Articles Posted in Business Development

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LPM_JA16_1FrontDepts 3.inddAs National Football League coach Chip Kelly begins his first training camp with the San Francisco 49ers, my column in the July/August 2016 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine, A Business Development Coaching Clinic: Culture Beats Scheme, seems quite timely.

Much like many law firm BD coaching efforts, I wonder if Coach Kelly—who I believe is a smart guy, as are many of the attorneys I’ve coached—will make the necessary adjustments to learn from his past failings (and past successes). Unfortunately for me, his failings came with the Philadelphia Eagles, where I am a season ticket holder, as opposed to the Oregon Ducks, in which I have no personal allegiance.

The column looks at the heavy investment of time and money many law firms put into “coaching,” often with lukewarm results. I talk about the all-star attorneys—the rainmakers—that already know what they are doing. And the process that needs to be undertaken to make these efforts pay off.

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Thumbnail image for LP_Today_Logo-e1401945551625.pngPerhaps it is sad to think that customer or client service has gotten so bad of late that highlighting those that do it well should not be necessary, but it is. So many companies send us off to automated web and voice mail systems, force us to chat with folks half way around the globe that can’t speak the language too well and are flummoxed when forced off script, or in some cases show they simply don’t care. Where I live, Comcast’s monopoly means that no matter what happens I’m still a customer. When disgruntled with some experiences on Priceline, I simply took my business elsewhere. And in most cases, law firm clients can choose to do the same.

So when the service you receive is particularly personalized, attentive and caring, you practically go into shock. In serving as an issue editor for the Marketing-themed April 2016 edition of Law Practice Today (LPT), I contributed a feature story on Client Retention–It’s All in the Listening, which reminds us attorneys just how simple it can be to provide the type of client service that is both memorable and ensures repeat business. Taking some of my favorite personal recent examples–Kimpton’s Monaco chain for hotel travel, my long-time dentist Dr. Robert Marchinek, and two of the top Philadelphia restaurants in Bibou and Helm, I show how some simple listening and responsiveness goes much further than any sophisticated business development game plan can. It is all in the listening. See where you might fall in comparison to knowing the “personal” side of your clients.

With nearly 18 features and columns, the marketing issue of LPT is full of great ideas. In gathering articles for the issue, I thought about what I wanted to hear about and from whom. So I hit up some of the leading experts in the business to teach me something.

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Delaware.jpgWhen I started HTMLawyers in 2001, my first significant client turned out to be a fast-growing law firm in Wilmington, Delaware. A colleague in American Bar Association circles, Heather Jefferson, had asked me what I was up to at an Annual Meeting. Her response was that she had the perfect firm for me to work with. She was right. And my relationship with the Delaware legal market was underway.

At that time–despite growing up not too far south in Baltimore and attending college and law school an hour north in Philadelphia–I knew little about Delaware outside of visiting my cousin Peter, a Rabbi in Wilmington, and the great value of no sales tax.

In the 15-plus years since, I have become well acquainted with the Delaware legal marketplace. There is quite simply a uniqueness to the practice of law in Delaware that makes it different from every place else. I’ve had the pleasure of working at some point in time with most of the more prestigious law firms in town. And I’m not kissing up when I tell you that they are some of my favorite people in the business. The Delaware practice boasts some of the best and most sophisticated corporate and bankruptcy practitioners in the land. There are few courts held in higher regard than Chancery. And, for the most part, with few exceptions, I’ve enjoyed handling various aspects of business and professional development for them. I enjoy my days in Wilmington and grabbing some tax-free goods on the way home.

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advisor-lawyer-relationship-res0915-mi600-resize-600x338.jpgIn the September 2015 issue of Research Magazine, contributing editor Jane Wollman Rusoff writes about building advisor-attorney networks that will generate referrals and benefit clients. In being interviewed for her feature, it was interesting to discuss the relationship from the financial services side of the business rather than starting with my usual legal-side perspective.

While the cross-referral route is often at the heart of many of these relationships–typically between business lawyers and those advising on the numbers side of a matter–the article points out the need for both to work together. At a time when investors’ financial needs have become more complex, private attorneys — such as specialists in estates and trusts, especially, as well as in family/divorce, taxes and elder care — are an important component of many FAs’ networks and in some instances, even considered part of their team.

While I warn about just how close those relationships can get (no fee sharing with non-lawyers in almost every jurisdiction and potential conflicts of interest), there is no question that there is an obvious fit between the two professions. In numerous practices, attorneys I work with on business development strategies will tell me that various finance professionals–from CPAs to planners and investors–are their #1 source of referrals. With that in mind, we often plan social and educational events targeting those relationships. In addition, we often team and partner on marketing efforts aimed directly at the prospective client for both the legal and finance sides.

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LP_Today_Logo-e1401945551625.pngLeaders of many of the nation’s biggest and baddest law firms converged in New York City recently to discuss the rapidly changing legal landscape and how to adjust not only to survive, but thrive. The oft-repeated themes of innovation, differentiation and collaboration ruled the day.

My article in the August 2015 issue of Law Practice Today (LPT) serves as a recap of the full day inaugural Big Law Summit, put on by Bloomberg BNA. A who’s who of managing partners, in-house counsel and various industry experts discussed a wide range of issues ranging from innovating in a risk averse environment to adjusting to changing demands on the client side of big business that want more “value based arrangements.”

DLA Piper’s Roger Meltzer gave the global firm perspective. The program titled “Harnessing the Power of Collaboration,” could have been called “how origination dooms us all.” As the infamous quote goes, the first step is in admitting that you have a problem. I was drawn to the Big Law Summit because these law firms are my clients. The issues and answers that ruled the day reinforced those that I experience whenever I’m sitting with a Big Law managing partner or management committee. The conversations struck honestly at the heart of the issues that need to be addressed for major law firms to thrive in today’s global marketplace. Kudos to BNA for putting together a well-run and organized program on a subject matter that clearly had an audience.

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LPM_JA15_cover-nospine.jpgYou could also call my column in the July/August 2015 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice magazine, “101 Uses for an Article,” but in The True Value of Your Published Work, I discuss how sitting down to write one article can pay dividends in so many ways. The key is not to think about the time spent as writing one article for one publication, but more as writing one thing that will be repurposed in so many ways.

This very blog post you are reading is yet another use of one article. Perhaps you reached this blog post through one of my social media feeds. Or maybe I handed you this very column during a pitch meeting at your law firm or during a subsequent meeting with an attorney about business development planning.

Print deadlines being what they are, I just submitted my next column for Law Practice earlier this week. You won’t see it until November. I would never spill the beans on the subject matter, but suffice it to say that while rereading it, I was struck that the column could be turned into an entire CLE program…and you will likely see it as my Ethics Potpourri offering in 2016 for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. It is a little disturbing that this idea came to me in my sleep last night (there are better things to dream about), but it occurred to me that the column could be the centerpiece of the program and the accompanying written materials. In other words, the four hours or so that I put into writing, research and editing will pay numerous dividends moving forward. You get the idea.

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TOlson.jpgSince the inception of the ABA New Partner Institute in 2011, I have had the privilege of serving on the planning board and speaking on business development each year. While many law firms provide excellent professional development to its attorneys from summer associate through associate and ideally partnership, ABA New Partner provides something unique that you can’t get in-house–different firm perspectives and philosophies, and the opportunity to network with fellow new partners from around the country–new partners eager to help one another build a bigger book of business.

This year, for the first time, New Partner moves to Washington, DC. And it is difficult to think of hearing from a bigger name partner than Ted Olson, and a more prestigious firm than Gibson Dunn.

For less than the cost of a billable hour, New Partner takes place as a one day conference in the heart of Washington. Make sure your law firm is represented with one or more of your new, recent or soon-to-be partners. It is built as a 50-person maximum program to better allow networking and intimacy among attendees and faculty.

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peak_season.jpgIt was a joyous day on my work calendar after Labor Day when the kids went back to school. The camp bus pickup at 9 am is replaced by the school bus pickup at 7:25 am. Extended day at school moves the “end of day” from 4 pm to 6 pm. The sunscreen, towels and related daily chores are replaced by much simpler tasks. And while family vacations are nice, they are not exactly relaxing. Many of those work trips are far less stressful.

While summer time is fun, the reality is that a lot of business and work hits the back burners after Memorial Day. If there is one thing I learned when I started working with law firms on marketing efforts back in 1997, it is that there are two significant time frames where little to nothing gets done–the first is from Thanksgiving until after New Year’s. The second (and much longer) are the months of June, July and August. Because marketing falls below “work for clients” and “family commitments/vacations” on most schedules, it means little in my world gets done.

This did not stop a bunch of law firms from discussing business development plans for the coming year during the summer months. It was just made clear that nothing was going to happen until the fall. And I still had a few law firm clients that wanted to launch some advertising campaigns or related marketing ventures–that I quickly put the kibosh on. Because just as people do just enough to get by during the heat of summer, that also includes interest in reading business publications, attending CLEs and other events that don’t involve BBQs, concerts and the beach.

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In today’s The Legal Intelligencer, reporter Gina Passarella writes about the trend toward sticking “business development” into the titles of many Philadelphia law firm lead marketers. She could have changed the title to “Philly Law Marketers should not let the revolving door hit them on the way out.”

The latest step (or misstep) for many of these firms is to add or change the CMO title to lead or include “business development” in it. Somehow, law firm management thinks this will make it all better. The irony is that most of the hires and candidates have the same set of credentials as their predecessors. It is nothing but semantics. Few have true BD experience, backgrounds or credentials. But that has not stopped many of these management committees from moving forward with their umpteenth marketing head of the last decade.

I often find myself reminding law firm management committees that there certainly is a connection between business development and marketing. In reality, every single employee of a law firm is somehow engaged in BD. We are all in business and we all are trying to develop more of the same. Marketing provides the image, messaging, tools and resources to develop said business. In corporate America, many CMOs are held to a number–meeting a revenue target, increasing market share, balancing the budget between them. In most law firms, it is the attorney that either generates a number–or not. They rely on the marketing team to give them what is needed to develop business. There are exceptions. But generally that is how it works.

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Former ABA President Robert Grey will keynote the fourth annual ABA New Partners Conference, taking place on February 6-7, 2014 at the Swissotel in Chicago, Illinois. Advance registration for the full conference is only $300 for ABA members and $350 for non-members, making it the most affordable conference of its kind in the country. Between the programs and networking opportunities, this is a must-attend conference for any law firm new partners and those on the cusp of partnership.

Among the networking events are an opening welcome reception at Baker & McKenzie on February 6th, breakfast and lunch on February 7th, and a concluding reception. The always useful “speed dating” networking event following breakfast and before the programming is a not to be missed opportunity to meet other new partners from around the country. One of the things that really sets this conference apart from all others (and provides something internal professional development curriculum can’t) is the opportunity to meet other new partners and compare trials and tribulations. It also offers an outstanding opportunity to network for future referrals. Learn how other law firms and management teams face the challenges of partnership in today’s economy.

Visit the New Partner Conference page to learn more about the programs and schedule. A nationally renowned faculty of law firm and legal industry leaders address topics including: