By Lynn Foley
The stress that lawyers face has been well documented and, to their credit, many law firms have recognized the importance of mental well-being and taken steps to improve the situation. But marketing and business development professionals have largely been left out of discussions — despite dealing with many of the same pressures as their lawyer colleagues.
A 2018 survey of 30 Am Law Firms found that 36% of firms that offer mental health programming don’t offer these programs to the professional staff — just to lawyers. This is unfortunate as those of us who have worked in this profession know how demanding it can be.
The tragic death by suicide of a number of prominent legal marketers has added urgency to the situation and started a long-overdue conversation, but a scarcity of data has limited what could be said. Up until now, research has predominantly been concerned with the well-being of attorneys. While stories about toxic workplaces can be powerful, individual experiences are too easily dismissed as outliers, as just one person’s opinion. Hard data was needed to determine the extent of the issue and ground the conversation.
My colleagues and I at fSquared Marketing decided to do something about this lack of research. From my own experience working in-house at a law firm, I understood the importance of using facts and statistics to drive meaningful discussions. To that end, fSquared Marketing polled 200 legal marketers and business professionals working at law firms primarily in the United States and Canada. Of the respondents, 80% are members of the Legal Marketing Association. The results were published as the “Legal Marketing Mental Wellness Survey Report.”
Our research revealed some disquieting facts. Of legal marketing professionals surveyed, 75% feel overwhelmed at work, and 74% feel that lawyers do not understand the role of the legal marketer or the work that marketers perform.
Why are legal marketers so stressed out? There appear to be several compounding factors.
Overworked and Overwhelmed
Legal marketers have too much work assigned to them and not enough support to effectively manage demands on their time. The vast majority also reported that their department suffered from a lack of marketing resources. This is a sure-fire recipe for chronic stress and, eventually, burnout.
A Divide Between Lawyers and Professionals
This stress is compounded by the divide that exists between lawyers and professionals.
One respondent’s comments summarized a common perspective: “It is unfortunate that law firms segregate mental health awareness between lawyers and non-lawyers. Somehow they feel that staff (with whom they work directly) do not suffer from the same level of stress that the lawyers do.”
Legal Marketers Understand Their Value, But Many Feel Unappreciated
The good news is that 92% of legal marketers felt that they had an important role to play at their firm, and many said that their ideas were often heard, valued and put into action (73%).
Despite this, there is a perceived lack of respect from lawyers. The majority (51%) agreed with the statement: “There is a lack of respect for me/my role by the lawyers.”
“It’s stressful,” one respondent commented, “when law firms hire smart and well-respected professionals who really want to do what’s best for the overall business, but then their ideas are brushed aside because they aren’t part of the partnership or don’t have a J.D.”
Organizations like LMA play an important role in championing the profession and empowering legal marketers to know their worth.
Improving the Culture
These findings won’t come as a surprise to many in our profession. There is room for hope, however. While many legal marketers feel stressed out and underappreciated, that experience is far from universal. Some respondents said that their law firms are supportive, collegial and respectful.
Law firms do not have to be toxic work environments. Those that foster cultures of respect are likely to benefit from lower turnover, increased productivity and innovative thinking. As one respondent said, “a good, friendly culture goes a long way.”
We hope that legal marketers will be able to use this research to drive discussions at their own firms and within their region and local groups at LMA.
Lynn Foley is the chief executive officer and co-founder of fSquared Marketing, a marketing consulting firm with expertise in client development, digital strategy and design, strategic planning, and brand visibility for law firms. Lynn has over 20 years of strategic marketing and business development experience at leading firms. Learn more about fSquared Marketing at fsquaredmarketing.com. Contact Lynn at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 604 343 2756.