Chris Hinze - Leaders with Ambition

Leaders with Ambition - Chris Hinze

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​Chris Hinze, our guest on this episode of the Leaders With Ambition podcast, has found at Steptoe & Johnson LLP the perfect platform to showcase a collection of skill sets developed over the course of a uniquely varied, challenging and successful career.

As the Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer, he brings to the mix a deep understanding of global communications, brand messaging, team building, strategic sales and, most recently, research and information.

He tells host Nicky Acuna Ocana: “I really enjoy the intellectual challenge and rigour of working with smart professionals and bringing my particular skill sets to the table.”

Chris shares thoughts on what it’s like to navigate through a massively complex (and seamlessly executed) professional services merger, the catastrophic collapse of a legal network and even the painful loss of an associate caught in a terrorist attack.

In this podcast you’ll learn how Chris uncovered his gift for communications and the ability to read people and situations, starting as a young student at Oxford and continuing to this day in his work building cultural bridges between Partners and staff in London and Washington, DC, where he currently resides.

The show wraps up with important words of wisdom that will resonate, most especially amongst legal marketing or comms specialists negotiating a path forward with the ultimate negotiators: Lawyers. Enjoy!

If you enjoyed this discussion, please click here to find previous episodes of Leaders with Ambition.

Watch the full episode with Chris Hinze

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Starting Out

  • From his industrious parents’ influence growing up in South Wales to the landscape as a geography student at Oxford, which unlocked all kinds of doors!

  • A Seat at the Table: Chris came to understand the career value in having access to and interacting with decision-makers from the earliest possible stage.

  • Narrowing the Focus:why professional services, including the intellectual challenge and rigour, quickly emerged as the right sector for Chris’s mix of talents and interests.

  • Fun in the ‘80s: What it felt like to live a vagabond PR consultant’s life, picking up on a dime and moving constantly at breakneck speed.

  • Feeding the Beast: How Chris built relationships with the press and learned to tame them through effective story-telling and disciplined, compelling narratives.

  • Transitioning: Why Chris was drawn towards problem-solving and the more nuanced, long-term web of personalities, goals and needs professional services offered.

  • The Fun of Debate: Among the many things Chris appreciates about working with Lawyers? Their ability not to take opposing views personally. To the contrary!

  • Learning, Absorbing: How an early practice partner specialising in commercial real estate taught Chris the value of a holistic approach to learning – and deeply understanding – the inner workings of the businesses he represents.

  • Virtual MBA: the valuable lessons and visionary leadership that taught Chris how business works on the frontlines, from the inside out.

Chris’s Career Highlights

  • Ernst & Young - Chris’s broad marketing and comms role contributed to smoothing organisational shifts and developing the global firm’s legal value proposition.

  • Hogan Lovells - how Chris took a complex leadership role in planning, strategic messaging and integration around the firm’s huge global merger.

  • Migrating to the west - why it made sense for Chris to move to the U.S. in order to establish stronger relationships with his team there and work more closely with leadership.

  • Bringing It all together - the ways in which his role at Steptoe Johnson has offered Chris an opportunity to deploy his full skill set – strategic, business development, marketing and comms (with the new addition of research & information services).

  • We Are All Steptoe - how Chris has contributed to a wholesale cultural shift and post-pandemic reset to foster a powerful message of unity.

  • His multidimensional role in the “immense” endeavour associated with merging Hogan & Hartson and Lovells.

  • Building up a worldwide network of law firms under the Anderson Legal umbrella.

Chris’s Career Challenges

  • A bumpy ride: Chris reflects on his role as worldwide head of marketing and communications, helping to manage the perils of Anderson Legal’s collapse. The collapse of Anderson was hard personally and professionally for Chris.

  • Losing a Paris-based Hogan Lovells associate to a horrific terrorist attack.

Words of Wisdom

  • 'Have confidence! Listen to others, but remain steadfast in what you know.''

  • 'Remember that attorneys are quizzical and risk averse by nature, so be patient and work it through while they reach their comfort zone.

Key Quotes

  • “I really enjoy the intellectual challenge and rigour of working with smart professionals and bringing my particular skill sets to the table.”

  • “I like working in situations where things have just gone wrong and fixing them – and the role that effective communications can play in that.”

  • “I really like working with smart people and with lawyers everybody around the table will have their own particular views and through the course of the discussion play their own individual cards.”

  • “Operational autonomy and trust when you’re working with those senior members of the team, it’s incredibly valuable and something that I’ve been able to carry through into every other role.”

  • “To actually sit in a meeting room in DC, sometimes with DC-based partners, and just talk about what the world view looks like from London was incredibly helpful. And the same thing with business services teams, and the other way around.”

  • “(Steptoe) isn’t the same firm that went into the pandemic. It’s not the same as 10 years ago. And so how do we make that understood internally, with clients and combine that all together?”

  • “You are dealing with people who get paid to argue all day and negotiate, so as a business development or communications person, when you are engaging (attorneys) you’ve got to be prepared for the fact that they will quiz and quasi-interrogate you.”

About Chris Hinze

Chris leads Steptoe & Johnson LLP's client and business development, research and information services, branding, and reputation management as well as contributing to the firm’s wider strategic and business planning.

He has responsibility for leading a team of more than 40 practicing research, marketing, and business development professionals.

Chris has more than 25 years' experience in professional services marketing and business development including in senior-level global roles in the legal and accounting sector. For more than 15 years, he was global head of communications and a senior member of the marketing and business development team at top ten international law firm, Hogan Lovells.

About Nicky Acuna Ocana

Nicky Acuna Ocana has led high performing recruitment teams for over 20 years. As the Regional Managing Director of Ambition UK, Europe and US, she leads a team of highly-skilled recruitment consultants who are experts in their niche specialist areas. 

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