Alumna Courtney Darnell ’10 Finds Success Turning Law Firms into Thriving Businesses
September 24, 2015
Alumna Courtney Darnell’s ‘10 professional experiences after graduation shaped her desire to build a business and help others maximize their own. In January 2015, Darnell launched Law Leaders Lab, a marketing and business development-consulting firm, in San Diego.
“I am thankful to have created a life where no day is the same and every day is an opportunity to have an influence,” Darnell said of her burgeoning career. “Creating success with law firms and watching their business thrive is incredibly rewarding and creates satisfaction for both my clients and me. The most exciting element is constantly being challenged with new practice areas and firm business models – no two firms are the same and it is fascinating learning about each. I have always been a connector, and it is rewarding to have the ability to connect attorneys with other attorneys and individuals to grow their referral and client networks.”
A Florida native, after graduation Darnell returned to Florida and settled into a management role at a law firm that focused on Estate Planning and Family Law. “While I was there I grappled with whether or not I wanted to practice or move into another legally related arena,” Darnell said. “I gained immense experience learning how to manage a firm’s staff, oversee accounting, market the firm, grow the client base and streamline for efficiency and create more return, and I loved it.”
Nostalgic for the San Diego environment and wanting to build on her career, after a while with the firm Darnell had what she described as an “ah-ha” moment. “ I decided I was not happy with where my career “yellow brick road” was currently taking me and decided to make a change,” Darnell said. “I packed my things and headed back west, full of anticipation, and lacking any clue as to what I was going to do. Perhaps not your average law school graduate story but I was grinning from ear-to-ear, terrified, and absolutely certain I was doing the right thing. I enjoyed the marketing aspect of managing a firm, so I began working for the CEO of an online marketing company in San Diego and also writing legal articles for Thomson Reuters on the side.” Darnell’s passion for her work soon opened up other opportunities, “Thomson Reuters later came to me stating there was a position opening in their marketing department and asked if I would interview for the position considering my unique legal and marketing background. The following week I began working for Thomson Reuters in their online marketing department. I eventually was promoted as their Director of Online Marketing and was with the company for two and a half years.” Opening Law Leaders Lab was a natural progression for Darnell. “I appreciated the knowledge and experience, but feeling restrained by the corporate red tape and bureaucracies, I decided I wanted to go out on my own as a Marketing and Business Development Consultant for law firms,” Darnell explained. “I have always had a passion to inspire, and a heart to help people thrive, both professionally and personally, and consulting achieved both goals. I launched my own consulting firm in January of this year, and I consult law firms and attorneys on how to run an efficient and thriving law firm business. Whether a firm is just starting out, a group of partners are shifting from the ‘Big Law’ environment and launching their own break-out firm, or a seasoned firm that needs a refresh, we work collectively to meet their subjective needs. I enjoy helping my clients’ business grow, both online and offline, while they focus on doing what they do best.” “Like most law school graduates my journey has been filled with moments of anxiety, confusion, frustration, exploration and excitement,” Darnell said reflecting on her journey. “I have always been intrigued and driven by the law, but was unsure as to what capacity I wished to dabble in it. Managing a firm for a year gave me insight into what it is like to not only to sustain but also to create growth for a law firm. Directing the marketing department of Thomson Reuters gave me the skill set and insight as to how the online space works and the vast potential that surrounds it. Throughout my experience, I have realized through numerous conversations that the majority of attorneys do not have the time or comprehension to build business and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching them how they could achieve success.” Darnell acknowledges that many of the tools she used to succeed she obtained as a student at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. “Holding office with the SBA taught me political kindness and how to work, manage, and delegate effectively with others. I appreciate the leadership confidence it instilled in me and how it strengthened my ability to organize and deliver projects proficiently,” Darnell said. “I will be forever grateful for my time at Thomas Jefferson. Especially for the relationships I created with colleagues and professors, the wealth of knowledge I gained and the travels I pursued. I am thankful for my alumni network, which is much stronger due to the relationships I cultivated during my three years in law school, and have been invaluable since,” she added.
“Congratulations,” Darnell said to new attorneys. “As one of the most difficult bars in the United States to sit for, you have accomplished a great thing and should be incredibly proud. You may not know exactly where or what you want to practice, but you know why you love the law, so don’t lose sight of that and never settle. My advice to law school graduates is to be open-minded and follow your heart.”
“Also, get out there, meet people and make moves. You worked your butt off to get where you are, but the real journey is just beginning. Law school arms you with a wealth of knowledge and experience that is applicable in so many fields; never take that for granted and always use it to your advantage. Remember to be genuine and kind to all those you interact with – you never know who may need you, or who you may need later in life. Professional karma is very much a thing.” she reminds new grads. “This journey is yours and yours alone. Go exactly where you want to go, and don’t stop until you get there.”