Navigating Success in Legal Marketing: Advice From Industry Veterans

Navigating Success in Legal Marketing: Advice From Industry Veterans

By Bobbie Conklin, EJ Stern
September 21, 2023 | 4-minute read
Business of Law Attorney Talent Recruitment, Compensation, Professional Development and Retention Content Type Article
Marketing Management and Leadership
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In the fast-paced world of legal marketing, career development is an ever-evolving journey that demands adaptability, resilience and a commitment to continuous growth. In our combined 30 years of experience working in the legal industry, we’ve focused a great deal on mentoring the next generation of legal marketers. At the LMA Annual Conference earlier this year, we had the pleasure of leading a career development pre-conference workshop. In preparation for this program, we solicited advice from seasoned industry veterans in the field to help empower legal marketing professionals to forge fulfilling career paths. What follows is a sampling of some of the insights we received.

Take Ownership of Your Career

"Own the creation of your own career path. Lean on your champions and your personal board of advisors as you progress in your career."

A successful career is not merely handed to you; it is crafted through careful planning, persistence, brand building and guidance. Take ownership of your professional journey, identify your career goals and strategize how to achieve them. Surround yourself with champions who recognize your potential and advocates who can provide guidance and support.

Seek Out Mentors

"Identify a mentor — formal or informal — at work. They can help you grow and think about your role in different ways. They don’t have to be in the same department as you but regularly check in with them for support, inspiration and friendship."

Mentorship plays a pivotal role in career development. As you search for a mentor, don’t limit yourself to your supervisor. A mentor can be someone in a different department or even an attorney who shows interest in your career. A mentor can offer a fresh perspective, challenge your assumptions and provide valuable insights to help you excel in your role. Seek out mentors who can guide you with their experience and expertise. Regular check-ins with your mentor not only offer guidance, but also foster a strong bond of support and friendship.

Create a Niche for Yourself

"Find your sweet spot and focus on it. You can’t be good at everything, but if you do what you’re good at, you’ll thrive."

As legal marketers, we often wear many hats. While it's crucial to be well-rounded, mastering a “sweet spot” will set you apart, making you a valuable asset to your organization. Identify the areas where your talents shine and focus on honing those skills. Don’t be afraid to ask others what they think you do best — you may be surprised what talents are visible to others.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

"Raise your hand whenever you don’t understand a concept, acronym or initial."

In law firms, acronyms and jargon are abundant, as are hard-to-understand regulations and legal precedents. Don't hesitate to seek clarity when faced with unfamiliar terms or concepts. Asking questions not only demonstrates curiosity and a willingness to learn, but also prevents misunderstandings that can lead to wasted time and effort.  Remember to also pay it forward with those just starting their legal marketing career.  When you see the “deer in headlights” look, pause the conversation and clear up any confusion.

Lateral Moves Can Propel Your Career, Too

"Depending on what stage you are in your career, a lateral move may be more critical to your development than moving up. For example, if you have a goal of becoming the chief marketing and business development officer (CMBDO) but all your experience is on the marketing side, raise your hand for a similar level BD role, or raise your hand to take on BD responsibilities for a specific practice/group so you can build those skills."

Career advancement doesn't always follow a straight, upward trajectory. Sometimes, lateral moves offer unique opportunities for growth and skill development. Lateral moves can broaden your skillset, making you a more versatile and competent professional as you seek advancement in your career.

Acknowledge Your Worth

"Don’t minimize what we do by saying things like ‘this isn’t rocket science.’ If everybody could do it well, they would. In this industry, they will try, but know that what you do is special and unique.”

Legal marketing requires expertise, creativity and an in-depth understanding of the legal industry. Recognize the value of your contributions and refrain from downplaying your skills or efforts. Embrace collaboration and remain open to fresh perspectives, but never undermine the significance of your role in the success of your firm. After all, if what we do “isn’t rocket science,” then ask yourself why the firm is investing so much time, money and talent in the marketing department. Legal marketers are revenue enablers in our firms and until we see ourselves in that role (and communicate it), firm leaders may not see it either.

Closing Thoughts

This advice is just the tip of the iceberg. We received dozens of reflections from industry leaders. As we digested the wisdom, we realized so much of this advice was hindsight — as though the seasoned legal marketers wanted to share what they may not have known early in their journey. We hope this advice will help legal marketing professionals navigate the complexities of their profession with confidence and emerge as trailblazers in their field.

Check out the full list of legal advice from seasoned legal marketers here.

Bobbie Conklin
Steptoe & Johnson PLLC

Bobbie Conklin is the director of business development for Steptoe & Johnson PLLC and works closely with lawyers to advance their business development efforts. Working hand in hand with the S&J marketing team, Conklin supports attorneys across the multi-state footprint of the firm.

Supporting attorneys, client teams and practice groups in expanding legal services, Conklin has a focus on growing revenue through existing and new clients, and promoting cross-selling efforts. She is a trusted coach, valued mentor and enthusiastic idea generator.

EJ Stern
Fractional Law Firm CMO

EJ Stern has 20 years of experience leading business development and marketing for the legal industry. She advises law firms on how to effectively expand their business and generate greater revenue. Stern is recognized for her ability to quickly assess challenges and develop and implement solutions.

Stern is a certified professional coach. She previously served as US head of client Ddevelopment for Clyde & Co and associate director, BD coaching for Troutman Pepper. She also held marketing positions at Steptoe & Johnson and Proskauer.