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SAN FRANCISCO � Nick Geannacopulos did something unusual at Seyfarth Shaw’s partner retreat, held last month at a seaside hotel in Laguna Niguel, Calif. He gathered 50 California partners at the 753-lawyer firm, which has a strong practice in labor and employment law, for a meeting, but he wouldn’t let the labor lawyers say a word until they’d heard from every other practice group. Chicago-based Seyfarth has, for several years, been trying to move past its roots to become a more full-service firm, and Geannacopulos, a labor lawyer who heads the firm’s San Francisco office, said the idea was to make sure his labor and employment colleagues knew about the other practices, like bankruptcy and real estate, that the firm has begun building in the state. “Everybody talks about cross-selling, but there’s really a lot of old-fashioned hard work to get the ball moving forward,” Geannacopulos said. “Our model is to incentivize sharing; we’re getting better about it.” As law firms continue to grow larger, many of those that built themselves on a single strong practice are branching out. It’s a daunting task. Attracting laterals in a practice area for which a firm isn’t widely known can be difficult and expensive, and convincing clients that the firm can handle a legal matter in a developing practice is equally trying. Intellectual property firm Fish & Richardson found that out a few years ago. The firm set out to build a corporate practice and hoped to tap into its roster of blue chip IP clients for the new practice, but it didn’t work out. Now, the firm has changed course, aiming its corporate efforts, especially in Silicon Valley, at emerging companies. ‘Stuck in silos’ “The first thought of the corporate group was to try to cross-sell to larger existing clients, but that proved to be kind of hard,” said Michael Doran, a Fish corporate partner in Silicon Valley. “We don’t have the history and the bench to make that realistic � there were some optimistic attempts in the early days going after the big game, but we quickly realized that we had to regroup.” Doran said that getting corporate work from the firm’s patent prosecutors, who often find themselves filing patents for young companies, has proven a lot more fruitful. Doug Johnson, a consultant with Hildebrandt International, said cross-selling really starts with the lawyers at the firms. Too often, he said, they’re “stuck in silos” trying to meet their billable requirements. There are a couple of ways to change that. One is to reward lawyers financially for efforts to sell a client to colleagues in another practice, even if it doesn’t actually turn into new business � something that few firms actually do, Johnson said. Another is creating so-called client teams, groups of lawyers from across practices that meet off the clock on a regular basis to discuss a particular client in hopes of anticipating new legal needs � something that more and more firms, including Seyfarth, are trying these days. Johnson said show-and-tells, like the one Geannacopulos orchestrated, are also important, but that the lawyers in a new practice area have to make sure to follow up with their newfound colleagues. “You’ve got to look at the partners here as a client,” Johnson said. “You have to maintain a relationship, put things on their desks, keep in touch � make sure they know what you have to offer.”

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