Something extraordinary happened in Hollywood, Florida, at the recent 2023 Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference.
[Original post with hyperlinks here: https://tinyurl.com/3mnd59mx]
As the saying goes, people support what they help create. Now that the dust (and sequins – more on that later) have settled and we’re back at it at our firms and organizations, I’m reflecting on what was extraordinarily created at LMA’s recent 2023 Annual Conference in Hollywood, Florida…abundant COMMUNITY. Nearly 1,200 of us coming together in person to network, learn ― and sometimes commiserate! But the energy and sense of community at this conference was unique, motivating and palpable. In addition to the many standing-room-only sessions taught by leadership and thinkers on top-of-mind issues in legal marketing, there was a widespread feeling of community, shared experiences and belonging – always LMA’s “special magic” and never more on display than at #LMA23.
True to our conference theme of “Amplify” (our voices, careers, teams, work), the stellar education sessions covered everything from how law firms are or are not using ChatGPT, what works/doesn’t work/needs fixing in the eyes of General Counsel (spoiler alert – they’re FOR using AI!), the crucial value of storytelling and narrative in client connection, how DEI can and must be a pillar of firm culture and evolution, the latest vistas in martech, how to develop and retain talent, and the crucial role of client teams in the engagement and growth continuum among myriad other hot topics.
One of my favorite a-ha moments came from Aarash Darroodi, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation General Counsel and Executive Vice President, and a compelling and provocative “contestant” on our GC panel “game show” (expertly moderated by conference co-chair Jennifer Dezso). He said, and I paraphrase, “Wining and dining is fine, but don’t take me to a football game. Come visit me AT my company and see our culture firsthand and learn what we do. THAT will show me you care.” He and the other panelists *might* have also noted (accurately) that marketing and business development ARE key differentiators in a firm and are crucial to clients’ understanding of capability and connection. You can take that to the bank!
And getting back to sequins, our 2023 conference theme, Amplify was kicked off with a highly-caffeinated, strobe-lit bang in our opening session. In a move to underscore LMA’s inclusivity and encouragement to amplify ourselves, we opened the conference with yours truly singing – well, big old community theatre-style belting – Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and sharing the stage with renowned drag queen and community activist Athena Dion. With a crowd on its feet singing along and cell phone cameras aglow, we kicked off the conference with an “everybody say ‘love’!” wake-up call (sorry/not sorry to those whose coffee hadn’t yet kicked in)! Sequined suits, rainbow chiffon and all.
The message (I hope) was clear – each of us is born to be special and we should bring our authentic selves to our work and lives every day. And as my mama taught me, and I offered to the beautiful assembly: “Tell others what they mean to you IN THE MOMENT when it will mean something to THEM.” (You can watch the full opening production here on Facebook; Thank you, Kates Media and By Aries, for the excellent video support!) Just after that, fabulous, motivating and authentic-badass-wrapped-in-a-warm-hug best-selling author Laura Gassner Otting, delivered a rousing keynote address about how each of us can and should live limitlessly and, well, get out of our own way, removing boundaries and inhibitions to achieve our true potential: Conquer Doubt. Dream Bigger. Be Limitless. Perfect for our Amplify theme!
(In what I think is an unprecedented move, our keynote wrote about her experience at the annual conference on her blog – it’s a lovely Valentine to all of us, so give it a read here.)
All of this would not be possible without the leadership of our outstanding 2023 LMA Annual Conference Advisory Committee (ACAC) Co-Chairs, Jen Dezso, Megan McKeon and Lee Watts, along with the entire ACAC. They fueled innovative thoughts and formats, brought together top thought leaders to share insights and knowledge, and helped more than 115 speakers share best practices and approaches to successful law firm marketing and business development with nearly 1,200 attendees. For those who couldn’t attend, attended but missed a session, or want to relive and review a session you attended, the CONFERENCE RECORDINGS will be available later this month, so watch your inbox. The recordings are included in the Conference registration and are also available for purchase if you weren’t able to attend.
There’s really nothing like being in person at an LMA Annual or Regional Conference. The connections you make, the important information imparted, the nuanced tips and tricks shared among colleagues that are immediately implementable, and meeting with and learning about the new services, platforms and technologies available to make our work better through vendor partners (90+ at #LMA23!) make for an invaluable experience. I strongly encourage each of you to plan now to attend the 2024 LMA Annual Conference that will be held next April 3-5 in San Diego. Registration will open this August (with an Early-Bird Discount) and there will be a Justification Kit available to help you gain approval to attend. I can’t wait to go “All In” at #LMA24 and hope to see you there!
In the meantime, the party continues over the coming months in the events and get-togethers of our eight dynamic regions and more than 40 local groups. They provide of-the-moment learning, support and community year-round. Check out the upcoming events and the fall regional conferences here ― and go! You won’t regret getting involved. I’ve had the privilege of chatting with our amazing regional presidents the past few days, and I know they have BIG things planned for this fall. You won’t want to miss these unique opportunities to reconnect with your regional communities and continue the conversation begun at #LMA23.
Whether you were at #LMA23 in person or not, take that AMPLIFIED, limitless mindset, enthusiasm for our profession and all the incredible learning – (or upcoming learning through the conference recordings) – back to your firms and organizations and use your own version of “sequins” to be your most authentic, amazing, amplified and successful selves. Without authenticity, you never achieve brand differentiation – for your firms, for your companies, for yourselves. And with a “community” like LMA, anything and everything is possible.
P.S. In a wonderful and authentic moment of serendipity, GrowthPlay‘s Deb Knupp stopped me in the hall late on day one of #LMA23 and said she was so motivated by the session opening that she found her key mentors – including CLIENTSFirst Consulting‘s Chris Fritsch and Content Pilot LLC‘s Deborah McMurray among others – and told them that they were instrumental in her setting off and developing her business. And that they needed to know that. Shortly thereafter, who do I run into, but Chris Fritsch who says, “Craziest thing! Deb Knupp just came up to me and told me how important I had been to her career and her personal and professional growth!” Funny that! Don’t hesitate to tell people the positive impact they have had in your life. It makes a big difference to them. And to you.
P.P.S. Thank you to our amazing LMA HQ team – Danielle Gorash Holland, Ashley Stenger, Holly Amatangelo, Kaitlin Heininger, Ellie Hurley, Jennifer Weigand, Kelly Bache Shatzer, CPA, Sarah Logan, Sydney Janecke, Kathy Sveen, Robyn Haynes, Ashley Nunzio, Meredith Halperin, Kristin Frankiewicz, and a host of others I’m likely missing – for their consummate, loving, detailed support of this event (months and months of hard work!). And a special shout out to Lisa M. Kamen, CAE for helping corral all my popcorn ideas into the message above and for smiling and agreeing a year ago when I ran up to her and said, “Um, I’d like to sing a Lady Gaga song next year.” She calmly replied, “Will you be arriving in an egg?” And then made all my crazy gay boy dreams come true.
Thank you all for being you — it’s an honor to be part of this marvelous community!
President, 2023 LMA International Board of Directors
Roy E. Sexton
Director of Marketing
Save the Date! #LMA24 I April 3-5 I San Diego