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Lead by Example: How Your Past Can Impact Their Future

Posted by LMA International on Dec 2, 2019 2:05:53 PM


A recap from Sally Schmidt's session during the 2019 Leaders' Conference

It can be a challenge to define what it means to be a leader and how to best adapt to that role. What are the key elements that make leaders tick? Sally Schmidt, President of Schmidt Marketing, Inc., spoke at this year’s LMA Leaders’ Conference on the role of leadership in LMA and in the legal marketing profession.

Leadership is Within LMA’s DNA

Schmidt has had a huge impact on the legal marketing community, and especially within LMA. She was a founding member and LMA’ first president. She also received the first ever Hall of Fame and Lifetime Achievement Award. As a frequent industry presenter, Schmidt has more than 250 national and international legal profession seminars and conferences under her belt.

During her presentation, Schmidt first dove into LMA’s background. How did LMA get to where it is today? The organization started off as a group of just 12 people from around the United States that met in San Francisco. From there, this group decided to start a national non-profit association and had its first meeting in 1986 (where Schmidt was elected president). After that, membership grew quickly and the team worked to get LMA’s name out there — speaking at conferences, putting out a series of publications and collecting names and law firms to contact. LMA is where it is today because of the dedication of that team and leadership skills Schmidt embedded within the association. 

Use the Past to Form the Future

Schmidt gave advice on ways to create and sustain leadership within a firm. It’s not an easy task, and sometimes requires a new way of thinking.

The challenge with being in a leadership role in an organization is that it can become comfortable and, at times, even cliquey. It can be easy to fall into a mindset of business as usual or rely on the same cohort for advice and input. Schmidt advised leaders to think back to when they were a new member and what they looked for in a leader or mentor. Ask yourself: How can you use this to lead your team now?

Needs, Challenges and Concerns: Thinking Back

During Schmidt’s presentation, she had leaders break into groups and discuss questions. What follows are just a few thoughts from current LMA leaders during this exercise. Use these points to shape the way you lead your team in the future. What could you do differently, refine or continue to do at your firm based on some of the responses below?

  • When you got your first job in law firm marketing, what were your biggest needs, challenges or concerns?
    • Trying to understand how things work — how do we keep track of contacts? What technology do we have?
    • Coming over from a different industry and having a partner upset with you because a different law firm won a big case that you hadn’t even known about.
  • Once you got your feet wet, what were your biggest needs, challenges or concerns?
    • Trying to prioritize all the different needs and initiatives within the job.
    • Picking our battles and what we can actually accomplish.
    • The opportunity to grow when you get a new job is important. At law firms, it might become your job for life.
    • Defining marketing — what is marketing and what is administrative?
    • So much to do with no time to do it all. When should you be reactive and when should you develop a strategy?
    • Because there aren’t rules written down, you have to discern them for yourself. However, it seems that once you finally learn the rules, they change.
  • When you attended your first LMA conference, what were your biggest needs, challenges and concerns?
    • Needing to meet others that will think outside the box.
    • Needing the networking opportunity/skills.
    • Trying to stay positive and energized when you don’t know how to take everything back to your current role and make it happen.

Final Takeaways: Be Generous and Welcoming

One of the most important things Schmidt wanted people to take away was the idea of being open to new people and new ideas, but not just chasing shiny new objects. Identify your most important programs and sustain them for the future. Create a platform that supports the greatest number of people and give your team some rein. Pave the path you would want to follow.


Topics: Legal Marketing, leadership, LMA leadership, Leaders' Conference

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