Q&A: Meet Jeanne Hammerstrom, Class of 2014
For more than 20 years, Jeanne Hammerstrom has helped and prodded her organizations to thrive through creative and sustained leadership. Beginning in 1994 at Tucker Arensberg in Pittsburgh, and now serving at Benesch in Cleveland, Jeanne has consistently developed winning communications, marketing, and business development strategies. She has also brought her talents to her firm’s Executive Committee, Strategic Growth Committee, Client Service Committee, and Diversity and Inclusion Committee. And she “gets” law practice management – especially as it relates to the firm’s growth opportunities, including lateral hiring and law firm combinations. She works with the firm’s leadership to identify practice group hiring needs and opportunities for expansion in various core groups and geographic markets. And most importantly, she shares all this experience beyond the confines of her firm.
Chief Marketing and Recruiting Officer
Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Fairview Park, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland); raised in Pittsburgh and ended up returning to the Cleveland area 40 years later to take my current position. Sorry, I still wave the black and gold banner for the Steelers. However I am enjoying the Cavaliers!
What’s your favorite thing to do away from work?
When I’m away from work I like to read, listen to music and be with my family, including my two dogs…and of course, drink good wine. I work out regularly, but more out of necessity than my favorite thing to do.
What achievement outside of work makes you most proud?
Of course my beautiful, talented, intelligent, caring daughters are my proudest work (Hayley, 18 and Leah, 17). But I also think I’ve made a difference in mentoring younger legal marketing professionals over the last 25+ years who are now high-achieving, successful leaders at their current firms and even outside the industry.
Did you choose your career or did it choose you?
It chose me. I started in a law firm as a receptionist after graduating from college, advanced to being a legal secretary, and then moved into administration.
A little of both. I actually worked as a secretary for a large law firm in Pittsburgh during my summers of college (by the way, I was not very good, and to this day can’t figure out why they always asked me to return other than I’d fill in at desks where nobody else would).* After graduating college, I worked in southern Florida in the marketing communications department of a large healthcare system. I then returned to Pittsburgh to continue in the same industry. One day, I came across an advertisement in the PRSA newsletter for a law firm marketing and recruiting coordinator. I applied, ended up getting the job, and have been in the industry since 1989.
*Note 18 years later I was the CMO of that law firm!
Who was your mentor and what made him or her so influential?
I’ve had several over the years. I gained confidence about my ability to do whatever they assumed I could, learned about the business side of the practice of law, and learned a lot about people and leadership.
I have had some great mentors and others who I didn’t think were my mentor, but taught me valuable lessons in his/her own way. As I entered the law firm world, the Partner-in- Charge of Marketing and the Partner-in-Charge of Recruiting really took the time to help me understand not only the practice areas of the firm, but how to network and relate to people both inside and outside the firm. They encouraged me to develop professionally by attending events and conferences. Even when I fell down on some projects, they used those as personal and professional lessons. They were phenomenal practitioners (both had some of the largest client relationships in the firm), but also fabulous teachers and counselors. I still regularly seek counsel from the Partner-in-Charge of Marketing when making big decisions related to my career and this industry.
Outside of the workplace, my mother is the one who instilled my values and work ethic.
What is the most vivid moment or experience in your career?
I’ve had several, including being well received as a speaker, achieving ALA’s “Spirit of ALA” award and the Puget Sound Chapter’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.”
Probably the Legal Marketing Association Annual Conferences in 2009 and 2011. In 2009, I was the annual conference co-chair in Washington, D.C., and had the pleasure of meeting or introducing speakers like Mary Matalin, James Carville and Ariana Huffington. In 2011, as President of the LMA, I stood in front of a filled ballroom at the Yacht Club at the Disney Resort in Orlando, FL to deliver the opening remarks — exhilarating, and at the same time very humbling.
Of the law-related projects or initiatives you’ve worked on in the past year or so, what has you the most excited or shows the most promise?
I’ve experienced two years of dealing with a sea change in management at my firm and am still working toward the “promise” part.
We implemented a succession plan over the last year or so and a new, young, aggressive Managing Partner was elected in the beginning of this year. His focus is on working as a team, both internally and externally. We also hired a Director of Project Management who is implementing this throughout the firm for efficient and effective delivery of service to our clients and increased predictability of budgets and staffing.
What is the most engaging law-related thing you’re doing right now?
Mentoring the next generation of firm leadership.
We are embarking on a new strategic plan at our firm. I am working closely with my Managing Partner and Executive Committee on implementing the plan which includes a strong focus on innovation, client service/delivery, growth and collaboration. As everyone knows, the legal industry is changing daily, if not twice a day! Figuring out that competitive advantage and ways to maintain clients and grow top line are really essential. It’s not the same ol’ industry I started in 26 years ago.
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