Only 7 Things Drive Law Firm CMOs Crazy

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CMOs are quick to point out how the attorneys are the best part of the job. But, some attorneys do a good job of driving them absolutely crazy.

4 of the 7 sources of CMO frustration start with attorneys—a small number of attorneys, but attorneys none the less. Attorneys don’t have an exclusive on driving CMOs to the brink—daily life and strategic issues play their role too.

Let’s talk about the attorneys first.

4 types of attorneys are driving CMOs crazy. They break down into the following groups:

Marketing and Business Development Skeptics

About 10% of attorneys are true Marketing and Business Development (MBD) skeptics. These attorneys don’t see how CMOs can help them—and show no interest in learning. Some are loud and vocal, and openly question your plans and attempts to help. Other MBD skeptics question CMOs in private because they are in the clear minority—but take up too much air time in the CMO world—and drive them crazy.

The Apathetic

Worse than MBD skeptics, these attorneys just don’t care about MBD initiatives. They go along as if the MBD department isn’t there. They interact only when they absolutely have to—and sometimes even then they ask not to be included.

The Jerks

They still exist—and do a great job of driving CMOs crazy. The jerks bring unpleasant, and sometimes nasty comments. They are more troublesome than the 2 groups above because they are loud, active, and go out of their way to share their thinking. The best CMOs learn to let this water run off their back and move on. Fortunately, the number of jerks has decreased to less than 5% of all partners, but their impact is much larger than their footprint suggests.

Distracted Attorneys

Attorneys can have short attention spans. But the distracted attorneys bring new meaning. These often well-meaning attorneys, move from one topic to another with lightening speed. They don’t stay in place long enough to get any traction—and they request individualized help to support their ongoing stream of ideas.

Moving away from attorneys, CMOs point to the following 3 issues as driving them crazy:

Directories and Rankings

The workload and high attorney demand drive CMOs crazy. Attorneys bring a high emotional investment in making the rankings—but most of the workload falls squarely in MBD department. This can be a double whammy because a small but measurable number of the attorneys not making the rankings become jerks and skeptics.

No Strategy

These CMOs are working hard but are not sure where they are going. They see no sign of a firm strategy or vision. This not only dilutes the CMOs’ efforts but takes away guiding light. These CMOs are among the few who have a bird’s eye seat to multiple strategies and wasted resources. These same CMOs see the power of using the resources for a limited number of strategically coordinated initiatives.

Workload

Think of it as a form of job security. Demand exceeds marketing supply. CMOs face a continuing stream of RFPs before adding in all the daily tasks of running the department—mentoring, partner requests, events, web updates, PR, special projects, and a string of strategic initiatives like client teams, client feedback, and industry teams. Simply put, the CMO cup runneth over.

BTI’’s exclusive research shows the largest firms (think Am Law 30) are adding staff, as are the Am Law 31 to 100, and the Am Law second 100. This is not enough staff to fuel the demand. But the resource-short departments learn to prioritize and manage expectations to deliver what their firms need and expect.

The Good News

Successful CMOs know how to successfully navigate these frustrations—and they would do it all again. They know what experience counts and what’s worth caring about. As we discussed a few weeks ago, the most successful CMOs also shared 7 lessons they learned to make sure they don’t let their responsibilities or people they deal with drive them crazy. You can’t read this advice too many times.

MBR