Serena Simmons has been chief marketing officer alongside US-based counterpart Jolene Overbeck since Lovells combined with Hogan & Hartson in 2010. Prior to joining Lovells in 2006, Simmons was head of business development in the sectors of finance and capital markets at Clifford Chance.
Please describe the key elements of your role
I see the BD function as having three primary responsibilities. First, it’s to help drive revenue growth both in the short and the long term. Second, it’s building Hogan Lovells’ profile and brand strength. And thirdly it’s about helping lawyers become more effective business developers. Underlying these three areas involves a wide range of activities – from strategic planning and developing key relationships through to directory submissions and training sessions. My job is to work out what’s needed and then to make it happen.
How has your role changed during your time at the firm?
Most of the key ingredients of the job are the same, even though priorities and programmes evolve. Jolene and I work together on global plans and programmes and these need to work across the firm’s different geographic markets and cultures.
What are currently the most significant external issues that have an impact on your role?
Tough market conditions and economic uncertainty are having an impact in a number of ways. Clients are understandably concerned about pricing – they want more flexibility from us and more certainty for them, and they want us to add value to their businesses. This is a very important area of focus. The wider shifts in the global economy, however, are the changes which have a significant long-term impact on all global law firms – and we’re very alert to this.
What impact if any are the structural changes to the legal market having on your firm and your role?
The global competitive landscape is changing pretty fast, and will go on changing. We have to keep close to what is happening, assess the likely impact and what it means for us. We’ve been part of those changes ourselves and that’s shaping our marketing programmes.
What’s currently in your in-tray?
We’ve recently completed a large-scale global client survey. Overall the results were excellent and really endorsed the firm and our approach. But there are also things that we can do better to meet clients’ evolving needs. So my priority is sharing the survey findings and putting in place an action programme. That’s on top of the pile – but it’s quite a deep in-tray.
What problem would you most like technology to solve?
The technology is there to solve most of my problems. It’s just a question of time and cost.
How many people do you have in your core team and who are they?
I have a very simple structure with two functional heads (corporate communications and clients and markets) based in London and two regional heads (continental Europe and Asia). Below them is a small group of senior managers who lead major areas of work such as client development, marketing campaigns or one of the larger practice groups.
Who do you report to?
The co-CEOs, David Harris and Warren Gorrell.
What’s the most important lesson your role has taught you?
It’s all about people. With the right people you can achieve anything and, equally, the wrong people can seriously slow things down. I’m lucky in that I have an outstanding senior team and great people throughout the department internationally who are close to the business and make a really valuable contribution.
Firm facts (from UK 200 2012)
Equity partners: 520
Net profit: £379m
Average profit per equity partner: 729,000
Getting the job done
I believe that marketing and business development needs to be close to the business. To do the best possible job, people need to understand the practice and build strong relationships with the lawyers they support. So most of the team is embedded in our practice areas, industry sectors and in our offices internationally.