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Steve Brook is at a pivotal point in his career as a sixth-year associate with Burns & Levinson in Boston. So he’s spending more time golfing, playing hockey and hanging out with his buddies from college. With an eye toward partnership, Brook knows that the best way to attain equity status at the 100-attorney firm is to drum up business for his corporate practice, which means not only attending the typical networking events but also maintaining old friendships and forging new ones. Burns & Levinson, like a growing number of law firms, wants even their newest associates to learn how to develop business. And although law firms are saying that they have realistic expectations about a 20-something’s ability to snag clients, more are requiring that young lawyers at least demonstrate an effort to bring in work if they want to rise above the associate ranks. “It’s much more encouraged, in order to make partner,” Brook said. At the Boston firm, associates each month attend business development tutorials, which include guest speakers and question-and-answer sessions organized by the partner in charge of its Associate Marketing Program. The firm also requires associates to write a business plan each year in which they identify how they will reach out to potential clients in the next 12 months. Brook said that he isn’t under “much pressure” to develop business, but that it is “highly encouraged” at the associate level. Tapping into the network of old friends that Brook developed while growing up in a Boston suburb has been the most beneficial for building business, he said, adding that a contact through “a friend of a friend” helped him obtain as a client a public company based in China. Starting from Day One Law firms increasingly want their associates to attend trade events, join nonprofits and participate in community functions to lay the foundation for acquiring future clients, said Jennifer Marrapese, president of Marrapese Associates, a Providence, R.I.-based coaching and consulting firm. “It’s not unrealistic to start from Day One,” she said. But she cautions that law firm leaders and associates should understand that business development is a gradual process, one in which quick results are rare. Although most firms do not articulate specific business development goals for associates, some look for “milestones” as associates accumulate time with the firm, she explained. For example, a firm may look to see if associates have assisted with any published articles or, even better, have authored any themselves. Participating in seminars and speaking at business events also win points, as do serving on boards of charitable organizations and volunteering for civic groups, she said. Most firms, said Marrapese, do not expect associates to bring in clients during their first few years, but firms do want evidence of efforts to do so. “What we can expect of a 24-year-old is to start planting seeds,” she said. One of the biggest mistakes a firm can make, she said, is to require senior associates or newly minted partners to develop business when the firm has not set up training to help them meet that expectation. She said firms need to provide a “roadmap”for lawyers to follow. Back to school To that end, firms have created professional development programs, or “universities,” to give those maps to associates. For example, 1,025-attorney McDermott, Will & Emery has established McDermott University, which trains associates in client relationships. Donald Goldman, partner-in-charge of professional development at the firm, said that he does not expect that fifth- or sixth-year associates will have a book of business. “Unless you have some grey hair, it’s hard to bring in business,” he said. He added, however, that the firm does look to associates to “start to do the right things,” by devoting about two hours each week to maintaining connections with business groups, getting published and staying in touch with contacts. But doing the right things is not always easy. In Brook’s case, he has a home field advantage, he said, because he grew up in the Boston area and has long-term connections with the community. Traditional networking opportunities, such as trade functions and chambers of commerce events, tend to be “lawyer-heavy,” he said, where it is common to see a 2-to-1 ratio of lawyers to potential clients. And in any case, he said, a soft-sell approach is best. “A sales pitch is the last thing you want to do to your friends,” he said. Even though the methods for developing business that law firms teach their associates-attending business events, participating in seminars and scheduling lunches with possible clients-do not seem to vary much, the opportunities may be different depending on the size of the firm and the practice area. Bringing in clients is easier for corporate attorneys, whose work tends to be more “run of the mill,” said Goldman, than it is for litigators who often need to hunt for work after they reach a settlement or try a case. Brook, who worked at a national firm with several hundred attorneys before joining Burns & Levinson in 2003, said it is easier to develop business at a smaller firm. Smaller operations are interested in smaller deals, he said, which can benefit associates, who are unlikely to bring in the big deals. For instance, a smaller firm may appreciate an associate who finds a client needing a health care proxy, something larger firms generally would not handle, he said. ‘A total fluke’ By contrast, business development at 1,840-attorney Latham & Watkins is “not even an issue,” for one third-year associate, who requested anonymity. The lawyer said that bringing in business would be “a total fluke” at this point. “It’s not even in my realm,” the associate said. “If I were to bring in business, it would be major kudos.” Another mammoth-sized firm, 1,482-attorney Greenberg Traurig, does not make bringing in business a requirement for associates to become partner, said Stephen Rabinowitz, chairman of recruiting in the firm’s New York office. But it does train junior associates in the art of client communication with the hopes that it will foster business development skills as attorneys move through the ranks. Rabinowitz tells young lawyers to treat the partners they work for as their clients. “It’s a model for how they deal with clients as they mature,” he said.

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