Metro New York LMA at 20: An Oral History from Our Leaders

by Tom Mariam on October 24, 2012

As the Metropolitan New York chapter of the Legal Marketing Association celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, it’s enlightening to hear how both the chapter and our profession have grown in those 20 years.  One good way to illuminate our progress is to learn directly from the people most responsible for Metro New York LMA’s growth – the chapter presidents.  Here, in their own words, are the chapter’s highlights during their time in office:

 1992 & 1993 – Susan Benjamin

Susan, our first (and only two-term) president, passed away in late 2011 but her achievements are well remembered by her colleagues.  Here, in their words, is how the chapter developed under Susan Benjamin’s leadership.

“She started it all.  It was unchartered territory when Susan founded the chapter.  We didn’t know whether it would last or how the lawyers would react to it.”

“Susan started to gather a number of marketing people together under the acronym everyone would later agree sounded like a stifled sneeze:  NALFMA, the National Association of Law Firm Marketers of America.  The profession had started to gel thanks to the launch of the national organization.”

”She was the perfect role model and leader for us as we started out in relatively uncharted waters.  “

“All we really had as the chapter took root was our resolve, sense of humor and most fortunately – one another – as a new profession was launched.”

 1994 – Susanne Mandel

“You’re asking me to remember back 18 years. Yikes! I do remember that Susan Benjamin was a wonderful colleague from which to take the reins. She humbly put the local organization in motion that grew its membership significantly by 1994.  I also remember that it was a time when law firms had begun hiring public relations agencies and creating firm brochures.  So the chapter meetings tended to center around those relatively new activities as law firms began to reach out more and more.  Technology certainly wasn’t a part of the conversation yet. Best of all, the friendships that developed through the chapter’s pioneering efforts still hold strong today.”

1995 – Deborah Farone

“It was a big year for putting infrastructure into place.  I worked with a talented and ambitious board and team of past chapter presidents.  Together, we created our chapter’s first membership directory and our first job bank, allowing open positions to be brought to the attention of all members.  We also designed and produced a regular monthly newsletter in order to maintain the camaraderie of the members.

“In another significant development, we moved our New York chapter meetings from The Williams Club to the new Penn Club.”

1996 – Mitchell Rait

“The biggest initiative during my year as chapter president was to increase membership and build awareness among lawyers themselves, as well as, of course, also among marketing professionals.  As a practicing attorney /marketing director while Metro New York president, I worked to generate more respect for law firm marketing professionals in the eyes of lawyers because ‘one of their own’ was embracing the legal marketing concept.  We also worked to increase membership of lawyers who wore the marketing hat in their firm.”

“As with all of our wonderful presidents, we took the fabulous job our predecessor did and tried to take it to the next level.”

1997 – Carol Allen

“At the time I became chapter president, marketing professionals were well on their way to becoming members of the core business professionals in large law firms. Our organization had a stellar infrastructure, thanks to my predecessors, and the law firm community had embraced the idea of marketing. With time and progress now under the belts of marketing professionals, law firms began to deepen their marketing focus, departing from the exclusive use of general strategies towards initiatives that were determined by a firm’s particular culture. The conversation about the intersection of a law firm’s culture and its business was front and center.

“As a chapter, we took the lead and explored the question from multiple angles, including how culture impacted a firm’s brand, its client service, its interest in innovation, and its lawyers’ motivation to engage in business development. Leaders of law firms, members of corporate America, and seasoned marketers were among the many who contributed to our monthly discussions at our luncheon programs and in our newsletter. They inspired us to think and talk about the issues within our own firms. It was an exciting time in law firm marketing.”

 1998 – Linda Orton

“One of the highlights of the year of my presidency included increasing our focus on technology, both from improving our website and also from a content perspective for seminars for members.  We made a concerted effort to educate members about the marketing technology that was exploding at the time, including website development, contact database tools and SEO.

“We also started reaching out to other professional organizations within the legal field to share knowledge.  Additionally, we instituted a program where members could pay one discounted price for all the lunches as part of the membership fee instead of full price one at a time.

“Part of my hope during my tenure was to increase communication between our marketers and other marketing professionals in additional professional services sectors.  Realizing there was a tremendous amount to learn from the accounting and consulting worlds, we started reaching out to their professional organizations to give our members greater exposure and ultimately develop into cross marketing between NYLMA and AAM, PRSA, PSMG and a number of other associations.  I loved the support and friendship the group gave to each other. It has continued and grown and I am grateful for my chance to serve on the Board over the years. ”

1999 – Carolyn Rumpf Sandano

“The year I served as president, our committee recognized that the chapter had expanded dramatically, was a leader in terms of chapters nationally, and that demands placed on marketers had become far more sophisticated.  We had to ‘up the ante’ in terms of our monthly luncheon speakers, and deliver programs that underscored the evolution of our profession.  We targeted speakers who understood that we were in the midst of change, and could talk to us about creative and wise methods by which we could meet challenges and direct our careers.

“While all of our speakers proved eloquent – our most thrilling moment by far was having former Gov. Mario Cuomo tell us how much value he saw in our roles and the difference that he saw us creating in our firms.  This was not merely a “feel good” speech. He really took the time to understand what we did and how it impacted the business of law firms.

“Many of us had invited our executive directors (EDs) to the luncheon to demonstrate that LMA operated very professionally, and was a great investment.   The Governor directed many comments to the ED’s, chief among them that we were very important professionals making a difference.  Law marketing did not feel like a fledgling profession to many of us following that day.  We had arrived!  I am forever grateful to Governor Cuomo for his confidence in our profession, and us.  And for helping us take the next, confident step into the next century!”

2000 – Carol Greenwald

 “The beginning of the 21st century was a time of formation, transformation, innovation and growth in the chapter.  We created a strong board with specific responsibilities assigned to each board member.  The chapter board developed programs for the entire year, moved to the Williams Club to accommodate an increased meeting audience, initiated a sponsorship program and held our first holiday party at Atria.  To assure the educational value of each program, no single vendor programs were permitted.”

 2001 – Rita Menz

 “The board sponsored a Vendor Marketplace, the precursor to the Summer Soiree, as part of a program that bundled sponsorship opportunities, affording more value for vendor members.  The event, featuring a wine tasting with Josh Weston, was held at Tonic.  In the aftermath of September 11, the Board grappled with the sensitive issue of holding a holiday party, ultimately choosing to proceed but to couple the party with a fund-raiser for one of the 9/11 funds that raised over $1000.  During that year, the chapter job bank was launched.  It continued as a valued member service until 2004 when then-National LMA took it over.”

2002 – Dawn Gertz

 “In collaboration with my predecessor, Rita Menz, we instituted the first chapter off-site Board Retreat.  It brought together the 2002 and 2003 board and committee chairs for a full day meeting to strategize goals and objectives for the incoming year and empower the incoming board and committee chairs.

“The chapter board also introduced the slogan, “Raising the Bar, Raising Expectations,” tying all of the chapter’s goals to it, including the hosting of a full day program by David Maister.  The emphasis on strong programming continued and the second annual Vendor Marketplace, a Casino Night, was held at the University Club to help strengthen relationships with the vendors and bring together chapter members.”

 2003 – Jennifer Manton

“In 2003, the NYLMA Chapter Board held the first annual Summer Soiree, which was a ‘free’ networking event for all members of the Chapter.  This event grew out of the Vendor’s Marketplace, which I chaired the previous year (2002).  2003 was also the first year that LMA Headquarters billed and received chapter dues, which eliminated a huge administrative burden for the Board and allowed us to focus more on programming.   We also held the first annual ATME (Achievement Through Marketing Excellence) award competition, which lasted two or three years.”

 2004 – Cortney Nathanson

 “One of the biggest accomplishments of the Metro New York Chapter in 2004 was the introduction of a monthly column we contributed to the New York Law Journal.  Our Public Relations committee worked diligently to sell the NYLJ on the idea of running a series of articles written by legal marketing professionals for a lawyer audience.  This was a breakthrough opportunity for the chapter to showcase its members as ‘authorities’ on a wide array of legal marketing topics.  I was privileged to write the inaugural article in August 2004, and was happy to learn that many of my partners had read it and recognized its value to the business of law.  The chapter rose to the challenge of providing timely, high-quality commentary on a regular basis, which I truly believe raised the profile of the Chapter and gave more credibility to what we do as legal marketers.”

2005 – Bob Robertson

 “In 2005, we set the foundation for the future by undergoing a strategic planning exercise and developing a three-year plan that paved the way for the chapter that we have become today. That plan envisioned the development of SIGs, improved outreach to CMOs and other senior members of the community, greater options in the types of programs we would provide, and the hiring of professional administrative support to better serve our members’ needs. That weekend in Tarrytown was a turning point for the chapter. In the following years, the chapter’s leadership has brought that plan to life in ways that have truly exceeded our expectations.”

 2006 – Michele Chaffin

 “During my year as chapter president, we began to form SIGs (Special Interest Groups).  SIGs were breakout groups whose focus was on their particular area in the legal marketplace.  The meetings were small and usually held in the evening.  Topics were relative to the group and content was not a part of our luncheon programming.  It was the first initiative we rolled out as part of our three year plan.

 2007 – Andrea Stimmel

“I was part of the continuum that put a number of processes in place that helped us to build a strong organization.  We continued with team building with the board and committee members and refining our strategic plan. It helped to guide us. We concluded that we needed administrative support and hired a part-time administrator. We formalized reporting to the board. We developed a new technology platform for our website. These internal processes kept us on track and helped us to meet the expanding needs of the membership. Our chapter grew dramatically in that time.  We developed wonderful leadership.  We had a number of great programs and we won a Your Honor Award from LMA national.”

2008 – Jennifer Johnson

“We completed the final year of our three-year strategic plan that was put in motion in 2005 by ensuring that we had completed each item on the list and by December had claimed victory.  Additionally, we further enhanced the strength of the chapter’s various committees and created SIGs (Shared Interest Groups) for those interested in CRM, for those in small firms and for junior marketing professionals – now known as the Future Leaders SIG.  The SIG program has now ballooned into six active working groups.”

2009 – Despina Kartson

“In 2009, during a very difficult and unpredictable economic climate, the NY Metro LMA chapter very thoughtfully considered how it could support our colleagues who were losing their jobs or finding it difficult to land positions.  We launched the Careers in Transition (CIT) program to support this group of members.  The CIT program included special programming, reduced pricing for NY chapter events and a Resource Guide.

“We also worked really hard to include and embrace the members of our City Groups in Connecticut and New Jersey.  In Connecticut, we held regular gatherings in Stamford and those members participated virtually in the New York monthly chapter luncheon programs.  The Connecticut group also held monthly networking events.  The New Jersey City Group also joined our monthly lunch programs virtually.  They worked diligently to attract new members, establishing sub-groups in the areas of membership, administration and registration, programming and finance & sponsorships.

“Our SIG program expanded with the establishment of the CMO SIG and regular activities for the Business Development, CRM, Future Leaders, Small Firm and Special Events SIGS.  We also boosted programming for a variety of audiences, instituted a weekly digest and a comprehensive quarterly newsletter.”

 2010 – Larson Campbell

“My presidency in 2010 came at a time when many of our members were unemployed and in career transition. We still managed to keep our membership up, while offering many programs at a discount.  We added several junior members to leadership positions, chairing and co-chairing various committees and SIG’s.

“The best part for me was the overnight training and team building program at the Westin in New Jersey with a cooking competition at the Culinary School for our Board members, SIG and Committee chairs.  The Summer Soiree and Holiday Parties were huge successes due in part to new locations which I helped select the year before.  My interest in event planning led me to reactivate the Special Events Committee and select a great leader in Maziel Abrego, who joined the Board that year, to chair the SIG.”

 2011 – Susan Jacobs

“With the incredible work and dedication of our Board of Directors, 22 Committee/Special Interest Group chairs, dozens of volunteers, our Business Manager and our entire membership, we were able to accomplish a lot during my year as president.  Our membership reached a high of 425 members, experiencing almost 10% growth over 2010.  Our members participated in record numbers at several of our programs and networking events.  We forged a new relationship with the Association of Accounting Marketing to expand programing and networking opportunities to our respective members.

“We made great progress online too.  Our resourceful LinkedIn page exceeded 800 members. We launched, our new and impressive on-line news site.

“And, significantly, the addition of our new Business Manager, Sue Russon, enabled our chapter to offer an outstanding value and experience to our members.”

2012 – Jeff Scalzi

“I was privileged to benefit from the hard work of the presidents who served before me and built the foundation for the strong and vibrant chapter that NYLMA is today. As president at the chapter’s 20th anniversary, my first order of business was to mark this milestone in a most fitting way.  A committee assembled and quickly decided to establish the First Annual Metropolitan New York LMA Awards, to be presented in late February at a gala event celebrating the chapter’s 20 years.

“As the year progressed, our nimble and creative Board, Committee and Special Interest Group chairs led efforts to pull off one outstanding accomplishment after another. From the “ripped from the headlines” educational program on the astounding collapse of Dewey & LeBeouf to one of the most attended Summer Soiree events in the chapter’s history, our volunteers achieved success after success. Along the way, we sustained the financial security that our history tells us we may someday need to help our chapter continue to thrive. We also sustained and grew our membership numbers, while surpassing 1,000 members in our LinkedIn group. Technology continued to play a huge role in our efforts, as we grew our social media presence substantially, used Skype and other technologies to bring programming to our City Groups, and successfully migrated our website to an entirely new platform.

“Our 21st year was a memorable one, indeed, and I look forward to helping to shape the next 20 years of the Metropolitan New York Chapter of LMA.  We have established firm ties that bind us to LMA and to this community. That is what we celebrated that wonderful February evening. That is why we are LMA members. And that is why, in another 20 years, we will come together again.”

This article was compiled and edited by Tom Mariam, President of Mariam Communications.

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