Despina Kartson joined US firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius as chief business development officer in 2013. She was previously Latham & Watkins’ chief marketing officer.
What’s the biggest misconception about business development?
That it’s easy and comes naturally. In fact, it takes training and discipline and a programmatic approach, along with support systems and technology, to be successful. Also, while it feels huge to many lawyers, smart approaches can be done in small steps every day.
What would be your advice to graduates wanting to go into this area?
Bring to the profession a range of experiences that includes many aspects of legal marketing. Come prepared to work hard, think about others and learn something new every day. For example, I have held positions in technology, litigation support, business development, sales, journalism and published two books. I was also a paralegal for several years, helping me develop a solid understanding of how the legal profession works. My current position is a culmination of all of these areas in which I have worked and those that I really enjoy and I get to use this knowledge every day.
What’s your greatest career lesson and why?
It’s critical to surround yourself with the most talented people who challenge, produce excellent deliverables and are creative thinkers. Then you end up with the best work product.
If you weren’t doing this what else would you be doing?
I’d be a journalist because I enjoy a fast-paced environment and I enjoy meeting interesting people from a wide-ranging demographic. I also have an interest in the changes affecting the world at large and the people who make things happen.
What are the main challenges of your role?
Balancing all the competing demands and figuring out how to stay ahead of and adapt to the changing legal profession. Additional challenges are maintaining a strategic approach to the very complex legal market place and making sure that my team is always adding value to the lawyers we support, being proactive and putting forth compelling and innovative ideas.
What are the main challenges for a US firm in London?
Firms need to continue to find ways to stand out and differentiate themselves. They can do so by leveraging talented lawyers with a diverse set of backgrounds who can best serve the array of companies that conduct business in London.
How has it changed during your time at the firm?
Business development and marketing staff are playing an increasingly integral part in business generation. We need to help each lawyer optimise his or her ability to develop valuable relationships that can lead to business and stellar client service.
What’s your favourite time of day?
Very early morning. I like the peace and quiet and the time to get things done and plan for the day ahead.
Have you introduced any unusual schemes to improve BD?
Implemented a business development training programme for lawyers.