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INSIGHT: New Law Firm CMOs Cite Hiring, Client Input, Technology as 2020 Goals

Dec. 30, 2019, 9:00 AM

Three new law firm chief marketing officers spoke with me recently about the direction they took their departments in 2019 and what they hope to accomplish in 2020. Each are experienced law firm business development/marketing professionals and joined their firm within the last year—and each keyed in on technology, talent, and special projects.

As a recruiter in this space, in 2019 I have witnessed a shortage of talent, especially for junior roles and many requests for senior business development strategists who can help a firm grow their business in a very competitive environment. All indications are this will continue in 2020.

Fox Rothschild LLP

Holly Lentz Kleeman joined Fox Rothschild LLP in early 2019 and heads a team of close to 50 marketing and business development (BD) professionals firm-wide for the nearly 1,000-attorney law firm.

Lentz Kleeman said she’s been pleased with the collaborative colleagues that she works with across the firm, including those from knowledge management, talent acquisition, and IT, and that all are committed to ensuring that the firm delivers the highest level of client service.

In 2019, she launched a new initiative—the firm’s first client feedback program. The information received from these client interviews was very informative and she commented, “Our partners are now convinced of their value in expanding client relationships.”

The information gathered included “learning more about current clients’ desire to know about other practice capabilities and how we can help them with additional legal issues,” she said. In addition, Lentz Kleeman said they heard specifics regarding client preferences and their appreciation of the personal touch from our lawyers despite the growth of the firm.

Another initiative Lentz Kleeman expanded was the firm’s CRM (customer relationship management) capabilities. Her goal was to make sure lawyers and their administrative assistants in all 27 offices had access and training to fully utilize client information.

Since arriving at the firm, Lentz Kleeman created a second BD director role and re-shaped the first’s responsibilities. The first BD director now focuses on RFPs and ensuring that BD tools, like the CRM, are fully utilized.

The new BD director focuses on managing a team of 10 BD professionals across the firm and making sure that they are all trained and equipped with “tools that support our attorneys so they can serve our clients and grow relationships.”

When adding senior professionals to her team, Lentz Kleeman looks for a high level of emotional intelligence with the ability to lead and inspire team members. When hiring junior team members, she looks for problem solvers who are intellectually curious. She adds, “they don’t even have to have been from a law firm as long as they have these two traits.”

For 2020, Lentz Kleeman says she plans to add more business development professionals to the team. “With the growth of attorneys and acquisition of new offices Fox Rothschild has experienced, we need to make sure that our lawyers have all the support they need to take advantage of these cross-selling opportunities and synergies.” The BD work will focus more on industry analysis and help identify ways the lawyers and the firm can add value to each unique client relationship.

Comment: In my recruiting experience this year, I have seen an uptick in firms hiring Senior BD professionals for specific practice groups with a focus on strategy for targeting new business.

Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP

Lisa Olney arrived at Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP in June as the firm’s first CMO. The firm has over 150 attorneys and a team of five in their marketing & BD department.

She has put new operational processes in place so client services can be delivered more smoothly. This includes maximizing the firm’s CRM and salesforce by customizing it, reconfiguring the RFP team, and building out a proposal database and messaging around RFP responses.

Olney is also in the midst of creating an Intranet so internal stakeholders can find information easily. According to Olney, working with IT and project management was key to building out these new initiatives. Once launched, she said the intranet will make it easy for the attorneys and staff to quickly and efficiently find information and resources they need, including: active cases and who is staffing them, news updates from firm leaders, and a directory that features photos, brief bios, along with important data points like who is a notary or who speaks another language.

As for 2020, Olney said she is looking forward to continued investment in technology that automates administrative tasks that would otherwise waste the valuable time of smart, creative marketing and business development professionals. Examples of these automated tasks include creating bios and ensuring that PowerPoints are consistently formatted for client pitches.

In terms of hiring, Olney’s first addition to the team was a BD coordinator who focuses on digital design and runs proposals. When hiring junior people, she says the key trait she looks for is intellectual curiosity, which she describes as “candidates who want to know why and are invested in learning.”

When hiring a senior employee, like the first BD manager she’s in the process of hiring, Olney describes what she looks for as “a creative problem-solver who will bring in new ideas and who wants to be a business adviser to lawyers.”

Comment: With the war for talent happening in this space, especially at the BD coordinator and specialist level, investing in technology that takes over functions previously owned by talent makes sense.

Selendy & Gay PLLC

Josette Winograd joined Selendy & Gay PLLC as the firm’s first CMO about a year ago. The firm will celebrate its second anniversary in February with about 50 partners and associates. Understanding that conflicts create opportunities, Winograd has worked with partners to develop a rich referral network for Selendy & Gay.

Through targeted meetings with over 30 law firms, the referral network is structured to share the highlights from each firm’s practices, and establish meaningful points of contact for future business.

Comment: In my 24 years of business, this is the first time I have heard of a CMO focusing BD efforts on building a referral network with other firms.

As for new roles, this summer, Winograd created a research and analytics team. Unlike typical business intelligence managers, the analysts directly engage in client matters and apply financial analytics skills to litigation and business issues.

Winograd added that “these analysts come from financial backgrounds and regularly handle huge data sets, allowing the firm and it’s clients to quickly decipher patterns over time and stay a step ahead of the competition.”

When adding senior level professionals to the team, Winograd hires people who will “hit the ground running.” She also says she wants professionals “who have emotional intelligence and who can resolve conflicts and address issues with diplomacy.”

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.

Author Information

Eva Wisnik is president and founder of Wisnik Career Enterprises, a training and placement firm for the legal community. Since founding the company in 1996, she has placed more than 800 marketing, recruiting, and professional development professionals into top law firms and has conducted more than 625 training programs on topics ranging from interview training to time management.