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10 Lessons in 10 Years: A Q&A from Builden’s Leadership Team

April 22, 2024

Builden is thrilled to celebrate its 10th anniversary, and to commemorate this milestone, Jocelyn and Sara sat down for a moment of reflection, celebration and forward-looking anticipation.

Q: What were Builden’s vision and goals on day one, and how have they evolved over the past decade?

 JB: Growing up in the communications departments of large AmLaw firms, I saw first-hand that marketing departments handle the work based on precedent. What did we do last year? How did your predecessor do this job? Even when I led the PR department at my first law firm in the 2000s, everything was reactive. Every legal marketer knows that “hair-on-fire” feeling, but we dealt with it because that is how it was always done.

 While at my second law firm, I was recruited by a hedge fund to be their communications lead. The financial services sector was an entirely new ball game compared to law firms. There was a distinct focus on process and innovation. Each post-mortem discussed what could be improved, because if you are not advancing, you are falling behind. This opened my eyes and shaped the initial vision for Builden: What if we brought the process-driven approach of a financial services firm and applied it to law firm marketing?

My in-house experience at law firms taught me that bringing in a consultant who did not have a legal industry background led to disaster. I knew from the start that Builden could focus on helping law firms move their initiatives forward with a process-driven approach within the partnership model. Those factors have stayed consistent since our founding in 2014.

Q: What were early milestones that allowed you to see the potential of Builden?

 JB: I spent many years in global communications at a firm that was, at the time, the largest law firm in the world. As a consultant, my eyes were opened to how many midsize firms with 15 to 150 attorneys were out there, many of which had a solo marketer or no marketing efforts at all. I quickly realized that these firms are the lifeblood of midsize businesses, and they needed a process-driven approach to elevate their marketing and business development efforts.

These firms were doing significant work, but every case win, speaking event or thought leadership piece was a one-off and not considered part of a larger plan. It became clear that these firms would benefit from a marketing strategy that fully leveraged the important work they were already doing. Builden’s signature Marketing Infrastructure Model was born out of this approach and has been transformational for these firms.

SG: Helping firms build their marketing infrastructure has always been rewarding, but I saw the power of what we were building the first time a client asked about our additional services once a project was complete. This validated the effectiveness of our approach, and the appreciation from our clients – along with their confidence in entrusting us with their brands for the long term – was immensely fulfilling.

One of Builden’s guiding principles is “legal marketer opinions matter,” and in that moment, it really hit home.

Q: Could you discuss a tough period for Builden and how you navigated it?

 JB: Like many organizations, COVID hit us hard. We made the transition to remote work quickly and applied processes that we still use today, like our daily “sprint” meeting. Especially during the whirlwind of the pandemic, gathering as a team for 10 minutes at 9 am each day allowed us to provide clarity on pressing issues and insight into each team member’s workload.

The sprints have evolved over the years, and regular meetings are critical to our team feeling connected and cohesive in our current hybrid model. And while our Chicago team comes into the office often, bringing the whole team together online greatly improves coordination and ensures everyone remains aligned.

Q: Did COVID result in any shifts in client work?

 JB: COVID brought an unexpected silver lining: Our relationships with our managing partner clients became deeper. As a business owner, I bonded with our law firm leaders in a new way as we navigated the same operational, HR and financial issues side by side.

This unexpected common ground strengthened our partnerships. Pre-COVID, we were simply the marketing vendor. But, since the pandemic, our client relationships are more robust and rewarding, enabling us to add value beyond marketing and business development. This has been especially meaningful with clients who have been with us since before COVID – we’ve weathered the storm together.

 Q: Has your approach to maintaining strong client relationships changed? What strategies have you employed to ensure client loyalty over the years?

 JB: I would have never imagined in 2014 that we would be here with 16+ people servicing law firms of all sizes, from premier boutiques to some of the largest law firms in the world. Maintaining those strong relationships – and growing new relationships with clients across the United States and beyond – is about trust and partnership.

I am grateful that these global firms and midsize powerhouses trust Builden to hold their brand safe, advance their firm profile and address their marketing and business development challenges. It is a true partnership.

 SG: One important factor of our team’s growth is our ability to integrate our junior team members into client-facing roles as they execute our Marketing Infrastructure Model for firms. This allows us to scale and to build additional relationships with our clients. Not only does this provide professional growth for the junior team, but it also gives clients access to an even wider talent pool.

 Q: The legal industry has seen many changes over the last decade. Which have you felt the impacts of most and how has Builden adapted?

 SG: Without a doubt, one of the most significant legal trends has been AI and its potential to transform the industry and Builden.

Builden was an early adopter of AI, and we are taking a “crawl-walk-run” approach as we incorporate this rapidly evolving tool into our content. Additionally, we are excited to be working with several clients on their AI initiatives. It is a tremendous tool for bolstering our everyday work, provided it is used in a thoughtful and measured way.

 Q: Was there an instance where Builden needed to pivot and what lessons were learned from that experience? 

 JB: Long-time Builden fans will remember that we were not always called Builden. We were founded as The Brumbaugh Group in 2014. But as our team grew, I saw that having a company with my last name hindered our talented team because clients prefer working with the person whose name is on the door. We needed to change the name to change the narrative, allowing our team to build relationships and make recommendations, all while clients continued to receive top-tier service. I expected more of a lingering attachment to “The Brumbaugh Group,” but the moment we became Builden, it felt as if it had always been that way.

It is interesting to have witnessed this shift since we changed our name. In the past, when clients reached out with a question, they said: “What does Brumbaugh think about this?” It was comically unclear whether they were addressing the whole company or giving me a college-style shoutout. Now, when we receive emails that read, “What does Builden think about this?”, it warms my heart because they are asking for the collective wisdom of everyone here, and that is how we continue to solve problems for our clients – as a whole.

 Q: Are there any insights you would share with someone new to the legal marketing world?

 SG: The advice I received nearly 20 years ago stays with me today: meet as many people as you can; ask questions; and try as many different areas of the industry as possible to find what interests you. Then, when you feel comfortable, learn something new.

This industry is always evolving, and new opportunities arise constantly. So, make the most of what you learn and keep learning! Like many folks, when I began my career, I didn’t know the ins and outs of legal marketing. But, with new technologies and the ever-changing nature of the industry, marketers have ample opportunity to learn new skills.

 Q: How has Builden’s approach towards professional and team development evolved?

 JB: Team development and professional development are cornerstones of this company. Continuing education and career growth is a fundamental priority – even before Builden. In 2007, I started the Legal and Professional Services Council (LPSC). I saw that the legal marketing community in Chicago needed a leadership-focused trade group that presented programming that would speak to marketing managers, directors and CMOs; allow them to meet their peers; and give them access to hear from their colleagues throughout the legal industry and in other industries about best practices. This, of course, has evolved, and we closed the doors at LPSC a few years ago to focus on the Builden team.

Professional development underscores everything that we do at Builden. We weave the themes of professional and team development into our daily routines, including allowing team members to present key learnings during meetings.

We aim to grow the team as a whole and support growth of each team member individually. For example, we set biannual goals for everyone to discuss their professional aspirations – both at Builden and beyond. It is important to understand how I can best promote my team members’ professional careers, and not just during the wonderful time they are with Builden.

 Q: As Builden celebrates its 10th anniversary, what are your aspirations for the next decade?

 JB: As we look ahead to the future, we continue to build our brand. The past decade has been remarkable as we have set the foundation for how Builden operates. This groundwork sets the stage for an exciting decade with clear direction as we expand the value we offer our clients.

The statistics on companies that fail after the first five years are staggering, and I am grateful for the opportunity to tell the world we turn 10 this year. My goal is for law firms who do not know what “a Builden” is will see how we have become a trusted partner in process-driven marketing within the legal industry.

 SG: Ten years is just the beginning! I am excited for Builden to continue to evolve as a company. Our aspirations include team growth and client growth, but I am most looking forward to new ways we can offer support to our law firm clients.

Reflecting on the Builden team, I look forward to mentoring the next generation of legal marketers and watching them make their mark on this industry.

To our clients, partners and the dedicated Builden team, thank you for being an integral part of this journey.

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