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CMO Series EP75 – Matthew Goffe of Eckert Seamans on the opportunities for legal business

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The rise of the marketing and business development function within law firms presents new opportunities for those developing a career in the industry. But how you approach and act upon those opportunities is the key to success.

On this episode of the CMO Series, Ali Bone is lucky to welcome Matt Goffe, Director of Business Development at Eckert Seamans, who shares his journey in legal business development and advice for BD professionals looking to make an impact in their careers.

Ali and Matt cover:

  • Matt’s career journey and how he came to his current role at Eckert Seamans
  • The pivotal points in Matt’s career and what he learnt from those experiences
  • The key opportunities today for having an impact on the firm and building a successful career
  • The differences between sizes of firms in how business development professionals need to approach their roles
  • The programs currently creating impact at Eckert Seamans and the most significant opportunities for senior business development professionals to have an impact on their firms
  • How to make the most of the Legal Marketing Association as an opportunity for growth
  • The future of careers in legal marketing & BD
  • Advice for others looking to make the most of the opportunities that exist in legal marketing and business development


Intro: Welcome to the Passle Podcast CMO Series.

Ali: Welcome to the Passle CMO Series podcast, where we discuss all things marketing and BD in professional services. So whilst a career in legal business development and marketing is not always top of mind when it comes to career choices, it is certainly one full of opportunities to leave your mark.

As marketing and business development become more prominent and key drivers for supporting the success of law firms, opportunities for those within those functions are only increasing. To talk about his own experiences and insights into this topic, it is a pleasure to introduce Matt Goffe, Director of Business Development at Eckert Seamans. Matt, welcome to the CMO series.

Matt: Thank you, Ali. It is a pleasure of mine to join the Passle CMO series and I look forward to the conversation ahead. Thank you for having me.

Ali: Absolute pleasure, Matt. We’re thrilled to have you on. And from the conversations we’ve had building into this, I know that it’s going to be a great one to get into. So without any further ado, I wanted to open up with the first question. So for most, a career in legal business development comes as a surprise and more than something that’s probably typically planned. So how did you find yourself in your current role?

Matt: Sure. You’re exactly right, Ali. I would say for the most of us in this role, it is an opportunity that we fell into or landed into. But it is certainly a business and a career that I think as legal marketers and business development professionals, we have to advocate and share the successes and great opportunities that we have in these fields. But my role really came out of an opportunity working at Reed Smith in Pittsburgh. I started at the ground floor of the firm and the Duplicating and Copy Center and naturally sort of moved my way around into firm administration positions. I worked in our records department, and by chance, I also sat on the marketing and business development floor at the firm at the time and just was the right time, right place for an opportunity to join the marketing and business development team. And it was just a natural fit for me at that point. From there I earned my Master’s degree in Corporate Communications and then my career took off and I have been in legal marketing for the past 14 years plus.

Ali: Yeah, I absolutely love that. And I think what kind of really strikes home for me is there is that opportunity just within one place that can kind of open up so many doors for you. And actually, clearly, this is something that you really enjoy and have thrived in. And it’s a message I really want to get out there to people in whatever they’re doing, obviously, particularly within this industry. So kind of when we kind of think about that, were there any points in your career that you thought were particularly pivotal and if so, what were they?

Matt: Absolutely. Ali, I think in these careers, and I will echo what you said, the opportunities to take on these roles in these positions really sometimes fall into your lap, but there are also ways that you can seek them out. From my perspective, a pivotal point probably was at the beginning of my career. I started working in the legal industry in 2008. It was the height of the global financial crisis. I think it really set a foundation for me in these roles to understand what A, the lawyers and the partners who own these firms put in on the effort side and B, really understanding clients and the process and the mechanics behind how a law firm operates, as I noted, is when I started my career, I worked in the Duplicating Center. And some of these law firms are massive operations that work around the clock. And I will just say that every aspect of a law firm is critically important. From administration to marketing to lawyers to clients to senior leadership, every piece of the puzzle really drives the engine that makes these law firms run.

Ali: Yeah, I think that’s a really sort of pertinent point. In terms of that, every aspect is incredibly important. I think it’s probably for anybody in their career, it’s quite easy to maybe get lost in thinking that you’re a very small cog, but actually it has a huge impact. And when we kind of think about that, early on in the business development career, what do you think are the key opportunities today for having an impact on the firm and building that successful career?

Matt: I think saying yes a lot, Ali, truly does help provide a successful career. In my experience, I’ve worked on proposal teams, I’ve worked in specific business development roles, supporting practices, supporting lawyers. And I think when you say yes to those opportunities, new opportunities arise. Ten years ago I was working at my first firm at Reed Smith and had the opportunity to live in London for a summer and onboard a private equity team. Without saying yes to some of those opportunities that came my way previous to that, I would have never had that experience. It’s one that I look back fondly on as rewarding and a truly unique opportunity for me to sort of set the groundwork for my career and understand how people work, not only in the US, but around the world. So I would always encourage folks in this world, in this industry, to say yes to these opportunities that come along. I would also say, Ali, one other aspect is look outside your day-to-day at one of my previous firms and I’ve had the great fortune to be at, now this is my fourth in law firm, but the last firm I was at, I supported our veteran’s network, which was a part of the diversity and inclusion effort. And I’m not a veteran myself, I’m an ally of the veteran’s causes, but it was a truly unique opportunity for me to have a different lens on how lawyers work, how lawyers conduct business with their clients and how lawyers also give back to their communities through that diversity lens and the veteran space. So I would encourage folks to also look outside your day-to-day and see what opportunities exist inside your firms for growth and development and learning new experiences that help the firm run overall.

Ali: Yeah, I love that. I think with both of them just being able to say yes to something, it just shows the opportunities that it creates. Be that an opportunity early in your career to come over to London and understand the benefits of that broad. But also in your former firm, looking at kind of that diversity element around the veterans and the opportunities that open up and it kind of almost feels like a little bit of a theme coming through in terms of saying yes to things. There’s loads of opportunity within actually the place that you’re sat at the moment, so it’s not necessarily having to look elsewhere for that. I actually want to ask you there, I mean, I know you’re saying say yes was one of your big pieces of advice there, but is there anything in your own personal experience where you said no to and you’ve looked back and gone, oh actually that would have presented other opportunities?

Matt: There are probably a few areas that I could point to that perhaps would have led me may be out of the legal industry and that in my experience, I’ve only been in the legal industry and I feel that this is home for me. So if I said no to some experiences, I probably wouldn’t be on this podcast with you today, and I probably wouldn’t be sitting at the firm I am at today. It’s a life lesson of balance that you have to understand you make the choices that you feel are the best with the information you have at that time. So there are positives to saying no as well.

Ali: Yeah, of course, I don’t disagree and as you say, we wouldn’t have the pleasure of you on here today if that had been the case. So actually with that in mind, obviously you’ve worked in Am Law 50 global law firms as well as some sort of smaller specialist firms. So do you think that there are many differences between those sizes of firms when it comes to how business development professionals need to approach their roles?

Matt: 100% Ali. I would say that from my experience, I’ve been at some very large global law firms and they are true machines when it comes to following the sun mentality and they have large departments, large support departments inside the marketing and business development function. So every firm has a unique culture, every firm has a unique approach of how they work with their clients, and how they work internally, from technology to support to access. I think every firm has an opportunity to make their own mark. And I certainly would say that when you’re at these different firms, take the experiences that you have learned along the way and take the good and implement them and remind yourself of maybe the not-so-good that has kept a reminder of how not to operate and keep it positive, is what I would say. There are challenges across all of these firms, but at the end of the day, everyone is here to help clients and make the firm a profitable place to work.

Ali: Yeah, I can imagine, as you say, take those experiences because it’s only going to help to shape you as an individual, be it in a larger firm or a much smaller specialist firm. You kind of bring all of those unique experiences you have and kind of help to develop yourself, I suppose. So, in your current role, you are working on a number of programs to bring an impact to the firm. What are those and what would you say are the most significant opportunities for senior business development professionals to have an impact on their firm?

Matt: Great question, Ali. In my current role, I sit as the first…

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