Articles Posted in Business Development

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PD_image.jpgFor the May issue of Law Practice Today, focusing on the theme of professional development, I asked my colleague Megan Greenberg, formerly Director of Professional Development at Richards Layton in Delaware to lead the charge as issue editor. Megan’s experience as a practicing attorney and PD director, along with her involvement in the Professional Development Consortium (PDC) made her the perfect person to put together leading experts and authors, with timely qualified topics on the ever-increasing role of PD in the law firm.

If you are looking for a compendium of professional development topics and expertise, look no further than this month’s LPT. Among the highlights are:

Peta Gordon‘s very timely piece on “The Other Half.” With the popularity of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s best-seller Lean In, the author talks about work/life balance following the birth of her second child. Peta is a senior associate in Kaye Scholer’s litigation department. Her story will resonate with many female attorneys working to balance a demanding professional life with raising a family.

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LinkedIn.jpgFor lawyers, there is so much more to LinkedIn than creating a profile, getting some connections and joining a few groups. The real value of participation is from the other products and services they offer. In this month’s Web Marketing Today column, I try to address some of the components that go “beyond the basics.”

Personally, I probably don’t use LinkedIn the same way as many other marketing professionals or attorneys. I find the tool extremely valuable–but more as a super-powered directory of contacts for lead generation, competitive intelligence and a better source of data about people and companies. I find it very useful when following up with someone, learning more about a business card picked up at a networking function or refining a list of prospective clients. Others, however, spend hours on end building a network and doing a slightly more sophisticated method of cold calling.

As noted in the column, there is no disputing the power of LinkedIn. It is the second search result when looking myself up on Google–behind only my own website. With 200 million-plus users, there is a pretty good chance that the professional I’m looking for is in the network. He or she may have a skeletal profile and three contacts–but they are there nonetheless.

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Thumbnail image for sctv-734261.jpgIt is rare that I make a trip to Chicago or Toronto without spending an evening at Second City. There is nothing more entertaining (to me) than great improvisational comedy. Growing up, I was a Second City TV groupie of sorts, now possessing the entire DVD collection of SCTV. I love the creativity, thinking on your feet and ability to laugh at oneself (and others). So it was easy to talk about Drexel University Law School‘s “Improv for Lawyers” class in an article written this week by Associated Press reporter Kathy Matheson.

Matheson was writing about the uniqueness of such a law school elective, taught by actress/comedian Sharon Geller, who has also provided improv training as a CLE to lawyers in various settings. While this all coincidentally took place in my home base of Philadelphia, it was my role in the American Bar Association–as a past chair of the Law Practice Management Section and a current member of the ABA’s Standing Committee on CLE that led her to ask about my experience and views on the subject. I was asked about the uniqueness of the program and the value to a new or seasoned attorney.

In many law firm retreats where I’ve participated in some manner–either in organization, as a speaker, or in conjunction with a business development project–an improv session taught by one of many skilled troupes in the United States (including Second City traveling casts) is used to develop skills including team building, public speaking, “thinking on your feet” and training for improved client and prospective client interactions. Improv has also been used by a number of law firms I work with for associate and partner professional development training programs in-house. Whether or not they qualify as “substantive legal training” as a CLE is a state-by-state matter–but that is a subject for another post. Whether or not it is CLE accredited, the program provides a useful training ground that incorporates numerous elements of law practice.

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newyorktimes.jpgRecent rulings and advisories by the National Labor Relations Board regarding social media policies in the workplace impact law firms in a variety of ways. Today’s New York Times article by Steven Greenhouse reviews how the NLRB is basically telling employers to scale back limitations as it relates to many social media policies that might be seen as illegal blanket restrictions.

Can you really stop Facebook and Twitter from happening in today’s workplace? Nope.

The NLRB says workers have a right to discuss work conditions freely and without fear of retribution, whether you are in the employee cafeteria or on Facebook. Although Facebook might have better food options (I said that. It is not in the article).

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trade-show-intro.jpgIn this month’s Law Practice magazine, my colleague and alternating “marketing columnist” Greg Siskind provides an outstanding primer on the benefits and how-to of trade show marketing for the law firm. Greg’s immigration law practice, Siskind Susser, has successfully used trade show participation as a significant marketing tool for many years.

In the article, Greg discusses budgeting, show selection, booth planning, working the booth, follow-up and ethical issues. Depending on the practice and the personalities, I’ve been a fan of trade show participation for lawyers–when appropriate. The breakdown is often in the lack of strategic planning, the people sent, and the all-important follow through. When you start adding up everything up from the organization sponsorship, to the booth development or rental, travel & entertainment, promotional giveaways and proper follow through, it can be a big nut in a practice group’s marketing budget. However, if done right, and tracked properly, it can be a lucrative leader in generating new clients and matters. In most cases, attending a trade show is not a one-off event. It is usually the culmination of many other activities related to the specific trade, and often, a multi-year effort before a real payoff.

Many years ago, I authored a similar (but not as good) article on trade show marketing for lawyers. I discussed my own experiences and what I’d witnessed in visiting some law firm booths at a local Chamber of Commerce event. In reading Greg’s piece and rereading my own, I’m reminded that in the right situation, trade show participation continues to often be an underutilized or under strategized component of a law firm marketing plan. However, if the target market is on-point and there is proper access to the attendees, it provides an opportunity often lacking in this age of social media and virtual society–in-person, real time contact with decision makers and buyers of legal services. But make sure that participation in a trade show is well planned and thought out, or the results can be detrimental instead of positive.

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Someone woke up yesterday and thought it might be a good idea to provide better professional development training for attorneys. Go figure.

Last week, I had the privilege of spending some time with the leadership of the Professional Development Consortium (PDC) at their annual meeting in Washington, DC. For the record, this organization has been looking to organize and improve PD in (mostly large) law firms since 1990. While the group is growing rapidly, the reality is that for a long time it has been a relatively small gathering of people dedicated to delivering PD for larger law firms. However, the idea that the need for stronger and better investments in PD for partners (and in some firms, gasp, associates too), is not new or news.PDC_logo.gif

With the ABA, I have had the opportunity to further professional development initiatives on multiple fronts. First, as a speaker and planning board member for the first two ABA New Partner Conferences, designed to provide a wide range of training–from business development and ethics to issues of diversity, electronic discovery, and managing legal relationships. Secondly, as the creator and chair of the ABA Law Firm Marketing Strategies Conference, founded in 2007, focusing on BD, marketing and overall rainmaking skill sets. Third, as a current ABA presidential appointee to the ABA Standing Committee on CLE–now entitled the ABA Center for Professional Development (go figure). Finally, as Editor in Chief of the ABA’s Law Practice Today monthly webzine, we have joined forces with the PDC to provide a bi-monthly column (beginning in March 2013) from some of the country’s leading PD professionals from the largest law firms, along with an entire themed issue dedicated to PD in May 2013. Thanks to PDC leadership, including Jennifer Bluestein of Greenberg Traurig and Jeanne Picht of Stites & Harbison, for helping to further develop this relationship. In addition, ABA LPM’s sister publication, Law Practice, has an issue devoted to the topic as well in the coming months. In other words, the American Bar Association has long recognized the importance of PD and continues to provide numerous resources to lawyers and law firms interested in better training.

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fb-lpt-sm.pngThis is the time of year where I’m working with law firms on developing strategic marketing and business development plans (and budgets!) for 2013. As I said to one marketing partner yesterday, while we need to be fluid and creative, you still need an outline and parameters to be as effective as you’d like to be. It is with that thought in mind, as we enter the final “holiday” phase of the calendar year that this month’s LPT asked for contributions along that line.

Many thanks to Barbara Brown of Meagher & Geer in Minneapolis, MN for serving as the issue editor for the timely “Prepare your 2012 business development goals now” theme of this month’s Law Practice Today.

Among the excellent contributions are those from a number of my Philadelphia-centric colleagues. Nancy Gimbol of Eastburn & Gray (and a member of the LPT editorial board) discusses establishing a culture for marketing and business development in a mid-sized law firm. Amy Galie and Amanda Steinbach of big firm Fox Rothschild address big law issues in “Business Development – Fail to Plan and Plan to Fail.” Greg Stephens provides the managing partner view in “How to obtain and retain clients.” Thanks as well to this month’s feature contributors Allan Coleman, Greg Stephens, Steve Henning and David Freeman.

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Why do I have the feeling that discussing Women’s Initiatives in law firms will only get me into trouble?top_logo.gif

A recent report by the National Association of Women Lawyers finds that 97% of large law firms have women’s initiatives, but that they often lack the funding and goals to make a difference. I read the entire 34-page report, and came to a few conclusions. First, nothing surprised me about the results. Second, most of the concerns correlate to one another. Yes, there are less equity partners, thus yes, women don’t end up with as much rainmaking credit; thus yes, women don’t end up in positions of firm-wide leadership (since they are not equity partners and not originating business); and yes, women don’t receive the same compensation since they are not originating as much business. In the end, it all comes back to the ability to generate business.

What the report fails to do is offer any real solutions to the stated problems. I’ve worked with many similar initiatives over the last 10+ years and found mixed results. For the most part, it is not for a lack of funding. Law firms finance these efforts, and finance related activities. Surprisingly (that is my mocking voice), putting a firm logo or advertisement in a dinner program or similar magazine supplement does not make things better. Providing “workshops” on rainmaking by people that are not actually female lawyer rainmakers in real life don’t help either (if you are going to be effective, then you need to provide women partners from your own law firm). And, finally, providing spa services and high teas (yes, these are done) does not lead a female associate into the partnership and leadership ranks of a law firm.

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november-december12cover.jpgIn the November/December issue of Law Practice, my marketing column is entitled “Auditing Your Efforts” and discusses the value and importance of a law firm objectively auditing its marketing and business development efforts. Read it to see how I compare myself favorably to Tom Cruise (although the editorial team deleted my reference to Scientology).

There was a time when spending money on an audit would have been borderline crazy–since so little time and effort was being invested–what did you really have to lose anyway? Today, however, law firms are investing heavily in these endeavors and often find that efforts are often…overpriced, ineffective, or simply off the mark. A proper audit is an important accompaniment to a strategic plan and a budget. The time has come where ROI needs to be measured, and a firm’s marketing foundation solidified. It is not all that different from the recent energy audit conducted on my home–imagine how much I would save with the right equipment and resources in place? If your law firm has never conducted a thorough marketing audit, talk to me about it. Year-end and the start of a new year are perfect times to evaluate. As I like to say, stop throwing good money after bad.

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The lead story in today’s distribution of The American Lawyer Daily touted, “Survey: Generally Content, New Partners Fear Lack of Training Will Hamper Ability to Win Clients.” One new partner quoted lamented, “I learned how to practice law, but I was not trained in how to develop business.” Claire Zillman reports on the internal ALM study.

There is no question that this training issue is changing–I would not say rapidly, but there are certainly firms willing to invest significant sums of money in BD training ranging from entry as summer associates right through the partnership ranks. I recently saw a 100-attorney firm invest one million dollars in BD development for partners. More and more firms are taking professional development more seriously. Yet, there are still what might be a majority of firms that don’t truly rank BD capabilities in partnership evaluations. I’ve met many a senior partner that has railed about the laziness of new partners, inability to originate, resting on the work of the past generation, etc., etc. We’ve all heard it.

Read the story and related survey for yourself. Last week, I chatted with a partner at an AMLAW 100 firm that was telling me how his firm did not credit any unbillable time toward year-end compensation. How do you get people to invest for the future, at the expense of the present, without incentive? There is a middle ground, and that should be the goal. Many of my clients refuse to train associates beyond some basics such as legal research. Yet, if I push too hard, the only lost BD will be my own. The truly great rainmakers usually took the long road–and have been able to benefit for the long haul.