chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
Business Development

Chief Marketing Officer of Global Law Firm Provides Insights on Best Practices

By Anusia Gillespie
Global strategy and solution.

Global strategy and solution.

 Anusia Gillespie, JD, MBA | Principal Consultant | banava

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.  ~ Vincent Van Gogh

Ever wonder what the best professional development, cultural cultivation, and marketing practices are in a leading global law firm? Kelly Kiernan Largey, the Chief Marketing Officer of Fish & Richardson, provides insight from her thirty years of experience in the profession and long-standing position at the top patent litigation firm in the country.[1] Having joined Fish & Richardson in 1993, Kelly has been involved in the firm’s expansion from a national firm with four offices to a global firm with twelve offices. Kelly oversees the firm’s strategic marketing and business development programs globally.

Business and Professional Development Support for Attorneys

What are the three pillars of support that firms need to provide for their attorneys?

Firms need to focus on providing support, but attorneys need to create support systems as well. The three pillars are: 1) professional development on the substantive level; 2) community within the office, whether that is an affinity or peer group; and 3) a mentoring relationship, even if it is informal.

With respect to the third pillar, attorneys need to have role models to emulate. Lawyering, like a lot of other professional services, is an art and there is a lot that goes into it; everything from bedside manner with clients to managing your time and nurturing your network. It is not anything that you learn in law school, it’s not something you can learn in a seminar, and it’s not something you can learn from a coach. You need to see someone who is doing it. Great lawyers are adapting for every situation and know their clients really well. They know what’s important to the client and what’s not important to the client. Great lawyers read their client’s signals.

What do you see as the biggest pain point in attorney business development efforts? 

The biggest pain point is that attorneys feel they don’t have the time for developing business. We have a slogan in our department, “Give them back the billable hour.” We do everything we can so attorneys can spend less time on business development and more time with clients. The pressure of time is a key thing that makes practicing law stressful.

Where do attorneys get stuck in their business development efforts? 

Two places. First, questions emerge when an attorney is involved in an organization that hasn’t produced anything for them. I work with attorneys to decide whether to stay in the organization and how to mine contacts to make it productive. Second, attorneys get nervous about putting down their marketing plan for the year because they think the plan is then set in stone, when really a good marketing plan is changing all the time. It’s scary to write it down but I think it is really helpful because then you know what you’re not going to do.

The legal industry is tough. How do you help your attorneys in dealing with the stress inherent in the profession?

We provide formal Wellness Programs with meditation and yoga, as well as fitness challenges to move around and drink more water. But, the most important skill attorneys can learn is to compartmentalize. That skill, which seems to come more easily to men for some reason, is really important for surviving in the world generally. Everybody has a million things they can worry about. If you can just decide I’m going to do that at a certain time, and during this time I’m going to do something else, I think that’s how you alleviate stress and find something like a balance. That’s how you can be 100% in the moment when you’re at home, and 100% in the moment at work.

What book would you recommend to rising attorneys?

Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing. I recently had some Millennials read it and tell me if it is still relevant because the examples are pretty old, and they confirmed the book is still good. I think it is really helpful to put attorneys in the mindset of trying to think about what they are selling. It is an easy read and, after attorneys read it, I find it is easier to have a framework around which we can talk about marketing.

People who can compartmentalize will be much happier.

The Culture of Fish & Richardson

What is the brand of Fish & Richardson in terms of your culture and values?  

The most important value the firm has is teamwork. It is obvious everywhere in everything we do. For example, we handle really massive patent litigation. There is a tradition that, after the litigation is over and, most of the time we win, an e-mail is sent out digesting the highs and lows and acknowledging that the attorneys wouldn’t have been able to be in court everyday without the paralegals, staff, and graphic design professionals. There is a strong culture of recognizing the unique skill set that every member of the team brings to the team. I would say that is the most important aspect of our culture.

How do you reinforce the culture? 

We do a lot for cohesion and collaboration culturally inside the firm. We have bi-monthly firm lunches and a monthly firm social and we encourage people to eat in the cafeteria and not at their desks. It’s little things, too. On the 18th floor one of the attorneys brings in a puzzle and there is a big counter in the coffee room and, when people go in to get coffee, they work on the puzzle a little bit. Now the puzzles are all lined up around the 18th floor. And then there are big ways that we have people interact across firm lines, such as the diversity committee and pro bono committee each of which have representation across offices. The principals meet annually in person, and we recently created a new meeting for all of the women legal staff, including not only the principals but the associates and technology associates.

I see the real value of saying, look you want to have a cup of coffee, get someone from down the hall that you need to talk to anyway and go sit in the cafeteria. And I think that’s really smart. It sounds like such a small thing, but I think it’s a really big thing.

Fish’s Marketing Department and Measuring Success

How have you organized your department for efficiency and effectiveness?

The marketing department is organized around practice group, and then we have a communications team that essentially serves everyone. The most important thing for us, and what we talk about all the time, is making sure that we don’t become too siloed because we are developing subject matter expertise. We find that really helps the attorneys and can save them a lot of time because we know when they say,I’m giving a talk on such and such can you provide past resources, we know just what they are talking about and can provide information. But, the groups need to know what’s going on so we don’t duplicate efforts.

The biggest challenge we have is to make sure that we are constantly communicating.

What are your best practices for staying relevant and current?

From a marketing perspective, a marketing person needs to do two things:

1. Stay involved in the Legal Marketing Association, and

2. Read the legal trades, not just the articles that are about the business of law, but also what are the trends and big legal issues that lawyers are talking about.

How do you measure the return on marketing and business development investments? 

It’s really qualitative. Attorneys get reviewed every year. Business development is part of that review. We do ask attorneys to do one-page written business development plans so there is a chance from year to year to review accountability. Everything about the way Fish reviews attorneys is “totality of the circumstances” to see if the attorney made progress towards their goals.

Is it purely a qualitative process?

On the marketing side, we do a lot of ROI analysis where we review how much we spent on seminars, and what we we got out of them. It might be three pitch opportunities. We do track a lot of what we are spending as a part of our gross revenue and profitability metrics. So, it’s not that we aren’t looking at metrics, it’s that the sales process in law is so long that it is really difficult to track money spent to return.

More About Kelly Kiernan Largey

What is the most fulfilling part of your work?

The most fulfilling part of my job is when people ask for my advice. The job comes down to people relationships, and that’s what keeps it fun for me.

Who is your mentor? 

My mentor has always been my older brother. He is 15 months older than I am. We are very different, but I’ve always looked to him for his advice because he is extremely smart and he will be brutally honest with me. I don’t think your mentor needs to be in your own field or gender; it just needs to be someone you really trust.

What book is on your bedside table? 

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. I love biographies. I’m about halfway through and it is really well-researched and documented. There is nothing about Theodore Roosevelt that is not surprising and contradictory. He really is the guy that fell down again and again and picked himself up. It is an amazing story.

What do you enjoy outside of work?

I spend time with my kids. One’s in college, and two are seniors in high school. Three boys. That keeps me pretty busy. I also like to run and walk. I just started walking three mornings a week with some women in the neighborhood. We walk for about an hour up and down hills; that’s just really fun.

[1] A big thank you to Susan Dickason of United Way for making the introduction!