The Churn

December 9, 2008 5:07 PM


Posted by Ed Shanahan

News from the chief marketing officer front reveals that a handful of moves are in the works at Am Law 100 firms, with a couple occurring just months after folks were appointed to these positions.

Morrison & Foerster, for example, welcomed Susan Klein as its chief marketing officer in April. In announcing her hiring, the firm's statement emphasized Klein's "formidable background and track record with the best names in financial services." Now, just eight months later, firm chair Keith Wetmore and Klein herself confirm that Klein is no longer with the firm. Both Wetmore, who commented via e-mail, and Klein declined to elaborate.

Sources with knowledge of the move say the decision was Klein's, noting that a law firm's culture and structure can require more adjustment than someone arriving from corporate America may expect. Klein previously had held marketing and communications positions in the financial services industry, including posts at Bank of America, Charles Schwab, MasterCard International, and Morgan Stanley.

Wetmore says he hasn't filled the position. That might take a while if MoFo's past searches and those conducted by other law firms are any indication. MoFo was CMO-less for about  20 months until Klein replaced Amanda Duckworth, who departed in August 2006. (Duckworth now is a partner at corporate communications consultancy Brunswick Group.)

Elsewhere, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison is about to fill a spot that's also been empty for a stretch. The firm's last CMO on record was Wendy Bernero, who now holds the title at McKee Nelson. Bernero left Paul, Weiss in August 2007, according to Paul Weiss communications manager Madelaine Miller. Come December 15, the job goes to John Hodder. Hodder currently is CMO at Orrick; he joined the firm in 2001 as director of marketing and was promoted to his current post in August 2004.

Hodder says the move presents a "tremendous" opportunity to work with a "phenomenal firm" and cites the new leadership at Paul, Weiss as one reason he decided to make the move (he says he and the firm worked with a headhunter on the placement, but declines to identify which one).

"It's a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor with someone who's new in the role, and both of us
will be helping each other along the way," Hodder says of litigator Brad Karp's move to the chairmanship at Paul, Weiss on January 1.

Hodder is not the only member of Orrick's marketing team to leave. Chris Matthews, who joined the firm on May 5 as chief marketing strategy officer, left on October 29, confirms Allan Whitescarver, chief communications officer at Orrick. No word on why.

"As a matter of policy Orrick doesn't discuss  publicly employees no longer with the firm,"  Whitescarver says. So is the firm engaged in a search to fill the two vacancies? Yes, he says, Orrick is looking for the "right person." Whether they're looking to fill one position or more isn't yet known.

Beyond these moves, we checked in with Bill Crooks, president of Orlando, Florida-based Priority Search International, who tracks movement among top marketing executives. Over the past year, Crooks says,  there were 19 moves to and from Am Law 100 firms. Crooks, who says he's placed 14 CMOs at Am Law 100 firms over the past seven years, also says that fit and understanding of a firm's structure and culture are key factors that help determine whether someone winds up being right for the job.

"If they're coming from a different industry, it's very challenging for an individual who's coming from the corporate structure to understand a flat partner culture and the dynamics of the decision making process in a firm," he says.

In fact, Crooks says, one of the first questions he's asked by those he is working to place is about whether firm leaders consider the CMO job an important one: "They want to know how much of a curmudgeon factor there is with respect to the leadership's attitudes on business development."

Not that money isn't important, too. From what Crooks and other law firm marketing sources tell us, CMO compensation can range anywhere from $250K to $500K and above, depending on the firm.

And we've heard from two sources that one specific CMO who works at a Chicago Am Law 100 firm earns in the $500K range but could earn even more should she, as our sources predict, wind up filling the chief business development officer post at Sullivan & Cromwell that was left vacant when Norma Arnold retired several months ago. (We've contacted both this CMO and S&C, but have gotten no response to our requests for confirmation/comment.)

More in our next edition.

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