Thank you, Jeremy Barker and Above the Law, for this wonderful and thoughtful coverage of Legal Marketing Association – LMA International’s #LMA23, notably our dynamite GC panel, moderated by conference co-chair Jennifer Petrone Dezso with panelists Descartes Systems Group’s Peter V. Nguyen, Bates White Economic Consulting’s Jodi Trulove, and Fender’s Aarash Darroodi. Some great nuggets here for law firm leaders, attorneys, legal marketers, business development pros.
EXCERPT: Nearly 1,200 attendees packed the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida, late last month for the Legal Marketing Association’s annual gathering.
The agenda was filled with programs exploring niche areas — ESG guidance for firms, the science behind rainmaking, and DEI communications best practices, to name a few.
A keynote by the author Laura Gassner Otting and networking events like an ’80s dance party helped round out the three days of professional offerings (and good vibes).
“The energy and sense of community at this conference was unique, motivating and palpable,” LMA President Roy Sexton wrote on LinkedIn.
One perennial LMA favorite is the general counsel panel, and this year’s drew inspiration from daytime TV.
Presented on a festival-style stage, “How to Win Big at the Legal Marketing Gameshow” saw Jennifer Dezso of Thomson Reuters leading three GCs through a wide-ranging discussion of what law firms are doing right and what they’re getting wrong.
If there was one clear theme throughout the panel, it’s that private practice lawyers who show curiosity about their clients will score big points with general counsel.
Peter Nguyen, GC of the Descartes Systems Group, described curiosity as the key differentiator in evaluating the law firms he works with.
“I want to have that engagement,” he said. “I want you to really understand — want to understand — what it is about my business that you can help us with.”
This curiosity is often central to the value law firms provide.
That’s because general counsel aren’t looking to just get answers to legal questions. They want guidance based on an organization’s unique goals and circumstances.
“Sometimes lawyers are a little hesitant to actually weigh in and give an opinion on what you should do,” said Jodi Trulove, general counsel at Bates White LLC. “We want you to tell us what you think we should do, but you have to understand us first.”
For law firms looking to demonstrate this trait to potential clients, the RFP process provides one big opportunity.
Fender’s general counsel, Aarash Darroodi, described receiving template-based RFP responses from law firms — an approach he called “fundamentally a mistake.”
Instead, he would like to see a law firm respond to an RFP with an offer to come look at the company’s operations in-depth, gaining a better picture of his organization before a proposal is prepared.
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.
One of the great joys this year as Legal Marketing Association – LMA International prez-elect is being able to work with existing and incoming leaders to chart our path next year and beyond. One of our annual “rites of passage” is a two day (virtual for now) Leaders’ Conference where we convene leaders across our regions, committees, special interest groups, international board and more to connect and collaborate. Truth be told, I feel in my bones EVERYONE in LMA is a leader, and I don’t want anyone to feel left out. Got that trait from my mama!
The attendees get a small token of our gratitude for their volunteer hours and a note accompanies. Given that I think (and hope) these words may resonate more broadly, I’m sharing them here as well …
“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” — Edith Wharton
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” — Mother Teresa
Legacy isn’t what we accomplish in this brief moment (when we are honored to carry important titles), but rather it is what we inspire in those who follow us. Our collective calling, as change agents and as growth purveyors, is in elevating our profession overall, rising above the ephemeral and stretching beyond together. We have a unique privilege to ensure success for our next generation. THAT is the moment of amplification before us. Thank you for your service, for your hearts, for your hard work, and for your generosity of time and of spirit. You make a difference in this incredible LMA community.
Oh, and here’s a box of cool stuff to say thank you for being you, to help you amplify YOUR voice AND the voices of others, and to have a laugh (and think) or two.
Love you and grateful for you. Roy
P.S. We’ve also included a book from one of your fellow LMA members – and one of our Leaders Conference speakers – Jay Harrington. This book serves a “meta” purpose. There is great guidance in there around amplifying one’s brand and voice. These tips should prove helpful to you on your leadership journey AND as counsel you can take back to any attorneys you support on their respective growth paths. As our friend and colleague Terry Isner reminds us, “Put your oxygen mask on first so you can better help others with theirs.”
P.P.S. Thank you in advance to our two keynote presenters Jay Harrington and Alycia Sutor; our workshop facilitators from Second City Works including Kat Barker; our Annual Conference chairs Megan McKeon, Lee Watts, Jennifer Petrone Dezso; our many breakout and reflection leaders over the next two days; and our marvelous HQ team Danielle Gorash Holland, Holly Amatangelo, Morgan Frohling, Jennifer Weigand, Lisa M. Kamen. And to Emily Hillman and Kelly MacKinnon for these pics!
The 2023 Annual Conference Advisory Committee (ACAC) is excited to share that the #LMA23 education program is now available! Capitalize your 2022 budgets and use this educational programming experience to justify your attendance. Explore the full 2023 education program today: https://bit.ly/3itjRJJ
It’s ALIVE! Check out our just launched #LMA23 AMPLIFY agenda! This represents hundreds of hours of work from our amazing Legal Marketing Association – LMA International volunteers and HQ team and all of our presenters. So excited! I love what Annual Conference Advisory Committee (ACAC) member Mike Mellor said about this process, “I’ve been so honored to have been a part of the ACAC of this year’s LMA! We are bringing new voices and building frameworks for a more inclusive and richer experience in Florida, and we will all benefit from the vast array of perspectives from all around the world. We hope that everyone will raise their hands and participate this year – challenging the status quo is the best way to drive the industry forward!”
Special thank you to our co-chairs Lee Watts, Jennifer Petrone Dezso, and Megan McKeon and to our HQ team Holly Amatangelo, Kaitlin Heininger, Lisa M. Kamen, CAE, Danielle Gorash Holland, Ellie Hurley, Sarah Logan. And to our fab ACAC crew Amber Bollman, Jon Brewer, Joseph Edmonds, Tahisha Fugate, Mike Mellor, Ruth E. Morayniss, Gail Porter Lamarche, and Arthur Uratani. AND our wonderful pre-con session chairs Ashraf Lakhani, Brianna Leung, Justin Portaz, Jason Klika, Alé Simmons, Susan Slifer, Julie Hollander Eichelbaum, Christine Mitchell Harris, Bobbie Conklin, EJ Stern Bearman, Cheryl Bame, and Michael Blachly. I am in AWE of these amazing humans!