When a CMO enters a new law firm, their credibility quotient is ZERO. According to Roberta Montafia, a CMO needs to “be prepared to prove yourself – don’t expect to be accepted by the partners just because they hired you.”

Don’t depend on what transpired in the interviews, the job description or written objectives. During the courtship, both parties may lack clarity of expectations. In a law firm, expectations can sometimes change without notifying you. Factions in the firm may have separate sets of expectations that don’t match those of the firm management or your boss. Dealing with competing priorities of partners is determined by the politics of the organization.

Jayne Navarre, Director, Law Gravity LLC

Once a new CMO gets off that elevator, no one will care about their degrees or pedigree of former employers. A new CMO must build their credibility from scratch, on day one, with each partner. As they walk into that conference room for the group lunch, and are walked through the halls for one-on-one introductions, they will be viewed with apprehension.

Yesterday I posted three great “welcomes” to a new CMO from Tim Corcoran, Nat Slavin and Frank Moon. Today it’s all about law firm culture and building credibility.

Frank had a great point: a CMO must “Adjust your mindset — and success expectations — to the real firm culture, not the culture described on the website.”


Temper a sense of urgency about change with patience as you learn what the firm both expects and will tolerate. Do not rush decisions or be rushed into them, but respond to questions about what’s ahead with “Well, what do you think is important?” Lawyers expect confidence and leadership, yet are rarely easily led.

Russell Lawson, Marketing Director

Sands Anderson Marks & Miller

Take your time to make change, and identify/discover the landscape before you do make change including the politics (interoffice, interpractice) management (firm, office and practice group) and subversive leaders (rain makers, associate leaders, former management and the mist-maker up-and-comers). Remember that the law firm is not a corporate environment. Every partner has the perception that their issue is the most important, and they can derail projects without the effective canvassing/lobbying. (emphasis added).

David Bruns, Director of Marketing

Farella Braun + Martel


Building credibility begins before you accept the position.

Things like obtaining, in writing, signed by [managing partner]: a clear mission with objective, measurable success criteria correlate the marketing budget to firm priorities; definition of what partners are accountable for, and how [managing partner] will enforce compliance/authorization.

Mike O’Horo, Partner, Sales Results, Inc.

Mike also cautions the new CMO to beware of partners walking into your office “saying anything about RFP responses, charity tables, or anything that smacks of the lawyers expecting you to generate business without them doing any personal selling.”

Personally, I have to agree with former “marketing director of the year” Laura Meherg of the Wicker Park Group that you need to work directly with the firm’s “Chair/Managing Partner to help you prioritize early projects and attack them with laser like focus to achieve some early accomplishments and wins.”

And, finally, Ed Poll, Coach, Consultant & Author, Law Biz Management Company reminds the new CMO:

Be sure to get the support of your top management from the beginning … and do what is needed to be assured on a continuing basis of their top support. Without
that, you will be able to do nothing more than punch the clock.

These first 90 days are all about learning the ins-and-outs of the firm’s culture, internal politics, and establishing your credibility.