In January 2021, the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) published our article on virtual networking. This article provides insights on:
Wishing you positivity and prosperity for 2021
This year had only just begun when the whole country was jolted by the realities of COVID. We were in shock and disbelief. Many have faced real tragedy. Meanwhile life and work continued. We found quiet corners of our homes to adapt and focus on our work. We worked at all hours. We slept at all hours. We even figured out the perfect pillow configuration on our couches to keep ourselves propped up and comfy to work when we felt we had nothing left.
We laughed and cried. We zoomed through interruptions from all our pets, children, postal deliveries and technical glitches. We made it.
To all the marketers, you stepped up in 2020. It is no small feat to get through this year and, whether you are limping to the finish line, or racing towards it, you did it with grace and tenacity.
The happiest of holidays to you.
What mattered most to marketers this year
A deep dive on the impact of COVID-19 in the legal marketing industry
In May 2020, KHS People conducted the survey "Legal Marketing Peer Check in: how are you doing" for legal marketing professionals. The purpose was to see how things were going for our industry at that point in time.
In October 2020, we conducted a follow up survey, which covers topics requested by you. It is a COVID-specific survey and does a deep dive on four areas:
Marketers responded with candid insights, sentiments, and feedback. The demographics of the respondents included marketers from all firm sizes, marketers of all levels, and marketers across all the US.
Below is the story that was told.
The response by firms to Covid
Marketers are being effective, despite seeing fewer dollars
A lot more work is being done
These activities were previously not a core focus. Ten months into the pandemic, firms are now re-focusing on their longer-term goals and pursuits.
The dollars are tight.
Solutions for our industry
Consider these solutions for temporary relief during Covid:
- Give permission for a break. Your team needs your acknowledgement and permission to use their PTO or to take mental health days. Without this express endorsement, they are unlikely to take days off because of fear of being judged negatively if they do.
- Lead by example. If team leaders are working around the clock, not looking after their physical and mental health, and not respecting boundaries whilst working from home, the team doesn't feel empowered to do the same.
- What is your plan for alleviating your team now (and in 2021)? An open dialogue helps just about any situation. Team leaders should communicate their knowledge and understanding about this issue to their team, and - together - suggest solutions. Individual marketers may very likely have different 'fixes' for the current workload issues; it will be different for everyone.
- Reallocate the work. Marketers don't typically shy away from the opportunity to upskill. Speak to each member of your team about their true capacity and work hours to make decisions about any reallocation.
- Be professionally vulnerable. Encourage your team to share with you about what is going on for them and what they may need as a result of their own personal circumstances. To read more on this, visit our recent blog where CMO's share on this very issue.
- Seek other perspectives. If team members are at a loss on how to solve this issue, seek the support and perspective of industry peers. Simply sharing and listening how others have dealt with similar issues is a powerful thing. New ideas and solutions will start to unfold as you learn from others.
Working from home options
Contact us to dive deeper into these issues, or to give us your take on this issues; we love to listen.
Pat Courtemanche, Chief Marketing & BD Officer at Dorsey & Whitney
This year has sharply focused the need for society, and each of us as individuals, to do better. That is perspective...
"Perspective. I’m thankful for perspective.
So much pain and injustice has been laid bare this year. So much love and compassion, alongside hate and division, as well. The highs and lows are the most extreme I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.
This year has made it possible to feel more deeply. This year has sharply focused the need for society, and each of us as individuals, to do better. That is perspective.
I believe good things will result, and I’m thankful for that."
David Heinke, Director of Business Development at Grant Thornton
"I praise the evolution of technology that allows accounting marketers and sales professionals to leverage the power of Teams, Zoom, and Skype so we can virtually interact and share ideas with our clients and prospects.
Second, I pause and remind myself to empathize and actively listen to clients, prospects and co-workers’ fears, challenges and needs during this period of uncertainty.
Last, I remind myself of how lucky I am to be a part of the dynamic and essential ecosystem of the audit, tax, and advisory industry."
I pause and remind myself to empathize and actively listen to clients, prospects and co-workers' fears, challenges and needs during this period of uncertainty...
Amber Bollman, Director of Client Service Initiatives at Barnes & Thornburg
These blessings have kept me grounded and hopeful in a year that has been filled with so much heartache and uncertainty...
“I’m immensely thankful – as I am every year – for my good health, friends and family (of both the human and fur variety).
These blessings have kept me grounded and hopeful in a year that has been filled with so much heartache and uncertainty.
On a lighter note, 2020 has also made me thankful for fresh air, long walks, wine, a slew of binge-worthy podcasts, and Taylor Swift’s ‘Folklore’ album.”
Ashley Defay, Business Development Senior Specialist at Latham & Watkins
"This year I am really thankful for something that actually touches both my personal and professional life – I had a health challenge this year where I had to have surgery during the pandemic (which can be a scary experience).
My colleagues, firm, and friends stepped into my medical leave in a way that I could have never expected, and I am grateful to know that people and my firm were there for me in my time of need – especially since all my family lives in another state."
My colleagues, firm, and friends stepped into my medical leave in a way that I could have never expected...
Michael Blachly, Chief Marketing Officer at Gray Reed
I am reminded of what really matters. A close family and many friends are truly a blessing in these times...
"I am probably more thankful this year than I ever have been in my life.
2020 has certainly been a year of hardship. But because of this, I am reminded of what really matters. A close family and many friends are truly a blessing in these times.
I am also thankful for my work family; for my team and my firm who have worked so hard this year.
Honestly, there are so many things to be thankful for. If 2020 has given us anything positive, one of them is the chance to pause, reflect and take a moment to say thank you to all those in our lives and for what is given to us.
Amy Shepherd, Chief Marketing & BD Officer at Ballard Spahr
"This year, more than ever, I am thankful for resilience. I see it at every level of our firm, and I am blown away in particular by the incredible resilience and flexibility of our marketing and business development team.
While managing complicated and often daily changes to the way we work, navigating childcare and elder care issues, and absorbing the incredible weight of the state of the world, our team has demonstrated patience and creativity and risen to every challenge, turning out impactful content and leading new initiatives to help our attorneys generate business in a virtual world.
I am also grateful for the warmth and support of the legal marketing community. The virtual world has provided a platform for increased engagement and networking, which I truly appreciate and have found incredibly beneficial."
...our team has demonstrated patience and creativity and risen to every challenge...
...put together by Kate Harry Shipham, "eternally grateful"
I hope in this week, of all weeks, you get to pause and reflect and know what is important to you in your personal and professional lives...
I am eternally grateful for my partner in life, my husband, and for our sweet and kind daughter. I am thankful for the clients I get to partner with and problem-solve with, and how I get to be part of their extended work families. I am thankful to all the people in my network; I see each and every day how hard you work and what you are striving for. I'm grateful to my friends and extended family, both near and afar, and the love that they show me every day.
I wish each of you a happy Thanksgiving - I hope in this week, of all weeks, you get to pause and reflect and know what is important to you in your personal and professional lives.
Be safe and stay positive.
What is more challenging is keeping the culture of their firms alive in this virtual setting. We’re hearing that firm leaders are unsure how to preserve the culture of their firms when their people can’t live and breathe it each day. This challenge threatens how successful firms can be with their greatest asset: their people.
Marketing and business development professionals are in a unique position to help curb this issue. Their roles touch everyone and everything in their firms. Their character types are typically ones with more natural and heightened EQ and interpersonal skills. One of their functions is to listen for and understand where connections can be utilized or leveraged, which involves having that closer connection in the first place. Their vantage point is wonderfully unusual.
We interviewed six CMOs from law and accounting firms who are tackling this issue of preserving firm culture in a virtual setting. Put simply, our experience is that the best way to understand and think about culture in a professional services firm is that it’s ‘the way we get things done around here’. Each of these CMOs are getting things done with their teams. They are helping and pushing their people to still experience their firm culture together despite being apart.
We sincerely value the candid and perceptive thoughts shared by each. Thank you to Murray, Bruce, Courtney, Pam, Linda and Dave.
- Murray Coffey, CMO of Haynes and Boone, an international law firm
- Bruce Ditman, CMO of Marcum LLP, an international public accounting and advisory firm
- Courtney Kiss, CMO of Johnson Lambert LLP, a national CPA and consulting firm
- Pam Metzger, CMO of Porte Brown LLC, a regional accounting and consulting firm
- Linda Moss, CBD&MO of Dykema, a national law firm
- Dave Southern, CM&BDO of Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP, a national law firm
How CMOs are contributing to firm culture in a virtual setting
Six key themes were evident after talking with each.
1. Culture = professionally vulnerable
We all know to be professional in our roles. Additionally, with an actual window into everyone’s homes over the last eight months, the lines between professional and personal are very blurred, and in many cases, lost altogether.
Kiss regularly checks in with her team, one on one:
“Being transparent about how people are doing – professionally, personally, mentally and emotionally – is so important right now, and unless you take the time to check in with the team, it’s impossible to know.” Kiss uses these one on one check-ins to talk shop and project statuses, and also subtly pivot to “ask how everyone is feeling”. She gives her team permission to be very candid and honest with their own situation.
Coffey also prioritizes one on one settings to understand how each team member is handling their professional and personal life balance:
“We should be aware, now more than ever, that each person on our team is an individual and will respond to the stress of living through a pandemic differently.” He adds “So, do the things we are supposed to do. Check in, engage in a little goof-off time together, and never assume you know what may be brewing under a seemingly serene surface.”
Both Kiss and Coffey are humanizing the situation we are in and asking their individual team members to acknowledge and talk about their vulnerabilities. Their ability to be so naturally in tune with their teams’ emotional intelligence is hard to do, particularly when they themselves are also dealing with the same issues.
Moss shed’s some insights on how she deals with this.
“My team wanted to hear from me, and I have to make time for that. I am in tune with these elements and so I prioritized that; it’s important. You have to put aside any lack of energy you might be experiencing to be the leader your team needs of you, and talk about how they are each being impacted, from all angles.”
Synonymous with professionalism is the projection of a certain technical quality, a strong and diplomatic communication style, and an unwavering strength despite any circumstance. Covid has unraveled this for many. It has pushed our working lives and personal lives into one another in a way that no one has ever experienced before. These CMOs are using their empathy and personal leadership styles to encourage a lowering of the guard to talk about the transition we are all currently in.
2. Culture = unwavering long-term focus
A firms’ culture shouldn’t blow one way in 2019, and then change direction and blow the other way in 2020. Even in the most trying of times, a culture should be something far more steadfast. Good CMOs understand the need to acknowledge the present and to also project into the future to help keep focus and purpose amidst the chaos and uncertainty.
Southern shares his view on the importance of long-term focus:
“Each of our team members have shown a terrific ability to keep our long-term goals in focus and step up to ensure that we make progress every day - in addition to ensuring that we're dealing with all the continued press of business.”
Kiss shared that continuing to plan for the future is the glue keeping a lot together right now:
“Of course, we need to deal with the here-and-now, but it brings me a lot of hope to start putting plans together for when the world goes back to “normal”, or even in our new normal. It is exciting to reimage how we might do things.”
With long-term thinking, the ability to see opportunity – and to embrace that opportunity – is something that Moss has encouraged and values:
“I am fortunate to work with a team of marketers who love to get things done. My team is full of high-driving people who were relieved to be able to step up, focus and find opportunities to contribute to the firm.”
Moss encouraged her team to celebrate that moment, because in times of uncertain change, being able to see the long-term and the opportunity “is rare and special.” She further added that:
“Work was a source of satisfaction and was one area of our lives where we could have some control. We applied ourselves to uncover ways we could seize the moment and gain traction after the pandemic somewhat leveled the playing field. There was a real sense of urgency to make an impact for the long term.”
This longer-term thinking is always hard in a world where firms are typically focused on year-to-year short-term growth. True partnerships with a vision instill a culture that goes 3, 5, 10+ years forward to show its people and clients who they really are and what they are striving for. This strength of vision attracts like-minded people.
3. Culture = acknowledging the likely after-effect
Few of us have had to deal with a pandemic in our lifetime. The narrative has shifted to the “new normal” and what that looks like. In my view, nothing about our current situation is normal, and nor should we accept that it is. We are right in the middle of a global pandemic and “transitional” or ”temporary”, even “survival”, are words that I think many may better relate to.
CMOs are acknowledging the current situation and relating to their teams in realistic terms. In this, they are acknowledging what the likely after-effect will be on their people and team culture.
Ditman offers this very real take on this moment in time:
“This is a real emergency. When we are called upon to work in an emergency, don’t take it lightly that you are asking so much of these people. Understand it is not just their work, it is their life. Get good people on your team to reflect the culture of the firm, and then treat them with respect.”
Coffey believes that the pandemic has triggered our basic brain function to be focused on day-to-day survival, a part of a neural network that is sometimes referred to as our reptilian brain:
“It is my strong belief that the pandemic has put us all in an extended fight-or-flight mode. The previous short term emotional and energy dip we felt after the reptilian brain stands down, is now much longer lasting. The effects of this are palpable."
Ditman shares the likely effect on his team as a result of the type of characteristics marketers typically have:
“Extroverts are being isolated. Highly social people can’t socialize. This will have an effect.”
Coffey understands how this is playing out day-to-day right now and also in the years to come:
“People are sleeping more hours yet not feeling refreshed. They are eating comfort foods but getting no comfort. For the first time they may find themselves in extended conflict with loved ones. I expect that in the coming years we will hear much about the global impact of millions of us being in fight or flight mode for so many months.”
4. Culture = technology
It is interesting that technology comes up as a common theme. It is because of the wonders of technology that we can have this virtual environment. It is also because of technology that we have the struggle of how to maintain firm culture.
Metzger shares the following on how technology has been essential:
“The Covid environment has definitely accelerated our adoption of many new initiatives that are working well to keep us all in touch and maintain the culture of our firm. As a result of converting internal meetings into a larger, virtual event the feedback has been outstanding and everyone is excited to contribute to this new format. Additionally, technology additions to our firm allowed us to easily collaborate on virtual team meetings, quick video calls and general updates.”
Kiss has also used technology in a new way for her team which may not have otherwise happened:
“We had a positive and productive virtual team experience when we held a virtual ‘brainstorm and reflect together’ exercise. Using the technology of the firm and its shared platform, we came together to share differing perspectives, observations and relatable common goals. These moments allowed us to gain insight into framing what we tackle in the next few weeks and months.”
5. Culture = noticing nuance
These sentiments resonate on what the more nuanced pieces are that are keeping people at our firms. After all, individuals make up the culture of the firm, and should be protected and developed.
Southern has worked in firms where a people-first culture is paramount. He shares “Our managing partners have put a lot of energy into communicating continuously and in a very transparent way. They have sent a daily email to all members of the firm, sharing client successes, personal achievements of members of our firm wide community, and even ideas for helping everyone ‘keep their chins up’ throughout our remote experience”. Southern adds that this has “really been an inspiration.”
Re-state (what may seem) the obvious:
Ditman shares that “When Covid hit, I made a point of reinforcing team spirit, reinforcing collegiality, and restating our business objectives.”
Kiss says that “Being appreciated helps keep motivation higher. Nothing is worse than working hard and not knowing that your efforts were meaningful.”
Lead by example:
Coffey shares that “The hallmark of great leaders is to lead by example”. He wants CMOs to acknowledge that “we cannot be the psychological salvation for our teams.” What we can be, he continues, is to be leaders who are “emphatic, patient, resolute and stoic in their outlook about their team members.” He adds that “if leaders are taking time for themselves, your team sees you are taking time for self-care, and they will do that too.”
Predict natural energy dips:
Moss offers that she “needed guard rails against complacency”. She shares that “one of those guardrails was sharing successes, and another was ‘learning-sharing’ calls to encourage professional development and continued learning". She says that down times are natural right now, and she sees one of her many roles is to be in tune with that personal side of her team.
6. Culture = the lighter side
Embracing the lighter side and enjoying what you do each day is an element of firm culture that is easily forgotten in such a serious and worrisome time. Remembering to value one another’s company and inject some fun and laugher into our days is making these CMOs bring back feelings of normalcy and team spirit in inventive ways.
Metzger shares that their team and greater firm have held some socially distanced activities to help people connect, notwithstanding the pandemic. She says they have held some “safe-distance lunches and a lawn bingo event” which has been a much-needed in-person experience.
Moss shares that her team is competitive and loves games. “We shared our favorite comedy movies and tried to match the movie with the teammate who submitted it. We conducted a scavenger hunt within our homes. We even hired a professional to conduct a family feud game. They are fun! And, they work for us.”
Coffey says that it’s important to “smile more, laugh easily, embrace the eccentricities of working from home, such as annoying dogs, cat bombs, and kids needing a hug and a cookie.”
To recap: Acknowledging and encouraging professional vulnerability. Unwavering long-term focus. Dealing with the affect-effect. The wonders of technology. Noticing the nuances that matter most. Embracing the lighter moments. These themes are perpetuating culture during this transitionary moment in time. They require different skills and mindsets than many are used to.
There is incredible power with knowing how our marketing and business development teams are preserving their culture right now. It takes everyone. Leaders need their people to both believe in and practice it despite not being able to see it personally each day. Individuals need their leaders to be overly visible and have a level of empathy that surpasses anything they’ve experienced previously.
The compensation structures for the Business Development Executive (BDE) in an accounting firm is widely varied. For context, a BDE is typically a senior and experienced client-facing professional, tasked with growing revenue at their firms.
The compensation structure variations are, generally speaking, most easily defined by looking at the relative firm size. Alongside these generalizations, the top influencing factors can also be analyzed and understood.
The following table outlines a formula for determining a compensation structure for a BDE based on three things: experience in conducting executive searches, experience in negotiating compensation structures, and anecdotal evidence.
See this table to help determine compensation structure.
When determining compensation, it is important to remember that there are exceptions to every rule, with some individuals having vastly different experiences. These exceptions should be balanced against the generalizations and best practices when creating compensation structures for Business Development Executives.
Kate Harry Shipham is the Principal of KHS People LLC, an executive search firm for BD and marketing people in professional services firms. Kate has done search and recruiting for 10 years and prior to that was an attorney. She loves what she does, and is always open to continuing the discussion: firstname.lastname@example.org
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