Experienced Legal Marketer Nancy Kostakos Joins Troutman Pepper as Chief Marketing Officer
Last week Troutman Pepper announced Nancy Kostakos was selected as the firm’s Chief Marketing Officer. Kostakos brings a wealth of experience to her new role at Troutman Pepper, having worked in legal marketing roles at a variety of AM Law 100 firms.
Troutman Sanders and Pepper Hamilton became Troutman Pepper on July 1, 2020, with 1,100 attorneys across 23 cities. The merger was originally planned for April 1, but was pushed back due to COVID-19.
A challenge for Kostakos is showcasing Troutman Pepper’s shared core values and commitment to client care. As the head of the firm’s marketing efforts, Kostakos plays a vital role as the firm continues the integration process. Previously, Kostakos was a key player in the merger of Hale and Dorr and Wilmer Cutler Pickering, when she was the director of marketing at WilmerHale.
Kostakos was kind enough to take some time out of her busy week to answer a few questions for the National Law Review regarding her new role, the challenges of navigating an integration during a global pandemic, and the emerging and impactful role of virtual events in legal marketing.
We are living in interesting times--what do you see as the major challenges to legal marketers and law firms during COVID-19?
Well, for the most part, we are facing the same challenges that many others are facing. The good news is that we can effectively continue to serve our clients remotely without disruption, but the lack of in-person connection with colleagues and clients, which is so essential to building trust and loyalty, is certainly a considerable challenge. In some ways, the pandemic has forced us to quickly adopt more effective approaches to connecting with clients that many may have resisted prior to the pandemic. For example, planning an in-person thought leadership event used to take us three months or more, whereas we can plan a virtual webinar event in three days. This means we are actually more timely and impactful in our delivery of client-centric value-added content. But the one-on-one relationship building, particularly with new prospective clients, is more challenging.
You’ve been involved in a law firm merger and integration efforts in your role at Wilmer Hale, so you have some experience as to what to expect during a law firm merger. However, the situation with Troutman Pepper has the added wrinkle of a global pandemic! What do you anticipate as some of the challenges with building and communicating a firm culture when so many individuals are working remotely? How will your previous efforts assist in your work at Troutman Pepper? How do you plan to proceed in facing these unprecedented challenges?
Although the pandemic did lead to a decision to briefly delay the merger, it did not deter the two firms from closely collaborating throughout that extended period. In preparation for the original April 1 merger date, the firms had already invested in a number of joint in-person group meetings, and those relationships continued to flourish as we all dealt with the same challenges of adapting to remote work. By the time the merger happened on July 1, many of our teams had been working together for the better part of a year. Nevertheless, the inevitable wrinkles that come with major integrations would certainly be easier to handle if we could all be in one room together collaborating on solutions. Building a common culture is achieved through communication and connection, and it takes time and effort even in ideal circumstances. This is not impossible to achieve during a pandemic, but it does have to be more consciously prioritized as the more organic connections that come with traveling between offices, or simply walking the halls, are not happening right now.
How have law firm marketing strategies changed to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic? How does this compare to how you’ve seen law firm marketing change over the course of your career?
The biggest change is the inability to host and attend in-person meetings and events. But we have found ways to pivot and create engaging virtual events that are filling that void. New platforms are appearing that allow us to mimic a conference experience, with main session, breakout sessions and one-on-one sessions happening over the course of a set period. Necessity is the mother of invention, and we have also had a lot of fun trying out virtual social events and activities with our clients. In terms of how this compares to how law firm marketing has changed over the course of my career, I would say it’s just another example of how we need to constantly be agile and creative in order to engage effectively with clients and prospects. The exciting thing about legal marketing is that it has gotten increasingly sophisticated year after year. It was basic nuts and bolts 23 years ago, and now it’s multi-channel, integrated campaigns, and data-driven targeting. These circumstances have given us new ways to be innovative and competitive that I think will be long-lasting. I do think that the quick and universal adoption of virtual events will have a long-lasting effect. We certainly look forward to going back to in-person events as there is truly no real substitute for creating new relationships and strengthening existing relationships, but our lawyers have learned that we can deliver great content faster with virtual events, which in many cases is more valuable to clients than a delayed in-person event.
We very much appreciate Nancy Kostakos taking the time to answer our questions, and we wish her luck as she takes on her new challenge.