“I want to be a legal marketer when I grow up,” said nobody ever.
Let me start out by saying: I love working in the legal industry and I love working with lawyers. The work can be extremely challenging, but it has the potential to be equally rewarding as well.
I couldn’t sleep this morning in anticipation of a busy week at the 2014 LMA International Conference in Orlando, Florida and I got to thinking, what is it about this event that is so unique?
Legal marketers have the unique distinction of being defined by something they are not: lawyers. The legal profession is the only profession that calls everybody that isn’t a lawyer a non-lawyer. (You would never hear a nurse at a hospital be called a “non-doctor” or a project manager on a build site a “non-engineer.”) You would never mention the fact that the vast majority of lawyers and even managing partners should have the title non-marketer, yet legal marketers are described in these “non” terms. They work in an organization where they are often relegated to a status that isn’t given the respect it deserves.
The non-lawyer title isn’t the only challenge either. The solicitation rules facing lawyers make it very difficult for legal marketers to do traditional business development and sales. In most jurisdictions it’s against the lawyer’s code of ethics to have marketers sell their services for them. So basically legal marketers can’t practice the law as non-lawyers, and can’t market traditionally because of their non-lawyer status. Yet they are still expected to get results.
What makes matters worse is that they are always a minority in their organizations and although the top CMOs certainly have a seat at the table in making big decisions at law firms, so many others are working like crazy just to make a difference and gain some recognition.
It’s an uphill battle.
However, once a year at the LMA International Conference these legal marketers get to turn the tables. Over a thousand legal marketers and vendors gather to share case studies and their best new ideas for bringing in business to their firms. For these three days the distinction of “non-lawyer” is completely irrelevant and everybody is instead judged on the quality of their ideas and results. There’s a great vibe at this conference, and everybody that attends gets a chance to bask in the glow of that positivity.
While it may be true that nobody ever says “I want to be a legal marketer when I grow up,” it isn’t because the career path isn’t a significant one. It’s because it is a sub-specialty within a specialty. Most kids aren’t even aware that legal marketing is a thing. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that everyone in legal marketing is glad to be there either. It is a tough job. But for that same reason the LMA conferences are so much fun. For a brief moment legal marketers get to throw their own party and this time the party is for them.
You can follow the LMA Conference this Wednesday to Friday using the hash tag #LMA14. There are a dozen other hashtags for individuals tracks and sessions, but I’ve never had the attention span for learning multiple hash tags for the the same event.
I’ll be live tweeting the event using @adriandayton — Unless the call of the sun and 85 degree weather is too much for me.