What are the hot buttons for today’s legal CMO?

A conversation with Jennifer Johnson Scalzi of Calibrate Legal

Always looking for ways to empower our customers and prospective customers through leading industry expertise, we recently spoke with Jennifer Johnson Scalzi of Calibrate Legal. Focused on talent and recruitment within the legal business services vertical, her team’s mission is to “develop platforms and tools that help those who have previously been labeled “non-lawyers” to define themselves as Revenue Enablers.” CMOs and Marketing leaders – that’s you!

Kathy O’Connell, Sr. Director of Thought Leadership, Intapp recently had the chance to pick Jennifer’s brain about the relevant topics Marketing professionals in legal are currently grappling with (as well as rising above). We hope you enjoy her insights and drop us a line on our LinkedIn page with the questions you may have for Jennifer.

Kathy O’Connell: Can you tell us about Calibrate Legal and generally about the story of how you got to where you are now? 

Jennifer Scalzi: I started out inside a law firm in Texas for about six years and it was the best training ground for what I do now. Beginning as an HR assistant, I then transitioned into attorney billing which was not my calling, as numbers of any kind are not my thing.  From there, they asked me to run the summer associate program. During the course of recruiting law students, I became very interested in the subject matter of law so that I could connect the dots between the students and lawyers, which led me to become involved in marketing projects for our local office.  As it happens, recruiting is marketing!

With this in mind, I wrote a business plan for elevating the firm’s recruitment process and the firm’s leadership gave me the opportunity to “go for it,” and so at age 25, I became the director of recruiting. I did that for a couple years, and then had a personal quest to move to New York City where I launched my current career of agency recruiting for legal marketing professionals.

I spent the following six years focused solely on this vertical and about eight years ago, I launched my own business. After about four years, we also added consultative services and solutions relating to marketing operations, HR & professional development, and leadership development. Calibrate Legal is focused on helping business services professionals inside of law firms gain perspective they may not already have and providing resources to help them “own” their careers and prove their value inside of law firms.

KO: Why do you think that it’s been an uphill battle for marketing professionals in law firms?

JS: It’s a mindset shift. Until the early 2000’s, marketing was a terrible word. Lawyers are of the belief that what they do is all about reputation and trust, and they don’t want to be seen as selling themselves. Most people inherently are not very good at selling themselves but lawyers are even more reluctant. Did you know that the majority of lawyers are introverts? They’re just not wired that way, and when you mix in the fact that they have the need for the utmost confidentiality pumped into their heads from the minute they go to law school, it’s not a combination that screams “I want to do marketing!”

There’s a great book that deals with putting technology in context of our world.  It’s called, “The Future of the Professions,” by Richard and Daniel Susskind.

It offers a backstory into how we can understand the environment we live in so we can fully appreciate where it can go. If you don’t understand how we got to where we are, how could we possibly thrive in an environment that’s increasingly enabled by technology?

KO: You talked about collaboration. What do you think will help guide managing partners to start thinking differently about the value of collaboration and about the value of transparency in data?

JS: I think the sweet spot is at a smaller to medium sized firm of a 100 to 500 or 600 lawyers. That’s where you can actually get someone to listen. And if they listen, the organization is small enough that you can take them through a change management process in less time than it usually takes.

KO: Talking about the CMO and challenges they’ve run into, what else can people do to try and get a seat at that table?

JS: I have a couple of good friends who do have a seat at the proverbial table and it’s because they add value every day in the way that partners need that value delivered. And so, I think that adaptability is part of their success including meeting partners where they’re at and bringing them the value they need. If you can say something really smart that matters to them and then make it happen, that’s where you get in. That’s the win! If I can win over a partner who is notoriously difficult, that’s the best day ever. But it’s meeting them where they’re at and leading them, as opposed to telling them where they need to go.


KO: Let’s talk about strategic planning. When you see that law firms have goals and plans, what enables them to be successful or not successful? Where do they fall down?

JS: They do a strategic plan that’s a five-year plan, and they don’t look at it again for five years. They don’t delegate responsibility for implementation and then allow people to do their jobs and hold them accountable. They’re risk-adverse. They hate risk, so they’ll do anything to not have risk, which usually means making changes of any kind.

Telling somebody “you can’t do that anymore because it’s not right for the business,” especially a rainmaker – it just doesn’t happen. But it should.

Thanks, Jennifer for this interesting view of the legal marketing landscape. Explore more perspectives and research on how today’s modern law firms are enabling growth through Intapp and Calibrate Legal’s Law Firm Growth Enablement Survey.