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Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series. In the second article, appearing tomorrow, The Legal Intelligencer will look at law firms’ use of outside consultants for bolstering sales. For some lawyers, it’s only second nature to sell their practice and themselves. For others, though, it is a symptom of the legal profession’s evolution into a business, and it’s something that they could do without. The latter will no doubt be the toughest group on Mark Messing’s roster of new charges. Messing just began his position as director of business development and client services at Buchanan Ingersoll, where he will work with the Pittsburgh-based firm’s lawyers on how to increase their books of business. “I think the younger lawyers tend to be more interested, but really it spans over multiple generations,” said Messing, who was vice president of business development at Best Buy but had never worked at a law firm before joining Buchanan last month. Buchanan Ingersoll is the only local firm that reported having a full-time sales professional in a senior administrative position. But Duane Morris has teams of business developers and marketing managers who are also working with lawyers on how to sell their wares to clients and prospective clients. Messing said his job starts with helping Buchanan lawyers target client prospects and enhance their sales skills while also putting together teams of lawyers to handle pitches to new and existing clients. “I work with lawyers on how to prospect and what they should do during a presentation,” Messing said. “But I don’t make the presentation for them. Because at the end of the day, a [general counsel of a client] is going to want to hear the lawyer talk about legal services.” Because he is new to the firm, Messing is traveling from office to office to visit with attorneys. He said he had found a receptive audience in Buchanan’s attorneys. He said one major difference between law firms and other professional service firms is the faster pace in which business is conducted. “I might work on one or two pitches a week, compared to maybe one or two a month at other jobs I’ve had,” Messing said. “But it still leaves me enough time to work with attorneys on the clarity of their presentation and making sure the client feels valued, honored and respected. I want them to make lawyerly presentations that are businesslike but not painful. Just add a little animation.” Messing said one of the big chores is to get lawyers to keep the focus of the pitch on the client and not themselves. “I find myself telling them to stop talking about themselves and talk more about the client,” Messing said. “You don’t want to prattle on about how you won this case or worked on this deal. You want to tell the client, I understand you need this, and this is how we can help you. “Only talk about yourself if you are putting it in the framework of how you’ll handle a client issue.” Duane Morris chief marketing officer Ed Schechter has hired four teams of business development and marketing managers that are split up by both region and practice area. The business development managers are former lawyers who have a decade of experience in the client development arena. The marketing manager helps develop business opportunities through organizing marketing vehicles such as seminars. The business development manager identifies which clients are attending a specific event and follows up with the client while also schooling Duane Morris lawyers on sales technique. Schechter said the idea is to improve the quality of the marketing activities and, in return, attract better clients. “The marketing department only has a certain amount of money, so we make sure we spend it wisely,” Schechter said. “We don’t want any broad-based, passive activities. We are looking at smaller settings where our presentations can really make more of an impact.” Wayne-based law firm consultant Robert Denney said other professional service firms, such as accounting firms, have had sales professionals on their payrolls for years. And British law firms have used non-lawyer business developers for the better part of the last decade. He said such sales professionals would make cold calls to prospective clients to make contacts and coach lawyers about sales techniques. While New York and Washington, D.C., firms recently picked up on the trend, it is new to Philadelphia. “For the legal profession, I don’t think it will work in the long run, and I just don’t think it’s a good idea,” Denney said. “So much of the practice of law is about relationships – specifically about how well attorneys connect with clients or prospective clients. And to inject a salesperson into the mix can be problematic. “That person should not be having much interaction with the client. I just don’t think most sophisticated clients are going to like having a salesperson be one of their primary contacts.” Dechert litigation department chairman Robert C. Heim said his firm resisted bringing in a high-level sales professional but does have a large staff to assist lawyers with requests for proposals and other marketing issues. “They will help with specific client opportunities, but they are not active initiators,” Heim said. “The sales component is relatively new but not surprising because accounting firms already have it, and law firms are traditionally following them. “But I’m still of the belief that clients are most attracted to the skill of the lawyer. I guess it depends on the firm culture. In some cases, you don’t want a salesperson intruding on a good client relationship. And then you have lawyers who don’t want any part of it. They’ll say, If I wanted to be in sales, I would have gotten an MBA.” Messing admits that it’s hard to gauge what tangible results a marketing professional has achieved on behalf of the firm. “Because I’m not in the room when they make the actual pitches, it’s very hard to connect my contributions directly to a revenue event,” Messing said. So you have to look at soft factors such as how successful the firm is at winning clients and new work.”

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