Denise NixThank you to guest blogger Denise Nix, Marketing and Business Development Manager at Glaser Weil, for providing her insights into “When Firm Culture Gets In the Way of Firm Success: How to Overcome the Stumbling Blocks” from the recent Legal Marketing Association annual conference.”

Realizing that no marketing or business development strategy will work in a culture that isn’t ready for it, moderator David Ackert led the panelists and audience in an interactive discussion on firm cultures. David defined organizational culture as the behavior of humans in the organization and the meanings they attach to their actions. A poll of the audience showed that most marketing/BD professionals in attendance rate their firms’ cultures as somewhere between “meh” and “toxic.” The panelists agreed there are ways these professionals can improve their firms’ cultures.

LMA Culture Panel
l to r: Maureen Flanagan, Joe Calve, Jay Wager, Liz Cerasuolo, David Ackert. Photo courtesy of Denise Nix.
Liz Cerasuolo, director of communications at Fish & Richardson, said culture will change organically with new people, clients and practices. But real change starts with the firm’s leadership. She advised to be a “catalyst” to start change . Start small, develop strategic alliances and share ownership of successes, she added. Joe Calve, the chief marketing officer at Morrison & Foerster, said storytelling and language are powerful tools for change. As an example, he noted how changing the word from firm “management” to “leadership” creates a different feeling – and, thus, a different culture. He said he also evoked change by sharing the firm’s stories internally to create a culture of pride in, and knowledge about, the firm. Maureen Flanagan, senior business development manager at Day Pitney, said to attach yourself to the young and current leaders of the firm. Make sure their initiatives are executed and followed up on. By aligning yourself with the leaders, she explained, you’re in position to create change. Jay T. Wager, director of business development at Edwards Wildman Palmer, said culture change can begin with the firm’s mission statement. To change it, he shopped options around to small groups within the firm. He received honest feedback and buy-in with this strategy. But before you begin to make change, he said you should take stock of what the current culture is – only going forward after knowing what it is – and what it’s not.