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Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a two-part series on law firm business development. Jo Bennett never thought much about being a saleswoman in her first career as a journalist. As a junior associate in the labor and employment department at Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, she was more concerned about sharpening her legal skills than drumming up business. But when her practice group moved over to Stevens & Lee two years ago, Bennett saw the prospect of partnership on the horizon and knew she would have to present herself as a business-getter to achieve that status. Enter Chuck Polin, president of Marlton, N.J.’s Human Resource Group, which consults with several lawyers on improving their sales technique. Bennett, now a senior associate, enrolled in what was supposed to be a 10-week class regimen in October 2002 and found it so beneficial that she still attends sessions regularly. Human Resource is one of many consulting companies across the country that offer such coursework for lawyers whose legal education consists of civil procedure and contracts and torts, not sales technique. In January, Polin began offering two-hour classes for lawyers at the Union League every Tuesday morning. The program works with lawyers to evaluate their intrinsic sales talent, set up a training program, produce a business plan and then track the results. Polin said 80 to 90 percent of a law firm’s business comes from 10 to 20 percent of its lawyer roster. “If they just spread the wealth a little bit more, these firms would be a lot more profitable,” said Polin, who has been working with lawyers for the better part of the last decade. His clientele includes solo and small-firm practitioners as well as lawyers from midsize and large firms. Bennett started her journey by taking a personality test, which gauged her attitudes about selling and buying. The 25-page report Polin produced stated that Bennett would make an excellent candidate for the program. “But not everyone is,” Polin said. “There are some people who never will be rainmakers, and we tell them that rather than take their money.” Bennett, a 1996 graduate of Temple University’s law school, said the first thing she had to learn was the vocabulary of a saleswoman. She then had to gain a sense of confidence about marketing herself. “The whole idea is that you can be effective without sounding like a used-car salesman,” Bennett said. “That’s the foundation, but building a client base takes a long time, and that’s why I’ve stayed with [Human Resource Group]. I surpassed the goal I set for business generation in 2003, and I’ve raised the bar for 2004.” Wayne Pinkstone is one of three new partners at Harvey Pennington Cabot Griffith & Renneisen who will wrap up his initial coursework next week. He said the personality test puts in place the framework for what a lawyer needs to accomplish. “My problem was that I was trying to give the client an answer to a legal question without trying to ‘feel their pain,’” Pinkstone said. “I had a tendency to give the client advice to show them how much of an expert I am. Chuck says that’s not necessary, and he’s right. You need to get to the heart of what the client’s problems are and relate to them before you assess them.” Pinkstone was just named a partner this year at Harvey Pennington, along with Stephen Bruderle and Randy Mariano. The firm has sent several of its lawyers to Human Resource Group. Pinkstone is an employment litigator who learned his craft from rainmaker Stephen Cabot. “I learned a lot from Steve when it comes to the practice of law,” Pinkstone said. “He’s a great marketer, but we just have different styles. And that’s why Chuck’s method of being a nurturer works for me.” Like Pinkstone, Pepper Hamilton’s Bruce Fenton is also a younger partner who doesn’t have the natural personality to become an aggressive salesman. But he wanted to enhance the business-getting in his mergers and acquisitions practice. “For me, I had a particular style of client development that was very limiting in that it was a multiyear process,” Fenton said. “I tried to nurture relationships without being very aggressive. I didn’t ask for business. I wanted to let the clients get to know me. “I wanted a more planned, sophisticated way to build my practice, and I needed more tools to do that.” Fenton said the system Polin espouses instructs lawyers not to provide much substantive information until he or she knows the nature of the client’s problem and whether the client can meet the firm’s billing rates. The morning classes at the Union League consist of role-playing exercises and lawyers sharing war stories and hashing out possible solutions. The object is to get these lawyers in front of more clients and potential clients. But that won’t happen if they don’t budget their time to include prospecting. Polin said that a half-hour of prospecting each day could lead to a 25 percent increase in business. Bennett and Pinkstone both said that finding time to prospect is not always easy when one must mix it in with the crush to bill hours, participate in firm committees and functions, take on pro bono work and try to have a family life. “I haven’t quite resolved that problem completely yet,” Bennett said. “But I’m getting there.”

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