If the CEO’s direct role or responsibility is to “connect” the market with the firm, legal marketing, in the same way, acts as the link between the firm and its market.
Election criteria for selecting a CEO
The CEO or managing partner, whether internal or external, should be chosen on the basis of meritocratic criteria that include the assessment of competencies such as business insight, delegation skills, relations management, client portfolio and, of course, personality, attitude, style and, essentially, leadership skills. It is far from enough for the legal CEO to be a competent or prestigious lawyer; he or she must also be a flexible leader, able to adapt to the circumstances and to the team of professionals he or she has.
Qualities of the CEO or managing partner
Moderation and prudence are two qualities expected of the firm’s top executive or “ambassador,” as well as of aspiring legal CEOs. A competent CEO is willing to learn, they know how to ask their staff the right questions, how to see, value and reward those partners or professionals who help them to be a better CEO and who think not only of their own benefit but also, and most importantly, that of the firm.
The best CEOs, those who contribute effectively to the positioning and marketing of their firm’s services, have certain common traits: they take care of their good name (their personal brand) in an intuitive, or sometimes methodical but, in general, in a coherent and constant manner, and they do so based on three factors: 1. Self-knowledge and knowledge of their social perception. 2. Positioning their personal brand in line with the corporate brand. 3. Gaining visibility as part of effective advanced planning and scheduling.
The above is also valid for aspiring CEOs, whose image should be equally or even more carefully honed, as well as for partners and senior associates, as representatives of the firm.
Successful CEOs surround themselves with partners or advisors who help them make the right decisions. They have strategic foresight, that is, they are clear about where the firm is heading. They focus not only on the short term but also on the medium and long term; they avoid the ailment of “short-term thinking,” which is so prevalent in law firms. They see the short term for what it really is: a stage on the way to achieving medium and long-term goals.
The reputation of the CEO or managing partner
The reputation of the CEO is not only largely responsible for the market value of the company but also for its ability to appeal to and retain talent.
It is estimated that between 44 to 48% of a company’s reputation depends on the CEO’s personal brand and, more specifically, his or her reputation. In the case of law firms, the influence of the CEO (in practice, and depending on the profile of the firm, also called managing partner) can be even greater.
It is therefore advisable to manage the CEO’s personal brand appropriately. The CEO’s personal brand is not only a reputational asset but also a financial one. The CEO, as head of the firm, contributes to its positive differentiation in the market. This is crucial in a market as competitive as the legal one where the client has a wide variety of law firms to choose from.
How much media or social media exposure should the CEO aim for? They will need to exercise moderation and prudence, in this respect, and find the middle ground between overexposure and no exposure at all; it must be suitable and well timed.
The CEO’s personal branding
Managing the CEO’s personal brand should not be an exercise in feeding the CEO’s narcissistic or egocentric personality, clear signs of emotional immaturity, but quite the contrary: about finding the best version of the CEO to better serve his or her stakeholders, notably partners, professionals and clients.
And although in some industries, unfortunately, ethics is not among the most valued qualities in CEOs, it should be in the world of law firms, since ethics is one of the values that constitute the essence of a good lawyer: you have to be a good person as well as a good lawyer.
“The greater the position, the greater the person must be” (Baltasar Gracián)
© Francesc Dominguez, legal marketing and personal branding consultant United Kingdom, Ireland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Europe, United States of America. Article published in Solicitors Journal (UK). www.francescdominguez.com