On Why, I am a Gardener

Following on up on my great experience this past week in Austin, TX at the Annual Legal Marketing Association Conference, I thought I would share my thoughts from a few weeks ago when I had a conversation with someone who is thinking of getting into legal marketing.  She's had a vibrant career in other industries and thought legal marketing seemed appealing as a former lawyer and consultant. We chatted for a while and she asked me if the lawyers respected me. I said yes, I believe that at my firm the lawyers do honestly respect the marketing and business development folk. Then she asked me if I was treated like a second class citizen as a result of being a non-lawyer or a non-practising lawyer. Before I could answer, she asked if I was treated the same, better or worse than associates.  I paused to think and then replied – think of legal marketers as you would your gardener.  You want them to show up consistently, do a good job, cut the lawn, trim the hedges, maybe plant a new flower or two and when the summer rolls around, help you with a vegetable garden.  Their job is to alleviate your burden of work, particularly if you know nothing about gardening and you entrust to them the curb appeal of your house and entrance way or the calm composure of your backyard. You are happy to pay them a nice wage, market value or above for the work they do.  You want your gardener to be happy so he or she keeps coming back consistently and you don't have to retrain a new gardener on what colour mulch you prefer or which flowers make you sneeze. But you also don't want them to complain to you about their career satisfaction or growth in the industry. Those topics make you tune out mostly because if you wanted to talk about the trials and tribulations of gardening you likely would have been a gardener.   

Associates on the other hand, are like your teenage children, they can be difficult and/or demanding, they require training and attention but being a teen is a right of passage and you want to see them through the challenging stage of life. You are invested, you've introduced them to you friends (clients), you've nurtured and educated them.   When they complain about career prospects or job satisfaction, you listen intently.  You've been in their shoes and agree or disagree you know they hold the keys to the future (of your firm and your profession).   One is not better that the other - you treat your gardener and your teenagers differently. 

My analogy was further upheld at a Toronto LMA luncheon entitled "Saving Lawyers' Time and Winning New Business", where it was established that  the role of the marketer/business development person is to make the lives of the partner easier so he/she can focus on their strengths.

And so, that is why I am gardener, I have been entrusted with keep the lawn green, the fruits and vegetables growing and the flowers blooming.  And as the warm spring sun pours through my office window, I can tell you it is not a bad gig at all. 
Next week, I will share some more of my thoughts around legal marketing and my post LMA annual conference take-aways.


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