There's a Bull Market for Law Firm CMOs

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The market is ripe for law firms to up their marketing game.

Smaller firms, bigger firms, and global giants are all bringing on new marketing leaders. In the last 6 (or so) months alone, we’ve seen many notable changes in leadership:

This flurry of top-level turmoil can be credited to retirements, a drive for law firms to build more marketing muscle, people leaving for new opportunities, law firms setting new strategic directions, and a host of other factors.

Think for a minute. Almost ½ of law firm CMOs are on the road to burn out. Only 20% see themselves as trusted advisors to their firms and only 45% rate their jobs an 8 of 10 or higher. In short, a lot of talent is open to greener pastures.

So… How can law firms use this to their advantage?

Love the One You’re With: Double Down on Your Marketing Leadership

Up your support, listen more, listen better, and an occasional extra thank you never hurts. Include your CMO as a central figure in the firm’s strategic direction. Take the time to review the firm’s strategic vision, marketing & business development plans, and client-facing philosophies. Ask them for new ideas and thoughts about how to up the marketing and business development game—and give them the support to see their initiatives through.

Find Your True Love: Find the Best Performers Looking for More

When a potential new CMO walks through your door, tell them a compelling story—the firm’s vision and how you see marketing and business development playing a central role. Sharing your marketing and BD philosophy right away will tell you more about each other than any other conversation you have. Make sure everyone who meets your candidate can tell the story. Revisit priorities, even briefly, to be sure everyone in leadership is in sync with the role of marketing and business development. This shows your candidate they can make an impact, be respected, implement new programs, and see their contribution to the firm’s success.

And, your candidate knows you already. They’ve checked your firm out in Chambers, BTI reports, and talked with folks who have worked for you—they want to know your vision and how this role fits in, not about the firm’s history.

It should go without saying but treat your candidate well. Think of candidate service as a proxy for exactly what it will be like to work at the firm. CMOs tell me stories of firm management being late to interviews, partners taking phone calls during interviews, and no one ever saying thanks for coming in—even when the candidate travels from out of town.

To attract the best-in-class CMOs, offer a market-based salary. High performers believe their current pay plus a percent doesn’t speak to commitment or value—it speaks to offering enough to make a move. CMOs have a good sense of what the market will support. And, the top performers view themselves as being at the top of the market.

More than a few law firms are still on the hunt for a marketing leader. The candidate pool is strong. Look for more offers, more moves, and law firms with strong leaders making sure theirs don’t go.

MBR

Rainmakers Kicking Big Time Butt: Increase Their Books 4X Others

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A typical rainmaker added just over $1 million to their existing book of business since 2015. This increase is way ahead of any industry growth or other market-based phenomena. And it is 4.5 times bigger than the average partner's increased bookings.

Unrelenting

This performance comes from one thing—unrelenting focus on clients. They understand relationships are everything and don’t consider the possibility they won’t deliver. Their clients know when budgets will change in real time, and they exude confidence to be a “turn-over partner”—a client calls in the middle of the night, shares a crisis, and can then turn over and go back to sleep, confident their rainmaker has it covered.

7% of Rainmakers Hidden and Waiting to Be Found

BTI research shows only about 7% of all partners are rainmakers in the largest 600 law firms. By contrast, 86% of partners say they lack the skills to develop new business in a meaningful way. This leaves 7% unaccounted for—these are rainmakers-in-the-making. Find them in your firm. Cull them out. Train them. Give them tools, training, and most importantly—access to your most strategic clients—where they can really build a relationship—and new business.

Unleashing Your Hidden Rainmakers

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If you want to lose the 7% of up-and-comers, constrain them and don’t give them access to clients. Rainmakers and rainmakers-in-the-making hate to be constrained. They get their energy from clients—suppress the energy and you suppress the rain.

This 7% of up-and-comers are likely already high performers. But, they may not have the length of experience leadership typically expects. The risk of letting an up-and-comer loose on a strategic client is much less than the risk of keeping them from clients. Someone (think recruiter or another firm) will spot this talent and lure them away to the greener pastures of client access.

We realize this can mean hard decisions for law firms. What do to with your partner managing a strategic client but not booking new business? How to allow for more client-facing time and how to provide the infrastructure a rainmaker-in-the-making might need? And the advanced coaching, mentoring, and training up-and-comers crave. However hard the decisions, law firms will make them either passively through inaction or actively by preparing up-and-comers for outsized success. But the decisions need to be made.

MBR

Based on in-depth interviews BTI conducted with more than 160 law firm marketing leaders and 150 law firm partners between September 2016 and May 2017.