X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
What can the modern law firm do to assist new partners in their business development efforts? And how can firms successfully provide this support in a culture that has offered no or only marginal support in the past? These are questions that law firm managers never faced a century or even half-century ago. But as the law firm partnership track continues to evolve, business development is now acknowledged by all to be an important responsibility of partnership. Unfortunately, the obstacles to becoming a successful business generator don’t begin at the time of the partnership announcement. Rather, the problem starts when the new associate lands at the firm and asks the question, “Will I be responsible for bringing in business to the firm?” The answer, except in the very smallest of firms, is generally a resounding “NO.” Associates are told that their job is to keep their heads down, learn how things are done, and bill lots of hours. Getting new business should not be on the forefront of associate thinking, they are told, and that lesson continues to be reinforced as the path to partnership continues. Now, I know that some firms do pay a certain, minimal, amount of lip service to marketing and business development, occasionally providing seminars or courses. But even these courses, with titles such as “How Associates Should Think About Marketing” or “Keeping in Touch With Your Law School Classmates,” are few and far between. Having taught several of them, I was always saddened to see the attendance shrink, midclass, as partners would send others to pluck the associates out of the class for more important billable work. So, what can or should the modern law firm do to ensure its future viability by providing new partners with the tools they need to be successful at generating new business? Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question, because new partners come to the firm with differing levels of skills, knowledge, and experience. For example, you may have one new partner who ran a successful lemonade stand as an 8-year-old, was a member of Junior Achievement in high school, sold T-shirts in the dorm in college, had a string of summer jobs throughout college and law school, owns several rental properties, and was the child of an entrepreneur or two. How can you compare that new partner with another whose parents were both academics, was always too busy with piano lessons or other forms of cultural enrichment in high school to hold a job, and spent summers during college and law school either taking extra courses or traveling abroad trekking through Tibet? Clearly there’s a place for both of these new-partner types in the modern law firm, but how they go about finding their way toward successful business development as part of their practice will be totally different. What’s critical here is an understanding of the few things that law firm management can do to help the new partner move forward on the way toward a successful career. The first step is to set clear goals. What is the primary business development goal expected of a new partner? Too often, it’s merely “Bring in more business.” But I ask: How much? What kind of business? By when? The partner’s chance of success expands greatly when the goals are clear. Tell a new partner that she is expected to write and have published two articles in her area of expertise for an industry trade publication in the next six months, and you have an excellent chance of getting them written. But if you just tell a new partner that writing is part of her responsibility as a partner, you leave her too much discretion. Thinking about how you’ll evaluate the new partner’s business development efforts will help you set goals. It’s a lot easier to define the goals if you know how you will eventually grade the process. And, don’t ask the new partners to set their own goals without clear instructions about how to do so. For the most part, they won’t have a clue how to do it, and you will only be frustrated. Second, limit the business development focus. Trying to be all things to all people is a recipe for business development disaster. Remember, the tighter the focus, the better the chance of success. So if you tell a new partner that you want him to focus on generating more antitrust business from real estate mergers and acquisitions, you won’t get nearly as much in return as if you tell him to focus on the merger or acquisition of a Real Estate Investment Trust in the Northeastern United States that specializes in multifamily housing. Third, provide resources for business development. Help new partners figure out the tools that they need to be successful, and then provide them. As noted above, these won’t necessarily be the same for each new partner. Resources might include a travel budget, access to the firm’s marketing staff or consultants, training, a ghost writer, or entertainment expenses. The resources have to be tied directly to the clear goals and the focus as set out in a planning process. Make sure that the resources, both hard (in terms of money) and soft (partner and staff time), are tracked so that a clear return on the investment can be measured. It’s very easy for new partners to spend a great deal of their own, and others’, unbilled time in preparing for a seminar, for example, without any analysis of whether this is a wise use of resources. Finally, be sure to provide feedback and rewards. It’s not enough just to set clear goals, provide focus, and resources. At the end of the day, you have to evaluate the new partner’s efforts and reward both the efforts made and the success achieved. Once those articles are published or those new clients are signed up, it’s important to give the proper recognition for a job well done. Law firms ought to take a clue or two from their corporate clients and use the same motivational techniques that have been successful in the corporate world for years. Rewards don’t always have to be economic. Often the nature of the reward can be ego- or recognition-driven, with surprisingly valuable results for the individual and the firm. These are just some of the steps that a modern law firm can take to help new partners achieve business development and marketing success. But there are other, more strategic ideas that the modern firm might consider in order to send the proper message, all the time, to the entire organization, from the newest associate to the most senior partner. • Business development isn’t something we do part of the time. It is essential to our organization’s very existence. We don’t get to practice law until a client buys our services. • Even the newest associate is expected to be part of the firm’s business development efforts. Stay in touch with those law school classmates. They may not be in a position to buy anything today, but they will at some point, and we want to be on the top of their minds when that day comes. • Not everyone in the firm is expected to be a rainmaker, but everyone in the firm is expected to be part of the business development or marketing process. It is up to management to make the best use of its existing human resources. There is no guarantee of success, but following these few simple suggestions will go a long way toward promoting a new partner’s individual success and independence, and will contribute greatly to the firm’s economic viability. Jay M. Jaffe is president and CEO of Jaffe Associates Inc., the largest business development consultancy serving the legal profession in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Europe. He speaks and writes regularly on topics of law firm business development and management and may be reached at [email protected].

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.