The marketing umbrella is broad, providing shelter to a diverse group of functions, including: PR, business development, competitive research and analysis, strategic planning, client services, not to mention MarComm, and the list goes on. Throw into the mix some new technology, a new managing partner, offices in 8 different time zones, a merger (or lay-offs), budget constraints, diverging departmental needs and not enough resources, and that’s a day in the life of the law firm CMO.
And yet, every law firm I know of is challenged by the role of the CMO and how best to balance the tactical v. strategic aspects of the job. The turnover continues, at a loss to not only the firm’s finances, but to its overall culture. Not to mention the toll on the the marketing department and personnel. Oh, and did I mention the client?

As a provoker of conversation, I’d like to bring to our collective attention Liz Pava’s article that was posted in today’s Newswire, How to Get the Most From Today’s CMO.

I thought the article was superb in framing the law firm culture/dynamic, along with the challenges faced by CMOs. Liz rightly points out that firms need to strike the balance between the functionality of the CMOs position, and the strategic leader he or she needs to be:

“The more clearly firms can articulate the balance in the CMO role between 1) head of an administrative/support function, and 2) strategic adviser helping to frame and then direct execution of growth strategies through the marketing department and its resources, the more likely the firm will align the right skill sets to the job and benefit accordingly.”

There’s a lot in the article, and I encourage everyone to read it through, but I wanted more at the end than what follows:


“The current war for and high cost of CMO talent, in conjunction with an increasingly challenging marketplace, is driving law firms to rethink what they need, and can get, from CMOs and other resources to help them succeed. New approaches are in the works. For example, firms have tapped director-level marketers to take on more “builder” and “steward” operations to free up the CMO for additional strategy work. And new, nonpartner positions for director of strategic planning and chief marketing strategy and business development officer are being created, with Cravath and Orrick two recent examples, respectively.

“There is no one right job description, title, reporting structure or pay scale for today’s law firm’s head marketer. What matters most is that the responsibilities for the various elements in the marketing mix are aligned with authority, all are clear as to who in the firm is accountable for what, and the structure facilitates forward movement as defined and measured by the particular firm.”

What are the possible solutions?? And, what can we do to move the ball forward on this today? While Cravath and Orrick are going the way of freeing up the CMO to focus on strategy, Drinker Biddle and Buchanan Ingersoll are doing the opposite, foregoing a CMO (at this time).

So Coolerites, what does happen next? How do we influence up, provoke change, or nudge our firms to that sweet spot of distinguishing between the task/operations function of the CMO, and the strategic advisor? I have heard from several firms that are just plain tired of the turn-over of their CMOs to the point that they just don’t know what to do next. So, what can we do to increase the tenure of CMOs? How can we participate in the conversation of solutions?

(cross posted, in part, at the Legal Marketing Association Listserv)