Law firm with 15 offices finally replaces CMO

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 4.20.18 PMSteve’s breakdown: The last CMO made it only 8 months so we suspect the job is not a “bunny”. All more the reason to call and offer a hand.

PHILADELPHIA, PA: Ballard Spahr has hired a new chief marketing and business development officer with a focus on client development and cross-marketing.

Mary Beth Hernandez joined the firm Thursday from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison where for the past 14 months she was a senior business development manager focused on rolling out the firm’s cross-selling initiative. Prior to that, Hernandez spent eight years at Thomson Reuters where she ultimately served as a global account executive serving as a liaison to the leaders of eight large law firms in New York.

Hernandez was an attorney and journalist before she became a legal marketer. She spent time in-house as assistant general counsel of Allied Building Products Corp. and did sports journalism for NBC Sports, the Tennis Channel, and Fox Sports.

The legal marketing world is increasingly focused on the business development piece of the equation, and Hernandez said the firm’s lawyers have an interest in ­focusing on client development.

“Certainly the pie is not getting bigger,” Hernandez said. “It’s incumbent on law firms to be cognizant of how they can cross-serve their existing clients and get a bigger piece of that pie.”

Her years at Thomson Reuters also helped her have a good sense of the trends in the legal profession more broadly, Hernandez said, giving her the ability to connect the dots between what clients want and how the firm can fulfill those needs.

It was through her time at Thomson Reuters that Hernandez got to know Ballard Spahr Chairman Mark Stewart. He reached out to her about filling the chief marketing and business development officer role, which was left vacant in July when Timothy John H. Delaney left the role after just eight months in the position.

Delaney had been hired from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr in Washington, D.C., after a yearlong search by Ballard Spahr.

On Thursday, Stewart echoed Hernandez’s point that legal marketing is increasingly moving toward business development.

Hernandez’s time at Thomson Reuters will prove invaluable, Stewart said, because she can help lawyers understand what clients are looking for.

In terms of what he has learned in filling the CMO role over the years, Stewart said it was important to the firm to have someone in the role who “really understands lawyers and knows how to deal with lawyers delicately, yet forcefully.”

Stewart said everyone he has spoken with about Hernandez notes how well liked she is and the great people skills she has.

“We learned that there is no substitute for people skills … no substitute for having someone who can engage the partners and the lawyers in this firm with a firm understanding of what they do and what they really want to accomplish,” Stewart said.

Hernandez will be based in New York but said she intends to spend most of her time in Philadelphia where the bulk of the 35-person staff resides. She will report to Stewart and work closely with John Langel, the partner in charge of marketing, until Langel retires in July. Hernandez oversees the marketing, business development, communications and events functions of the firm.

Hernandez said she was happy to have the transition period with Langel over the next six months. She said he has “tremendous firm expertise and knowledge having grown up in this firm. Working alongside him during this transition period is a ­fantastic opportunity.”

Aside from focusing on growth opportunities in a low-demand market, Hernandez said another strong focus will be on cybersecurity “and making sure that we have an environment that provides that type of comfort for our clients in terms of their information.”

In the coming weeks, Hernandez plans on getting to know her team and the partners. She said she wants to provide advocacy for her team and serve as a liaison to the practice leaders, helping practice groups create a vision and strategy moving forward.

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