Ep 003 – BD’s role in building relationships with clients and forging partnerships with member organisations

Adriana Giometti
Chief Marketing & Corporate Relations Officer
Holman Webb


Show Notes

In this episode, Rob Patterson of Parkins Lane and Paul Evans of Toro Digital are joined by Adriana Giometti, Chief Marketing & Corporate Relations Officer at Holman Webb.

We discuss:

  • Business Development professionals can add value to client relationships by providing a more holistic perspective to a business’ challenges and opportunities.
  • Coaching younger lawyers in networking, building relationships and building an entrepreneurial spirit.
  • How to get the most out of building partnerships with member organisations.
  • Negotiating bespoke sponsorship agreements that help both your law firm and a membership group. 

Resources mentioned:

Connect with Adriana:  


Adriana Giometti: We sit down and collaborate and work together on a program that will allow my lawyers to have access to the members. What events are we going to be involved in? What education programs can we run for your members? How do we get your members in our doors, so they feel really comfortable with the home and web brand?

Voiceover: Welcome to Professionally Challenged, war stories from leaders driving change in law firms. Your hosts are Rob Patterson of Parkins Lane Consulting Group and Paul Evans of Turo Digital.

Paul Evans: On today’s episode of Professionally Challenged, we’re chatting with Adriana Giomettii, the chief marketing and corporate relations officer of Holman Webb. Adriana has been with the firm for five years and comes from a very interesting background, including being a commissioning editor with the Thomson Reuters Group and a publisher with CCH Australia. She was also a tax lawyer with Hall and Wilcox, a tax consultant with EY, and prior to joining Holman Webb, Adriana was the director of marketing and BD at Curwood’s Lawyers and the director of marketing and HR at Wotton and Kearney. So to kick off, Adriana, can you please tell us a bit about Holman Webb and your role at the firm?

Adriana Giometti: Yeah, so Holman Webb, it’s pretty much a mid tier firm. We have offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and Brisbane. And I think it’s just a little bit of a unique firm in the sense that around 60% of our partners have all been in house. So you’ll find that the way that we advise clients has a distinct commercial flavor.

Adriana Giometti: I’ve sat in meetings with our partners and heard them ask questions of clients that I’ve never heard lawyers ask before. And that’s only come about because they’ve been in a corporate, they’ve been in house and understood some of the real, you know, difficulties and challenges you face when you’ve actually been in house.

Adriana Giometti: And that gets passed down to all our junior lawyers. So they’re getting trained in a very unique way. And my role here is to assist the partners in maintaining great relationships with their clients and also finding strategic ways to develop new business.

Paul Evans: What do you see as the future of marketing and BD in the legal profession?

Adriana Giometti: I think in the future we’ll see a lot more BD people going up with lawyers.

Paul Evans: So becoming client facing?

Adriana Giometti: A lot more client facing. I think that’s already starting. But really I think it’s just going to end up becoming the way we do business. Do I think it will essentially move to a … we will move to a space where we just have business developers going out and bringing business? I’m not sure that’s the future.

Adriana Giometti: You know really, it’s very technical, the information that we need to understand, and if you have a lawyer that’s also a business developer at the same time, they’ve worked in the, in the legal sector in that particular field and then they become a business developer, maybe?

Paul Evans: Yeah.

Adriana Giometti: You could probably go out and be solo client facing. But to come in as a business development professional that’s worked in other sectors, I think it’s a bit challenging. It’s very, very, you know, you need to have a law degree to be discussing a lot of the information that you’re going to be discussing with clients. So there’ll always be a requirement for your lawyer to be there with you.

Paul Evans: So what value then can someone who doesn’t have a law degree bring to the table do you think?

Adriana Giometti: Well, I think even just the fact that we’re particularly trained in behavior, we’ve definitely got a high IQ as a result of that. You know, we have the ability to … even the fact that we’re going out with the solicitor gives them some level of comfort.

Adriana Giometti: They’ll know that when they’re going to that meeting, we’re going to ensure that the dynamic is there. We’ll make sure the energy’s right. You know, we just lift, lift the conversation. And we also have got the ability to discuss other aspects of the, of the business. So often-

Paul Evans: Different opportunities …

Adriana Giometti: Yeah. Because a lot, often solicitors will go in and discuss their particular practice area and the client will be discussing challenges and issues that they’re facing and they’ll forget to say, “Oh that’s great. Well we actually have a workplace relations team as well that can …”, so the cross sell doesn’t happen as often when a solicitor’s going in on their own. You’ll find that cross sell would take place when they’ve got a BD person with them.

Paul Evans: Yep. So, so the BD person almost helps triage-

Adriana Giometti: Correct.

Paul Evans: … the client’s needs.

Adriana Giometti: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. And I think also the, the BD person’s better at promoting the firm and promoting the lawyer themselves. I mean, it’s very uncomfortable as a solicitor to sit there discussing how great you are. It’s a lot easier when you have your business developer there next to you doing it for you.

Paul Evans: Yeah. And would the, as a BD person, would you be doing some of the research and some of the preparation work to sort of prep the lawyer?

Adriana Giometti: Yeah, yeah. Let them work on the billables and you know, we’ll, we’ll worry about that side of business and then you brief them on everything and go out and see the client, potential client.

Paul Evans: Okay. And do you have like an after action review, would you then sit down when you get back to the office and sort of debrief with the lawyer?

Adriana Giometti: That’s absolutely what you would do and then work out strategically what you’ll be doing next?

Paul Evans: Yeah. Well that’s a good approach. That’s a really important [inaudible 00:05:54] though, isn’t it? Because, as you point out, and the lawyers are remunerated around their specialty or their area of law. So yeah, so that’s strategic approach. Someone having an overarching view, okay, where to from here and it might be in that discreet area of law but it may well also bringing other people in to collaborate around it.

Adriana Giometti: And that’s exactly what we found. I mean I’ve been to meetings and come back and the lawyer I went with didn’t receive any word been but another group did, and you know, it’s all, you know, we all work for the same firm and there’s no real solos here, either. So we, you know, everyone’s helping each other build their business.

Paul Evans: Yeah. And you have a law degree. So do you think in the, in the spirit of candor, do you think that that is a, is it an advantage when you are going out with lawyers to see clients or in house counsel or …

Adriana Giometti: Yeah. I think it helps. I think it does lend itself to lawyers feeling a lot more comfortable with you going out with him. And you know, the other thing is I would … everything that I asked the lawyers to do here, I’ve done myself. I was a big business developer when I was a tax lawyer and liked it so much that I began as a business development specialist, but you know, I would never ask them to do something I haven’t done already.

Paul Evans: Yeah. How would you compare, say the approach that Ernst and Young, a chartered accounting firm with say Holman Webb or Hall and Wilcox or another law firm? Is there a fundamental difference in approach in terms of business development?

Adriana Giometti: Yeah, I think the accounting firms are definitely more progressive, especially the big ones. They’re the leaders, we would say, in business development. We’re following suit.

Adriana Giometti: The legal profession is probably catching up quicker than it has in the past, but it’s about changing mindsets and it’s about, you know, leadership from the top.

Adriana Giometti: If you have someone leading from the top that’s promoting a strong business development culture amongst the firm, you’ll find that business developers are given the opportunity to show how they can really add value to the business. I think that’s what we’ve found.

Adriana Giometti: I found working at Holman Webb was that from the beginning there was a belief that business development’s really important and you know, we trust you and we’re going to follow your suit. So help us out. And it’s worked pretty well for us.

Adriana Giometti: You know, I’ve been here a really long time. Turnover’s normally 18 months I think in my role but not my particular role. Sorry. In my profession. And you know I’ve been, we’ve been here for a long time and I think it’s a testament to the firm and its culture and its, you know … the partners here give the executive team the ability to make decisions and to assist them moving into the future.

Paul Evans: It’s really interesting insight that, you know Paul and I were talking about this a bit earlier on, very often firms will come at growth from two different angles. There’s, you know, there’s, and there’s a few firms in this category that the, their main focus is clearly inorganic. You know, it’s more about mergers and lateral hires whereas other firms sounds, like your own, have got more of an organic approach. And that business development approach, which does require a very different mindset and certainly does require a lot of support from the managing partner or the CEO down.

Adriana Giometti: Yeah. Look, I think there’s a lot of disruption at the moment, and to be fair, I think you need to really focus on getting your rainmaker versus grinder type of scenario right. Because if you don’t have enough rainmakers and you’re not big enough, you’re probably going to have to merge.

Adriana Giometti: If your, you know, you’ve got that ratio right, you’re probably going to do okay, but there is such a desire and a need at the moment to have more rainmakers.

Adriana Giometti: What I love is watching the junior solicitors and how different they are to sort of that older generation of solicitors because they really open to business development. They’re really keen. They understand that marketing BD don’t just make documents look pretty, you know, there’s a real understanding there that we’re here to help drive your business. We’re here to help you create and develop your own practice.

Paul Evans: Brilliant. Okay. Do you think that in part might be through your recruitment as well? Is that something you would focus on as part of your recruitment?

Adriana Giometti: Yeah, I think partly focusing on the recruitment is really important. Some people just will never be a business development focused lawyer. They’re technically maybe brilliant and that’s, that’s their strength. But I think you need a balance of the two and I think you need a balance not only in partners, but you need a balance in the junior lawyers as well.

Paul Evans: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. That’s pretty cool. So it sounds like you also have a really important role in mentoring and coaching the lawyers, in terms of business development and marketing. Is that a fair call?

Adriana Giometti: Yeah, absolutely. That’s my favorite part.

Paul Evans: How do you, without giving away any trade secrets, what sort of things would you do with the lawyers? Do you, is it sort of separate breakout sessions or is it more learning on the job head?

Adriana Giometti: I think learning on their job is the best way to do it. You know, taking them to events with us. You know, my CFO, Magda and I, we often go and networking events for the firm and we’ve built quite a profile outside the firm as well. So that’s been really beneficial for us in terms of being in a position where we’re invited to good networking events and we can bring along our junior staff and we’ll often use that as an opportunity to, to, to sort of throw them into the fire. But you know, they learn pretty quickly.

Paul Evans: So you mentioned on the lawyers weekly podcast last year that if you don’t have an entrepreneurial spirit you probably need to find another job because you need to think like an entrepreneur to be a lawyer these days. Pretty bold statement.

Adriana Giometti: It is bold.

Paul Evans: Yeah, I agree.

Adriana Giometti: Great. Good. Yeah. Look, I think there is room for, like I said, some grinders but the majority will have to be rainmakers.

Paul Evans: But how do you see like, the marketing and BD team or even the whole shared services team helping them become more entrepreneurial?

Adriana Giometti: Well first of all, I think universities need to lift their game. I spent a lot of time when I was commissioning at Thomson Reuters and as a publisher at CCH dealing with all the law faculties and I didn’t see a heck of a lot of interest in teaching lawyers all the soft skills that they required. Things may have changed now, but certainly that wasn’t happening before. And I would often have solicitors say to me, “I didn’t become a lawyer to be a salesperson.”

Paul Evans: Yeah, I’ve heard that too.

Paul Evans: Haven’t we all.

Adriana Giometti: So all that needs to be factored in to … I think they should have a special subject called professional services marketing that you, it’s compulsory when you’re a, when you’re studying either accounting or for engineering.

Paul Evans: Yeah, great. Well, I guess there’s so many people that are coming through law school now that don’t become lawyers.

Adriana Giometti: Yeah. Exactly.

Paul Evans: Seems to be a growing trend, but …

Adriana Giometti: They can’t get jobs as lawyers, that’s all. So the reason I really am promoting an entrepreneurial spirit for solicitors is because it gives them freedom as well. If you’re unhappy in a law firm, you don’t really have much scope to move to another one if you don’t have a portable practice or if you don’t have a profitable practice you can take along with you or some really good clients you can take with you.

Adriana Giometti: So my recommendation would be to allow yourself to have that ability to move quite easily, build yourself a strong practice, and that will require you to have an entrepreneurial spirit.

Paul Evans: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Certainly mobility if, if, yeah, if you’re willing to be mobile, you certainly need to have a, a decent practice.

Adriana Giometti: And you know, when we are reviewing partners to join us from other firms, I’ll do a due diligence on their practice along with the CEO here and the, you know, we would get together and we, you know, the client side of their business will be assessed.

Paul Evans: Yeah. If there’s obvious sort of cross selling opportunities and yeah. Yep.

Paul Evans: So changing tack a bit, I’d love to get your thoughts on something. It’s pretty obvious from your website that you’ve spent a lot of time and it’s an important part of your marketing strategy. And that’s that you’ve built partnerships with other organizations.

Paul Evans: There are two that caught my eye were Holman Webb’s sponsorship agreements with the Association of Corporate Counsel and the Entrepreneurs Organization. Could you tell us a bit more about these?

Adriana Giometti: The Association of Corporate Counsel … you know, for us that’s our target market really, in house counsel and general counsel. So you know, working with the team at the ACC has been really beneficial for us.

Adriana Giometti: They have a really good understanding of what’s required to not only just be a partner, but to, to really grow our reach within to their membership base. So we’ve worked really closely with them on developing a program to get us more profile and more brand … increase our brand awareness amongst the general counsel.

Adriana Giometti: And then the Entrepreneurs Organization, again, it’s a similar thing, you know. That came along because one of our partners was in a tech group with someone that was in the EO. And they’re really exciting. There’s like, it’s a global network. There’s, you know, we’re, we pretty much look after the Sydney chapter, mostly and they’re just a very dynamic group of people.

Adriana Giometti: We have probably partnered with them the most in terms of really forming a strong bond where there’s an intense program happening. They have become almost a part of our, you know, we’ve become a part of their world. They’ve become part of ours. They’re quite clever in the sense that they understand how to track, very carefully, the return on our investment, which is obviously so important for me. And, and also they’re really good at inviting us to lots of types of events where we can have direct access to the members and build relationships with the members rather than just the people that work for the organization.

Adriana Giometti: And on top of that, they’ve also helped us form relationships with other strategic alliance partners.

Paul Evans: Yeah, okay. So such as?

Adriana Giometti: We have Commonwealth Bank on there, accounting firms, you know, there’s, there’s travel partners, there’s, yeah, there’s telecommunication companies on there. So it’s even, you know, automotive companies, you know, so, so it’s, it’s been an interesting ride with the, with the AAO.

Paul Evans: one of the things that often strikes me with law firms and sponsorships is that there’s often a very simplistic approach of, you know, riding out the chair, getting your logo on a brochure and, and then expecting a miracle to happen. I think it seems like you’ve got a much more sophisticated approach to sponsorships. How do you, is it a campaign or how do you create, or how do you make sure that you do get that return on investment?

Adriana Giometti: Yeah, so initially before the contract is signed and the money’s handed over, we sit down and collaborate and work together on a program that will allow my lawyers to have access to the members. What events are we going to be involved in? What education programs can we run for your members? How do we get your members in our doors?

Adriana Giometti: So they feel really comfortable with the Holman Webb brand. It’s somewhere where they just, they know where we are. They know that they can, they, they have different touch points within the organization to make them really sticky.

Paul Evans: So you, you negotiate the sponsorship package, you don’t just sort of take it as given your talk with them about it and sort of work it up with them?

Adriana Giometti: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s probably part of me having a legal background and having been a lawyer. I really do. I sit down and I negotiate fairly heavily with them and come up with a program that just works for both of us because, you know, I want my [inaudible 00:18:47] partners to be really comfortable that they’re receiving great value from us. Otherwise, you know, they can move on and go to another law firm as well.

Adriana Giometti: So there’s a lot that we … we give generously as a law firm and my, my partners here are, you know, sometimes a little too generous with their time, but you know, it works. It swings in roundabouts. We tend to, to have extremely loyal clientele and we’re really happy about that.

Paul Evans: Yeah, that’s a really great strategy. Alright, Rob, over to you, we have the lightning round.

Paul Evans: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?

Adriana Giometti: Well, I do recall working with someone who used to always say, “We’re not saving lives. We’re not saving lives.” And I’ll tell you what. That has worked. You know, that that piece of advice has taken me far in a and, and probably helped with my blood pressure on many occasions. So I always pass that onto my staff.

Paul Evans: If someone knew you really well, what is the one thing they would know about you that others would not?

Adriana Giometti: Well, that’s a tough one. I quite like McDonald’s. Oh, that shouldn’t be, I shouldn’t be admitting that. But also, Oh yeah. I’m probably something a little different. I, I’m really quite into my quantum physics. Yeah. Can’t get enough of it.

Paul Evans: Alright. Can you nominate another legal industry leader that you hold in great respect that you think we should have on this podcast?

Adriana Giometti: Yeah, I think Anna Lozynski. She’s the executive general counsel at L’Oreal and Anna’s just a real firecracker. She’s, she’s really pushing change in innovation, in the legal industry and she’s written a fantastic book. She’s certainly someone who I think would have lots of great pearls to tell everyone in your podcast.

Paul Evans: Cool, cool. If you could lead the marketing role for any company in the world other than Holman Webb, which would that be?

Adriana Giometti: That would be a the LMVH Group, so I could get lots of free handbags.

Paul Evans: Lots of Louis Vuitton.

Adriana Giometti: Lots of shoes and handbags. That’s pretty much it.

Paul Evans: And finally, if listeners want to connect with you, what’s the best way to get in touch?

Adriana Giometti: LinkedIn.

Paul Evans: LinkedIn?

Adriana Giometti: Definitely.

Rob Patterson: Well, thank you, Adriana. Some sensational advice there.

Adriana Giometti: Thanks for having me.

Voiceover: Thank you for listening to Professionally Challenged. Visit our website at www.professionallychallenged.com and please leave us a review on iTunes. Until next time. Bye for now.