Byrne, who spoke to The Legal from Florida where he was co-chairing the Legal Marketing Association annual conference this week, had been with Drinker Biddle for eight years. He started out at the firm as director of communications and took over as CMO in 2010. Byrne ran the 25-member marketing department while Chief Value Officer Kristin Sudholz has run the firm’s knowledge and project management functions.

Byrne, who lives in a suburb of Chicago, has been splitting his time between Drinker Biddle’s Philadelphia and Chicago offices. His new company will be based out of Chicago and focus on representing law firms, to start, with the goal of branching out to cover other professional services firms and nonprofits.

The decision for Byrne to leave Drinker Biddle happened in February. A transition period was created in which Drinker Biddle has brought in a consultant to oversee the marketing department on an interim basis, Byrne confirmed.

A call to the firm wasn’t immediately returned. Byrne, who said he was not asked to leave the firm, said he knows Drinker Biddle is currently looking for someone to run the marketing operations. Byrne said that anytime someone leaves, it gives an organization an opportunity to look at the role and any unmet needs of the firm to determine what type of person or people could fill the role.

Drinker Biddle is far from the only Pennsylvania firm to see movement in the chief marketing position. And it looks as though the firms who have recently had the opportunity to fill the CMO role have expanded the duties to include oversight of business development issues.

William McCusker led Pepper Hamilton’s marketing department from January 2006 through August 2013 before leaving for KPMG. Pepper Hamilton announced in January that it hired from within. The firm named Daniel P. Pulka as its new CMO. Pulka had been with Pepper Hamilton since 2006 as director of marketing and was named interim CMO when McCusker left. Pulka is based in Pepper Hamilton’s Philadelphia office and is responsible for the oversight of the marketing and business development functions of the firm.

Read more in an upcoming edition of The Legal.