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There’s a new picture on big law firms’ most-wanted posters. The sought-after professionals are rewarded with salaries higher than most associates. If they can’t stand the position of authority and adulation they find in the firm, there’s likely a line out the door of clients and other firms waiting with better job offers. And they didn’t even have to endure law school. They’re marketing directors, chief marketing officers, directors of client services, strategic developers — no matter what they’re called, firms are calling them with lucrative offers for their expertise in branding and promotion. Top firms, seeking a profitable identity in a flush market where having a staff of quality lawyers isn’t always enough, are struggling to hire and retain people who can sell the firm to market-savvy clients. Classified advertisements, such as those posted on a Web site called “The LawMarketing Portal” (www.lfmi.com), offer perks aplenty — including annual compensation packages approaching $300,000 — to the few who are qualified to oversee marketing at a top firm. After all, firms are competing not only with each other for marketing talent, but also with their clients — those alluring start-ups that marketers become cozy with in the course of doing their job. Firms — especially those unable or unwilling to shell out a salary well into six figures — are finding that keeping a good marketing director around is increasingly difficult. Although lawyers and firms have been marketed on an informal basis for years, the position of chief marketer is a relatively new phenomenon. Tod Gregory, a managing director at the recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International, has placed marketing directors and other non-lawyer executives at several major firms. He believes law firms have been “behind the power curve” — compared to other businesses — in giving adequate attention to marketing. “In the early ’90s, they were afraid of the ‘M word,’ ” he says. “ It’s only been in the last couple of years that the genie has been out of the bottle.” And now, someone with marketing chops and experience in the legal niche can virtually write his or her own ticket, a fact that often makes the job tenure short. David Geyer, the firmwide marketing director at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, admits that it has been tough holding onto his staff, two of whom have left recently to help develop technology practices at major consulting firms. “When [a staff member] can go from being an office marketer to heading up a program — it’s very hard to compete with that,” he notes. Mozhgan Mizban, Cooley Godward’s director of client services, says that although her firm has been able to retain most of its marketing staff, the nature of the job is itinerate. “People get burned out,” she says. “We put in a lot of hours, and sometimes marketers don’t feel appreciated.” Mizban adds that because the field of law firm marketing is relatively new — and thus people tend to land in it more often by accident than by design — there is an inclination to try other things. And for law firm marketers, those “other things” are waved in their face on a daily basis. “There is exposure to a lot of exciting companies,” Mizban concedes, “and you’re tempted, even if you’re not ready to go.” So how do firms recruit and retain talented marketers? It’s the million-dollar question — and firms just might have to pay close to that amount to answer it. “I’ve definitely seen directors double their salaries in the last three years,” Mizban says. “People are recognizing the importance of the role and just how strategic marketers can be — and there are only a few of us.” Four years ago, Mizban recalls, she knew of one marketing professional who reportedly earned $200,000 annually. “Everyone just about fell over [when they heard that],” she says. Now, she says, $175,000 is what the majority makes. “The leaders in their field can make much more than that.” Recruiter Gregory stresses that firms unwilling to pay top salaries for marketing talent will suffer. “What firms have to realize, is that you get what you pay for,” he says. “If you have to pay $50,000 or $100,000 more [for top marketing directors], you get back that money in innumerable ways.” WANTED: STRATEGIC VISIONARIES The precipitous rise in compensation for marketing directors dovetails with an increase in their job responsibilities, marketers and attorneys agree. Firms are increasingly relying on their marketing directors to strategize — not merely to implement an established firm strategy. Nossaman, Guthner, Knox & Elliott managing partner Scott DeVries says one of the attributes he looks for in a director is an ability to “see where we want the future to be.” “We want someone who is to some extent a visionary. It’s all too easy for lawyers to be focused on the here and now,” DeVries says. “[The marketing position] requires an awful lot of attributes — someone who’s a real extrovert, who can coach [lawyers] and recognize their strengths and weaknesses.” Brobeck’s David Geyer, for example, joined the firm from PriceWaterhouseCoopers with the notion that “a dynamic firm with the ambition to brand and promote itself could distinguish itself from the competition,” he says. Geyer and his staff, in concert with an outside consulting firm, immediately set about creating a tag line for Brobeck: “Brobeck. When your future is at stake.” That line, developed in early 1999, set the tone for the firm’s marketing efforts and “changed our whole perspective around.” Geyer says his job has three basic principles: developing awareness among clients and prospects, building contact between lawyers and prospects, and creating closure — distinguishing the firm when it’s time to seal the deal. Geyer believes the marketing function will only become more vital in the next 12 to 24 months. “There will be a sorting out [among firms] as a result of the associate compensation issue taking the profitability out of firms,” he says. “Not spending money [on marketing] will ultimately be detrimental.” The most successful law firm marketers, Gregory posits, are those who are treated as equals to partners. “Arrogance [among attorneys] — this idea of ‘why do we need to market?’ — doesn’t play well,” he says. “Too many firms have had marketing at too low a level for too long.” Cooley’s Mizban cites the firm’s willingness to “take marketing to the next level” and to include her in its strategic development as key reasons she loves her job. “I spend quite a bit of my time working with management committee members.” Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich marketing director Lynn Kirk regularly attends partnerships meetings, and the firm’s partner in charge of marketing, Margaret Kavalaris, says she considers Kirk “a key member of management.” Kirk, in turn, says the firm trusts her to make decisions, which “goes a long, long way” toward keeping her — and her department — productive and contented. Autonomous or not, though, the position of marketing director is not one for the faint of heart. Mizban and Kirk admit to 10-12 hour days, which, coupled with extensive travel to the firm’s outposts, can tire even the most enthusiastic firm cheerleader. “You may get tired from being ‘on’ all the time, and, like a managing partner, there’s never a moment of peace,” Mizban says, “but it’s one of those jobs where you just never get bored.”

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