Yesterday’s AmLaw Daily included The Churn: CMO Edition mentioning the arrival of Orrick’s new CMO, Jeanne Sdroulas.

I asked a diverse group of my legal marketing peers (current and former CMOs, consultants, in-house professionals, service providers) what advice they would have for an incoming CMO.

I am so impressed by the incredible insights my peers brought forward that I will have to write several blog posts to ensure that all the comments are included.

For anyone walking into the law firm environment for the first time they will be shocked and challenged by the culture. A former CMO, and now consultant to AmLaw 100 law firms noted: “I can think of only two [law firms] (Latham & Watkins and King & Spalding) where any non-legal Messiah lasted more than 18-24 months inside legal.” (emphasis added).

So, how can a “non-legal” CMO break through the average length of tenure and join Latham’s Despina Kartson and King & Spalding’s Katherine D’urso.

Over the next few days I’m going to post some words of welcome, wisdom and advice from my peers, many of whom have sat in the same seat as Ms. Sdroulas and know exactly what she, and other new CMOs, can anticipate, good and bad. This diverse group, including me, has had successes and failures, but we have all learned from them, picked up and continued on in the legal marketing profession.

Welcome to a world where each day you will be as challenged intellectually by the external complexities of marketing a global services business in a crowded field as you will emotionally by the internal complexities of gaining consensus and driving change in an enterprise long accustomed to avoiding both. Your corporate experience will be invaluable in establishing a vision for a well-run marketing organization, but like the book says keep in mind all that you learned in kindergarten as a guide for how to play with others and get things done, one small victory at a time. You are not alone, and I encourage you to learn from those who have previously faced the challenges you face, but also educate us so we can benefit from your experience. Good luck!

Timothy B. Corcoran, Senior Consultant, Altman Weil, Inc.

Manage your own expectations, find internal champions, make sure your seat at the table is not a booster seat, manage your partner’s expectations, treat your team/staff better than you have ever been treated by a boss, never surprise your partners, and pick battles worth fighting, but never pick a fight.

Nathaniel E. Slavin, Partner, Wicker Park Group

Adjust your mindset – and success expectations – to the real firm culture, not the culture described on the website.

In 1990 I first started working in a partnership environment with accounting giant KPMG. The decision-making culture was much more horizontal than I ever anticipated. It wasn’t “corporate” at all; it was a “partnership.”

Partners opted in or opted out of programs for which I had gotten mandated approval to implement firm wide – and the partners’ reasons for participating or not were as individual as their DNA, as individual as their practices.

So, come to understand the real dynamic of the Orrick partnership: where is Orrick on the spectrum between A) a unified and integrated strategy-driven approach to the marketplace and Z) a loose confederation of sole practitioners who choose to give up 40-60% of their originations in order to have someone handle the administrative details?

Frank B. Moon, Sr. Executive Recruiter and Partner

Executive Placement Solutions. A former law firm marketing director.