2022 LMA Hall of Fame Inductees Reflect on Their Careers in Legal Marketing
By LMA International
April 26, 2022 | 7-minute read
Marketing Management and Leadership Content Type Article
The LMA Hall of Fame recognizes individuals in the legal marketing industry for outstanding contributions to the profession and the association. This year’s Hall of Fame inductees are Iris Jones (Akerman LLP; left), Deborah Farone (Farone Advisors LLC; middle) and Ashraf Lakhani (Porter Hedges LLP; right).
We spoke with them to learn more about their career journeys, their advice for those looking to advance in the industry and the opportunities they think are ahead for legal marketing.
Tell us how you got involved in legal marketing. What experiences have helped you advance your career and get you to where you are today?
Iris Jones (IJ): My first experience with legal marketing was as a practicing attorney. After practicing for several years, I had the extraordinary opportunity to work with the WJF Institute as an instructor for the "Client Development and Relationship Management" course, training law firm partners under the direction of Bill Flannery. This opportunity allowed my career to gravitate toward what I truly believed in and thoroughly enjoyed: client relations, satisfaction and support of key relationships via teams.
The practice of law prepared me for effectively communicating with firm leadership and attorneys I support, thus enabling me to walk in their shoes. As a coach, trainer and collaborator, I lead a superb team of professionals whom I proudly empower to do what they do best.
Deborah Farone (DF): After college, I was hired by Ketchum Communications in New York to work in their fledgling new business development department. Later, I had the opportunity to work on accounts with talented and creative marketers. Together, with people like Susan Butenhoff, I was able to be involved in everything marketing from public companies to partnerships, in industries ranging from insurance to banking and toys.
I wanted to try an in-house position and moved to management consulting at what is now Towers Watson, and from there I was recruited to Debevoise & Plimpton. Law firm marketing was just starting off in those days. It was exciting and working closely with partners to devise strategies and tactics was very rewarding.
Looking back at early law firm life, there were difficult moments, including trying to launch practice areas in parts of the world I knew little about and introducing new marketing concepts that were not immediately accepted with open arms. However, each of those tough times ended up being opportunities for me to grow.
After 14 years at Debevoise, I was recruited to Cravath to be the firm’s chief marketing officer. There, I grew a marketing department that provided business development, business analytics, public relations, database mining and several other disciplines.
Ashraf Lakhani (AL): My first job at a law firm was as a paralegal at the former Dewey Ballantine in Washington, D.C. I moved to D.C. after college; being a paralegal was a bridge between school and eventually working on Capitol Hill. After a stint working for the Senate Banking Committee, I went back home to Texas to get my MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.
With some knowledge of the legal industry combined with an MBA, I was able to secure my first legal marketing role as a marketing manager for the intellectual property practice group at Howrey LLP in Houston. From there, I moved to help Morgan Lewis expand a new office in Houston as its first local hire. After working with a great team and growing that office, I had an opportunity take the lead role at Porter Hedges in Houston where I have been for the last 10 years.
What advice would you give to those in legal marketing looking to advance their career and grow in the field?
IJ: The best advice I can give is to encourage those in legal marketing to love what they do and find a way to stand out:
- Do not hesitate to raise your hand (volunteer) to help your colleagues and support your leaders.
- Do more than what is expected of you. Yes, go the extra mile! Differentiate yourself.
- Join LMA; submit proposals to serve on committees, seminars and conference panels, and seek out writing opportunities and speaking engagements.
- Read, read, read! Know your clients — the attorneys that you support on a daily basis. You can best serve your internal clients when you understand their practices and industries.
- Be curious, ask questions and participate.
- Develop and hone your writing and communication skills by investing in yourself. Attend seminars, conferences, and webinars and read marketing blogs and books to further develop yourself as the successful marketer that you would like to become.
DF: While I would keep an eye on legal marketing through LMA and other groups in the legal profession, I would also stay in the loop on what is taking place in other professions and businesses. The best marketing insights often come from unexpected areas.
Additionally, be your own advocate. Continue to find new ways to grow. While you may have great bosses along the way who pay attention to your development, that job is really up to you. Look to succeed in the areas that challenge you.
Lastly, find a few aspects of legal marketing that you love, and hone the skills you have to be the very best you can be in those select areas.
AL: First, be a student of the legal industry. Understand what is happening in the legal market around you, the strategic drivers of your firm and what motivates your individual attorneys. With this perspective, no matter what your role in the organization is, you will be better able to put your work into context and deliver results that are both productive and personally fulfilling.
Second, show up to events and be seen. Take every opportunity to get in front of your attorneys and others working at your firm. Especially in recent months, it has become more difficult to really connect with fellow coworkers. Any time you can represent both yourself and your department, it will serve your entire team well.
Looking toward the future of legal marketing, what opportunities do you think are ahead in the profession?
IJ: The opportunities for innovation in marketing and client development are endless. Technology has already become a huge part of our work and what we do on a daily basis. For many, digital marketing innovations are a priority marketing tool, and launching digital campaigns with a narrow focus is more common in law firms.
There is greater emphasis placed on communicating content via video and audio podcasts, for example, and less on the written word. I expect that this will continue, along with advancement and promotion of law firms via social media posts, LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers. Effective social media strategies and disseminating mostly thought leadership content through such platforms is critical to staying top of mind with clients and prospects. Experienced social media strategists are in high demand at this time and will be in the foreseeable future.
In the short term and beyond, we will likely see more marketing and client development teams that include content collaborators, business development strategists, competitive intelligence professionals, technology managers, senior data analysts and senior social media professionals.
DF: Legal technology and marketing operations are fascinating areas with lots of room to grow. If I were starting today, I would make sure I was regularly meeting with as many of the legal technology vendors as possible. I think it’s essential to know what is feasible today and what may be developed for tomorrow.
I also believe that the area of client service will become even more important. If you look at what people like Catherine Zinn have done so successfully, first at Orrick and now at Baker Botts, or Lee Garfinkle, now at Ernst & Young, relationship building is the wave of the future. The lessons that I’ve taken from those people is to keep a wide network, continue to nurture it and aim to be the best you can be.
AL: Legal marketing is now a career. For those who are willing to invest the time and effort to grow in this industry, it can lead to a path of tremendous success. With the help of trusted mentors, supportive teams and personal motivation, professionals who have a long-term vision about the potential of a career will be the future leaders of our industry.
Iris Jones is Akerman's chief marketing and client development officer, overseeing the firm's client development team to advance the overall strategic plan of the firm by continuing to grow the firm's client base while deepening existing client relationships. She works closely with firm leadership to build the firm's brand equity and position the firm as an influential thought leader and the law firm of choice for diverse clients in the firm's key practice areas. Skilled in designing solutions based on analytical needs assessment, Iris directs complex projects from concept to fully operational status. She has extensive experience in coaching, training and providing business development support to all levels of stakeholders.
Before joining Akerman, Iris served as a chief business development and marketing officer for McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC and other Am Law 100 firms in Washington, D.C. and New York. She is a member of the State Bar of Texas and previously practiced law in Texas in both the public and private sectors. She gained extensive litigation and appellate experience having served as an assistant attorney general of Texas and director of the City of Austin's law department.
Deborah Farone has had the unique opportunity to play a role in developing the best practices in legal marketing by working with the most respected and most demanding professionals in the world. Her advisory practice focuses on helping law firms, individual practices and lawyers with their marketing and public relations strategy, training and development, and strategic planning. In addition, she is often asked to speak at law firm and legal department partner retreats and workshops in the U.S., Asia and Europe. Deborah is the author of the best-selling legal marketing book, "Best Practices: Marketing and Business Development of Law Firms" (PLI 2019), a work based on more than 60 interviews with successful law firm leaders and marketers, general counsel and innovators in the profession.
Over the past two decades, Deborah has carved out a niche by distinguishing herself as the chief marketing officer of two of the United States' most prestigious law firms, Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. Prior to diving into the legal marketing profession, she honed her business development and communications skills by working at the global management consulting firm Towers Perrin, now Willis Tower Watson.
Deboarah has also been involved in the academic arena. She has recently spoken at the University of Pennsylvania's Carey Law School, Cornell Law School and Fordham Law School, and earlier had served as an adjunct assistant professor on the faculty of New York University. While at NYU, she developed and taught several courses, including "Effective Marketing and Public Relations for Professional Service Companies" and "Marketing and Public Relations for Law Firms," the first course of its kind offered by a major university.
Ashraf Lakhani is the chief business development and marketing officer at Porter Hedges LLP in Houston. With over 20 years of legal marketing experience, he is responsible for developing and executing the client development strategies, coordinating the client feedback program, managing public relations and leading the marketing team. Prior to Porter Hedges, he led the marketing efforts in Texas for both Morgan Lewis and Howrey as they expanded into the state.
Ashraf served as the LMA President in 2018, co-chaired the LMA Annual Conference in 2015 in San Diego and received the LMA Southwest Region Distinguished Service Award in 2020. He has also served on many committees and task forces in addition to leadership roles as president of the LMA Texas Chapter and as leader of the Houston local group.
He received his bachelor's from Duke University and MBA from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. He also serves as the co-chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council at The Kinkaid School in Houston, Texas.