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Podcast Episode 168: To Be Different, You Need to Think Different

by Guy Alvarez • August 4th, 2022 • Podcast

In this episode of the Legal Marketing 2.0 podcast, Guy is joined by Allan Schoenberg, Chief Communications Officer at Vinson & Elkins. Allan is based in New York and joined the firm in 2021 after managing global communications at NASDAQ for five years. Before joining the legal industry, Allan has about 20 years of capital market experience. Allan is experienced in public relations with a successful track record in all aspects of business-to-business communications with a focus on brand management, internal communications, issues management, media relations, and social media.

1. What’s the biggest difference between the capital markets industry and the legal industry?

Financial services are very risk averse, very compliance heavy, talking with clients, and very traditional in terms of marketing and communications, such as email, newsletters, website, media relations, etc. No law firms are traditionally very risk averse, they’re always in the background, helping clients and have embraced newer digital technology. That has certainly changed the game for law firms, in how they speak to not just our clients but also how they speak to the public, and to reports. 

2. What did you not expect when you switched over from financial services into the legal industry?

The surprise was the vast array of practice groups and services that the firm offers. Trying to come in fresh, without any law firm experience, and getting a handle around that was a lot bigger than expected, in a very positive way. What helped get a handle on the array of practice groups was the integrated work and the internal culture, whether it was through business development, the practice groups themselves, or just working together. 

3. What have been some base challenges since joining Vinson?

The view of attorneys in the media landscape is that they are really good at law, and there’s no doubt about that, we all work with some of the smartest people around. The challenge was getting focused on lawyers as really smart business professionals. They have a ton of thought leadership, not just in the law, they understand their practice groups and the industry they serve. The external component of that challenge was how do we get the media on the outside to understand the dynamics of what the lawyers are doing on the inside. 

4. How have your past experiences, in the financial services industry, helped or hurt you?

Coming in from the financial services industry, with the risk management and compliance hats on was certainly a benefit. Having years and years of experience in that risk management element certainly helped when transitioning. An area where I would have to build up would be the industries, as I was not as familiar with them. Along with the areas of law that weren’t necessarily natural to me because I was never in that space. The biggest challenge was trying to understand what I didn’t know and didn’t understand. It was a good learning experience in a way to just step back and really take in what was happening around the firm. 

5. How does the legal industry compare to other industries, when it comes to social media and overall communications?

The legal industry is still in its pretty early stages of social media. I think there’s still a learning curve here and it isn’t so much that marketers don’t know what to do, there’s understanding the compliance issues, and understanding how to use social media to make it really work for the firm. All of these factors take time. Social media takes time, practice, testing, and risks. Social media is constantly changing and there’s a lot to keep up with. I think law firms are at the cusp of really making social media work with them, we see it on LinkedIn as law firms perform extremely well on LinkedIn. I think most law firm marketers are saying you can’t do it all, pick your niche, understand where your clients are, etc. I think everybody, in every industry, struggles with social media and how to best leverage it on an ongoing basis. 


Think differently, in terms of what other industries are doing and how you can learn from them. What can I learn from the real estate industry, or the professional services industry? How can we relate to other industries and bring it back into a law firm environment? Take a step outside of your industry, get outside of your comfort zone, and read publications that aren’t in the legal industry. Then, gather some learning from that and find a best practice that works for you. 

You can find Allan on LinkedIn.


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