Jon Brewer, CMO

Jon Brewer: 'Being a great leader is about making those around you great.'

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What does success look like at the highest level of corporate marketing? Nicky Acuna Ocana’s guest on this episode of Leaders With Ambition is Jon Brewer, Chief Marketing Officer at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. He exemplifies what it is to lead Marketing and Business Development professionals through hard work, innovation and perpetual curiosity.

You’ll learn how competitive gymnastics shaped Jon’s character, building resilience and focus. He shares why promoting career advancement, tapping the wisdom and support of peers, communicating clearly across channels and staying ahead of transformational new technologies have been cornerstones for an award-winning career.

Find out how this dynamic leader stays fully engaged with Orrick’s globally distributed teams, what keeps him up at night and why legal marketing as a whole benefits when strategic marketing leaders share best practices for swiftly changing times.

“I’ve been a CMO for five years and in professional services for 35,” says our perennially curious guest. “I’m still learning – and if anybody doesn’t think they’re still learning, they probably aren’t doing it right!”

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

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Key Takeaways

Starting Out

The rigour and focus required to compete as a high-level gymnast helped Jon establish early on a singular ability to shut out counter-productive noise. This life skill served Jon as he shifted away from his long-term competitive athletic career towards launching a new career in professional services. Jon leveraged PwC learning & development opportunities to explore early computer-assisted accounting and digital marketing.

Legal Pivot

What motivated Jon to go freelance and then transition to DLA Piper just as the legal profession began to recognize and embrace the role of go-to-market strategy. It’s so critical (as demonstrated by Jon’s career trajectory) to nurture, maintain, and grow a healthy network across job experiences.

Key Support

Legal Marketing Association (LMA) peer brainstorming and best practices – along with camaraderie and support –have been critical to Jon’s success. A great leader is about giving team members purpose, opportunity, and reward – all of which create a strong, loyal dynamic.

Compassionate Culture

What it means to promote psychological safety and transparency to build and sustain healthy, productive teams long term. Jon has seen strengthening of ties and building of new alliances in service of the common good, even among professional competitors during the pandemic.

Orrick’s Appeal

The challenges and mandate for clear communication Jon took on when he ascended to the role of global Chief Marketing Officer at Orrick. Jon doesn’t let talented employees trigger insecurity, instead embracing strengths and freeing all team members to shine.

Stakeholder Buy-In

Jon cultivates credibility with partners (by delivering exemplary outcomes and demonstrating a solid understanding of the business and value proposition). What goes into developing a holistic pitch, including research, strategy and branding. There is no “one size fits all” marketing in this day and age. Jon is so committed to be onsite and constantly seeking mindshare and mentoring even after five years as CMO and 35 years in professional services.

Work-Life Balance

How Jon manages as a London-based CMO for a U.S.-based law firm through intentional travel (limiting carbon footprint) and family downtime at home.

Top Challenges for CMO's

  • Keeping ahead of technical advances such as AI.

  • Cultivating generational diversity.

  • Managing increasing client demands.

  • Adapting to a growing competitive landscape.

  • Constantly refining best practices.

  • Figuring out how to leverage technical advances.

  • Collaborating with other leaders in the field of marketing and BD to get ahead of challenges and disruptions before they become entrenched problems.

Personal Career Challenges

  • Pushing relentlessly toward optimal performance.

  • Balancing keen curiosity with the limited hours available in a day.

  • Being available to team members across global time zones.

  • Getting beyond day-to-day management to keep the big picture in mind.

  • Minimizing stress through time management and work-life balance.

Personal Career Highlights

  • Interacting with innovative, entrepreneurial partners and clients.

  • Advising start-up cultures.

  • Uplifting team members, helping them develop and advance their careers.

Words of Wisdom

  • 'Being a great leader is about making those around you great.'

  • 'Run your own race. Everyone’s career is moving at its own pace.'

  • 'Focus on executing your own goals and agenda.'

  • 'Develop expertise and credibility – which in turn bolsters confidence!'

  • 'Be curious. The most successful people tend to perform at the highest level.'

Key Quotes

  • “Something I learned very early on in my career is that it’s all about the client and understanding that their strategy should drive whatever strategies you have internally.”

  • “I don’t think you can thrive and be successful without (peer support).”

  • “When you get to a certain age or level in your career some of it is about giving back a little.”

  • “You have to think about how to grow (the networking piece) when you go into a new industry. Find your people. Find your crowd. LMA is a prime example of where people can do that but there are all sorts of associations for different areas of work.” (Nicky)

  • “You have to embrace (talented people), put them in the spotlight and let them shine. If you do the opposite, you’re just constricting their value and actually making yourself look bad.”

  • “I’ve been a CMO for five years and in professional services for 35 years. I’m still learning – and if anybody doesn’t think they’re still learning, they probably aren’t doing it right.”

  • “There’s so much happening at the moment that everything keeps you up at night… And I don’t think you can tackle it in isolation. That’s why I talk about the importance of the peer network.”

  • “Tackling (technical advances) … with a group of people – particularly CMOs – is really going to be powerful and you’re going to see the professional services agenda jump forward.” (Nicky)

About Jon

As Chief Marketing Officer, Jon Brewer leads the firm’s global marketing and sales teams. He collaborates with leadership to design and implement forward thinking go-to-market strategies with a focus on client development, sector approaches and brand differentiation.

Jon has broad marketing experience gained from working in professional services for over 30 years, with more than half of that experience at PwC. He also set-up his own marketing and communications agency, worked at a creative agency and DLA Piper.

About Nicky

Nicky has led high performing recruitment teams for over 25 years. As the Regional Managing Director of Ambition UK, Europe & US, she leads a team of highly-skilled recruitment consultants who are experts in their niche specialist areas. With an extensive network of senior and board-level contacts, she is also heavily involved in Executive Search, focusing on Director level appointments across Business Services for a range of Professional Services firms.

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