Dallas-based Haynes and Boone decided last year to kick its marketing efforts up a notch by reorganizing the department and hiring a chief marketing officer who is not an attorney. “We totally restructured what we had done for the past 20 years to put ourselves in a position to be more competitive,” says partner Timothy E. Powers, chairman of the firm’s business development committee. “It’s going to the next level in a more competitive environment,” he says.
The firm, which has 414 attorneys in Texas and 481 firmwide, reorganized its efforts into a business development group and a marketing group, with the nonlawyer directors of each group reporting to chief marketing officer Blain Banick.
Powers says the firm did a national search to find Banick, who has an M.B.A. The marketing staff, which is centralized in Dallas, is responsible for activities such as sponsorships, advertising and communications, Powers says. “The director of business development has a team of professionals embedded with our practice groups and offices that work on business development and opportunities,” he says.
Haynes and Boone is one of several Texas firms — large and small — that have reorganized, restructured or created marketing departments over the past year. El Paso-based Kemp Smith hired its first marketing professional in December 2007. Dallas-based Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell is currently trying to hire its first chief marketing officer. Dallas-based Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr decided that one staff member could no longer handle both the recruiting and marketing responsibilities for the 100-attorney firm, and hired an additional professional on staff to handle marketing and public relations. And Thompson & Knight promoted its marketing manager to a newly created position of chief client services officer.
This focus on marketing staff members is reflected in Texas Lawyer‘s 2008 Salary and Billing Survey, which indicates that marketers are among the law firm employees who are enjoying the largest salary increases for 2008. Firms across Texas gave raises this year of about 4 percent to 4.5 percent for most legal and nonlegal staff members, according to the 71 firms responding to the survey. Marketing directors were among those to see the highest average pay raises of 7.8 percent from $68,636 to $73,984. Technology and finance managers also received hefty increases over the previous year’s survey, of 7.8 percent and 7.5 percent respectively. Average salaries for information services managers rose from $94,825 in 2007 to $102,243 this year. And average salaries for finance directors increased from $98,481 last year to $105,872 in 2008.
The firms also reported increased hourly billing rates for attorneys, ranging from an average 4.5 percent for first-year associates from $176 to $184 per hour, to 5.8 percent for non-equity partners from $292 to $309 per hour.
Haynes and Boone was one of the large Texas firms that last summer raised associate salaries including an increase to $160,000 for first-year associates. Powers says that billing rates have to include the increasing costs of competing for the market’s best talent. “If you want to hire the best and the brightest, you have to be able to compete by providing top salaries in the marketplace,” he says. “The market drives everything.”
The firms reported only slightly higher expectations than last year when it comes to attorneys’ billable hours. According to the 2008 survey, billable hours ranged from an average 1.6 percent increase for associates from 37.5 to 38.1 hours per week, to a 2.8 percent average increase for equity partners from 35.9 to 36.9 hours per week.
There has been an increased demand, over the past year, from Texas firms looking to hire full-time marketing professionals, says Jamy Sullivan, regional vice president of the Dallas and Houston offices of Menlo Park, Calif.-based Robert Half Legal. She says the firms usually require a public relations or marketing degree and previous experience with a law firm. She says salaries for marketing professionals can range from the $70,000 to $100,000 for the Dallas market and up to $125,000 for the Houston market.
“Law firms have gone to a more business-minded approach,” Sullivan says. Having marketing people on staff can help firms increase their visibility which, in turn, will help with client development and recruiting attorneys, she says.
As competition for business continues to grow, firms are looking for ways to enhance their ability to make contacts and garner new business, says William Cobb, founder of WCCI Consulting in Houston. He says Texas firms are looking for marketing professionals with expertise in sales, public relations and research. Cobb says a successful law firm marketing director has the ability to encourage partners to seek new business, obtain feedback from clients, and generate the information partners need to go out and get new business. But, he notes, the ultimate responsibility for generating business still belongs to a firm’s attorneys. “The marketing person can say here is the hand you need to shake and the person you need to see, but they can’t go out there and get the business,” Cobb says.
Haynes and Boone’s Powers agrees. “At the end of the day, they [marketers] are not the ones going out and getting the work, not the ones calling on new clients,” he says. But, he notes, marketing professionals can help attorneys because they are better able to gather specific industry and company information.
As an example, Powers says he received a call from a prospective client wanting to talk about a particular international matter. Powers says within two hours of the call the business development staff provided him with a two-page summary about the company, its current international issues and what companies were on the other side of the issue (to avoid conflicts of interest). The summary also indicated that several of the firm’s lawyers had worked with four members of the company’s board of directors.
“If you’re able to go into a meeting and be that prepared, and your competition cannot, that is why we are talking about giving lawyers tools to be more effective in business development issues,” Powers says. “When I walked out of that meeting with a couple of colleagues, we had the work.”
At Kemp Smith, managing partner Michael D. McQueen says the 40-lawyer firm hired its first marketing staffer in 2007. “We talked about it for years and went ahead and hired a marketing professional last December,” he says. It took a while for the firm to hire a full-time marketing professional because “there’s always the thought among lawyers that lawyers are the ones that should be doing the marketing,” McQueen says.
He says the firm advertised locally for someone with professional services marketing experience and then asked their marketing consultant with Somerset, N.J.-based Hildebrandt International Inc. to interview the firm’s leading candidate. With the consulting firm’s approval, McQueen says the firm hired Jennifer Wright, the former development director for the United Way of El Paso County. He says Wright has a degree in journalism, advertising and public relations and a background in marketing and public relations. Her salary range, which was recommended by Hildebrandt consultants, is in the same general pay range as the firm’s technology manager and chief financial officer, he says.
McQueen adds that one catalyst leading the firm to hire a marketing staffer was the fact that more lawyers from firms in other Texas cities are coming into El Paso to do legal work so the firm’s competition is no longer just from local firms. “We decided we need a professional person to help us carry the ball.”
He says the firm’s marketing manager is responsible for traditional marketing functions, such as Web site content and press releases, and business development functions, such as gathering information for lawyers regarding particular industries and clients.
“With our marketing person, we are in our infancy,” he says.
Locke Lord is searching for a chief marketing officer, says Jerry K. Clements, the Austin-based chairwoman of the 673-attorney firm. In October 2007, Houston- and Dallas-based Locke Liddell & Sapp merged with Chicago-based Lord, Bissell & Brook. She says Locke Lord is using an outside search firm to recruit someone with a marketing degree and marketing experience and a quantifiable record helping a firm increase its revenue.
“I think with the merger, what we began to focus on was a position that really brought with it high-level strategic planning and advice about marketing decisions in a way that neither of our predecessor firms had really done before,” Clements says. Competition from Texas and out-of-state firms and a softening economy mean that “the marketing of law firms becomes even more important than it has in the past.”
“In the old days, law firms didn’t have marketing departments, because we really viewed ourselves as professionals that really needed to market ourselves,” she says. The firm’s new chief marketing officer will eventually decide how to structure the marketing department and how to organize the firm’s marketing and business development functions.
Refining marketing responsibilities was also a task undertaken last year at 100-lawyer Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, says Glenn B. Callison, the firm’s chairman and chief executive officer. “We had one person handling both recruiting and marketing,” he says. During 2007, the firm decided to split the job responsibilities and hired a separate marketing staffer, Jenna Lewis Butler. Becca Stutsman is the firm’s attorney recruiting manager.
The marketing department creates a monthly report listing the firm’s marketing and public relations opportunities, actions taken by the firm regarding those opportunities and the results of the actions such as article publications or attendance at sponsored events, Callison says.
“I think law firms are becoming more and more sophisticated in the use of marketing and public relations,” Callison says. “They [marketers] help us to be aware of opportunities to tell our story to clients and prospective clients. And they motivate us to go out there and do it: speeches, presentations, articles and sponsorships.”
During 2007, Dallas-based Thompson & Knight promoted its marketing director, Becky S. Jackson, to a newly created position of chief client services officer, with responsibility for marketing and client services, says Diane M. Scheffler, chief operating officer of the Dallas-based firm. Thompson & Knight has 352 lawyers in Texas and 459 firmwide.
The firm created new positions to handle some of Jackson’s former responsibilities including two client services positions for specific practice groups, which were filled by Kacey Burnley and Lisa Whitmire.
The chief client services officer oversees activities including client proposals, contact lists, arranging educational programs for clients, developing brochures, maintaining the firm’s Web site, and internal and external communications, Scheffler says. Marketing staff are assigned to specific practice areas. “They go to practice group meetings and actually learn the business,” she says. “So when it is time to do a proposal, they know what to research and how to present it.”
As the firm has grown, it has needed higher-level business professionals,” Scheffler says. “So we can provide our lawyers with more information, faster and better.”