NYLMA May 20 Luncheon: CMO Forum

by Tom Mariam on June 30, 2015

One of the chapter’s most anticipated annual events, the CMO Forum, provided a first-hand look at the unique challenges facing law firm Chief Marketing Officers and how their teams work to tackle them.

The 3rd Annual CMO Forum was hosted by Shearman & Sterling LLP on May 20, attracting a full house of members and guests.  A few photos are here.

Chapter President-elect Melissa Seitter, Director of Business Development of Kobre & Kim LLP moderated the panel which featured the marketing heads of three major firms: Lee Garfinkle, CMO of the Americas, Allen & Overy; Kate Stoddard, Director of Practice Development, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, and Dave Southern, CMO, Baker Hostetler.

The panelists covered, among other topics: CRM, cross-selling, client feedback, ROI, digital marketing and content.  Here is a sampling of their view of and approach to some of these key issues.

Their prime focus:

Lee Garfinkle – “We are focused on client relationships.  We have people who focus on just two or three clients.  They know everyone and everything about a client.”

Kate Stoddard – “It is important at our firm for our lawyers to know each other and each other’s practices.  It helps us greatly so that we can most effectively service our clients.”

Dave Southern – “We focus entirely on client needs.  Our mission is to build relationships in order to create a sustainable, profitable business.”

Client relations:

Lee Garfinkle – “Nothing bad has ever come from listening to a client.  We do a relationship review every couple of years.  A relationship review is great.  It gives you a snapshot of where you are.”

Dave Southern – “Reviews can lead to new opportunities.  I am astounded by how many firms do not conduct reviews of their clients’ satisfaction with their work.”

Kate Stoddard – “We are in the midst of a pilot client feedback program. One client told us that only two firms ‘out of hundreds’ it works with had visited it to obtain feedback.  She was incredibly appreciative and said she wished all their firms would do it.”

Client feedback:

Dave Southern – “General Counsel always emphasize how it important it is to ‘understand my needs.’  There is no better way than to ask.”

Kate Stoddard – “GCs are so pleased to have the opportunity to provide feedback, and that feedback allows us to better understand the drivers of our clients’ businesses.”

Lee Garfinkle – “I follow the advice of David Maister, who gave out one-page client questionnaires.”


Dave Southern – “We use client teams.  That collaboration works best and is most readily embraced when teams of lawyers are centered around a specific opportunity.”

Lee Garfinkle – “Cross-selling works best when it is opportunity-based, when needs arise. We’re the glue that keeps things together.  It’s critical for marketing and business development teams to know what is going on.”

Kate Stoddard – “It’s important to know what is happening on parallel and complementary courses.  One example at our firm is how we are using that knowledge to build a Fashion and Retail practice that integrates services from a variety of more traditional practices.”

Keeping their firms’ lawyers familiar with one another for Marketing and BD purposes:

Dave Southern – “We use our intranet for firm news and capabilities.  We also are doing videos to communicate in new ways — and we also set up exercises like ‘speed dating’ to help them become more familiar with each other and the services we provide to clients.

Kate Stoddard – “We have internal CLEs so our lawyers can see their colleagues in action and to get a sense of style and personality.”

Lee Garfinkle – “We get people together all the time.  We have annual global practice meetings.  We have a lot of happy travel agents. Our firm sees bringing people together as an investment.”


Lee Garfinkle – “ROI in legal marketing is a myth.  Partners tend to think of it in terms of revenue.  We need more and more precise information.  Most important in our industry is to measure business metrics rather than the revenue metric.”

Dave Southern – “We have to look at more than revenue.  Our goal is to be considered by individual clients as one of the top law firms in an area.”

Kate Stoddard – “Different attorneys have different perceptions of ROI.  Success can be when a lawyer writes an article that leads to a speaking invitation where he or she is approached by potential clients.”

Melissa Seitter – “Little wins along the way lead to a big win.”

Digital Marketing:

Kate Stoddard – “It begins with a strategic plan at the start of the year.  By-lined articles and blogs are our primary focus.  Blogs have taken over for client alerts.”

Dave Southern – “We have 14 active blogs on our home page.  We focus on issue-based campaigns that flow from client needs.  We want to provide something of substance that people will want to read.”

Lee Garfinkle – “We want to produce thought leadership.  There should be a content strategy:  things you want to talk about and things that come up.  Firms are generally underutilizing LinkedIn, Twitter and microsites.  We expect to see a greater focus on them.”

The Value of Content:

Kate Stoddard – “We have had more success lately by reaching out to the trade publications that clients are reading.”

Lee Garfinkle – “The value is when it is part of a campaign.”

Dave Southern – “Content should be substantive, build credibility and be relevant.  It should be of interest to the media as well as to clients.”

Melissa Seitter – “Content is also great for recruiting.  Brand awareness is a direct result of a media campaign.”

On Their Biggest Challenge:

To conclude the session, Ms. Seitter of Kobre & Kim asked each panelist about the biggest challenge he/she faces.  Allen & Overy’s Garfinkle talked about the effective use of technology, as well as pricing and the smart and efficient use of his marketing budget.  Kelley Drye’s Stoddard also brought up pricing and value, adding that it’s important to think about how to offer legal services that confront the key issues and to avoid commoditizing them.  Mr. Southern of Baker Hostetler said the biggest challenge is to compete in a shrinking market as more and more work is moved in-house and to alternative providers of legal services.

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