Ask the Authorities

Article excerpt

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. …