Leaders with Ambition - Jay Linder

Leaders with Ambition - Jay Linder

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J​ay Linder - Global Director of Communications at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft

Our guest on this episode of the Leaders With Ambition podcast knows exactly what it takes to build a robust marketing and professional services career.

Jay Linder, Global Director of Communications at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, walks Nicky Acuna Ocana through his impressive career. He lets us in on valuable lessons learned and shares thoughts on the importance of embracing both ambiguity and collaboration at every stage of career development.

That can look like – among other things – consistent networking, investing in education and seeking out the right advice from sometimes unexpected resources (like junior colleagues).

You’ll also learn how his son’s early diagnosis with autism indirectly taught Jay to relate more intentionally, effectively and meaningfully – skills that have come to define his leadership style. “Going through (an autism diagnosis) personally gave me such a greater appreciation for how critical it is to better understand people and try to meet them where they are,” says our guest.

Find out why Jay, a past President for the Legal Marketing Association’s influential Northeast region, believes that community, shared knowledge, peer support and two-way sponsorship are essential to advancing professional services at every level. Especially as marketing and communications professionals navigate the fast-changing impacts of new technologies like AI and seek to demonstrate the value proposition for clients and Partners.

The episode wraps with words of wisdom you won’t want to miss!

To find out more about the Legal Marketing Association and its myriad global activities – including workshops, meetups, resources and advocacy – visit this link.

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

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Key takeaways from Jay Linder

Starting out

The product of an Italian-Ukrainian-Catholic mother and a Russian-Lithuanian-Jewish father in Connecticut, family dinner conversations were lively, delicious and inspired in Jay a deep desire to experience life in New York City.

How early jobs with the NY Public Library and Columbia University helped Jay develop writing, fundraising and leadership insights.

About the change in career direction that built on Jay’s writing skills as well as depth of knowledge about the legal industry.

Embracing ambiguity

What learnings came out of Jay’s first experience at a law firm (Stroock & Stroock) undergoing a huge marketing and communications restructuring, including re-branding, new website design/content and post-9/11 civic support.

Building blocks

About the valuable skill sets and thought leadership capability Jay developed while leading editorial and global marketing and initiatives for Skadden, Arps.

How Jay harnessed parallels between his son’s autism diagnosis and his new mandate, as a manager of teams, to understand more deeply how to connect, motivate and fully engage with people.

Management mindset

Jay believes the best leaders incorporate both their own growth journey and an equally strong commitment to the development of others.

A silver lining of the pandemic - the global invitation to re-examine personal priorities and find new ways of creating balance – and top performance both at home and on the job.

Investing in success

How his work guiding Cleary Gottlieb through a major marketing revamp again gave Jay the opportunity to nurture teams and cultivate individual growth.

The cultural shift that offers more flexibility within legal career journeys to try different paths at different firms. It’s no longer a one-track profession.

Secret to retention

Why Jay believes setting realistic expectations, being transparent and providing ongoing opportunities are key to keeping talent from migrating elsewhere.

Innovative approach

Jay found wisdom and guidance when it comes to creating a social media presence for traditional law firms.(Hint: Junior staff are plugged in!)

Testing the waters

What it looked like to try a stint consulting, balancing work as a writer with an opportunity to take a break and enjoy some family travel time.

A new chapter

How his job with Cadwalader, among New York’s most venerable old firms, taps all the skill sets and perspectives Jay has accrued on his career journey.

Why LMA?

What it is that Jay believes makes the Legal Marketing Association such a vibrant and valuable resource for legal marketing professionals as a provider of:

  • Peer support/networking.

  • Fresh ideas and strategies.

  • A level-set for best practices.

  • Professional development.

  • Mentoring and volunteer opportunities.

  • Shared wisdom and cross-generational knowledge sharing.

Jay’s take on current professional challenges:

  • Navigating the law firm partnership model, especially if you’re new.

  • Ongoing evolution and adaptation to pressures within the legal industry.

  • Ensuring talent retention (and continuity).

  • Understanding new technologies (like AI) and their value proposition for clients.

  • Accepting inevitable operational and technological ambiguity.

Words of wisdom

The legal industry is very specific and it’s critical to consider:

  • 'Whether life at a law firm is “your kind of crazy.”

  • 'Whether you’re able to be comfortable with ambiguity.'

  • 'Whether you’re flexible and able to switch up tasks.'

  • 'Whether you’re able to be patient.'

  • 'Whether you’re able to collaborate with (and listen to) others.'

  • 'Whether you’re able to shift gears/speeds easily.;

Key Quotes

  • “Alumni relations is very much like marketing and communications. It’s one to many. You’re talking about the organization, its capabilities, its people, its value proposition.”

  • “Forward-looking, specific, actionable thought leadership coupled with the platform at Skadden and working with incredibly talented people across the globe was an amazing experience.”

  • “The crazy thing is that I found myself using in work situations the (autism) therapy that my son was getting at home and at school that I was furiously taking notes on to help coach him through (interpersonal) situations.”

  •  “Going through (an autism diagnosis) personally gave me such a greater appreciation for how critical it is to better understand people and try to meet them where they are.”

  •  “Being a great colleague means first and foremost the journey toward trying to be the best version of myself but also investing in the development, empowerment and fulfilment of those around me.”

  •  “Sometimes trying to find work-life balance means cutting loose conventional guard rails on when you think you should be focussed on work and when you think you should be focussed on family.”

  •  “If you surround yourself with very talented people … you get the people who are most suited, which helps them grow as well. It’s that self-perpetuating philosophy of growing a successful team.” (Nicky)

  •  “(LMA networking) is critical, healthy and both a learning opportunity as well as a chance to be helpful to others.”

  •  “Networking is a two-way street. Mentoring is a two-way street. I don’t think it’s a traditional top-down thing.”

  •  “Making the time for an investment in your career goes beyond how many hours you’re clocking and what your LinkedIn profile says. There really is something to be said for building community and engagement with those in your profession.”

About Jay Linder

Jay Linder has over 25 years of legal industry experience, with a focus on transforming strategic business objectives into effective, sustainable communications.

After starting his career as an alumni relations and major gifts fundraiser for Columbia Law School, Jay has served in senior positions at four leading law firms, including Cadwalader, Cleary Gottlieb, Skadden and Stroock.

As the global head of communications for Cadwalader, Jay provides balanced direction related to brand reputation, client engagement, content marketing, creative services, and internal and external communication strategies.

Throughout his career, Jay has focused on attracting, developing, retaining and empowering talent, giving them the best possible hands-on experience to grow their careers while working together to advance their firm’s goals. 

About Nicky Acuna Ocana

Nicky has led high performing recruitment teams for over 25 years. As the Regional Managing Director of Ambition UK, Europe, and the US, she leads a team of highly-skilled recruitment consultants who are experts in their niche specialist areas.