Law firm marketing and business development experts apply skills honed over many years and often in other industries. To explore their backgrounds, we asked them: What was the last job you had before joining a law firm, and why did you make the change?
Renata Misiewicz, PR and E-Marketing Specialist, Wierzbowski Eversheds Sutherland
Before I started working as a PR professional in law firms I worked in the creative departments of advertising agencies, supporting companies in completely different sectors. I worked on dozens of TV commercials, advertising everything from hypermarkets to washing powder and nappies. After a number of years I decided to choose a different career path that would allow me to better use the qualifications and skills I had gained from my journalism studies and my TV and radio practice, as well as my creative abilities.
It happens in agencies that sometimes you work on a campaign for two months and the client suddenly then changes his mind for some reason, or completely rejects the project simply because “my wife does not like the color red.” Your response to yourself is often: “stay calm, take a deep breath, this is normal for the profession, they pay you for this, etc.” But after a few years you grow tired and need a change. Creative work took up almost all of my life. I was busy being creative at work, after work, and on weekends, giving my time and 100% commitment freely. When you cannot see the results of your hard efforts, this can be both frustrating and demotivating. Additionally, in an agency each day you may be working on rather monotonous projects that will never receive nominations for any advertising awards.
I think that among all the colleagues I worked with in advertising agencies about 75% have changed their lives completely. So have I, but not quite so dramatically. In my current position I use my creative, communicative, and journalist skills each day, and I have a real influence on the final shape of my projects. I have worked in three international law firms so far, and I am happy to say that working in the Wierzbowski Eversheds Sutherland PR and Marketing team is what I really like. It gives me complete satisfaction, because I can see the fruits of my hard work in all that I do, from producing a well-organized event, having our lawyers publish well-received articles in main business dailies, winning pitches, producing attractive brochures, and promoting an outstanding social media presence. As a marketing team we fully decide about creative concepts and further execution, with the trust and support of management. And the extra bonus is a bit of legal knowledge acquired, which can be quite helpful in certain situations.
Mate Bende, Managing Partner, Pro/Lawyer Consulting
I made the transition is two steps. First, I was a lawyer, working as an editor, then later Editor-in-Chief at a legal publisher (Wolters Kluwer). I knew that I didn’t want to work as a lawyer, so I focused on communications (second diploma) – but I didn’t want to lose the legal segment either. So as I knew about law, law firms, and PR, I decided that I wanted to be a communications manager at a law firm. I told this to a recruiter and I landed at Gide as Communications and Business Development Manager. And 5 years later made another transition, from inside to outside advisor for law firms with Pro/Lawyer Consulting.
Idil Baysal, Client and Market Development Manager, Clifford Chance Turkey
I was the Communications Manager of a multinational financial services company for ten years and Head of/Manager for Marketing & Communications at PricewaterhouseCoopers Turkey before jumping into the legal services industry. A senior partner of a well-known law firm on the market gave me the opportunity to pour my expertise into this specific sector by establishing the BD and Marketing & Communications Department at his firm. I worked very closely with the management team as an executive member and once I succeeded in creating a strong department I decided to stay in the industry. As I have a strong background in business development, marketing, and communication from one of the top companies, I found it much more strategic and business driven. In Turkey consultancy/audit and law firms have an advertising ban, and it is definitely more challenging to manage the function under these strict regulations, as it takes all the regular channels from you. It definitely asks you to think out of the box and use the road less travelled to make success happen. I find it very exciting, and very inspiring.
Petra Svoboda, Head of Communications CEE, Taylor Wessing
Before joining the law firm in 2007, I had worked in a PR agency for many years. On the one hand, I loved the variety of dealing with enterprises from so many different sectors (ranging from games & toys to the chemical industry and insurance companies, among others). On the other hand, I always had the feeling of not being able to dedicate myself to each customer with enough time and attention. So the first goal was to change to an in-house position in order to be able to devote 100% of my work and time to just one customer. Landing in an international law firm was a very lucky coincidence because yes, I now work for “just” one company, but there are so many different Practice Areas and teams I deal with, so variety comes in again …!
Barbara Straziscar, Office Manager, ODI Law
I’m not a lawyer; I even don’t have a legal education. I studied History of Art and the German language, but I have worked all my career in the financial and administration fields. I worked for a Slovenian company, Krokodil d.o.o., which produced plastic housekeeping products and imported the lingerie of well-known Austrian producer Palmers. I was the office manager, and I managed both the production line and a chain of stores selling Palmers products. I joined ODI as Office Manager and my function changed during the years as ODI grew; some tasks were taken over by colleagues and new ones came to me like marketing and HR … That is basically it.
Jana Sosna, Senior PR Manager, Taylor Wessing Prague
Having worked as an Executive Director of a mid-sized PR agency certified in the Association of PR Agencies in the Czech Republic for eight years, I have gained essential experience across a multitude of industries. This valuable experience has shown me that one of the most important qualities of a client is the ability to understand and appreciate public relations. Taylor Wessing Prague, one of our clients at the time, was among the smartest who listened, and subsequently they offered me a position. I have enjoyed working with a very professional and dedicated law firm, as they have proven to be. Making the jump from an eclectic PR agency to a dedicated law firm gave me much more balance in my life. It has allowed me to travel, to explore, and to educate myself beyond the narrow confines of public relations and so help the continued media branding of my firm.
Agne Daunyte, Communications Project Manager, Ellex Valiunas
Before joining Ellex Valiunas I worked in a public relations agency. While working there I gained invaluable experience in project and relationship management. However, after some time I felt the urge to try an in-house position and become a client myself. I am delighted that I managed to achieve my goal and have an opportunity to apply my knowledge and skills and grow as a professional at one of the best law firms in the Baltics.
Biliana Tzvetkova, Business Development and Marketing Manager, Djingov, Gouginski, Kyutchukov & Velichkov
Prior to becoming a BDM in the legal industry, I’d been a senior project manager at an international venture equity company for more than 8 years. I acquired strong practical knowledge of the Bulgarian economic and legal framework and the overall direction and strategy of Bulgarian companies which now perfectly goes along with my current position. I guess that at a certain point I just needed to transition to a position with more everyday challenges. Although I was successful in my project management career, I have realized the aspects of my work I find most rewarding are all in marketing-related functions.
Olivia Popescu, Marketing & PR Manager, Maravela | Asociatii
Before boarding the legal marketing rollercoaster I enjoyed the healthcare marketing ride, which involved organizing large medical congresses (with 3000+ attendees), working together with a Professional Congress Organizer, and dealing with numerous PR, press conference, and marketing-related matters. I did not literally make a change by myself alone; rather, change came my way. Returning to Romania after a two-year stay in sunny Greece, a spin off from a highly-regarded local law firm was just setting sail. I gladly jumped on board, as they were commencing their journey. We have been voyaging together since, and in the meantime, the firm has been named this year’s Romanian law firm of the year, and I am extremely happy to be part of the crew.
This Article was originally published in Issue 4.11 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.