People I Met Practicing Law

Law Firm Primer For Articling Students and New Associates – Part Eight: The Chief Marketing Officer

Those of you who have been following this series know that I said that Part Seven was the final article in the series. It turns out that I lied.

The purpose of the series is to set out the questions which Articling Students and new Associates should figure out about their firms when deciding whether to stay there over the long-term.

This time it is about the Chief Marketing Officer (“CMO”).

Unless your firm is kind of large, it probably does not have a full-time CMO, so for today I will call the most senior person who is in charge of marketing and business development the CMO.

So here are the questions:

  1. Does your firm have anyone who purports to be a CMO, whether on a part-time or full-time basis, or under contract as an ‘outsourced’ or ‘fractional’ CMO?  If not, the partners may not have figured out that they are running a business. Proceed with caution.
  2. If your firm does have a CMO, is that person a lawyer who has never received any formal training in marketing, but figures, ‘how hard could it be?’  If so, that is not a good sign.
  3. Does the CMO have any authority whatsoever, or does their role consist primarily of shouting into the wind?
  4. What does the CMO actually do?  If they simply schedule events, hire caterers, hound the lawyers to write articles, and post fluff on LinkedIn celebrating holidays that you never knew existed, they are actually marketing coordinators. Useful people, but not really a CMO.
  5. Do the partners listen to the CMO, or just overrule the CMO because they know better?
  6. Does every partner with a book of business of $2,000,000 or more have a veto over any strategy recommended by the CMO, and exercise it to derail anything that does not help them personally?
  7. Does the firm cycle through CMO’s every 18 months or so, or do they stick around long enough to implement strategies?
  8. Is the CMO a strategist, or will they simply lead you toward the iceberg because some bigger firm was sailing toward it so that must be the right way to go?
  9. Is the CMO big on grandiose plans and small on granular implementation?
  10. Does the CMO have a mandate to help each lawyer develop a personal brand and to help the firm develop a firm brand?
  11. Does the CMO have a real budget to work with, both for the development of the firm brand and to assist each lawyer to develop their own brand?

If your firm does not have a capable CMO, perhaps the firm is not going anywhere and you do not want to be part of its ill-fated voyage. Or, if they have a CMO but do not make that person available to help you develop your brand and client base, maybe you want to move somewhere that they do not consider you to be merely a deck hand.

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