Thursday, May 17, 2018

6 Ways for Lawyers to Identify New Business Opportunities

1.    Ask about business and/or personal issues and problems: current, developing, future, and latent.

2.    Ask about recent and developing projects, plans, and/or trends.

3.    Ask about what is changing, has changed, or will likely change. REMEMBER: Change is constant and all change equals opportunity.

4.    What is the gap/hole created by these changes? What exposure and/or potential liability might result?

5.    Link the above responses to your core capabilities and your firm’s core capabilities by describing the benefit(s)/solutions you and your firm can provide.

6.    Ask if you can help/be of service to them.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Top 5 “Best Practices” in Client Succession: Baby Boomer Lawyers Are Retiring in Record Numbers!

In the best interests of valued clients and contacts, retiring lawyers need to create a transition/succession plan and implement it starting approximately three to five years before their planned retirement date.
  1. Start from the “bottom” up, i.e. download all the retiring lawyer’s clients and contacts, and rank the most important clients and referral sources.
  2. Armed with the list above, a firm leader and a firm staff member (who should be assigned responsibility for regularly following-up with the retiring lawyer), meet with the lawyer to discuss the client/contact list, and if not already done, rank the most important. Or, the retiring lawyer can and should do this themselves.
  3. Review the most important clients/contacts, discuss “bench” (i.e. who the retiring lawyer has in mind to “take over” the relationship).
  4. Discuss and determine next steps, i.e. is there an important referral sources who does not know anyone else at the firm? Should an introductory meeting be set-up, etc.
  5. Make sure the above is in writing, along with names, next steps, and follow-up dates. The firm staff member, leader, or retiring lawyer should schedule weekly, monthly, and/or quarterly check-in meetings to ensure a smooth and effective transition.
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Thursday, April 12, 2018

6 Best Business Development Practices for (New) Partners©

For most lawyers, being or becoming a rainmaker/business developer takes consistent discipline, strategic focus and effort. Below are 6 Best Practices to ensure you have a steady stream of work throughout your career.
  1. Determine how you define a successful career practicing law by asking yourself what, upon retirement at the end of your career, you want said about you by your clients/colleagues.
  2. Decide what annual dollar figure you need or have in mind regarding the amount of new business you would like to bring in each year on average (from external and/or internal sources as appropriate).
  3. Assess how motivated you are to develop new business and determine what level of self-discipline you are willing to impose upon yourself to attain your new business objectives.
  4. Review what has worked for you in the past. If you have developed new business/work/cases in the past, from whom did they originate? Internally from a firm lawyer/partner? Externally from a referral source/friend/family member, or from a law school classmate? From other sources beside these? Have you been in touch with those clients/people recently?
  5. Inventory all your clients and contacts and save them all in one place, such as in Outlook contacts. Make sure to include all past clients, even if it was just a one-off case or matter. In addition, be sure to include anyone who has referred to you (or tried to) in the past.
  6. Schedule time each week to set aside, review your clients/contacts, and make a concerted effort to reach out to and stay in touch with each in a sincere, proactive, value-added, and/or useful manner.
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Monday, March 12, 2018

Supplier Diversity Programs Benefit Law Firms©

To maintain and increase business, client and market share, most law firms would like to have and present stronger diversity statistics. The fact remains that law is the least diverse profession in the United States, and although most law firms make concerted diversity efforts, there is more to be done. One way to increase law firms’ diversity statistics, which few law firms have adopted, is to create a Supplier Diversity Program (SDP).

What is an SDP? It’s an organized sourcing method used by public companies and entities in the procurement process to allow diverse suppliers equal access to purchasing opportunities. Such suppliers need to be certified by bona fide entities and consist of businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans, disabled individuals, members of the LGBT community, and other historically underutilized groups that may be affected by unconscious bias in purchasing decisions. These suppliers are often referred to as MWBEs, which stands for qualified minority and women-owned business enterprises.

All publicly held companies, institutions and entities have had SDPs for years, which cover all procurement, including the selection and hiring of outside law firms and other outside legal services. Yet, as private companies and for various reasons, the majority of law firms have not followed suit. A few law firms (but not many) now have and promote SDPs, including Baker Botts; Faegre Baker Daniels; Gibbons, Shearman & Sterling; Warner Norcross & Judd; Weil Gotshal; and a very few others.

Instead, the vast majority of law firms serving or wanting to serve public companies and entities have made a commitment to diversity but focus mainly on increasing their internal workplace diversity – i.e., the number of diverse lawyers the firm employs. To support the career development of firm lawyers, many firms also have diverse inclusion and affinity groups operating within. Yet very few law firms have or report SDPs and/or diversity in pro bono efforts. The fact is, most law firms’ diversity programs consist mainly of efforts to recruit, develop and retain diverse lawyers and employees while promoting themselves as inclusive, racism- and bias-free workplaces.

Law firms with SDPs are able to report stronger diversity statistics to clients and prospective clients when proposing/pitching new business. They report the diversity of their internal workforce, plus their use of diverse vendors and suppliers, i.e., MWBEs, such as court reporters, experts, consultants, etc.

The benefits of creating and having a law firm SDP include: increasing the firm’s level of commitment to diversity and inclusion, both internally and externally; increasing the firm’s share of an approximately $1.5B (and growing) market for outside legal services; increasing the firm’s diversity statistics and scorecard when reporting to clients, pitching new business and recruiting; and helping the firm stand out from competitors in proposals, RFP responses, pitches and the market.

Most Common Diversity Statistics and Information That Law Firms Track and Report to Clients 
 1.  Firm ownership. If a firm or company is at least 51% MWBE-owned, is certified as such by a bona fide entity, and is qualified, the firm becomes eligible for outside legal work and/or may get special considerations.
       2.  Firm demographics/workforce. For non-MWBE-owned law firms, proposing and tracking minority/diverse lawyers and personnel who work on clients’ matters are reported, including percentages by firm, practice area and/or office.
       3.   Internal diversity training, mentoring, internal groups and all diversity development programs and support.
Uncommon Diversity Statistics and Information That Law Firms Track and Report to Clients
       1.  Use of diverse outside vendors/suppliers. Does your law firm have an SDP? Would it benefit from one?
       2.   Diverse pro bono cases and matters. Does your law firm track diversity in pro bono work and consider diversity when selecting pro bono cases/matters? If not, should it?

If your law firm is considering adopting an SDP to augment workplace diversity efforts, here are some key steps:  
 1.  Get leadership to create a business policy and consider staffing and mechanics.
        2. Create a Supplier Diversity development plan, including process, procedures, tracking and reporting.
        3.  Conduct regular promotion and education internally and externally.
        4.   Identify opportunities. Review results and update the program at least annually.

Some resources the author researched to write this article:
ABA Resolution 113 – Adopted September 2016 -  Promote Diversity in the Legal Profession
“$1 Billion and Counting”by Sherrie Boutwell, July 16, 2016, ABA Law Practice Today
“GCs Urged To Show Law Firms A Tough Hand On Diversity,” by Melissa Maleske, May 2, 2016, Law360
Cross-examination: Supplier Diversity in the Legal Procurement Process – August 12, 2016, New Jersey Law Journal
ABA Model Rule 8.4 Revised Resolution - Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility
National Association of Minority & Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) –
National Minority Supplier Development Council
National Women Business Owners Corporation –
National Veteran-Owned Business Association –

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Lawyers Beware! Gender & Other Bias in New Business Situations©

Each human being (including every lawyer) has and uses two types of bias in their thought and decision-making processes: explicit and implicit (or unconscious) bias. Studies show that 98 percent of each human being’s biases are automatic and intentional, but 2 percent are unconscious and unintentional. Biases often negatively impact a lawyer’s ability to develop new relationships and get new work – without intent.

Explicit bias reflects the attitudes, beliefs, and/or stereotypes that a person acts upon, endorses, and believes in at a conscious level. Examples include:
  •  “I will never buy services from or hire anyone who is X” (fill in the X with any one or a combination of male/female; a person of a certain color, religion, sexual orientation; etc.). 
  •  “He/she went to X college/law school; I would never hire anyone who graduated from there.”
  •  “All baby boomer outside counsel are outdated and overly conservative.”
  •  “In-house counsel from the millennial generation don’t know anything.” 
Implicit bias is the bias in judgment and/or behavior that results from thinking processes that often operate at a level below conscious awareness and without the person’s intention or control. So they are often subtle, hidden preferences, attitudes, and stereotypes that impact selection and decision-making. Examples include:
  • In a pitch, when the General Counsel is an older man and the three AGCs are also male, they may unconsciously prefer to select and work with a male – or vice versa.
  • When assembling a team within a law firm to pitch a prospective new client, the “lead” lawyer is an older male and unconsciously chooses only men to be part of the pitch.
  • When considering outside trainers or vendors, decision-makers unconsciously steer away from hiring minorities by minimizing or dismissing their capabilities without realizing they are doing so.
The above scenarios and others just like them (but swap male for any race, religion, color, etc.) occur within law firms every day! The key is to be aware of your own and the client’s/potential client’s biases, consider the situation, and then raise and address or steer away from unfair bias to the extent possible and appropriate.

Want to learn more best practices on how to avoid bias? Rent this webinar today “Best Practices: Diversity and Gender Issues Facing Law Firms.”

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Monday, February 19, 2018

General & In-House Counsel's Greatest Pet Peeves re: Outside Counsel and Ways to Avoid Them©

The compilation below consists of over 50 pet peeves, which the author, Julie Savarino placed into six categories. Each “pet peeve” is an actual comment made by numerous in-house and general counsel in response to the questions: “what frustrates you most re: your outside counsel?”, “what drives you most crazy about the outside counsel with whom you work?”:

 Pet Peeves re: Asking General/In-House Counsel for Legal Work/More or New Business
a.       Emailing me alerts that our company has been sued. We know the minute we are sued because our process receivers alert us. If you insist on sending us an email about a recent suit, add value i.e. explain what you know, could do that could be of use/vale to us/our company.
b.       Calling/emailing me asking me for new business/work with little or with no preparation/homework, context, reason, or benefit to company. Do research/do your homework about our company and legal needs before contacting in-house counsel in any form.
c.       Numerous lawyers from same firm contacting me repeatedly for new business (i.e. little or no internal firm coordination-communication re who is reaching out to which clients for what, when, why). To avoid embarrassment/redundancies, coordinate internally before contacting me.
d.       “Robotic”, cookie-cutter and/or firm-centered pitches for new business. Tailor it to our company and needs.
e.       Outside counsel “over-selling” and/or “up-selling”. When pitching, communicate realistically and honestly about situation, potential and probable outcome, fees, and costs. Do not say at start “will only take X” then bill comes in at 3x that. Know your average costs per similar case/matter and do not “add on” midstream without prior approval.
f.        Little understanding of our industry and/or company. Do research and prepare as much as you can, then ask questions about what do not know, may be assuming. Offer to do X# hours of research, site visits etc. to get up to speed, bill at lower flat fee or provide complimentary as a value add.
g.       Not personally buying or using my product before pitching me.
h.       Involving clients in law firm infighting re: billing credit. Unprofessional and ugly. Avoid at all costs.

           Pet Peeves re: Outside Lawyers’ Overall Attitude
a.       Outside lawyers need to become self-aware. There are numerous studies about lawyer’s behavioral tendencies. Know yours and try to minimize them. Arrogance or a superior attitude is rarely welcome. Outside lawyers are in the service business and should have an operate using a service-mentality.
b.       Lawyers who “opt-out” of service-mentality. Even lawyers who charge over $1K per hour are in the service business. There is no excuse to think that as an outside lawyer (even if charge over $1K per hour) are exempt from being communicative, responsive and operate using a client-centric approach.
c.       Not paying attention. Listen, at least pretend like you care, educate us, and share relevant, non-attributed experience that can help for be useful to our company.
d.       Not providing quality, responsive service. Even if we have agreed to a fixed/flat fee for certain work, do not give me the attitude/excuse that “your company is not paying us enough to get our top level of service”.
e.       Don’t be an “a-hole”. Our company follows a “no a-hole” rule that applies to everyone, employees, outside vendors and all other vendors alike.
f.        Not checking assumptions/presumptions. Outside lawyers make a lot of assumptions about clients and their work without even realizing it. Consider what you are assuming carefully and if you are not sure discuss with someone objective.
g.       Insensitive to client’s pressures/situation/internal issues.  If not sure, ask us what they are.
h.       Not considering client’s perspective and/or preferences. Again, ask.
i.         Lack of respect and/or acting arrogant towards anyone in client’s organization. This is not welcomed or tolerated. We value every company employee equally, no matter their position or role.

3     Pet Peeves re:Outside Counsel’s Approach to the Practice of Law-
a.       Being mainly reactive rather than proactive. Discipline yourself, use technology to improve your proactivity habits when serving clients.
b.       No consideration of internal clients and their time. Do not send me something the same day that needs to be reviewed and finalized by the end of that day. There are internal company clients that often need to be contacted and they may not be available on short notice. Plan to send me items that require internal review/approval at least 3 days before they are due.
c.       Surprises. Clients HATE surprises, bad news. Try to discuss/consider all possible contingencies at the outset of work (i.e. plan was to take six depositions, but new information means could be up to four more). If there is a change- surprise, call (do not email) me the news. Do not simply email me the news and hope I received it. Call immediately. “One channel communication” is not good for important issues (i.e. outside counsel only emails or calls only). If very important, both call and email me ASAP.
d.       With new matters-cases, not taking the initiative and lack of pre-planning – i.e. not taking the time to read our Outside Counsel Guidelines and/or not initiating a discussion with us re how they apply to this case/matter and what we expect.  Obtain them, read/analyze them, and abide by them.
e.       Lack of industry/company understanding – not knowing lingo, terms and not keeping up with developments. Not making an effort to do so.
f.        Sticking on a position/advice. Advocate your position/advice, but be flexible. Consider the client may not agree with your position-take your advice exactly for numerous reasons of which the outside lawyer may not be aware.

       Pet Peeves re:Outside Counsel’s Communications -
a.       Lack of responsiveness and communication from outside lawyers is a huge pet peeve. Plan and schedule frequent communications with the client, even if just to say, “still have not heard re: X or just checking in”).
b.       No bench communicated to client. Identify a key, back-up lawyer in your firm for the case/matter you are handling for our company. Introduce to in-house counsel (without charging the client), send contact information in case needed.
c.       Waiver requests. When we initiate our relationship ask me about our company’s our policy/approach re waivers, i.e. is it on a case-by-case, blanket “no waivers”, etc. Or, if not possible, if you would like a waiver, call me, and ask, “what is your company’s policy on granting outside counsel waivers?” before asking for a waiver and explaining the situation.
d.       Back-door/going behind the back of in-house counsel to ask for and/or get business. Alert or ask me ahead of time if you plan to have conversations/meetings with business units/other executives within our company, so that I am aware.
e.       No case assessment before starting work. Initiate an “early case assessment” either once retained, or if not yet retained, clear conflicts then send me your assessment.
f.        Errors, omissions, mis-spellings in legal documents/work product – plan to have your work product internally proofed for both typos and technology/context before sending to the client. Do not charge client for proof/review.
g.       Not initiating a “lessons learned” at end of every engagement.  Plan, schedule for an initiate asking me for an “end of engagement” review, whether by phone, at one of our offices. Send me a summary of lessons learned and do not charge me for the time. Or, note time spent on invoice and mark “complimentary” or “value-add, no charge”.
h.       Loss of enthusiasm, passion, and/or commitment towards the client over time.

5     Pet Peeves re:Outside Counsel’s Service Quality and Service Delivery -
a.       Not abiding by client’s Outside Counsel Guidelines. Ask for them, study/review them, and create a method to abide by them. Ask in-house counsel questions about them.
b.       Not asking about, listening to, or following client’s instruction(s), policy(ies), approach and/or plan.
c.       Lack of proportionality – I.e. drafting a memo, when a phone call will suffice. Little forethought, understanding client’s expectations, communication and/or coordination in service completion/delivery.
d.       Poor responsiveness/timeliness and/or not asking about or responding in manner and time best suited to client’s preferences. Create an organized way to handle this internally. Use internal staff to support as appropriate.
e.       Poorly communicating bad/potentially negative news or procrastinating informing us.
f.        Make staffing additions and/or changes without prior discussion with client and approval.
g.       Not tech-savvy or asking/suggesting uses of technology to create efficiencies/save money.
h.       Timeliness - not allowing client sufficient time prior to deadlines to review and approve. Use a 3-day ahead rule and schedule it in your calendar.
i.         Not taking responsibility and accountability for estimates and/or making changes/decisions in the scope/work without prior approval of in-house counsel. If you commit to a budget, abide by it. If changes are needed, call me to discuss them before doing the work and billing for it.

6     Pet Peeves re: Fees & Costs, Budgets & Budgeting, Billing & Invoicing -
a.       Receiving and reviewing outside law firm invoices. Reviewing law firm invoices/bills is one of in-house counsel’s least favorite things to do and takes a lot of time. Think of ways to make it easier, less time consuming, more efficient, and transparent and how law firm invoices can add value-build the relationship.  Many in-house counsel departments have moved and continue to move to flat/fixed fees for outside legal work to minimize internal time spent attending to law firm bills/invoices. Create, initiate a discussion about and offer me flat/fixed fees whenever possible.
                                                               i.      Outside lawyers usually treat fees, costs, budgeting, billing, and invoicing as an after-thought. Instead, outside lawyers should embrace this, ask about, take great interest and responsibility for the above. As relevant, ask about internal outside counsel budget(s), any insurance coverage, secondary coverage, and self-retention as applicable.
                                                             ii.      Not sticking to budgets-fixed fees. Embrace the fact that a budget and/or fixed fee is not an estimate – it should be abided by and if changes are needed, discuss with client before doing the work.
                                                           iii.      Before starting work, ask me what my expected budget is for this case/matter. Also, discuss how we will communicate about and handle unexpected changes.
                                                           iv.      If we agree on either a budget, or fixed/flat fee, stick with it/abide by it.
                                                             v.      Going over-budget and billing for overage. Let me know ahead of time if exceeding budget and discuss before doing the work.
b.       A lawyer’s hourly rate is not “all in” and being nickeled-and-dimed on invoices. Outside lawyer’s hourly rate should include copies, faxes, phone charges, proof reading, all miscellaneous costs that are needed to run a firm, etc.
c.       Hourly rate increases without prior discussion and approval.
d.       Marking-up any outside, out-of-pocket costs such as experts, travel, overnight delivery, etc.
e.       Billing the clients for meeting-and-greeting other firm lawyers and/or informal, non-business related meetings/lunches, etc.
f.        Typos, errors in pro forma, bills, invoices. Have proofed before sending to clients and do not charge for doing so.
g.       Not customizing the firm’s billing format to client’s needs/e-billing system/technology. Ask client about use of technology for billing before starting work. Do not charge for time to get system set-up. Stop killing more trees by sending me cover, form letter for mailing bills. Summarize amount to and total cost to date on invoices where it is easy to read and track.
h.       Sending invoices after 30-day and older invoices. Do not send client invoices 60-90 days late and expect to get paid the same day or week. Adopt and use a pro forma, billing, and invoicing system and discipline.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Organic Revenue Growth for Lawyers & Law Firms Is Not Easy©

There has never been a more competitive market for outside legal services, which has dramatically raised pressure on law firms to maintain and grow profits by increasing revenues and controlling costs.

Top-Down Strategies Prevail – The strategy of restructuring the partnership ranks, and lateral acquisitions to ensure a near-term increases in profit per equity partner has worked for many firms, but is it a sustainable strategy to continue increasing profitability? Other popular top-down growth strategies to boost profitability include rate increases, mergers,  shared-service centers, sole-sourcing, and outsourcing. These efforts are helping some firms boost their bottom-line and distributable share of the pie – but none of them produce systematic organic growth (defined as a measurable increase in new business or number of clients by type of matter and/or client share, etc.).

The most common strategies to differentiate and/or grow a firm or practice are related to either one or a combination of the following factors:
1. People (talent level, practice mix, specialization)
2. Processes and procedures (client service programs, internal training and development programs, volume pricing structures)
3. Technology (better systems, faster turnaround, etc.)
The main problem in most firms is not coming up with the strategic mix, but putting rubber to the road and actually getting them implemented over time.

Bottom-Up Support Attains Strategic Objectives – Most firms fall down in executing strategic plans and reaching objectives largely due to existing time pressures and unforeseen distractions. Without actual implementation of corresponding grass-roots, bottom-up or individual lawyer level strategies and tactics, there is a limit to how long the top-down strategies will continue to produce the desired result. Getting individual lawyers to execute is challenging for many reasons, including aggressive billable hour requirements, plus lawyers’ relatively autonomous and independent natures and/or resistance to direction, adaptation, or change. It is simply no longer enough to “keep up with the Joneses” and have a “follow the herd” mentality. If you or your firm embraces the need to continually adapt and evolve in order to survive and thrive, below are some recent trends that may be helpful to you:

1.            Define the main contribution(s) expected from the marketing, business development, and client service department(s) for YOUR firm. Firms that have had marketing departments in place for many years now are evolving and restructuring their departments and managing these processes more systematically. Many firms have noticed that with expenditures steadily increasing in this area, some investments are likely misdirected or misprioritized. In addition, the available supply of qualified and experienced staff members who will stay long term and build a solid, sustainable department is getting tighter nationwide. Firms have also realized that very few single staff members can meet all needs in all areas of marketing, business development, and client service simultaneously (i.e., it is very hard to be “all things to all people”) and that “throwing a person at the problem” does not make an effective marketing function. One firm asked: what is the greatest value or highest and best use of our firm’s marketing staff members? The firm then outsourced some important functions that the current staff did not excel in or have time for. Increasingly, firms are building more sophisticated business development and client service functions while carefully focusing their investments in marketing communications.

2.            Define LAWYERS’ highest and best marketing, business development, and client services contributions. In addition to reassessing their organized marketing communications and business development departments, firms are also focusing at the grass-roots, lawyer level. Again, the lawyers who can be all things to all people are the exception, not the rule. Firms are making efforts to guide lawyers toward their highest and best use of time and effort. Some are asking, either at the practice group or compensation committee level, such questions as: What is this lawyer’s target market? Whom do they need to know/meet/communicate with? How are they communicating? Is this most effective? What suggestions or other approaches can they consider? To accomplish this analysis, some firms require annual business plans from all partners/shareholders; others require preapproval for expenditures over a certain level. Many firms are requiring more specificity on traditional marketing efforts/investments such as attending conferences, writing, community or client donations, and speaking opportunities before funding them. Other firms have eliminated the funding of preprinted brochures, opting instead for customizable, on-demand, in-house publishing capabilities. These efforts are designed to improve the revenue resulting from these investments while ensuring cost-effectiveness.

3.            Assess the role of laterals. How much of your firm’s new business in recent years originated from lateral acquisitions and/or mergers? The answer in most Am Law 200 firms is anywhere between 20% and 70%. Some of those firms whose laterally produced percentage of growth is high are responding to this reality by recasting the focus and roles in their firm’s marketing and business development departments. For example, one firm has directed its entire marketing department to refocus its development efforts using a 70/30 ratio, with 70% of the activity being aimed at the internal client (i.e., firm partners/shareholders, especially new laterals) and 30% being aimed at the external, ultimate client. This firm is shifting time, attention and support toward new partners/shareholders who have brought a new client or clients to the firm as part of their move, with the goal of increasing client share and cross selling. The firm’s marketing and business development staff members work closely with the firm’s recruiting, professional development, and retention committees to help laterals get to know their fellow shareholders and follow up to build important internal relationships. This includes helping laterals understand more about their fellow shareholders’ practices, analyze how they can provide additional service to their clients, and create action plans implemented over time.

4.                   Find your players and give them tailored support. Lawyers vary considerably in their skill sets, capabilities, disposition, career objectives, preferences, and motivations. Not everyone can be a starting pitcher or home run hitter. Unfortunately, most training and development programs are designed to be all things to all people on a certain subject. The majority of a half-, one- or two-day session is devoted to “talking heads” conducting information/knowledge transfer. As discussed above, telling lawyers what they should know and/or do is one thing; actually getting it done is the real issue, because talk is cheap. In addition, many such training and development programs are often “required,” and as a result, attendees range from those motivated and interested to those who couldn’t care less. To improve their return on investment, astute law firm managers realize that the real payoff in training and development lies in first identifying the lawyers with motivation to adapt, grow, and participate, and then tailoring specific programs around those who will actually participate and desire the support. Providing proven, experienced sales or new business development coaches tor interested lawyers has been shown to generate more regular, routine follow-up at the individual level, and is effective at generating practice efficiencies and increased revenues.

Want a proven tool to help increase organic growth? Download our award-nominated Rainmaker Coach app today!

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