Law firm BD & Marketing: Challenges, Opportunities and Career Advice

Author Hannah Taylor
January 8, 2020

Hannah Taylor from our London team recently caught up with Jeremy Ford, who leads European Marketing and BD efforts at Skadden, to discuss how he thinks marketing will develop in 2020. Hannah and Jeremy discuss a variety of topics including what challenges he believes he will face this year through to what questions he would encourage his younger self to ask at the start of this career.

What are the biggest challenges facing legal Marketing/BD in 2020? 

There are unlikely to be any entirely ‘new’ challenges in legal marketing and business development in 2020 — I think we will very much see more of the same issues currently in play: a highly competitive legal landscape, continuing price pressure and a lot of competition for client attention. From a candidate point of view, I am hearing buzzwords like ‘strategy’ and ‘client-facing’ mentioned in interviews and seeing a reluctance to touch directory submissions or pitches; I would caution against not wanting to get your hands dirty. Often what appears to be a simple process or task can be a route to market. I warned a manager-level candidate recently that being ‘too posh to pitch’ is not going to get them very far. Responsiveness, matching the needs of — and delivering to — our partners, counsel and associates consistently is vital for the marketing team’s success.

With unlimited budget, where would you strengthen your team? 

That’s a hard one as I think my team is almost perfectly formed! We do have an exciting new role for a creative writer as we are keen to have more editorial expertise. I honestly don’t think I would change or want to grow it much more. We are very closely aligned with our lawyers, and our talent and experience are rather exceptional.

What excites you most about marketing in 2020? 

The usual: working closely with the partners, lawyers and other team members to help develop and grow client relationships, as well as to reinforce the firm brand. Collaborating to convey this message, then receiving great feedback from both internal and external audiences, is extremely rewarding.

On a personal note, what questions would you encourage your younger self to ask when starting out in marketing?

Stay abreast of new developments and know your audiences — we all do have multiple constituencies. Listening is one of the most important skills, but, as in other arenas, it’s almost always the least exercised! Being open to new opportunities when you are in the fast-growth period of your career is vital. The many new avenues and routes for law firm marketing career paths is exciting. I think it is vital to maintain a holistic eye on the buying process, though. With so many specialist areas of marketing now to go into, not seeing how all the cogs fit together and make the engine work is a risk.