Baker & McKenzie offices in New York. (Rick Kopstein)
Wendy Bernero, a veteran marketing executive who has worked at a handful of Am Law 100 firms, is heading back into the Big Law fray as she prepares to become head of client development for North America at Baker McKenzie, the global legal giant confirmed Tuesday.
“For me this was an opportunity that I just couldn’t turn down,” Bernero said. “It’s an amazing global firm with a very strong brand and the firm is really dedicated to serving clients at the highest levels and developing new and innovative legal solutions that clients will value and appreciate.”
Bernero is joining Baker McKenzie from Bernero & Press, a legal consultancy that she formed in 2015 alongside Aric Press, a former editor-in-chief of The American Lawyer and parent company ALM Media LLC, who retired from the company in January 2015.
With the departure of Bernero, her former consulting firm will now be known as PP&C Consulting in a nod to its remaining partners Press, former Morgan, Lewis & Bockius managing partner for client relations James Pagliaro and Yolanda Cartusciello, a former chief marketing officer at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Debevoise & Plimpton. Cartusciello and Pagliaro joined Bernero & Press in early 2016.
“My partners and I wish [Bernero] the best at Baker McKenzie,” said Press in an email confirming her departure and a new name for Bernero & Press. “Our firm will continue to serve our clients without missing a beat.” (Press joked about other potential new names for what is now PP&C Consulting.)
In her new role at Baker McKenzie, Bernero will be responsible for helping the firm’s lawyers and practice groups better understand their clients’ ever-evolving business needs and then work with them to deliver the legal services that meet those needs.
Bernero (pictured right) joins Baker McKenzie nearly 10 months after the firm dropped an ampersand from its name and changed out its old logo and website design for a sleek, new look. She sees the rebranding as a sign that the firm is committed to connecting to its client and its marketplace.
“I think I focus more on the brand as a visible manifestation of some really remarkable service delivery changes and innovations that the firm has put in place,” Bernero said.
Bernero’s new role comes a week after another top legal marketing executive, Cravath, Swaine & Moore’s Deborah Farone, announced that she would leave the firm for the consulting world.
Bernero herself has spent more than 20 years in Big Law, helping law firms expand their businesses and develop strategic visions to enhance profitability. She served as a marketing consultant and partner at legal consultancy Hildebrandt International from 1996 to 2001 before going on to spend two years as chief marketing officer for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
In 2003, Bernero joined Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, where she helped establish that firm’s first formal marketing and business development plan. She left Paul Weiss in 2007 for McKee Nelson, where she served as chief marketing officer at the Washington, D.C.-based firm, developing its merger, combination and integration strategy ahead of its 2009 combination with Bingham McCutchen. (The bulk of the latter was absorbed into Morgan Lewis in late 2014.)
Bernero left Bingham in 2010 for Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, spending two years at that firm before jumping to Proskauer Rose in 2012. She spent the next three years as Proskauer’s chief of strategic initiatives before helping form Bernero & Press in early 2015.
“[Bernero] is a highly accomplished expert in the legal business development and marketing community who brings nearly three decades of experience to Baker McKenzie,” said a statement by Baker McKenzie’s newly-elected North America managing partner Colin Murray. “The firm strives to pursue new ways of working with clients and makes strategic investments to meet their needs.”
Bernero joins Baker McKenzie amid a legal battle to rebrand itself at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The firm’s rebranding strategy hit a slight snag when USPTO refused to approve its new logo for smartphone applications.
A USPTO examiner found that Baker McKenzie’s new logo was confusingly similar to that of Mackenzie Ventures Inc., a holding company for a consortium of commercial real estate service firms. Baker McKenzie filed an appeal in late August, claiming that there was no likelihood of confusion between the trademarks “because the marks convey different commercial impressions.”