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One of the roadblocks law firms face in marketing is that young associates just out of law school have been trained on how to be a lawyer, but not on how to get clients. Marketing directors can start to reverse this trend by incorporating marketing training programs into summer associate programs. Not only can a marketing training program provide valuable skills for interns, an effective program can put interns at the front of the pack when they start their law career. Law firms will reap the rewards of implementing marketing training programs into their summer programs, and summer associates will be better prepared when they join a law firm. Who knows — with an effective program, a law firm might find its next big rainmaker. Begin by having a program agenda and calendar of events. If your firm’s summer program is three months, start with a basic game plan for the entire three months, keeping in mind that it has to be flexible enough to accommodate caseloads. To have a successful program in a short time span, focus on issues and marketing activities that are relevant to your firm’s marketing culture. An informal marketing training program can create an exciting marketing environment inside the firm. START WITH FUNDAMENTALS Teaching summer associates the fundamentals of marketing can enhance their individual performances as lawyers. Some of the most common marketing areas to focus on include the following. The steps proposed here could be taken either by professional marketing developers within the firm, or by partners of the firm. Develop networking skills. Take summer associates to special events, chamber of commerce networking mixers, professional meetings — anything to get them comfortable in large crowds. Be their guide, introduce them to everyone you know. Teach them the value of joining professional associations and getting involved in community organizations. Have firm attorneys take summer associates to organizations they are active in. Work a room. When you invite summer associates to an event, don’t just bring them there and leave them to fend for themselves. Teach them to work a room by keeping them with you and teaching by example: move around, make eye contact, smile. Show them easy ways to meet people, such as standing in the longest lines, staying near the entrance and exchanging business cards. Write an elevator speech. Before you take summer associates anywhere, have them spend some time thinking about how they will introduce themselves. Is their introduction interesting enough to keep the conversation going? How many times do you hear “Hi, my name is John Smith and I am a summer associate at Jones Law Firm”? Boring! Wouldn’t it be more interesting to hear “Hi, my name is John Smith and I’m spending the summer doing research for my supervising attorney on a mass tort issues at Jones Law Firm”? Now that really says something about what John Smith does at his firm. For an elevator speech to be effective, it must be short and flexible. Spend some time with the summer associates and have them practice elevator speeches. Techniques used for career development for associates can be effective for summer associates, too: Personal development plans. Many law firms already use this tool for new associates. Before the summer associates arrive, develop a marketing checklist for them. This checklist will help them devise a personal development plan over the course of the program and will help you monitor their progress. Sales skills. Sales is no longer a four-letter word in law firms. Without realizing what they are doing, lawyers are continually out there selling their firm’s legal services and themselves to gain new clients. Sales techniques are important in getting new clients and keeping existing clients. Teach summer associates how spending more time listening to potential clients and exploring opportunities to sell existing clients other legal services will increase revenues. In order to accomplish this, they will need to accompany lawyers to client meetings to observe how face-to-face meetings, listening skills and asking for the business reaps rewards for the firm. Developing business from existing clients. Teach summer associates the importance of business development by letting them see attorneys meeting with clients face to face, listening to them and making the time and giving the commitment to these relationships. Show them how to determine if a client needs the legal services that other attorneys or departments in the firm might provide. Make sure summer associates are knowledgeable about what areas of practice the firm specializes in. Take them to visit clients so they can learn the importance of building relationships to create new business. Before meeting with firm clients, make sure you and your summer associate know about the clients and their business. Developing referral sources. Through networking, teach summer associates the value of referral sources. Take them to lunch with your referral sources, make sure they understand the difference between just lunch and lunch with people who can refer business. Have them begin to develop a list of contacts from law school, previous jobs and school. Explain the importance of sending newsletters and articles to these contacts, taking them to lunch and sending e-mails as ways to begin building the referral relationship. Schmoozing the legal staff. Make sure the summer associates recognize the expertise and knowledge of the legal staff. Legal personnel are an invaluable resource for office procedures, client relationships and firm culture. Teach summer associates to build a relationship with their legal assistant and to work as a team to be more effective for the firm and for the clients. Teach them the value of teamwork and the art of appreciation. Once you have developed a program, it is important to keep everyone on track. Follow up, schedule weekly meetings as a group to discuss upcoming marketing opportunities, give assignments and review what works well and what doesn’t. Invite attorneys from the firm to speak about their marketing experiences. Mix things up by inviting guest speakers, coordinating business tours and planning social activities. When your summer associates go back to law school, a law firm’s marketing training program will set your firm apart from other firms when it comes to recruitment time. Marketing partners and marketing directors can get summer associates started on the right track with informal and fun training programs. In today’s competitive environment, young lawyers need to realize that there is more to being a lawyer than just practicing law; individuals in any profession have to market themselves, whether it be in the courtroom or the boardroom. Summer associates need to learn early the importance of building client relationships, developing a niche or just getting noticed. Tracy Manning Egge is the marketing director of Rapid City, S.D.’s Gunderson, Palmer, Goodsell & Nelson.

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