CORRECTION, 6/19/13, 11:15 a.m. EST: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the status of Alston & Bird's search for a chief marketing officer. The firm is currently looking for a new CMO to replace Barbara Bryant, who will be retiring at the end of the month. The information has been updated in the 10th paragraph below. We regret the error.
The revamping of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe's leadership team under new chairman Mitchell Zuklie continued this week, with the firm confirming that it has hired Betsy Donovan from Shearman & Sterling to fill the role of chief marketing officer.
Orrick has been without a CMO since December 2010, when Jeanne Sdroulas vacated the position, though chief client service officer David Fries has filled in since then by leading the firm's business development department. The hire comes two months after Zuklie succeeded Ralph Baxter, the firm's longtime chairman and CEO, as Orrick's top leader.
Other changes in the executive ranks since Zuklie's ascension to Orrick's top management post include the departures—or anticipated departures—of Gera Vaz, Orrick's chief human resources officer and U.S. executive director; Peter Krakaur, its chief knowledge officer; and Reid Horovitz, who, as chief operating officer, served as Baxter's top lieutenant. The firm is also in the process of eliminating 21 staff positions and relocating 11 others to Orrick's back-office support center in Wheeling, West Virginia.
Orrick's newest hire, Donovan, is relatively new to the legal industry. She took on her first law firm job as Shearman's chief marketing officer in April 2010 after previous stints leading Ernst & Young's sales and marketing organization and working at Xerox in roles overseeing sales, service, and support. Based in New York, she has an MBA from Fordham University and is a visiting professor of marketing at The College of New Rochelle.
Donovan, who is scheduled to start at Orrick on June 24, is on vacation this week and not available for comment.
Calls to Shearman leaders were directed to the firm's spokesman, Ron Brandsdorfer, who said, “We appreciate Betsy’s contributions to our firm over the past few years, and we wish her much success." He added that the firm has initiated a search to replace Donovan, whose last day at the firm was Friday.
Zuklie was not immediately available for comment Monday, but said through a spokeswoman that hiring a senior marketing professional was necessary, "as our new leadership team looks at shaping and executing on our long-term strategy."
Orrick is known in the legal community for investing in marketing and business development, legal consultant Kent Zimmermann of the Zeughauser Group said Monday via email. As an example, Zimmermann cites the firm's widely recognized green "O" logo, rolled out in a series of advertisements in the early 2000s.
Churn is common in the law firm marketing and business development ranks as firms look to poach talent from one another, Zimmermann says. Recent moves include Despina Kartson joining Morgan, Lewis & Bockius as CMO in March from Latham & Watkins, where she held the same role; and Blain Banick taking on the chief business development officer role at Husch Blackwell in May after working in business development at Baker & McKenzie and as CMO at Haynes and Boone and Ballard Spahr.
A number of Am Law 200 firms have been searching for a new top marketing executive for several months, including Alston & Bird; Kaye Scholer; and McKenna Long & Aldridge, according to legal recruiter Stephen Nelson of the McCormick Group (Alston's longtime CMO, Barbara Bryant, will be retiring at the end of the month). A few other firms have more recent openings, including Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, which is looking to replace recently departed chief business development officer Felice Wagner; and Goodwin Procter, whose CMO Anne Malloy Tucker confirmed Monday she'll be leaving the firm in the coming months after 14 years there.
Zimmermann says that as competition over clients becomes more pronounced, it often falls to high-level marketing officers to help firms differentiate themselves as strong in a particular area. The influence of such professionals, he says, has begun to extend to getting "a seat at the table in executive committee meetings and in other forums where strategic decisions are made."
The positions don't come cheap; executive recruiters told The Am Law Daily earlier this year that CMOs are often paid between $600,000 and $700,000 per year, plus bonuses.
Donovan's move takes her from a firm with 842 lawyers and $752 million in gross revenue in 2012, as Shearman had according to the most recent Am Law 100 data, to one with 977 lawyers and $866 million in gross revenue, as Orrick recorded.