Blank Rome Office Sign

Former Dickinson Wright chief business development and marketing officer Jim Stapleton has joined Blank Rome, the Philadelphia-based firm said in a release. Stapleton takes over for Hans Haglund, who left Blank Rome to become chief commercial officer at Eversheds Sutherland in January.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jim to Blank Rome,” Grant Palmer, Blank Rome’s managing partner and CEO, said in a statement. “Jim is an accomplished leader, skilled at developing and implementing effective marketing and client service initiatives and teams. We are committed to servicing our clients at the highest level and we are confident that Jim’s experience will greatly enhance our efforts.”

James Stapleton of Blank Rome.

Washington, D.C.-based Stapleton said he was attracted to Blank Rome because of the firm’s leadership, strategy and commitment to client service.

He cited the firm’s investment in two other C-suite roles, those of chief innovation and value officer Linda Novosel and chief client officer Cole Silver, as evidence of its focus on client service as its top priority. The firm is also growing, boosting its head count from 477 to 555 over four years and increasing revenues 34 percent since 2014 to north of $440 million last year.

Stapleton spoke highly of his former firm, Dickinson Wright, saying that he felt he had a great deal of success there and was able to accomplish his “mission,” but said it was time to move on.

“A CMO has to be in tune with the needs of the organization and of the firm,” Stapleton said. He went on to state that there is a naturally occurring point where the relationship either continues to progress or doesn’t. If the latter, then it is time to move on to the next. 

The last few years have seen notable movement among law firm marketing executives, with churn among CMOs and marketing directors at several large firms driven by market conditions and by what some see as mismatched expectations between marketing professionals and firm leadership. 

But Stapleton said having buy-in from the partnership and budgetary freedom to execute on his initiatives (he said he had “no problems” with his budget) can lead to a long and fruitful tenure. 

He said that his biggest concerns around retaining existing and landing new clients come not from losing business to other firms, but due to competition from alternative legal service providers like data-driven accounting firms and niche, specialty players that can efficiently handle more routine legal tasks.   

“For a firm like ours, emphasis has to be on bullet-proof client services,” Stapleton said.

Stapleton said he does believe he has a plan of attack to combat the ALSP threat. “There are two ways we are going to go about that,” he said. “Ensure client service excellence is first. We also want to improve our brand in all of our core office communities.”

In addition to his time at Dickinson Wright, Stapleton previously held positions at Fenwick & West and Littler Mendelson, as well as at accounting giants PwC and (now-defunct) Arthur Andersen.

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