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Program Recap: Legal Marketing & Your Future: Lessons Learned From 2020 and Actively Planning for Success in 2021

All of us know how incredibly challenging 2020 has been (in more ways than one). Legal marketing and BD professionals have really been put to the test this year—long hours, salary reductions, asked to do more with less, re-purposed team members to help in other areas (in some cases, entirely outside of marketing and BD), and so on. Most of us are rather exhausted professionally and personally. It’s honestly difficult to know where the workday begins and ends. But we’re legal marketing professionals and will continue to persevere!

On Tuesday, Nov. 10, Kate Harry Shipham, Principal of KHS People LLC, shared some valuable insights in her program, “Legal Marketing & Your Future: Lessons Learned From 2020 and Actively Planning for Success in 2021.” Kate’s presentation primarily touched on:

  • Findings from her two surveys
  • Lessons learned
  • Expectation setting and goals for 2021

Kate explained that, generally speaking, law firms are doing better than we thought. Many firms took a very conservative approach, not knowing how COVID would impact the business (held revenue back, cut expenses, salary reductions, etc.). Marketing has been viewed as high-value and key advisors to the partners and firm management during these challenging times. Marketing was there to assist firms with an abundance of external communication and guided the quick pivot from in-person gatherings and events to virtual.

Survey Findings

A few takeaways from Kate’s initial legal marketing survey (May 2020) include:

  • Many legal marketers were working longer hours (an extra 5-15 hours per week).
  • Marketing and BD strategy was focused on “protecting the base” (i.e., protecting the existing client base).
  • Most everyone seemed to have adapted well to (and prefer) working from home. Several noted they would like a hybrid working arrangement (some in-office days and some remote days) and hope to have such flexibility in the future.

Kate did an additional follow-up survey (October 2020), which was a little deeper dive into certain topics. Some highlights from that survey include:

  • Long working hours are still a concern. Nearly half of the survey respondents noted that they are still working 5-15 extra hours per week. Managers are navigating how to minimize the burnout factor for their teams.
  • Firms are still focused on “protecting the base” but have also worked on new strategic pursuits for new work. Many also reported that RFP volume was back up.
  • There has been an uptick in legal marketers being re-purposed within their respective firms and doing projects outside of marketing. The likely reason for this? Legal marketers are visible people within firms, have transferrable skillsets, and often raise their hands to help.
  • Most respondents also noted that their firms acted as they expected—were empathetic, transparent communication, flexible, etc. Firms are also very concerned for and encouraging of everyone taking care of themselves and their overall health.
  • Just under half of firms reported they were under a hiring freeze. In addition, several indicated that promotion freezes were in place, as well as salary reductions. On a positive note, some reported their salaries had been fully restored or given a timeline of when that will occur.

Kate indicated that more specific highlights from the Oct. survey will soon be posted on her website:

Setting Your Expectations and 2021 Goals

Regardless of your function or level, continue to be a good team member and ambassador—be a stable and reliable team member (not a problem causer). Leaders much appreciate that mindset and approach. And of course, continue to keep your head high.

Managers and leaders: understand that long working hours are not sustainable, so look for ways to alleviate potential burnout amongst your team members.

The program wrapped up with Kate asking everyone to self-reflect. Specifically, she asked everyone to take some time to think about the below questions. Your responses to those questions will help you determine your respective expectations and goals for 2021.

  • What was your expectation for 2020?
  • What will 2021 look like? Think about…
    • What strengths you will emphasize?
    • How will you address your weaker areas?
    • Who will you communicate your expectations to?
    • How will you measure your goals and rate their relative success?

In closing, Kate encouraged everyone to, “Stay positive…Take care of yourself…Be good to each other.”


  • Amber Weatherford

    Amber Weatherford serves as practice group director for Ice Miller’s Labor, Employment and Immigration; Employee Benefits; and Health Care Practice Groups. In this role, Amber works closely with the practice group leaders and Firm management in the development of strategic business plans and is responsible for overseeing various aspects of administration, management and day-to-day business operations for those respective practice groups. Amber has 15 years of legal marketing experience and held a variety of progressing leadership positions in the marketing and business development department at Ice Miller. Amber is a current and active member of the Legal Marketing Association. She currently serves as Co-Chair of the Indianapolis Local Steering Committee for the LMA.