The legal CEO
Francesc Dominguez argues that a ‘legal CEO’ can drive a firm’s success
If a CEO’s direct role or responsibility is to ‘connect’ the market with the firm, then marketing acts as the link between the firm and its market.
Traits of an effective CEO
Any CEO, whether internal or external, should be chosen on the basis of meritocratic criteria such as business insight, delegation skills, relations management, client portfolio and, of course, personality, attitude, style and leadership skills.
It is not enough for a legal CEO (also known as a managing partner in practice, depending on the profile of the firm) to be a competent or prestigious lawyer; they must also be a flexible leader who can adapt to any circumstances – and, of course, their team of professionals.
Moderation and prudence are two qualities expected of a firm's top executive or ‘ambassador,’ as well as of aspiring legal CEOs. A competent CEO is willing to learn, they know how to ask their staff the right questions, how to see, value and reward those partners or professionals who help them to be a better CEO. They should think not only of their own benefit, but most importantly, that of the firm.
The best CEOs – those who contribute effectively to positioning and marketing their firm's services – have certain common traits: they take care of their personal brand in an intuitive, methodical but generally coherent and consistent manner, and they do so based on three factors:
1. Self-knowledge and knowledge of their social perception;
2. Positioning their personal brand in line with the corporate brand;
3. Gaining visibility as part of effective advanced planning and scheduling.
The above is also valid for aspiring CEOs, whose image should be equally or even more carefully honed, as well as for partners and senior associates, as representatives of their firm.
Successful CEOs surround themselves with partners or advisors who help them make the right decisions. They have strategic foresight and are clear about where the firm is heading. They focus not only on the short term, but also on the medium and long-term; they avoid the ailment of ‘short-term thinking’, which is so prevalent in law firms. They see the short term for what it really is: a stage on the way to achieving medium and long-term goals.
A CEO’s reputation is not only responsible for the firm’s market value, but also for its ability to appeal to and retain talent.
It is estimated that between 44 and 48 per cent of a company's reputation depends on the CEO's personal brand and, more specifically, his or her reputation. In the case of law firms, the influence of the CEO can be even greater.
It is therefore advisable to manage the CEO's personal brand appropriately. The CEO's personal brand is not only a reputational asset, but also a financial one. The CEO, as head of the firm, contributes to its positive differentiation in the market. This is crucial in a market as competitive as the legal one, where the client has a wide variety of law firms to choose from.
How much media or social media exposure should the CEO aim for? They should exercise moderation and prudence and find the middle ground between overexposure and no exposure at all; it must be suitable and well timed.
Managing the CEO's personal brand should not be an exercise in feeding their ego. Rather, it should be about finding the best version of the CEO to better serve their stakeholders, notably partners, professionals and clients.
Although ethics is not among the most valued qualities in CEOs in some sectors, it is in the world of law firms. Ethics is one of the values that constitutes the essence of a good lawyer: you have to be a good person as well as a good lawyer.
"The greater the position, the greater the person must be" (Baltasar Gracián).
Francesc Dominguez is a legal marketing and personal branding consultant in Barcelona, Spain francescdominguez.com