Taryn:

Welcome everyone to another installment of LISI’s News+Views+To-Do’s, where we talk to legal industry professionals about what is going on in their world, how they see our industry-changing, and their opinion about those changes. And lastly, their advice for our audience. Today, I’m excited to talk to Kate Harry Shipham, the principal at KHS People. Welcome Kate, thanks so much for being on.

Kate:

Hi Taryn. Thanks so much for having me.

Taryn:

I was trying to remember this morning, how long it had been that I had known you and I couldn’t come up with a year. I was like, I feel like I’ve just known Kate, for like the entire time I’ve been in legal marketing, which has been a long time.

Kate:

It’s been a while. I think it has been close to eight years, nine years maybe.

Taryn:

Yeah, mine was about a decade. And so, Kate and I served on the LMA Midwest, I think Chapter before we were Regions, Board, which is how I really got to know her. ‘Cause we were in different cities. Like most things LMA, you meet people who live all over the country. In Kate’s case, Kate has lived all over the world or at least in other parts of the world. But the thing that I distinctly remember about serving on the board with you, and I probably served four or five years on the board with you is that you weren’t the most talkative person on the board, which is fine. ‘Cause there’s a lot of people and everybody has a lot to say, but when you spoke whatever you had to say, everyone stopped to listen because they knew that it would be important to the discussion and valuable. So that’s what I always tell people when I’m introducing you, is that when Kate speaks everyone stops to listen.

Kate:

Well, you’re too kind, it was probably just the accent. But I do try and be thoughtful. So thank you.

Taryn:

You’re Welcome. Before we jump into our questions, why don’t you tell us a little bit about KHS People and what you do for the legal industry, among other industries?

Kate:

Yes. So KHS People is an executive search firm. I work for law firms mostly, but also accounting firms and other professional services firms because they’re all the same. They share the same client issues, the same struggles, the same partnership, hierarchies, and politics. And my sweet spot is placing business development, marketing, client-focused, anything that falls under that big marketing umbrella at the senior end. I place those folks. So manager, senior manager, director, and all the variations of C level, that’s where I play. And once you get to that level, it’s a really cool thing to work with people like that, who know their stuff, they know how these things work, they’ve been around a little bit. So it’s a really, really fun place to play. Given what I do, I got involved in LMA, not long after I moved here from Australia back in 2012. I met Taryn shortly afterward, of course. And I’ve been involved in LMA, also the Accounting Marketing Association, the Architecture and Engineering Marketing Association, SMPS, for those of you who know it. I stuck my toe in LSSO, they’ve got some cool stuff going on. Legal Value Network, I hope I didn’t botch that. So there’s some really cool places out there but LMA is certainly one that I think most of us met at and still continue to see each other at.

Taryn:

Well, and that’s what I love about what you do and how you do it is that, to my point, you always have something thoughtful and valuable to say, it’s because you’re bringing so many different perspectives from other industries that those of us who have maybe been in legal, haven’t had the opportunity to see and not just other industries but also you’re really working with everyone at all levels in the legal marketing space. Since you’re working with legal marketers and law firms who hire legal marketers. So your perspective is very different than somebody who like who has maybe just been in house in a certain role, like moving through that progression.

Kate:

Right, it is a very unique and interesting perspective. Not a day goes by that I think I’ve learned everything I can, I could be done, I can say that I know everything. And that’s one of the coolest things about this job. You know, there’s things with, when I think about the law firms that I work for, they obviously like folks who have worked in law firms, but they also like folks who have worked in accounting firms because accounting marketers, typically come from the best practices. If you think of the big four and all of those places, but then they also have this really cool division of what an internal business developer or marketer is versus an external business developer in law firm speak. So they split that function out essentially into sales and then internal BD. Flipping that over, if someone has worked in a law firm and they go into an accounting firms as a marketer, they typically have this really resilient, determined, high intellectual capacity approach because they’ve worked in a law firm. So it goes in so many different directions that I never knew all of those little nuances until you really start getting into it. But it’s a really interesting place to be.

Taryn:

Well, let’s jump right into the questions. So our first question is, what news would you like to share?

Kate:

Yes. So some news that we’ve got coming up. Firstly, for those of you who’ve worked with me before you hopefully know that I like to listen to my clients, listen to my candidates who are also my clients. I can’t work with one without the other. What I’m hoping to do is get a couple of webinars going and we’ll sort of see how this progresses over time, dealing with the different perspectives of age. So if you think about the law firms or accounting firms that I worked for and some of the folks that I deal with in there, CMO, directors and so on and so forth, some of the HR folks, some of the partners, how I have conversations with them and how I manage their expectations. That’s very different to how I work with my other clients. Which is my wonderful network and all of the great people that I work with and place them inside firms. And definitely over the last six to 12 months, there’s common themes coming out and there’s common questions. So I wanna sort of get each of those groups of people together and I’m fine-tuning it at the moment and address some of those common things that I hear. And the other thing I also wanna share with you is, I do hear a lot about people wanting all sorts of data and information cut different ways in relation to salary. And salary, I think is such a discreet, confidential, sensitive topic. It’s changed a lot over the years, recent years with respect to all the salary history bans which I think is good for the profession. But there seems to never be enough information that you can have on that and communicate that to people. So I’m working on a way to have a quite simplified, to-the-point version of that, from different angles. I think that will be really interesting because particularly pre-pandemic, mid pandemic, post-pandemic. I’ve done a few surveys which touch on this but I think it will be interesting to dive in and sort of really getting to that in a bit more detail. So they’re the cool things I’ve got coming up. The other thing I’ll say and Taryn and I have joked about this is I am a working parent during a pandemic. So, news is tick off Thursday, tick off Friday. We got through that week. So I know all of the working parents out there particularly the moms will, that will resonate. So, it’s news to get through the week period successfully.

Taryn:

Hopefully, we are moving past that. But I love your idea about bringing everybody to the table and the unique perspective that you have as seeing both sides of it and then playing a role in bridging that gap.

Kate:

Yeah, that’s the aim to get each to understand a little bit more about the other perspective because it’s so easy to get stuck in just that, your lane, which is totally natural. So, but because of my unique position, I think I’ve got that opportunity to share a little over each side.

Taryn:

Well, and I liked the idea that it gives both sides an idea of what changes they might be able to make to improve their value. Because it’s, I’m assuming from your perspective, is much the law firm or accounting firm wanting to hire somebody and that candidate being the diamond in the rough, as much as that candidate wanting to find a place to work and to devote their time that is also a diamond in the rough. So I feel like we’re all kind of trying to figure out the best way to sell or market, whether it’s ourselves or our firms, depending on the role that we’re in. So that way we can find those good matches and that good alignment to make.

Kate:

Exactly, yeah, it’s so much, I feel like we say this a lot but it’s so much harder than it used to be. All of the things that come at a good candidate and everything that they’ve got to deal with on top of their life and their job. But then I think about the perspective of my clients and what they’re thinking about and where they get stuck and how I can help them. There’s a lot going on in that mixing pot. And if I can bring a little bit more insight to each, and share with each how I manage each, I think that will be helpful. It’s so natural just to get stuck in your lane and to do the things that you know how to do really well. A really simple example is, when firms can’t talk to candidates directly about salary and just how natural that conversation is for a firm to have because they have it every single day, they’re in it. But how confrontational that question might be for someone when they haven’t really had the opportunity to deal with that, you’re getting into offers, you’re getting to counteroffers, negotiation. There’s so many little pieces to that. So I’m looking forward to that. I think it’ll be a different angle and I’ll be interested to hear people’s feedback as to what more I can sort of expand on that.

Taryn:

Well, and I think it’s interesting as well, because to your second point about discussions around salary. Like as a candidate, it can be really hard to know exactly what you know is typical for a position, especially if you live in a smaller city or town or wherever because there’s just not as much data. So trying to find the comparisons can be a little difficult. Like I know I’m in Indianapolis. So the comparison to what is in Indianapolis might be different than what is in Chicago.

Kate:

Absolutely.

Taryn:

But we’re sometimes we’re all lumped as the Midwest. And so it’s hard to know like, am I getting a low ball offer, or is it because Chicago cost of living is pulling those numbers up and…

Kate:

Right, right. And it’s, you know, Chicago has, I think pulled its weight significantly. I’m in Chicago, and in terms of the quality of particularly the most senior roles in law firms and accounting firms so that has pulled the salary levels up. On top of that firms can only ask really about the expectation of salary. So there’s just so many more little things going on and Chicago now is pretty much on par with DC, New York, San Francisco, places like that, or I think still in their own world to some extent. But there’s a lot going on and someone who sits in a smaller firm in Chicago or a mid-sized firm in Indianapolis or in a large firm in the St. Louis Office, there’s all those little bits that kind of play on to salary and expectation and job responsibilities. So it’s fun. There’s always something to know.

Taryn:

Well, moving on to our next question, because I’m sure this is evolving and changing. But what do you see changing in the legal industry and what do you think the impact of that will be?

Kate:

I’ve been thinking about this a bit. There’s a lot of the conversations I’ve been having recently touched into this. And I think when I was kinda sorting my thoughts out on this, there’s three main things that are going on. And some are going to, I think, pass through quickly and some we’re going to have to deal with for some time. And I can talk about that as well. The first thing is, that I think the best way to put this is that there’s a greater honesty around what is the pressure of working particularly, in a law firm, because I think law firms are a little bit different to accounting firms in that, if you take out the big four accounting firms, at least for the purposes of this discussion, there’s ego, there’s politics. That’s a little more heightened in a law firm. It’s not to say it’s over-exaggerated, but we all work in places where…

Taryn:

My experience has been that there can be egos in any industry.

Kate:

Yes.

Taryn:

I encountered them in every single job I’ve had.

Kate:

It’s remarkable. And I’m a recovering attorney and I used to do litigation back in Australia. And some of the egos in litigation were fantastic. That you had these lawyers who love to essentially perform in a court. And it was incredible to watch the most intellectually capable people who can form an argument in two seconds. It was incredible. And with that, you get certain types of personalities. So I think for a long, long time, people put up with all of those things going on in a law firm. I read just this week, this really raw vulnerable article in the “American Lawyer,” by one of their own folks going through, having a baby during a pandemic, what that did to her, what that sort of told her about herself and her career. I feel like every other day I’m seeing something or I’m hearing a conversation about, it’s hard to work in particularly, in law firms and accounting firms are a close second. If you’re on the marketing and the BD side, you are choosing to work in a place that is not set up for a marketing or a business developer, it’s set up to do the business of law or the business of accounting. So, there’s just a difference in that. And some people, I think deal with that information better than others. So I think it’s a conversation that has opened up a lot. And we’re in May, we’re in Mental Health Awareness Month. I’ve been asking a lot of questions about, what that means for people at the moment. So that conversation, I think is much more open. I’m seeing people being very vulnerable in telling their story. So I think that’s a very good place for the legal profession to be in at the moment. The second thing I’ll say is we’re hearing a lot, obviously about from leaderships, women in law, diversity in law. Over the next, I would say sort of five, maybe 10 years out we have got the opportunity to say all of these different types of leaderships come in and how that’s going to affect the legal profession. So many folks are doing their succession planning and there’s a lot of change that’s going to happen right at those top levels. But also in the C levels, the business roles in law. That’s gonna change law firms dramatically. They already have fierce competition from all angles. So, but if the legal profession has taught us anything over the last year, it is that they can change quickly. We’re all a little bit surprised about that, but I’m incredibly proud as well to watch them do what they had to do when they really do get a lot of criticism about moving slowly. I think that leadership change will be something that we won’t see the effects of for another kind of 15, 20 years, unfortunately. But that’s going to be really interesting to watch and just how that impacts the culture down. I was watching Jennifer Smuts’ conversation with you guys and her angle and her article and this protective nature that women, the senior women in law firms typically took on. It’s fascinating how that’s playing out and how that will continue to play out. And thirdly, and lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it’s the way we work. Obviously, we have all changed that significantly. And I know during the week I, what was I doing? I was listening to a webinar. I was running some errands. I was responding on email. All these really cool ways that we can work that we probably would have felt a little bit guilty about before COVID hit. So some of my clients have sort of very much in the back of it. We wanna get back into the office. We wanna get people back to working the way that they used to. Other clients, productivity has not suffered. This is going well, let’s keep exploring this. And that’s, let’s have one or two days a week at home, the rest of it in the office, and let’s see how that goes. So that I think is going to come to a head quicker. But it’s a really cool space particularly for marketers who have been asking for more flexible arrangements for some time.

Taryn:

That is, I’ve said this before. I think, a lot of really negative things of course have come out of everything we’ve been through the last 15 months. Global pandemic, changes to how we’ve worked, to your point earlier, how much more difficult it is when you’re working from home and the rest of your life, your family, your kids, when they’re all there. But I am excited to see what changes we were forced to implement that ended up becoming part of the greater good, part of what people had been asking for, a part of what candidates were looking for in employers. What sticks around to hopefully find a better middle ground between what everyone wanted and what’s actually needed to get the job done at the end of the day.

Kate:

Yeah. And I think there’s a, and this sort of ties in with the first point that there’s an empathy, there’s a grace, there’s a human element that has definitely come out. The amount of times that my toddler has flown into an important meeting that I’m on or my cat’s tail goes across the screen, the nanny walks behind. All these things, we all know it. And everyone has so much more understanding about it. I think I personally would have felt a little bit embarrassed if that had happened before, but COVID has just allowed everyone to do that really nicely. And I think people have gotten to know people so much better as a result. And that’s really cool.

Taryn:

Yeah, that was always one of my big things when I was working with attorneys. Like I wanted to know, do you have kids? Like, what are they doing? So I can go in their office and not just be like, all right, boom, boom, boom. Which of course I know some attorneys want, some people want. But also like you’re a person, like, how’s it going? Did your kid win his baseball game, like whatever. And this has definitely changed those conversations ’cause it’s right there. And no one is immune to their dog barking like crazy because a squirrel ran past or their kid coming in like, oh crap I didn’t realize you were on a call.

Kate:

We have all been there. And I’ll continue to share those stories ’cause it helps.

Taryn:

Well, you went through three points, some of what you have alluded to would take a long time to see change. But is there anything else that you think should change in the industry, but will take longer than we would like it to or longer than it should, maybe?

Kate:

I mean, the leadership piece I think is the one that keeps me up a little bit at night in terms of that I think there’s a whole lot of change that should happen and needs to happen. Just in terms of different people’s positions, the business of law, how that’s playing out. You’ve got all these business MBA folks in there now, all of that, but you know on a more serious note, the women at the top of these law firms. Diversity at the top of these law firms. That is changing but because so many women have stepped back during COVID, a sort of a phenomenon that’s quite interesting to me, that I think is going to be prolonged. And I think we’ve taken a step back where we should have really tried to take two steps forward, three steps forward. So I think it’s there, but it’s not going to change in the short-term or as quickly as we would all like. I do think it’s encouraging that I feel more women, I hear more women talking about, what their struggles are, how they’re dealing with things. And I think that’s encouraging and we need those people to be able to really continue to lean in and stepping into their firms. Have the support that they need. Perhaps there is a slightly different path as Jennifer Smuts was talking about with women in law firms and men in law firms and the path to partnership. I think we’re going to have to figure that out over the next little while, and that’s not going to be easy. It’s a sensitive topic. And I think if I had all the answers to that and could change it more quickly, I would love to, but I don’t think that’s going to happen quickly or as quickly as we’d like.

Taryn:

Do you think we’re getting the tools, we’re starting to develop the tools, we’re starting to get glimpses into what could be as we’re moving out of this pandemic into whatever our new normal, which isn’t my favorite phrase, like new normal will be. I definitely see your point about the steps back that we’ve taken, but do you think any of what we’ve learned about how to work remotely or how teams function or being more open and honest about who we are and what’s going on in our lives will help expedite some of it on the backend?

Kate:

I think so. It has to, it’s such a human element that has been exposed. I think some of my clients are particularly good at looking to their teams and saying, all right, I can see this person is struggling, I can see these three people over here are really starting to approach burnout. The thoughtfulness around that, and therefore the leadership that those female CMOs I’m thinking of have displayed I think is amazing and should continue to happen. I mean, I see those amazing stories from all different types of people, not just women, of course. But there’s something very encouraging, particularly, I think that the younger generations coming up particularly some of the younger females working their way up in little firms, I’d like to be able to see that. I remember years ago when I was still back in Australia, practicing law, and I went to a seminar with there were law firm partners and all females, there was a female judge, a managing female partner of a law firm. And the topic was, can women have it all in law firms? And I walked out entirely depressed because these women were being so brutally honest about you can, but not all at the same time and not all right. And I remember thinking, well, that wasn’t helpful. But now on reflection, I probably didn’t have the maturity to fully appreciate what they were talking about. They were trying to really sort of say, Hey, these are the struggles, and these are the things that we have to deal with and you can have it all but all at the same time is very very tough.

Taryn:

I mean, I do appreciate, they were at least being honest about it and not being like, oh, nope, you’re good, you got this

Kate:

Honesty is good. But that type of leadership and women in particular saying, I won’t be in the office this afternoon from three onwards because I have this thing with one of my children. I’d like to see that happen a little bit more. I think men naturally feel a little bit more empowered to say those things and good for them. I certainly try and follow that lead. So that would be a nice piece to see change.

Taryn:

Well, on that topic, what advice would you like to share for our audience?

Kate:

One of the biggest things and the most probably concerning things I’m hearing at the moment is the rights that people are working. Both instead of that really kind of critical, manager, senior manager level, but then also, for all the CMOs and the directors out there who are managing teams of people, as well as everything else in between, I don’t envy them for doing that. That there’s a lot of burnout. There’s a lot of people who are so heavily fatigued by their job because it’s busy and it’s important but also obviously the last year and everything that’s come with that. And I wanna remind people that that is okay. It’s okay to feel that overwhelming-ness, sorry that overwhelmed sense of tiredness, that exhaustion, that I’ve just got to get through the next couple of hours. Unfortunately, you’re not alone. The bad feelings that you’re feeling that the good thing is that this is really, really common. And so the folks who are sort of feeling that do take some time to put some steps into place to think, okay, how am I going to relax this weekend? How am I gonna check out completely? What will I do differently next week to sort of make sure I don’t get to the end of the week feeling so exhausted? What conversations can I have with my boss, my team, my peers, my juniors, my partners to let them know that I just need to, I can’t say yes to everything right now, even though I’d love to. So that’s sort of my message to those people. And then taking the other side of it and talking to the folks that are managing teams, the HR professionals who are trying to get people into their teams. Just take a deep breath. These things will all fall into place. It is a very tough job to manage people, to keep them happy, and to be thinking about them all the time. Along with obviously trying to keep your partners happy and everyone else in between. The HR folks who have got open roles who can’t fill them quick enough. There’s only so many hours in the day and we can only do so much. So just remember to give yourself a little bit of grace, take a deep breath and know your limits because everyone is feeling it right now. And when I did the surveys last year, which covered some burnout, some of the data that came out of that was really alarming. So I try and encourage people to think about that. And again, May being the month that it is with mental awareness month, it’s a really important topic that we’ve got to keep at the forefront of our minds.

Taryn:

That is excellent advice, I agree. I feel like we’re hearing it, from everywhere not just in our industry, but everybody kind of trying to figure out where their limits are and where they need to scale back or what changes they need to make or how they prioritize things.

Kate:

And there’s no easy answer.

Taryn:

And we’ve talked about, there being a lot of good things to come out of it, but like a lot of bad things too, like, your office is always there. You can never leave it when it is your dining room table or your couch or wherever it is that you’re working. So I know I sometimes feel that too. I’ll be like, Oh, ping on my computer. And I have to take a step back and be like, no, I’m like making dinner and talking to my kids. And whatever it is can wait until tonight or tomorrow morning.

Kate:

Exactly. Very few things are genuinely urgent, but then you need to drop everything. There are things of course, but know when are the moments that you just need to step back and have a bit of a break, talk to your children, talk to your husband, wife, partner whoever. We have this little rule at night where we leave our phones downstairs. We’ve got the Google phone, so if a turn it over, it doesn’t have any notifications, it doesn’t ring. Phones downstairs, it’s such a good system. So little ways like that that you can incorporate definitely do it.

Taryn:

Well Kate, thank you so much for being on. I appreciate you sharing your perspectives ’cause you bring a very different perspective since you work with both legal marketers and law firm clients. So I appreciate that. Thanks for being on LISI’s News+Views+To-Dos, and we will be back with another edition of this shortly. Thank you.

Kate:

Thanks for having me.