Marketing. Client development. Rainmaking.
No matter what words describe it, the business of getting more business is a constant pressure in law firms. Stephanie Friese said training new lawyers must include making time for this goal.
“We need to create a space so younger attorneys can build a book of business,” said Friese, managing partner of Pursley Friese Torgrimson, a 12-lawyer firm that handles a host of commercial real estate matters.
She said her firm requires lawyers to bill 1,650 hours per year, on the lower side of the market—but they need 300 hours of business development on top. “We track those hours,” she said.
Friese referred back to her experience as a new lawyer trying to start her own firm. She threw herself into meeting people in the industry she wanted to serve, eventually getting involved in Commercial Real Estate Women of Atlanta. There she met in-house counsel and served on committees.
“Make sure what you’re involved in puts you on the leadership path,” she noted.
At a much bigger firm, 165-lawyer Arnall Golden Gregory, partner Michael Golden takes a similar approach, saying the firm encourages lawyers to get involved in business organizations.
“The best place to meet clients is where the clients are,” said Golden, who co-leads the firm’s closely held and family business practice. But he cautioned that lawyers don’t attend, for example, a trade association meeting to look for clients. Instead, one goes to demonstrate knowledge of the law that affects that industry.
Like Friese, Golden noted that participating in associations and committees pays off best when its substantial enough to earn a place of leadership. That kind of work—recruiting speakers and identifying important issues—gives lawyers opportunities to showcase their expertise.
And the firm gives associates credit for time spent involved in marketing and business development, he added.
At 195-lawyer Morris, Manning, & Martin, John Yates said the firm has a guideline to help train rainmakers: “Never have a meal with a prospective client or strategic partner without an MMM colleague.”
“Attorneys are observant, and it’s amazing how often younger colleagues learn from seasoned business development veterans,” he added. “They often pick up, by osmosis, key pointers that help them win a new client. And lawyers hunting for new business are more likely to be successful through teamwork.”
Yates, who heads the firm’s technology practice, added that for the past several years, the entire corporate tech group has met—associates and partners—to review current business development projects, prospect pipelines and key metrics (new clients and outstanding prospects).
Those meetings include case studies on how the team gained a new client and a review of upcoming events that will be of interest to clients and prospects. The firm has also started videotaping business development presentations for internal viewing.
“We believe they’ll prove to be very helpful in the training process,” Yates added.
Friese was asked whether any of this training can walk out the door when a lawyer with a freshly built book of business goes to a new firm.
“It definitely happens,” she said, but she added, “It’s a risk we have to take when we grow.”