Alina Crisu is the PR and Communication Associate with LLPO Law Firm, the International Lawyers Network’s member firm for Cyprus. In this episode, Lindsay and Alina talk about having a passion for your work, the future of legal marketing in a digital world, and what she loves most about her work.
You can listen to the podcast here, or we’ve provided a transcript of the highlights below.…
Lindsay: Hello and welcome to the Law Firm Intelligence Podcast. I’m your host, Lindsay Griffiths with the International Lawyers Network. And our guest this week is Alina Crisu with LLPO Law Firm, our law firm in Nicosia, Cyprus. Alina, welcome. We’re so glad to have you with us this week. Thank you for joining us.
Alina: Hi, Lindsay. Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure and an honor.
Lindsay: So why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your position with the firm? And we’ll dive in.
Alina: Excellent. Well, my name is Alina Crisu. It has an accent, actually. I’m born and raised in Romania. And I’ve been living in Cyprus for almost a decade now. And I am the PR communication and marketing associate at LLPO Law Firm in Cyprus, Nicosia.
Lindsay: Great. Well, thank you so much for joining us. And so let’s dive into our questions. What would you say is your biggest challenge at the moment? And how are you working to overcome that?
Alina: Well, to be honest, I feel quite lucky because I don’t have any major challenges at the moment. My brother has had a baby girl, the first child in the family. And I feel lucky enough because, through my work, I can work remotely. So I can be here for this beautiful moment in our family’s life. And to be honest, since Covid, I learned to live in the present moment.
So I take every day as it comes and I deal with issues as they come and I try to organize my life in the near present or near future so that I don’t overwhelm myself with thinking. It can be overwhelming. So I’ve embraced a gratitude mindset, and I’m even grateful for the challenges that come along because we’ve all seen how we can grow from them and be a better version of ourselves basically. I do have goals, but I don’t stress myself with the timeline anymore. Sometimes if it doesn’t happen when I thought it was supposed to happen or how it was supposed to happen, I let it go and I stay flexible and with a positive mind and sometimes some things are above my understanding and they do happen.
Lindsay: That’s a really great attitude, and congratulations on your family’s new addition. That’s really wonderful. And I’m so glad that you’re able to be there to be a part of it. And I think that is really one of the wonderful things. Not that the pandemic was a blessing by any means, but I think there are some silver linings that came about as a result of that. And is your office back full-time in the office or are you all doing some more flexible working in the same way that you’re able to be flexible at the moment?
Alina: Everyone is flexible. The office is still flexible. We’ve actually recently moved into a new office space. We kept the old office space, but some of the staff members have moved into a newer office space. And everyone has their own place. However, they’re lawyers. They might need time to study for a case and they might not want to take everything with them at home. There’s confidential documents. So they might stay in the office or they have to go to court. So maybe they don’t want to come to the office in the morning. They’re just going to go directly from home. But we are flexible. There is still this availability of the hybrid work. Hybrid, still hybrid.
Lindsay: That’s great. That’s really great. So talk to us about the current state of the market and what that means for your law firm.
Alina: As we’ve seen, Cyprus is a small country and it’s a small country in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, a bit more towards the East. And it’s an island. It’s protected to an extent, but it’s still, everything else still comes there. Everything else that’s happening in the world in the end, it trickles down to Cyprus as well. So we have seen increases in gas prices, which of course creates this domino effect of everything else that’s in the supply chain.
And so we have seen prices increasing for food, for electricity, especially electricity was crazy this year. Some people are struggling as when it comes to the law firm, there isn’t a huge impact. But we do have to pay a bit more attention to how the clients pay their bills because we also have to pay our bills and it’s a domino effect. And if they don’t pay, then we don’t pay. So we’re a bit more strict and we pay a bit more attention to the billing hours. And when we send the invoices and if there’s anything that’s overdue. Now, we have stood the test of time throughout the other financial crisis that have happened in the world. 2008, it kind of hit us more towards 2013. But because of Covid, I think we saw it coming. This is why we’ve joined ILN and we’ve implemented a few more marketing strategies and we’ve updated our online presence so that we are more out there and we are more implicated in the international world and we are more rooted on the market basically.
Lindsay: And do you think those lessons have better prepared you to face these market challenges that are coming for all of the companies and law firms that we see happening right now?
Alina: Of course they have. I want to take everything with a grain of salt to an extent because I can make a prediction and it might not happen because we’ve seen what happened during Covid. And most of us, for instance, were not expecting for the war to happen. So we can be prepared to an extent, but as I said in the previous comment that I made is we’re going to take each issue that comes and each challenge at a time because otherwise, even as a law firm, we’re made of people. We’re going to feel overwhelmed. So we have the partners that have gone through similar situations. They have experience. And then we just deal with what comes when it comes.
Lindsay: Speaking of people, what do you think great business leaders have in common?
Alina: That’s a great question. Well, one of my recent, let’s say, ideals is the capacity to listen. I think it’s crucial just… And not only in a meeting room and not only to your staff members, but paying attention to what’s happening around the world as well and being able to filter the noise and gain the information and the juice that you need to use for your business.
Lindsay: I absolutely agree. And then I think a knock-on question from that is, considering all of the things that are happening in the world right now, how do you then have those difficult conversations with the members of your firm, given all of the challenges that we’re facing in the world right now? I think we saw that with Covid, with the market challenges we’re facing, with the war in Ukraine. How do great leaders or really anybody have difficult conversations with the members of their firm?
Alina: I think being direct is important and honest. Because you can hide some things, but people will feel that there’s something wrong and we all want to be able to help. It’s one of the human traits. And if you’re honest and direct with your team members, your bosses, your bosses with you, it creates this environment where we end up helping each other. Maybe today we’re not going to order this particular type of coffee. If we need to do some budget cuts, we’re going to bring our own coffee from home or order from a different supplier. Let’s see if the conversation is about budget cuts. If the conversation is about other difficult things, maybe a difficult client, then it’s a different conversation. But I believe that being direct and honest with a calm attitude gets you a long way. And because I’m Romanian, we inherently develop this humor and we approach things with a sprinkle of humor into it. Even sometimes it’s dark, but it pushes you forward through difficult situations and difficult conversations. So yeah, that’s humor. Humor is important.
Lindsay: It can definitely help even, if it’s dark.
Alina: It’s a survival mechanism. It’s good.
Lindsay: For sure. For sure. I totally agree with that. Yeah, absolutely. Do you think that it’s possible to have a work-life balance? And what does that even mean these days? I feel like we all… Especially you’re talking about working remotely and working remotely, is it even possible to have a work-life balance when you’re working remotely?
Alina: I don’t believe in that anymore. I think it’s a flawed concept and it just sets us up for failure. It’s an illusion to think that we just go to this place from nine to five, five days a week, eight hours a day for three, four decades, and it’s not part of our lives. It is. It is your life. Some people might not be so lucky to be able to change their careers, may not be in a position where they can actually do that. But if you can, if you’re in a workplace where you’re miserable, then you should find some strength in improving that. If you can change the industry, if you like the industry, maybe you don’t like the environment in which work, so maybe you should change the company.
Work is part of life and it’s life. We should find the right place for us where we should aim to better our lives, spending most of our days using the best of our skills and bring value into the world. And this is going to make us as well feel valued, and it’s going to give us a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging. And again, we’re going to be living in the present. It should be a place where you don’t feel like you must do that, is you go there because you want to do that.
Lindsay: Yeah. No, that’s a very important point. We do spend the majority of our lives at work. So it should be something that brings you passion and that you enjoy.
Alina: And when you are passionate in what you do, it’s easier to go through the difficult times as well. Because let’s face it, even if you love what you do, you will always have challenges. But you will have that desire to move forward. The wheels will move. You will find a solution. You will talk to the right people. You will push through the doors and progress will come.
Lindsay: Right. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Alina: As humans, we are built like that. This is why we have evolution, and this is why we have the technological developments that we have because we do push through and we do find solutions. So I believe there’s a way for everyone to find their career path that will bring them fulfillment, not only financially, but financial fulfillment, but also in the rest of their life.
Lindsay: So what does the future of the legal market look like and how do we get there?
Alina: Okay. Well, I think the future of the legal market is here. Yes, unmistakably. And it’s digital. So wherever we’re going to turn a corner right now, it’s digital. Because you have all the legislation that needs to be created for everything that it’s digital. You have the AI’s development. You have the social media development. You have the criminal digital development. So it’s huge. Now, from a marketing perspective, I do believe that in the next maybe 10 to 15 years, every law firm should have an in-house marketing professional because they have to focus on the digital activity of the company.
And it’s one thing to have a marketing professional from a company that deals with this from a marketing company, and another thing to have an in-house marketing professional. And maybe actually create a team of marketing professionals that focus on different aspects of marketing, because some of it, it will be digital. It will be data collection. It will be KPIs. It’s a wide industry. And because you deal with law firms and because the content, it’s sensitive because it has to be catered to each law firm and to their specific way of doing business, then you need an in-house team of marketeers that will understand the business, that will build the communication. I see marketeers as the bridge between the client and the services.
So the marketeers will have to understand what the legislation is, what is the need of the market, and how to better cater it for the potential clients and how to create the message. Legislative terms can be very heavy and are not understood by the wide market. So marketeers are the bridge that will help translate and put into common language what the law firm can do for the potential clients. So they will understand, this is what I need, I have to go here.
Lindsay: Right, right. Yeah, no, I absolutely agree with you because I think a lawyers especially love to speak in legalese, which is fine. But clients, even clients who are lawyers, don’t necessarily want to receive their materials in that language. They want to speak the language of business. And so a lot of times, it is up to the marketers to translate that into a business language that is what the clients are reading and listening to. And who knows the business of the law firm better than the in-house marketer? Nobody. So I fully agree with you. Absolutely. So how do we get there? As you said, you build the in-house marketing team, then.
Alina: How do we get there? It’s difficult to convince lawyers that there’s someone out there that knows better a particular subject. I know. I know. I think, although I’m saying that I do believe that the younger generation of lawyers do understand this. They are fully aware of the new development of the market because they are part of this. So they are fully aware. Maybe through ILN, because it’s a great network and it has great potential. And the purpose of it is to help its members reach their full potential in collaboration. It can be brought more often to their attention that they might need a marketing team or a marketing advisor, even if it’s a part-time situation in the beginning, just so they can see the value in it.
I have noticed a clash in this idea. Some lawyers do not really see the benefit of having someone that does marketing. They don’t see the benefit in digital marketing. They don’t see the benefit in marketing whatsoever. Personally, I’ve seen that, not from my firm, but from other law firms, other lawyers. The only way you can present this, I think, is through the success of another law firm. They’ll be presented as a case study. This is what we’ve done. This is what our firm is doing. This was our strategy. These are the people and this is the success. This is the result. And I think this will work. It’s just facts, proof and there’s no denying that afterwards.
Lindsay: Well, I like the old adage goes, law firms or lawyers don’t want to be first, but they want to be first to be second. So if you can prove it to a lawyer, then they’ll be happy to take it on.
Alina: How is it in the United States?
Lindsay: It’s fairly standard to have at least at a mid-size law firm level and above to have at least a team of marketers. So although I would say that for most firms, although it’s come on in the last 15 years, for a long time, the marketing team was still considered a cost center. But the last 15 years, I would say that marketers have really done a good job of getting a seat at the table and proving their worth. And a lot of CMOs and directors of marketing are considered an essential part of their law firm management team now. 15 years ago, especially when I first joined the ILN and I was a part of the Legal Marketing Association, which is a marketing organization that is… It is international, but it’s primarily based here in the US and Canada. There was more discussion about how do we get lawyers to take legal marketers seriously?
They really did think of legal marketing as brochures and that type of thing. Which now, I think lawyers, especially in the US, understand that there is a lot more strategy involved in it, which has been really a helpful shift here in the US. So I think a lot of things, not everything is led by the US, but in legal marketing, I definitely see that shift happening where there is that belief that we need strategy. And I say we, I used to consider myself more of a legal marketer than I do now. I have more of an executive function now. But I used to take on a much more-
Alina: Which ever terms make you feel comfortable. It’s okay.
Lindsay: I used to take on a much more marketing role than I do now. But legal marketers in the US certainly do. There’s much more differentiated roles, especially at the big firms. They have pretty big teams. There can be very large teams of marketers at US firms where there’s a director of marketing. They oversee a pretty big staff. And it’s really quite interesting. So I’m hoping that is going to be seen in Europe especially. And for ILN firms, we see that too. I’ve seen a shift where there are more European firms having bigger marketing departments. I see that definitely in the UK has a fairly substantial marketing staff. In Asia, we really don’t see it at all.
Alina: So this is something that I wanted to say and I touched on in my mind. That US is definitely a leader when it comes to marketing and incorporating the marketing strategy and the department into law firms. Then the more you get out of the United States, you go towards Europe and the more East you go on the globe, then you see less and less and less marketing involvement. And in Asia, as far as I understand, in some countries, it’s not even allowed to advertise.
Alina: So the tools are not even there. You’re not allowed to advertise. It’s still word to mouth. And United States, because it’s so business driven and it’s so competitive, it’s a completely different land from the rest of the world. And it does create precedent. And you get to see the case studies and examples of how this could work and how you could implement it into your business strategy. And I do hope that in Europe, this will grow more and more in the law firms.
Lindsay: I agree. I agree. So it has been very interesting for us, I think, as an organization to see over the years, which firms are limited by what they’re allowed to do on their websites. You have to have extreme disclaimers or even just have one very basic page. Some people cannot have business cards or anything can be construed as lawyer advertising, attorney advertising. So it’s really interesting that certain things in the US that are allowed to happen on a broad basis, and people will say, “Well, let’s just do this globally.”
And then it’s like, no, no, no. You have to know what the advertising laws are in every jurisdiction and make sure that you’re abiding by the laws in those jurisdictions. Which again, I think speaks to your point about why it’s so important to have a marketing professional in-house in a lot of jurisdictions, because then what is permitted in that jurisdiction as opposed to having somebody who might just come in, even from a global perspective and say, “Lawyers should be doing this,” because then your marketing professional can say, “No, no.” We can maybe produce this article, but even that can be attorney advertising in some jurisdictions.
Alina: And that that’s a completely different ball game as well from a time and cost perspective because it’s going to be… Anyway, it’s always a difficult task just to get an article approved when you’re there, just to get for everyone to a agree on a particular topic, let alone to go back to the firm that is doing the marketing, have it passed through another 10 hands and then go back. “No, this word is wrong. And this is no. And why are we doing this in the end?” No, no. It doesn’t make sense. You need someone in-house that knows the quirks of each partner, knows the quirks of each lawyer and they know how to deal with them. You also become an HR representative because you have to learn how each person communicates and what their field is. It’s just [inaudible] being a law firm marketeer, it’s a different ball game.
Lindsay: That’s very true. So on that note, what do you really like about your job?
Alina: I love about my job the diversity of tasks that I have to deal with on a regular basis. I like challenges and I love dealing with different things. I think I have a bit of ADHD. So it actually keeps me focused dealing with multiple things. And I love the fact that I learn something new every day and no day is the same with the other. So it keeps me young and curious. It can be overwhelming sometimes ’cause there are sometimes a lot of information that you have to go through in a very short period of time. And today it might be valid, tomorrow it might not be valid because social media. But I do love… This is what I love. I deal with different tasks and I love that I get to design and create content and I get to speak with different people and it’s hands-on as well and it communicates a lot. So yeah.
Lindsay: I love that so much. That’s great. And I think that is the life of a law firm marketer is that no two days are the same.
Alina: It’s true.
Lindsay: So let’s wrap up and please tell me one thing that is outside of the legal market, outside of your work, that you’re really enjoying right now. I know. That’s my tough question.
Alina: Wow. That is a tough question. What I’m really enjoying right now? I’m enjoying creating a portfolio for myself.
Lindsay: That’s exciting.
Alina: I’m into UX design as well. So I’ve been dipping my feet into UX design. I find it fascinating and it teaches me about the practicalities of the digital world. It’s kind of being an architect without having to go in the field and doing the work because it’s not coding. It’s just dealing with the practical side and the beautiful side of everything that we see digitally. Everything, even your Netflix platform or your apps on your phone, they all need a UX designer. And I find it fascinating. That’s something I enjoy right now.
Lindsay: That’s very cool. Good for you.
Alina: I’m a geek.
Lindsay: Nothing wrong with that. Well thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it. And we look forward to speaking again. And thank you so much to all of our listeners. Please take a moment to rate, review, and subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. And we will be back again next week with our next guest. Thank you very much.