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With reports that the average tenure for law firm marketing professionals is a mere 18 months, lawyers have started to ask why law firm marketing people come and go so quickly. Even though lawyers themselves now more frequently come and go from law firms in pursuit of better strategic or culture fits, the presumption is that the turnover in marketing talent is a bad thing. In fact, this churn is driving the evolution of legal marketing in the most positive sense. The turnover in recent years has been a catalyst for both the firms doing the hiring and the candidates doing the accepting, to articulate more clearly how they will create and use the increasingly robust marketing capabilities required to differentiate one firm from another. When legal marketers are ahead of their lawyers, or when lawyers are ahead of their legal marketers, their expectations of one another are out of sync. These days, the departure of a marketer, whether by choice or with a nudge, presents an opportunity for a firm to reassess where it is, where it wants to go and how it will get there. Each new marketing hire represents an opportunity for more precise alignment of a marketer’s skills and characteristics with a firm’s strategic and financial objectives. Even with the best recruiting efforts, integration is still the key. Neither the stage a firm is at in developing its marketing capability, nor its geographic market, nor whether its marketers come from within or outside the industry, poses as big a challenge as some of the fundamental qualities and characteristics that distinguish law firms from more marketing-driven enterprises. While clich�s are often used as shorthand to state the obvious, they are used here to ensure that lawyers and marketers alike maintain a sense of humor in the face of some rather pointed observations about the hurdles they face in working together: The fox is guarding the henhouse. In a law firm partnership, the decision-makers are the shareholders and, much like Congress, when each equity partner has an equal vote, strategies and tactics that are in the best interest of the firm overall can get watered down or put on a back burner unless and until consensus can be built. To take a firm to the next level, lawyers and marketers together share responsibility for ensuring that the marketing strategies and tactics they implement are not just those that win by default or play to the lowest common denominator. Mind your p’s and q’s. Most lawyers resist seeing marketers, even those with J.D.s or M.B.A.s, as professional equivalents. They expect a level of deference that can stymie even the most impassioned marketer, who typically thrives on direct and often heated debate as to what needs to get done to achieve results. But these same lawyers respect evidence or precedence of satisfactory outcomes, and marketers who can stand their ground and present clear and convincing support for their recommendations have the best chance of executing them and establishing a track record of success. Time is money. As long as lawyers are paid for time spent on existing client work and not to develop new streams of business that benefit the firm as a whole, time spent with marketers is often seen as a distraction and a nuisance. Marketers need to resist gravitating to the lawyers who are simply the most user-friendly or marketing savvy at the expense of those who are less user-friendly or marketing savvy but who can open the most doors for the firm as a whole. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Every partner expects the marketing staff to be completely responsive to his or her needs. Few, if any, partners challenge another partner’s use of resources regardless of the extent to which they will, or won’t, advance the agenda of the firm or individual practice. Nevertheless, marketers need to devote the vast majority of time and effort considering and then supporting the lawyers and initiatives that will drive the larger strategic and financial objectives of the firm or specific practices. Can’t see the forest for the trees. In the fast-moving consumer goods world, independent monthly tracking reports provide a snapshot of the actual number and share of widgets sold and serve as the impetus for action. The lack of similar competitive intelligence resources and tools in the legal industry is a very real handicap. Lawyers and marketers need to be more attentive to changing marketplace dynamics and how they present any data suggesting that, despite increasing revenue or a reputed good relationship, actual share of a client’s total legal spending may be trending downwards. Easier said than done. The “communications” side of legal marketing came first because it came more easily. After deals are completed and disputes are resolved, it is relatively easy for marketers to package them up as compelling press releases and in visually impressive brochures with limited participation from the lawyers. The “business development” side is where the action is today, and it requires considerable effort on the part of lawyers to zero in on exactly how their legal services are both relevant to a client’s particular needs and superior to what the competition offers. For a firm to capitalize thoroughly on the latter, marketers also have to persuade sometimes recalcitrant lawyers to share such details throughout the firm. You say potayto, I say potahto. To some lawyers, “marketing” means public relations and to others it means sales, and both have positive and negative associations. To marketers, “marketing” means any and all initiatives that will persuade the target to select one firm over the competition (and be loyal and even pay a premium for what it does). Kill two birds with one stone. Most legal marketers report being asked to achieve results or perform tasks both beneath and beyond their capabilities, or to be experts in multiple functional areas of marketing. Rather than overpromising and underdelivering, marketers have to be candid about what they can and can’t do as well as what they think they should and shouldn’t do. A midlevel manager can’t do the work of both a senior and junior marketer. Just as a bank finance lawyer won’t litigate a patent claim, a public relations manager is unlikely to draft a credible new business presentation or lay out an ad or brochure. You get what you pay for. If the objective of an event is to make clients feel as though a firm’s lawyers are not a stuffy bunch, or the objective of a newsletter is to keep a firm’s name in front of clients regularly, those are the criteria for success. If the objective of an event is to secure a meeting with the general counsel or the objective of the newsletter is to get 10 clients to call for more information about how a change in the law will affect their interests, those are the criteria for success. The more quantitative the objectives, the easier it will be for lawyers and marketers to calculate the return on the investment. The grass is always greener. Because of the limited pool of marketing talent for law firms relative to other industries, competitors’ offers of higher titles, fatter paychecks and bigger teams are steering considerable traffic in and out of firms. Especially compelling are offers from firms with track records of marketing successes or from firms that come across as highly motivated to exploit the broad range of marketing tools and techniques available today. With legal marketing still in development as a profession, many of today’s legal marketers have not committed to it as a permanent career track and recognize that a few years’ experience at a law firm or two can be leveraged in yet another law firm or another industry. At the same time as legal marketers are coming and going in greater numbers than ever before, law firms face more competition from their traditional competitors as well as in-house counsel and outsourcing, more client consolidations and more pressure on profits. Having the marketing talent and resources to analyze, strategize, plan, prep and implement the initiatives that will showcase and sell the unique capabilities and, yes, personalities, of a firm and its lawyers is virtually a price of entry in the practice of law today. Assuming the lawyers don’t want to do it on their own-and even if they could, it is not likely to be economically feasible-they can and should get more out of their existing marketing resources. The following observations apply to law firms and legal marketers anxious to have a positive impact on a firm’s reputation and bottom line: A culture where in-house legal marketers are regarded as integral members of the team is necessary but not sufficient. When marketers are viewed as more than “order takers,” they feel empowered to challenge the status quo and are therefore willing to go all out to justify and implement the best ideas. In addition, the best marketing initiatives rarely sell themselves because they are often untested and/or unconventional. Most legal marketers are savvy enough to recognize that progress can and will be made in small increments. They look to their management and to the partnership at large to expand the range of possibility and to take the time and the interest to do something just a little bit daring or unexpected. And when something a bit daring or unexpected is successful, marketers will jump at the opportunity to promote an even more daring or unexpected marketing idea. Further, the only way never to make a mistake is never to take a risk. No lawyer wins every case, but that doesn’t mean a lost case wasn’t worth tackling. Marketing is as much an art as it is a science. Not every marketing strategy or tactic will pay off handsomely, but keeping the dialogue open and keeping close tabs on what is and isn’t working enables lawyers and marketers together to decide how to keep moving forward. This is enough to ensure that even the most ambitious or cynical legal marketers can find job fulfillment in a law firm. For the foreseeable future, demand for business development, public relations, internal or external communications, event planning, database development, online marketing and creative services talent will exceed supply in virtually every corner of the world. Any firm that has resources has the potential to set itself apart from the pack. True differentiation results from knowing what is needed to be successful and the extent to which what is needed to be successful is actually done. Liz Pava has been chief marketing officer at White & Case, working in the New York office, for 3 1/2 years. She came from outside the industry and holds J.D. and M.B.A. degrees.

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