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Industry Insights Blog

Mid Year Analysis: A Review of the Last Year in Legal Marketing

Kate Harry Shipham

By Kate Harry Shipham

Mid year is a nice time to pause and reflect, so we have taken the time to do just that!

At JJES we like to provide analysis and feedback from time to time on what we see in the legal marketing industry. This particular analysis runs from July 2014 to June 2015 and the results are from our own research and discussions about firms and the market, from our placements, our clients’ perspectives, and reflections from our colleagues all across the US. 

Last year’s analysis reported on factors ranging from ‘hot’ locations where legal marketers were most sought after, to what skills and qualifications law firms were requiring in that market. Following that same vein, we are pleased to share our findings from the past 12 months.

Geography: 

The majority of our clients continued to bolster their teams on the East Coast (NYC, DC and Boston) and in the Midwest (most commonly, Chicago). 

Momentum increased with regionally focused roles in satellite offices around the country in the South and West, most commonly, with budgets now allowing for these additional roles, typically with one or two assigned juniors as resources. 

We will watch with interest some of the smaller cities who, historically, have not had a strong presence of legal marketing professionals. For example, Kansas City, Nashville, St Louis, and Denver, have had a notable up-tick in terms of law firm presence and competition because of corporate growth on the client side.

Seniority and Titles:

In our last report, the most common positions we recruited for were the Manager and Senior Manager titles. This year, these mid and senior level hires were still prevalent, but focusing much more on depth of subject matter expertise.

Interestingly, many firms were willing to be flexible on salary (and sometimes title), for the right person for these mid and senior level roles. Managers can have as little as five years of experience, and as many as 15+ years, so for candidates, this can mean that deciphering these roles can be challenging.

Typically, the more junior-in-years Managers had a ‘life before law’ in some other capacity, commonly from professional services marketing or client development roles in finance or architecture firms. Additionally, industry marketing, account management, sales roles and sophisticated non-profit business development professionals were also in the mix. Prior experience in product marketing still does not translate into the professional services arena, and we are pretty confident it never will.

Qualifications:

We are often asked what sort of qualifications law firms are seeking from their legal marketers.  In nearly every instance, a Bachelors Degree is essential and non-negotiable, although rarely does a degree need to be in a particular discipline.

Less than 10% of candidates that we placed had a JD. We find it is more common among the junior candidates, as there seems to be a trend to move away from practicing law but staying in the law firm environment.

Having an MBA was slightly more common among the candidates we have placed in the last year with 20% of candidates having this qualification. An MBA was most common amongst the more seasoned legal marketers. While an MBA will always be received favorably, most firms do not require this.

Subject Matter Experts:

We have seen firms adding headcount for highly specific and proactive industry-focused business developers. This means obtaining an expert from the finance sector, the healthcare sector, or the insurance sector (just to name a few). ‘Expert’ in this context often means more than experience in an industry or client relationship role in a law firm.

67% of strategic business development hires were focused on an industry. And of this group, over 50% had to show deep experience with longevity in that field regardless of law firm experience or not. 

From those strategic hires, the remaining 33% were regionally focused roles that required a more generalist strategist to keep their pulse on multiple markets across multiple practice groups. 

What is interesting about these strategic hires is how much law firms are open to looking outside of the legal industry for new hires. People from the Big4 bring the industry and client focus most law firms dream about, but legal marketers sitting in law firms right now still have the advantage because they know these law firms better than anyone. 

True growth? 

Firms are expanding their teams with additional mid and senior level business developers. 71% of our placements at this level were newly added roles. Partners are placing more importance on these critical positions and getting people who can influence them in a setting where proactive and progressive business development (not simply what’s been done before) is paramount.   

Firms are also still growing their marketing teams at the junior end. In recent months in particular, we have seen an up-tick in Coordinator and Specialist roles being added to their teams. These more junior hires must have the right approach. Entry-level roles are less about technical abilities (which can be taught, for example, how to respond to an RFP) than they are about the softer skills (which often are a challenge to teach). So for the junior marketers out there: organization, communication skills, project management, attention to detail, managing up, thinking ahead, positivity and intuition, are all qualities firms will hire over the seemingly more technically equipped with a less tailored and polished demeanor.

Firm size

We still battle the challenge of helping candidates see opportunities in different types and sizes of firms. For example, a Manager role in one firm is not the same as a Manager role in another firm. People not wanting to make this “lateral” move are often in danger of missing a more progressive marketing role.

Typically, a change of senior marketing leaders at the top, critical culture nuances, scope of the role, quality of the team, or a global footprint (or not, depending on your appetite), are factors which make each role different.  

Knowing your worth in your market is also essential for career progression and development. People often check in with us to understand what skills they need to be expanding upon to stay relevant and valuable to their attorneys and partners.

Challenges

Many people we talk to still report in some challenges within their firms. 

At the more senior level, getting partners more comfortable with client feedback programs, becoming more proactive in terms of improved strategies around RFPs, incorporating (and leveraging the metrics from) marketing technology, and managing juniors without having complete ownership, are just a few.

Additionally, one mantra that we’re currently challenging senior legal marketers to adopt is ‘saying no’ by offering alternative solutions and resources. Juniors typically must still come from ‘a place of yes’, but this is not the case for seniors; and to be truly strategic and proactive, seniors should absolutely be saying no.

At the more junior end, the challenges we often see are learning how to deliberately stop the more administrative tasks and taking on work at a higher level. Its also getting them into the business of the law firm, and the metrics that can be leveraged (and why) nice and early.

And perhaps this year more than most, we’ve seen some very highly qualified senior people, and also full-of-potential junior people, sadly, step out of the legal profession. Difficult personalities, demanding hours with little flexibility, and unrealistic deadlines are just a few of the reasons we lose good people.

Notwithstanding this, law firms are not for everyone, and the people who remain do well because they thrive in high-pace environments where the stakes are high and the challenges pay off; and this leads to reward, recognition and career progression. Some of our closest friends in the top CMO and Director roles speak of highly rewarding careers in law firms where they are constantly learning and growing. 

Salaries and Bonuses:

We will shortly launch our highly anticipated Legal Marketing Salary Survey.

Therefore, in lieu of providing salary information here, stay tuned to our blog as nearly 550 legal marketers have taken part in our Legal Marketing Salary Survey. These results will be revealed over the coming months.

Projections for the back half of 2015 and 2016?

Focusing on analytics.  From CMO all the way down to Assistant, people are getting a very strong understanding of the business of law firms and how to leverage data to achieve results. 

Book vs. street smarts.  The additional qualifications are not needed to make it to the top spots.  However, ‘street’ smarts certainly are. Learning how to navigate the ‘streets’ of your law firms is essential. Does everyone know who you are?  Because they absolutely should.  

Asking for more.  That’s no doubt a phrase that just made you shudder.  But it’s necessary.  People are asking their Managers, Directors and CMOs for more ownership of supervising projects and, importantly, people.

Picking a project.  People are being savvy about picking a project which plays to their strengths and taking complete ownership of it, from development to execution.  

*** 

We hope you found our analysis and feedback to be valuable. We always welcome your thoughts and reflections, so please get in touch with us to share. And remember…

Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration.

Seeming to do is not doing.

- Thomas Edison - 

__________

Kate Harry Shipham is a Senior Recruiting Manager with J. Johnson Executive Search, Inc (JJES).  JJES specialize in placing marketing and business development professionals into law firms across the US.  Kate can be reached at kate@jjohnsonexecsearch.com

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