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All lawyers know that three years of law school may prepare students to analyze an issue, conduct legal research, and find their way around a statute or set of regulations, but it does not prepare them directly for the practice. “Little things” such as how to get a set of motion papers filed, whether there are local court rules that trump what you learned in civil procedure, and how to talk to a client are some of the meat and potatoes of being a lawyer. These are the skills that law firms sometimes teach, that associates often learn by doing, and that, one way or another, are eventually picked up as lawyers gain more experience. But what about clients? Where do they come from? How do lawyers find them? What makes them choose one lawyer over another? And, most important, how do associates learn to develop into senior lawyers who don’t run screaming for the nearest exit when they hear marketing or business development? Many lawyers are not naturally inclined to be “sales” people. They are uncomfortable trying to sell their skills. Most gravitated to the law for its intellectual challenge, not for the “fun” of being a rainmaker. Yet despite their initial reluctance, many have become very good at marketing themselves and their firms, achieving both success and personal satisfaction. The notion of teaching associates marketing rankles some partners. After all, the cynical say, associates are an unfaithful bunch who move on to greener pastures just as soon as they get some skills and experience. Why waste firm resources on them? The answer is simple. Law firms implicitly compact with their new lawyers that, in exchange for hard work and dedication, the firm will help them develop as lawyers. Look at any recruitment section of a law firm Web site or brochure: You’ll see boasting about the development and training new lawyers can expect. Business and client development skills are part of lawyer development. Giving associates the tools to learn how to market and develop business is part of the deal — and these lessons should also pay off for the firm. So what can firms do to help nascent rainmakers? FIRST THINGS FIRST Before even thinking about a curriculum, it is important to examine your firm’s viewpoint on associate business development and plan your programs in such a way as not to send associates mixed signals. Most large firms have no expectation that associates will develop business while they are still associates. In fact, it is discouraged to some degree since any matter an associate might land is likely to be unprofitable for the firm to handle. Large-firm client matters often involve fees in the millions of dollars, so it’s unlikely that an associate would have the professional connections to that level of business. Besides, large firms need their associates to be focusing on work for existing clients, which doesn’t leave much time for trying to find new ones. Nonetheless, as associates gain more experience and skills, their ability to relate to and service clients, as well as their potential to develop new business, becomes more and more important — and midlevel/senior level associates are evaluated by these criteria. Since business development skills need to be developed eventually, your associates should start thinking about them early on. BEGIN WITH THE BASICS A training curriculum for business development should start with the basics. Junior associates need to understand the economics of the practice and the business of the law firm first. One approach is to offer a lunch series that features a partner and administrative staff talking about these topics, as well as others that provide new lawyers with detailed overviews of the firm’s various practice areas. Another program could be run by the marketing director to teach associates what the marketing department does, as well as offer some basic tips such as keeping up with law school contacts, joining community organizations, and networking. For junior lawyers, their first clients are the more-senior lawyers who provide them with work opportunities and training. So helping new lawyers understand just who their “clients” are and how to service them effectively are important first steps in developing a client-oriented mind-set. Senior lawyers could hold panel discussions to explain how associates should develop those internal clients. These basic programs for new lawyers can be put together fairly easily and at minimal cost and will help new lawyers better understand the firm, its resources, and their place in it. ADVANCED TRAINING As associates become more senior, expand business development training programs. Here are some ideas for programs that rely on internal resources: • Panel discussions among partners who are recognized as talented rainmakers, where they talk about their techniques and how they became successful (this is one of the few training programs in which war stories can be effective teaching tools); • Small group lunches with associates and senior partners who have unique or particularly effective techniques for building relationships with clients; • Discussion panels organized by practice area, since the effective way to market legal services in one practice area may not be the same for other areas; • Role-playing sessions on how to identify a business development contact, including common mistakes and missed opportunities; • Panels where some clients speak about their expectations of outside counsel and their definitions of outstanding service (alumni of the firm who have become clients are a good source); • Discussions led by partners and perhaps the firm’s librarian on the importance of understanding clients’ competitive environments, including how to research and follow a particular business or industry; and • Programs on how to write responses to requests for proposals. Plenty of consultants offer workshops that focus on particular skills for business development success. Some of the programs that outside consultants can provide are: • Communication and presentation skills, to help associates develop public-speaking skills; • Business etiquette, to teach the art of business entertaining and help associates sharpen their professional image; and • Communication and personality-style assessments, to help associates better understand why they may have trouble relating to certain clients, and how to overcome the challenges of communicating with people who have different styles. SUPPORT AND INCENTIVES Most partners will agree that the most important source of new business is existing clients. Helping associates develop first-class relationships with their current clients makes excellent business sense. Firms can encourage associates to take their clients out to lunch or dinner, or to a ball game or cultural event by giving associates an appropriate business development allowance, without imposing a lot of red tape. This allowance also sends the important message to associates that the firm regards them as professionals. In addition to using the allowance to entertain existing clients, some firms also allow their associates to use their client development funds to join appropriate trade associations or attend trade conferences. Associates can make terrific contacts at gatherings geared to an industry in which they practice. Many partners ask associates to work on articles or speeches for them. Publishing is a good way for any lawyer to get his or her name out in front of the public. Associates can learn a lot from simply doing the research and drafting, but will also benefit by being given either co-authorship credit or an acknowledgment. Another good practice that will help associates learn the business development ropes is to invite an associate to “shadow” a partner who is giving a pitch for new business to a client or potential client. The circumstances have to be right, of course — in many cases, it could be awkward to have another person along. But letting associates observe a business pitch will expose them to the atmosphere and subtle dynamics of such a meeting and give them the skill and confidence to handle their own client pitch when the time comes. Providing associates with tools to help them understand more about business development and client relations can be done fairly easily and without undue expense. These are skills that all lawyers need, and firms would be wise to add them to their training and development programs. Anita J. Zigman, a former litigator, is director of associate affairs at Proskauer Rose. She also serves as vice chair of the Professional Development Consortium, a group of professional development directors of law firms and legal departments.

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