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Ask the Authorities.

THE QUESTION

I've been in legal marketing for a few years and am planning my career. How important is it to get an MBA if I want to be a CMO in a few more years?

Is there another way?

Eva Wisnick

You do not need an MBA to be CMO. Having obtained an MBA myself and having hired MBAs for an investment bank, I can tell you that very little of what you learn in B-school is of value to a law firm.

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Yes--you need to develop your analytical skills. Knowing how to work a spreadsheet to show partners where their best new business opportunities lie is of great value, but you do not need to spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to do this. You can create your own "MBA experience" by strategically adding to your career portfolio. Use the learning resources LMA offers, including the Webinars, and look at your local MBA program to target classes you want to audit. For example, many schools offer classes on business analytics. If you look at the backgrounds of the CMOs in AmLaw 100 firms, very few have MBAs, but what they do have is depth of experience in marketing, business development and PR; they know the legal environment and they understand what clients need, sometimes before the clients do.

Eva Wisnik founded Wisnik Career Enterprises Inc in 1996. Wisnik has placed more than 130 marketing professionals into law firms nationwide. Wisnik can be contacted at www.wisnik.com or marketing@wisnik.com.

Matthew Prinn

Every situation is different. If you have a bachelor's degree from a strong business school and a solid foundation in accounting, finance and economics, then I don't think having an MBA is imperative. If you spent your college years dissecting frogs or analyzing Mark Twain's literature, then it would make perfect sense to get an MBA so you are better prepared to handle the fiscal responsibilities of a CMO.

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You need to be able to show management that you understand the economics of a law firm. A candidate who has more real-world law firm experience and understands the business side of a firm is in a stronger position to become a CMO than a candidate with an MBA who has less experience in the day-to-day operations of a law firm. While it can certainly help tip the scales in your favor if you are otherwise evenly matched with another candidate, I would be cautious in incurring the added debt unless you think your current skill set is going to hold you back from reaching the CMO level.

Matthew Prinn is a business development manager for the international law firm K&L Gates and the 2010 president of the LMA New England Chapter.

Elizabeth A. Butcher

First, it is always a good idea to further one's education. Whether that will give you a better chance at becoming a CMO--sure, it will give you an advantage. However, there are many reasons an individual rises to the level of a CMO other than, and in addition to, advanced degrees.

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If you pursue an advanced degree, consider the options available, including, for example, a masters in communications. Choose a path of study that gets you excited about attending classes--an MBA may or may not be your program of choice.

There are a variety of graduate degree programs available online, so do your homework and research the options, as you will want to find a program that fits both your personal and professional schedule. You will want to be able to continue your work in the legal marketing industry, as experience in the field will play a critical role in your path to becoming a CMO.

Elizabeth A. Butcher is director of business development and marketing for Wiggin and Dana LLP, She is completing her thesis on the credibility of law firm Web sites for her M.A. in communications at University of Hartford.

This column is coordinated and edited by Stewart Hirsch, s.hirsch@strategicrelationships.com. Questions can be confidentially sent to him through Theresa Wojtalewicz at twojralewicz@legalmarketing.org. To join the Authorities panel, please contact Hirsch.
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Publication:Strategies: The Journal of Legal Marketing
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2010
Words:697
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