How law firms invest in junior partners and associates is a balance of planning, coaching, monitoring and handling the different psychological make-up of lawyers at the firms.
A panel, entitled "Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been? Investing in Junior & Income Partners for Business Development" at last week's 23rd Annual Marketing Partner Forum, took up these questions, fielding ideas about business development, talent advancement and dealing with the difference between the different levels of maturity and seniority within a law firm.
The panel was comprised of law firm leaders from firms with varied business development cultures, including Louis Britt, Managing Partner of the Memphis office at Ford & Harrison; Samir Gandhi, Partner and Co-Practice Leader of the Corporate Group at Sidley Austin; and Jason Grunfeld, Partner and Head of Business Development at Kleinberg, Kaplan, Wolff & Cohen. The panel members brought perspectives from a global, national and regional firm. While there are commonly shared challenges, one key take-away is that one business development model doesn't fit all.
For example, the panel spent some time discussing business development at law firms and how best to involve lawyers of all talent levels and experience in the process. And while business development plans can be formal with metrics to measure, or informal and handled through conversations, planning is indispensable. Also, business development in whatever form it takes should be a requirement of all lawyers - not just the rainmakers. Such planning should start early with associates who will need training and coaching, sometimes at a very granular level.
Recognizing the Differences
However, given the diverse make-up of today's law firms, business development has to recognize generational differences. More experienced attorneys know how to listen, which is important to solidifying relationships; while the younger attorneys are adept at connecting (but not necessarily at phone or other oral communications) and listening. Law firms should recognize and coach on these differences, the panel suggested.
"As we recognize that not all attorneys will be rainmakers and many young attorneys do not want to invest personal time in business development, firms must clearly communicate business development expectations by using business plans or providing training," said panelist Louis Britt, adding that firms must focus on identifying the attorneys who have the skill set and desire, and then work with them to help them reach their potential through training, mentoring and coaching. "It is just as critical, and maybe more so, to develop the junior partners to ensure that they can be effective in growing and developing business from existing clients."
The panel also agreed that accountability and follow-up are key to business development success and that cultivating and maintaining relationships takes work and is very personal.
Just as important, when creating business development plans and strategies, law firms need to understand the psychological makeup of the individual attorneys within their firm because one plan does not fit all. The rainmakers get it; the mist-makers might get it with training; and some lawyers who are strong service partners who may never bring in business, may get it too. However, law firms need to handle each of these personality types and their unique psychological make-up differently and decide what works best for the firm.
The panel also emphasized that effective business development best practices may seem obvious, but still need to be reinforced, including:
- Follow-up with contacts;
- Be personal with clients, including writing individual notes;
- Know your clients' interests so you can stand out with personal attention which builds strong relationships;
- Listen and learn a client's business - on-site visits (without billing for them) is an effective exercise; and
- Adopt and institutionalize business development activities into the weekly work flow.
"Even though firms have differing approaches, I think we all agree that it is critical for firms to invest in the senior associates and junior partners by providing training and the tools to help those attorneys improve their business development skills," Britt said. "Law schools have done little if anything to prepare lawyers for the business of the law profession, and thus it falls on the firms to educate young attorneys about the business side."
Written by Publisher Cindy Larson
As mentioned in a recent Super Lawyers survey, expertise and reputation is the number one factor when a referring attorney sends a case.* Building a name for yourself in the community or doing self promotion relevant to your practice can lead to an increase in visibility. Use these four strategies to help promote your expertise:
If you're trying to get your name out there, there's no better platform than public speaking. Professional organizations like the ABA (American Bar Association) or NALP (National Association for Law Placement) often have public lectures in need of speakers. If the opportunity arises, it's important to show your expertise.
Use social media, a blog or a magazine to share your ideas and become a thought leader. Identify publications related to your field that accept submissions for advertorials and send them an article you have written. It can be a great way to communicate your passion and bring new people into your network.
Taking time to help out local organizations provides an opportunity to cultivate professional relationships while giving back to the community. You may not provide everyone you meet with legal services, but if they know you're an attorney and trust you as a person, they will be more likely to give you a referral.
EXHIBITING YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS
Whether it's a recognition plaque on your wall or a Logo Marquee at your desk, be sure to exhibit your accomplishments for all to see. Showcasing these achievements establishes instant credibility with clients and builds a sense of trust that they've come to the right firm for their legal needs.
These strategies might seem obvious, but attorneys often don't take advantage of them as much as they should. To learn more about the simple steps you can take to gain more quality leads and drive future business, download our free playbook, Master the Art of Referrals.
*2015 Super Lawyers Referral Survey
In July 2015, we sent out a attorney referral survey to all recently selected Super Lawyers attorneys. The survey included 18 questions that focused on the importance of referrals when practicing law. Did you know 85% of attorneys selected to a Super Lawyers or Rising stars list referred a client to a fellow selected attorney in the past year?
We received more than 5,000 responses, including hundreds of testimonials on how Super Lawyers contributes to their overall referral network. Through this survey, attorneys discussed how often they give out referrals, how referrals contribute to their new business and what they look for when giving a referral. Specifically, more than 95 percent of the surveyed attorneys have referred a client to a private law firm, other than their own, within the past 12 months. In addition, over half of those attorneys refer a client at least once a month. In the legal field, referrals are commonly given when an attorney doesn't practice in a specific type of law or is located outside the geographic area.
Additional findings from the survey indicated that the top three factors that influence an attorney-to-attorney referral are:
- Expertise and reputation
- Quality of work
This connects directly to the Super Lawyers mission of providing visibility to those who exhibit excellence in the practice of law. When an attorney is selected to a Super Lawyers or Rising Stars list, he or she becomes a part of an exclusive attorney referral network made up of outstanding attorneys and exceptional leaders in their industry.
But don't just take our word for it. Hear what two of our selectees had to say below.
- "The Super Lawyers list is my first and most important reference when considering to whom a client referral should go."
-John Marchese, Colucci & Gallaher, P.C. Buffalo, NY
- "Super Lawyers has been a great asset in referral business especially from lawyers outside my own state referring business to me and when I look for lawyers in other states. I know that using Super Lawyers Magazine or the online directory will find clients the best in our business across the country."
-John A. Lentine, Sheffield & Lentine, P.C. Birmingham, AL
To learn more about the survey check out the infographic below and don't forget to download our playbook Master the Art of Referrals.