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BRANDING, BUDGETING AND OTHER CHALLENGES CONFRONT LAW FIRM MARKETERS David Read’s job description at Los Angeles’ O’Melveny & Myers sounds a little bit like that of a movie star publicist. As the firm’s chief marketing officer, Read flies around the country in an effort to maximize exposure of O’Melveny attorneys to existing and potential clients. That might mean helping to arrange a seminar presented by one of the firm’s leading partners. Or perhaps it means planning a dinner somewhere with a prospective client. If you ask Read about his staff, he even starts to sound like he’s straight out of Hollywood. “We employ people who might be called below-the-line talent,” he says. “That is, talent that can help make sure the attorneys are better equipped to make a connection with a client.” Read, a former journalist for the British Broadcasting Company who also worked in marketing for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu before joining O’Melveny, isn’t in the business of hyping movie stars and blockbuster films. But the strategies and objectives involved in his job aren’t all that different from those used in the Hollywood star machinery. His goal, after all, is to present O’Melveny attorneys to the right people in the hopes of solidifying the firm’s reputation with existing clients while also attracting new clients and business. In today’s world of legal marketing, it’s often more important who knows about you rather than how many people know. And with law firm marketing budgets still tight, it’s more important than ever for legal marketers to get the biggest bang for their buck when it comes to their marketing efforts. “When one markets a law firm, you’re trying to expose the talent of your people to clients,” says Read. “So many professional organizations lose sight of that. They lose focus.” For Mary Lynne Price, director of business development at San Francisco’s Pillsbury Winthrop, achieving the broadest results from her firm’s marketing dollars means tailoring marketing programs for specific groups of current and would-be clients. “Sometimes we have these closed roundtable sessions with high-level company executives, while other times we provide more of a forum with groups of clients,” says Price. “Sometimes it takes money to do that and sometimes it doesn’t.” One of her firm’s most popular marketing methods these days involves no actual face-to-face contact but instead relies on technology. “We have a popular teleconference event where we provide a lawyer who’s open to questions on a hot topic,” says Price. “That’s offering our time to clients in a forum for them to discuss issues. Sometimes it can attract non-clients. It’s a way that we can market and provide value.” Another important element of marketing involves the way in which a firm goes about working with journalists. Indeed, the days of “just make sure our names are spelled right” appear to be over, at least at some firms. “We think about everyone we talk to,” says Jay Dinwoodie, communications director at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. “If a reporter requests an interview, we ask ourselves, ‘Is it strategic for us to be talking to that reporter?’” Beyond the traditional methods, simply staying in touch with former employees can help a law firm in its ongoing marketing efforts. An alumni program in place at O’Melveny, for example, provides a way for the firm to keep tabs on partners and associates who have moved elsewhere in their careers. “We invest heavily in our alumni strategy,” says Read. “Law is naturally a very mobile field. Whenever anybody has worked for O’Melveny in the past, we try to maintain good relations with that person. It might be on a social basis. It might be on a professional basis.” For some firms, meanwhile, advertising — which has long been anathema to many lawyers even while it has been enthusiastically embraced by others — has fallen to the bottom of the pile when it comes to marketing. “Advertising is very much an emotional thing,” says Read. “Whenever you advertise, you want people to know something, you want them to feel something and you want them to do something. That rarely happens in law firm advertising.” Instead, O’Melveny, along with many other firms, has stepped up its practice of offering attorney-written “white papers” that serve to highlight specific expertise in various areas of law. Over at Pillsbury Winthrop, the firm has sought to raise its profile by sponsoring National Public Radio programs and working with their reporters on law-related stories. “It’s a good demographic for a law firm,” says Price, referring to a typical NPR audience. For its part, San Francisco’s Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe has been publishing “advertorials” — paid advertising that resembles editorial material � in The New York Times. Law firm marketing, particularly in the Bay Area, swung into high gear in recent years, largely as a result of the technology boom that brought increased competition for legal services. Suddenly, the watchword was “branding” — marketing efforts aimed at having your firm’s name stand out above others as firms scrambled to compete for a lot of new business. Orrick, for example, settled on a marketing campaign that revolved around the letter “O.” “Everybody knows the O,” says Dinwoodie. “Early efforts are usually focused on creating awareness of the entire firm.” Orrick’s circular symbol remains a big part of the firm’s marketing strategy, but the boom-to-bust economy took its toll elsewhere. Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, a firm that had waged one the most aggressive marketing campaigns in the late 1990s, went out of business in 2003. Elsewhere, firms have been trimming costs wherever they can. And that has meant renewed pressures on marketing budgets, which coincides with the legal profession’s ongoing reluctance to accept marketing as a necessary business function. “Legal marketing as a discipline is relatively new,” says John Hodder, Orrick’s chief marketing officer. He says the notion of systematic marketing didn’t really begin to take shape until about a decade ago, when the economy was in the early stages of the technology boom. Despite a slowly increasing recognition of the need for marketing, law firms still lag considerably behind other kinds of businesses when measured by the relative size of their marketing budgets. Legal marketing experts estimate that large firms have been devoting 2-4 percent of their annual revenues to marketing. Other professional services companies, including large accounting firms, reportedly allocate 7-10 percent of their revenues to marketing. Whether or not law firm marketing budgets begin to rise again, the marketers themselves are following a “selective but effective” approach to their work. “Getting the word out [about your firm] is a part of any successful marketing campaign,” says Hodder. “But now it is driven by strategy and focus.” Andrew Simons is a free-lance writer in Los Angeles and a regular con-tributor to California Legal Pro. FIGURE OUT WHAT YOUR FIRM WANTS BEFORE YOU JUMP INTO MARKETING Today, virtually all of the country’s largest law firms accept marketing in a way that was unheard of when many of their partners started out as associates. But not every firm is at the same stage of the marketing growth curve. Some still struggle with the concept of having to market at all. Others have high-functioning departments led by chief marketing officers who interact at the executive level with firm partners and who serve on management committees. So how can firms find and retain the right people to lead marketing and business development efforts? First, figure out where your firm is now and where it would like to be in, say, two years. Look for someone who understands your goals and is attuned to the culture of the firm. “Some firms either hire a Ferrari when they don’t have the road built or hire some-one to build the road and drive down it really fast at the same time,” says Linda Hazelton, a Dallas-based marketing con-sultant and a former marketing director at Thompson & Knight. “If a firm wants someone to run a good seminar program, do decent client service with some outreach to clients — but not necessarily move the firm to another level — that’s a different budget and different person from a firm that has recently merged and needs to re-brand plus move the net income per partner up by two or three hundred thousand dol-lars,” says Hazelton. Other experts advise against hiring a high-profile marketing director who performed wonders at his or her previous firm and expect to simply clone that firm’s mar-keting plan. It’s almost certain that your needs will be different. Do you need brand-ing? Or do you already have the image and market presence you seek and instead are looking to expand into other practice areas or develop new business from old clients? Are your lawyers open-minded and ready to experiment with new ways of attracting clients or is your culture established and traditional, reliant on old ways and resistant to change? It’s important to distinguish between marketing and sales. Many lawyers don’t understand the distinction, and expect a marketing chief to do both. Marketing experts say that’s just about a guarantee for failure. “A marketing person can make the phone ring, but a salesperson has to answer it and close the sale,” says consultant Peter Zeughauser, from the Zeughauser Group. Traditionally, marketing departments have overseen both functions: identifying and reaching out to prospective clients as well as assisting with requests for proposals and pitches and coaching lawyers for their meetings with the prospective clients. One emerging trend is to establish a separate sales department alongside the marketing department, which other professional ser-vices industries have done for years. “Right now the trend is to hire someone in business development who reports to the chief marketing officer or the director of marketing,” says Silvia Coulter, chief marketing and business development officer at Dorsey & Whitney. “As we see this mature in the legal industry we will see CMOs, chiefs of sales or chief business develop-ment officers who will have a significant background in building a revenue generating organization. Marketing will be a support function to that.” Not everyone agrees with the push to-wards sales. “Some firms have gone so far down this path that they have organized themselves as product lines rather than practice areas, looking and sounding more like a manufac-turing concern instead of a service provider,” says Charles Woodhouse, executive director of Los Angeles’ Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. “Business development should be just that, the development of new business as well as stronger relationships with clients while striking a balance using technology to gain efficiency but never sacrificing quality service. The commoditization of legal services through a sales approach weakens the depth of the client relation-ship.” Once your firm has already completed the process of deciding where it is and where it wants to go, the next step is to articulate what you want to accomplish with your marketing program. Ask marketing candidates what they recommend, but don’t expect your new executive to figure it all out without input from managing partners and other law firm lead-ers. “The marketing person can help with the positioning of the firm,” says Jolene Overbeck, chief marketing officer at Shearman & Sterling. “But the partnership has to decide where it wants to go and the changes it needs to make along the way.” Titles often provide a big clue to a firm’s attitude. There is a big difference between a marketing coordinator and a chief market-ing officer. As one veteran executive observed, too many firms still think of marketers as perky, recent college graduates who organize Christmas card lists and serve as hostesses at receptions. To be effective, marketers need authority and stature to go along with an impressive title. They must be involved in long-term planning and serve on key committees, ideally at the management committee or executive level. It’s not unusual to find pockets of resis-tance — some deeper than others — to aggressive law firm marketing programs. The causes can range from ingrained anti-marketing attitudes to concerns that a successful program is going to require attorneys to devote time and energy to business development — which many lawyers would prefer to ignore. Marketing, of course, is also one of those areas where firms must spend money to make money, and it’s often hard to track the return on investment. Once a firm has hired a marketing direc-tor and established clear marketing goals, it is important that the firm devote the re-sources necessary to achieve those goals. The American Lawyer magazine has re-ported that the average large firm budgets about 1.5 to 3 percent of annual revenue for marketing. “The common wisdom is that 2 to 5 percent of common revenues should be devoted to marketing,” says Zeughauser. “But in a $300 million dollar firm, the dif-ference between 2 and 5 percent is huge. Three percent is more in the ballpark of adequate.” As a general rule of thumb, Zeughauser also recommends one market-ing staffer for every 30 lawyers. Salaries for chief marketing officers, marketing directors and marketing coordi-nators vary as widely as their job descriptions. It’s not unusual for even first-time hires to start at annual salaries that range between $125,000 and $150,000. And while salaries for seasoned marketing veterans can match those of junior partners, lower-level marketing coordinators are still being hired at $40,000 per year. It’s not that paying someone at the highest level is absolutely necessary to getting the job done. But if a firm wants someone who will contribute to long-term planning and play a significant role in generating revenue, be prepared to pay them — and treat them — accordingly. Kristin Eliasberg is a freelance writer in New York City. Monica Bay, editor of Law Firm Inc. magazine, which is affiliated with California Legal Pro and where this article originally appeared, contributed additional reporting.

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