CMOs Stress Levels Surge

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CMO Stress Levels Surge

Business is good. The best it’s been in recent memory. So, what’s the worry?

2019 marks the first time a large number of CMOs tell us the external factors are just as stressful as the internal issues. These law firm marketing leaders see outside threats and opportunities as being equal to the challenges within their firms.

My 30 years’ experience shows strategic changes are afoot when external and internal issues equalize. Let’s start with the newest and fastest growing stressors:

The Stress of the Future Soars

Perceived threats from The Big 4 moving into law (EY, PwC), legal technology, AI, and retaining clients caused an 8-fold increase in worries about the future. In fact, the future has become the top stressor. 24% of CMOs, up from only 3% last year, say the stress comes from their law firms’ apparent lack of concern about these issues. These CMOs don’t see a plan or anyone working on a plan with any sense of urgency. They see clear and exposed threats, and feel as if they, alone, are concerned about these issues.

CMO Workload

Just over 23% of law firm CMOs say workload is growing faster than their staff can scale. This is up from 20% last year. It seems business growth is driving new demands and needs—causing clients to hire new law firms. This brings more RFPs—especially in the Am Law 100. And, almost all law firms are changing their approach to marketing. The added coaching, staff training, and planning for new strategies are additive to the everyday job responsibilities for a CMO—pushing stress levels higher.

And Those Empty CMO Slots Are Causing Undue Stress

A number of high-profile law firms are operating without CMOs, Kirkland and Debevoise to name a couple. While it doesn’t impact current CMOs directly, it raises the open question of the need for CMOs in law firms. This is causing stress as it strikes at the existential need for such a role.

Some law firms like to give the impression they don’t have a CMO, but somebody is running the Marketing and BD show. These firms attract some good press and in an odd twist, attract a large number of good CMO candidates who want roles at firms with empty slots. Expect these roles to be filled—and a few more to open up.

Show Them the Money

15% of CMOs feel serious pressure to show their value. These CMOs are often forced to rely on murky metrics and face partners who take credit for any marketing wins. An over-focus on results leads to demoralization, stress, and burnout. It also prevents strategic thinking. Not good for these CMOs or their firms.

Not Worrying Causes CMOs to Worry

Complacency is the leading cause of sleepless nights for 20% of CMOs. They see lack of urgency spreading as their firms enjoy increases in business. Profits are strong, so there is little motivation to make things better. These CMOs tell us their firms believe strong profits cure all ills and prevent future problems—or at least underpin a lack of concern for future problems. 

CMOs give advice on how to deal with stress and pursue opportunity here. It’s worth another read and helps put things into context. And as any stress management teacher will tell you, stress is a sign you recognize something has to change—and can be helpful to our firms and ourselves when managed well. It’s not always easy to frame it this way—but it helps to remember.

MBR

Based on our survey of more than 160 marketing leaders, conducted between November 2018 and June 2019.

How to Get Rid of BD Skeptics and Directories in One Swoop

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Easy. Just wait.

24% of law firm marketing leaders say the BD skeptics will disappear in 2 years. Why? These CMOs think the combination of heightened competition, dwindling client retention, new client demands, and new GCs shopping for law firms will convert the unbelieving. And, they add, the baby boomers keep retiring so the skeptics in this group are dropping out of the system.

You are best served avoiding the skeptics at all costs and spending your time and energy on your BD believers. You can read more about CMO advice on dealing with the BD skeptics while they are still in your ranks here.

We asked more than 160 marketing leaders what trends would disappear from the legal marketing and business development world. While BD skeptics were the number one answer—here is the rest of the story:

Directories

15% of CMOs tell us directories will disappear. They point to 3 main reasons: 1) law firms will decide to stop using them as they did Martindale-Hubbell in 2007; 2) firms will no longer want to the fund the resources to support the effort; and 3) strong prayers by CMOs wishing they will disappear.

But, in an interesting twist—BTI sees more and more law firms embracing rankings as a measurement tool—so—this may be one of the last trends to disappear.

Old School Marketing

Another 15% of law firm marketing leaders say the last vestiges of traditional marketing communications including printed brochures, generic branding, mass-market webinars, and widespread broadcast messaging will disappear.

New School Marketing

A small group of CMOs predict social media marketing will vanish—as it is much less effective than personal interaction with clients and potential clients. Their point about personal interaction is well taken, but digital marketing can be to personal contact what spinach is to Popeye.

Nothing Will Disappear

25% of CMOs tell us nothing will disappear. They believe law firms will cling to their ways—printing brochures, sending mountains of aseptic email alerts to clients and prospects, and embracing their directories and rankings.

And the Point Is…

3 of 4 CMOs see (or hope) key aspects of the marketing mix going away. This is an undercurrent for change. It’s not enough of a wave to change direction completely—but enough to change course a bit.

MBR

Clients See Fewer Movers and Shakers

After a solid 6 years of increase, clients see fewer law firms moving and shaking. Clients tell us more law are doing the same new things—making it less innovative. Overall, the number of law firms clients see as movers and shakers dropped 4.2%.

Clients named 3 fewer firms to the Best of the Best list and 9 fewer in total. This innovative attribute measures those adding value by delivering services or behaviors others do not.

Please join us in congratulating this year’s innovative movers and shakers:

 
 
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Learn what it takes to be a mover & shaker in the new BTI Brand Elite 2019: Client Perceptions of the Best Branded Law Firms.

Clients' Short Lists Get Longer

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Everyone wants to be on the short list. And clients are adding to them, lengthening their lists by 6.4% this year over last. The short list is the first stop before clients make a hiring decision. The process starts with the firms on the short list and moves on from there.

The law firms enjoying a strong position on clients’ short lists in the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2019 are:

 
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Learn how to earn and keep a spot on clients’ short lists, in the new BTI Brand Elite 2019: Client Perceptions of the Best Branded Law Firms.

Fewer Premium Worthy Law Firms

Clients are facing more complexity and uncertainty than ever before—the Economic Policy Uncertainty Index is at an all-time high. Clients gladly pay premiums for the firms who are comfortable with uncertainty and can simplify the complex. The number of firms meeting this threshold dropped substantially—a steep 22.4% from last year.

Law firms enjoying a coveted spot on the premium worthy list in the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2019 are:

 

Best of the Best

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• Davis Polk
• Gibson Dunn
• Kirkland & Ellis
• Latham & Watkins
• Morgan Lewis
• Paul, Weiss
• Skadden
• Sullivan & Cromwell

Leaders

• Arnold & Porter
• Baker McKenzie
• Cooley
• Cravath, Swaine & Moore
• Debevoise & Plimpton
• Dechert
• DLA Piper
• Fried Frank
• Hogan Lovells
• Jones Day
• King & Spalding
• Mayer Brown
• McDermott Will & Emery
• Pillsbury
• Sidley
• Weil
• White & Case
• WilmerHale

 

Learn how to earn premium worthy status, and keep it, in the new BTI Brand Elite 2019: Client Perceptions of the Best Branded Law Firms.

Skadden Reclaims Best Brand: 18 Firms Move Up in New BTI Brand Elite

Skadden reclaims its position as the best-branded law firm. Benefiting directly from the increased complexity and uncertainty clients face—clients rank Skadden as the firm to turn to in bet-the-company situations more than any other firm.

Fully 18 firms in the 28 Brand Elite firm improved their brand over last year. These firms include:

 

• Skadden
• Morgan Lewis
• Gibson Dunn
• Kirkland & Ellis
• Reed Smith
• Hogan Lovells
• McGuireWoods
• Davis Polk
• Seyfarth Shaw

• Orrick
• Paul, Weiss
• King & Spalding
• Covington
• Mayer Brown
• Norton Rose Fulbright
• Squire Patton Boggs
• Ropes & Gray
• Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

 

Quinn Emanuel makes its debut on the BTI Brand Elite—the 28 law firms with the best brands. Quinn is on an ever-growing number of clients’ short lists and has improved its client experience to the point where the firm’s brand is among the elite—and attracts inbound referrals.

A total of 6 law firms return to the BTI Brand Elite:

 

• Seyfarth Shaw
• Orrick
• King & Spalding
• Covington
• Squire Patton Boggs
• Ropes & Gray

Only 7 law firms earn a place on the BTI Brand Elite for all 8 years we have ranked law firm brands. Please join me in congratulating:

 

• Skadden
• Jones Day
• Morgan Lewis
• Hogan Lovells
• Sidley
• Baker McKenzie
• Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

You can learn about the detailed changes in your firm’s brand and compare it to competitive law firms with your copy of BTI Brand Elite 2019: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

BTI conducted more than 694 interviews with top legal decision makers to single out the law firms with the best and strongest brands. Each of the CLOs provided detailed answers and explanations—and have deep opinions about law firm brands.