The LMA Rebuts a Critic

The following letter to the editor from Jennifer Johnson, president of the New York LMA chapter, appeared in the March 13 issue of the New York Lawyer.  It came in response to an op-ed article by Elizabeth Anne "Betiayn" Tursi, Editor-in-Chief of ALMs Marketing The Law Firm. Among other points, Tursi wrote, " I dropped my membership because as time went on, I found the organization to be lacking the type of educational give and take that an organization is supposed to provide its members." 


Jennifer JohnsonTo the Editor:

We here at the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) find ourselves compelled to respond to the recent forecast of the death of our industry and alleged lack of leadership in our Association as outlined on this Web site on March 6, "Law Firm Marketing: R.I.P.?." It is clear to our members that this is anything but a field in decline. The facts point to just the opposite: law firm marketing is alive and thriving.

The LMA is a group of more than 3,100 marketing, business development and public relations professionals worldwide whose members are dedicated to growing the business of law firms globally. The Metro New York Chapter, with nearly 500 members locally, believes it is necessary to deliver hard facts not only to counter the provocative opinions of the author of the March 6 column, but to provide a clear and accurate picture of the reality of law firm marketing today.

The Association, in direct correlation with the industry of legal marketing, has grown more than 53% over the past five years due to law firms investment in building more sophisticated platforms – many of which mirror those of their clients. What is the reason for such tremendous growth? It is because law firms have seen positive results in their bottom line. The firms who utilize marketing resources have seen increased efficiency with internal cross-communication resulting in more business from existing clients; brands that are differentiated from their competitors; increased partner business generation thanks to individualized marketing plans and coaching; geographic expansion due to the research of competitive intelligence teams; heightened realization rates because of improved matter management; and the list goes on.

A recent study by the author of this rebuttal shows that 61% of Chief Marketing Officers report to a Managing Partner or Chair of their firm. The average tenure for a Chief Marketing Officer was merely 18 months in 2005 and has grown to more than four years today. This compares favorably with other industries and can be taken as a strong gauge that marketing professionals are not only accepted, but very much valued by their firms.

Wait – theres more. Over the past five years the LMA has been led, whether at the International or Chapter level, by 24 c-level marketing professionals and by 125 director-level professionals, all of whom are volunteers. More than 30% of our members possess advanced degrees (which is a far cry from the days when firms plucked any warm body from the staff pool to lead marketing efforts). With 17 Chapters in the United States and Canada and members spanning the globe, the LMA has held approximately 1,000 events over the past five years that are not only educational but also afford important networking opportunities. These activities enable legal marketing professionals to learn from each other, form alliances and refer business which, ultimately, benefits their firms.

As to the substance of our educational efforts, the keynote speaker at todays LMA conference, for example, is noted attorney and human rights activist Cherie Booth Blair. After graduating with the highest honors from the London School of Economics, Ms. Booth Blair pursued a career as a practicing lawyer at Matrix Chambers Law Group in London while championing international causes along with her husband, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair.

As legal marketers, our mission is to ensure that our clients, the lawyers, are able to invest all of their energy and intelligence into providing the best possible service to their clients. With our help, lawyers have to worry less about where the next new matter will come from. It is the volunteers of the LMA who provide crucial resources to supplement the already marketing-savvy professionals in the industry.

If legal marketing as a profession is in decline, why are we able to point to so many successes? Ms. Tursis column suggests that the law firm leaders who hire us, pay us and retain us are missing the mark. We could not disagree more. The increase in c-level positions, the diversification of roles within marketing departments and, frankly, the increased profitability of law firms in recent years can be attributed to the investment in legal marketing professionals.

The members of the LMA in discussion have been unable to grasp the motivation behind Ms. Tursis comments, and we welcome a reasoned opposing view (we work for lawyers, after all),

But we will not stand by without responding to an attack that is not constructive, and we feel is blatantly without merit.

For many years to come,

Jennifer Johnson
President of the Board of Directors
Legal Marketing Association
Metro New York Chapter

Jennifer Johnson is Vice President of Recruitment & Strategy at Wisnik Career Enterprises, Inc.

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