Monday, November 23, 2009

The Perils & Opportunities of Generating Revenue Using Chief Business Development Officers and/or Professional Business Developers©

As a lawyer and proven professional business developer with over 25 years of experience, I am concerned that too many law firms are trying to solve "the problem" of the need to generate more revenue in this tough economy by deciding to "hire a person to solve the problem" without providing much-- if any-- focus, buy-in, support, resources, authority and/or back-up. Unless responsibilities, expectations and deliverables are clearly defined and matched with capabilities, simply creating a new position as a solution does not work in the vast majority of cases. It is eerily similar to when law firms first started hiring marketing directors about 30 years ago. Back then, many firms did the same thing - hire a person to solve "the problem" without laying the proper foundation... simply hoping it would work. The negative effect of that approach is still with us, as unrealistically high law firm expectations and unrealistically minimal support and resources create the kind of mutual frustration and disappointment that cause the counterproductive turnover of marketing professionals the legal industry continues to experience.

Currently, more firms are hiring or contemplating hiring a high end "sales" professional as an internal business development staffer, and/or are retaining the services of an external business developer (outsourcing the function). In either case, before hiring or retaining such a person, it is essential that: 1) the role/responsibilities of the position are carefully and narrowly defined; 2) the reporting structure and coordination with the marketing department and other key support functions is carefully mapped out; and 3) the sales professional's direct track record, true capabilities and deliverables are vetted carefully. In some firms, the C.M.O., director or equivalent already services/supports the sales function, so an additional employee (increasing head count) is not necessary except to provide additional support, leverage, training and/or coaching to assist the existing efforts.

Hiring one professional to simply "get the 'job' done - generate new work for us" is not very realistic (unless it is a small firm). If it was so easy to do, law firms would not be in this situation. Firms are most successful when they approach the sales "job" from a holistic point of view - that is, embracing the fact that almost all employees and firm owners need to have basic client communication/client relations skills... whether or not they want to or will actually engage in the "sales" process itself. A top-down driven, shared understanding that every employee of the firm has some role/responsibility within the business development process, even as the roles vary, is essential to success for the sales function within law firms.

One of the key roles for sales professionals that law firms hire should be to develop the appropriate level of skills for the internal team - i.e. those that will be most active in the firm's business development program - lawyers and support staff. This requires directed resources and effort. It is ethically prohibited for law firms to use non-lawyers to solicit business for lawyers/firms. However, there are numerous tasks that are appropriate for non-lawyers including: conducting market/industry/client research to identify needs; conducting client satisfaction interviews/surveys; helping analyze and prepare information/pitches; coaching and preparing lawyers for client/prospect meetings/communications; helping coordinate business development efforts internally; helping set up and (as appropriate) attending prospect meetings along with the lawyers to take notes; organizing a method of tracking and reporting sales development efforts; and performing similar support activity.

Over the past 25 years, a few firms have been successful by having senior partners, partners and/or external professionals with significant external relationships devote a large percentage of their otherwise billable time to "sales" or relationships development, where they are the "face of the firm" in a specified community/industry. In this role - if they are lawyers - it is appropriate for them to meet with clients/prospects, help arrange for introductions and referrals, and set up/follow-up on meetings. The problem with this approach - in the past and even today - is that unless these efforts are internally coordinated and organized with solidly a supported tracking and follow-up system (which requires staff and resources), results can vary and have varied.

Bottom line, with the accelerated rate of industry and economic change, most firms benefit from a formal, annual review and upgrade of their overall, entire business development program (both the marketing and sales components). This is true whether they have a "sales" person or not, or are contemplating hiring one; whether their program is 100% internally supported; whether outside support is utilized; whether the review is conducted internally or externally. The ability to generate and report results is what matters.

Monday, October 26, 2009

2009 Year in Review - Business Development Trends in Law Firms©

Overall, in the global economy and within the legal industry, investment is no longer at a stand-still as it was earlier this year. But to keep their houses in order, many law firms have made and are continuing to make significant cut-backs, changes and upgrades in the manner and methods by which they are investing in business development. Some key trends in 2009 and into 2010:

  1. The year-end collection process gets more challenging as firms experience reductions in the total percentage of receivables collected at 100% realization/standard rates.

  2. Competition is at an all-time high, causing attorneys to change their thinking, mind-set and habits.

  3. Upgrades to traditional marketing efforts/support -

    • Investments are tightening up in the traditionally most-utilized marketing tools.

    • Train-the-trainer, train-the-coach and train-the-leader programs are being commissioned for lawyers and staff.

    • Business/client development and/or "sales" pipelines are being employed to a greater degree.

To read the entire article, please visit: > Complimentary Resources > Trend Reports

Friday, September 11, 2009

Reflections on Facebook & Twitter for Lawyers

Facebook is one of many social networking site options, but it is not specifically designed for lawyers. It started as a site for college students to stay connected, thus its reputation as a "teeny bopper" site. Depending upon your law practice, Facebook may or may not be that useful. If one is a family lawyer, divorce lawyer, i.e. a lawyer who serves individuals, it could be a useful tool if used judiciously and correctly. The same may be true for lawyers who use Twitter and other mass market social networking sites.

Facebook is great to re-connect with old contacts-- those whom you may have fallen out of touch with and re-establishing contact may lead to mutually beneficial future relationships (i.e. future business). But, the majority of Facebook's active users are members of the younger generation, so it may be especially useful for younger Associates and Partners as a tool to re-connect and stay in touch with key people in many facets throughout their lives. But, today's most significant buyers of legal services are not even on Facebook, nor if they are, do they spend a lot of time using it.

The key for most lawyers is to manage the time spent on social networking sites carefully. Consider the fact that some lawyers who spend inordinate amounts of time every day on social networking sites are simply not very busy, may have too much time on their hands and as a consequence, any serious/sophisticated buyer may wonder just how good of a lawyer they really are. Common sense says that anyone spending a lot of time on social networking sites may not have enough clients, billable work to do. As a result, if they work in a law firm, they may be "on the bubble" and/or not very productive/profitable.

An article on this subject was written by Ann Urda of Law 360, and it should be published sometime next week.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Renowned Training Program Oct. 2 in NYC - "Mastering the 'Sales' Process for Lawyers©"

Check out the new client video testimonial raving about this program or read what in-house counsel say about this program. Pitch real-life client(s) and experience their candid and direct feedback. In-house counsel speakers on October 2 are Ross D. Vincenti, Vice President/Deputy General Counsel, Clearwire Corporation (formerly Sprint) and Amy Gallent, Senior Vice President, Associate General Counsel & Chief of Staff, The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. Register soon, only a few spots remain. For more info, click here or email me at

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Evolving Diversity Policies in Law Firms

Most major law firms provide legal counsel to Fortune 500 companies. Most Fortune 500 companies have strong diversity policies in place and many try hard to utilize/hire diverse outside counsel to meet the objectives of that policy. Outside counsel are required to provide annual reports to relevant clients regarding their firm's diversity. However, many outside law firms remain unsatisfied with their internal/firm diversity numbers/statistics. All over the country I hear "Our firm is just not as diverse as we would like, so we are hesitant to pitch it or even bring it up with clients/prospects". But, there is more to diversity than just analyzing a firm's partnership composition and/or employee base. Some firms have realized they can gain an advantage by implementing a supplier diversity policy of their own - to name a few: Warner Norcross & Judd, Weil Gotshal, Sonnenschein, Saul Ewing, among others. So at the end of the year, even if they have not hired more minority partners or employees they can still report to clients an increase of X% in their use of diverse vendors, suppliers, expert witnesses, sales training and coaching specialists, etc.(DISCLAIMER - I have a not-so-hidden agenda since our company is a Certified Women Owned Business, and could be included in any such diversity statistic by a firm that uses our services). If outside vendors and suppliers to law firms are comparably qualified with similar track records, hiring a diverse/minority company/entity/professional could help the law firm "look better" to its clients. Food for thought.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Coaching Mistake to Avoid

Hiring several different coaches for interested lawyers in any one, single firm may not be a good idea. In my professional experience, many firms that have had or use multiple external coaches end up with a time management and support process problem for their internal mkt/bus dev staff which can cause great inconsistencies, extra work and dilute results. Much of what constitutes effective and efficient new business development turns on organized, focused and efficient internal and external approach, method, systems, processes and procedures. External (and internal) coaches vary dramatically in what they offer - some deliver mainly basic motivation and "fluff", while others deliver a more comprehensive, organized and measureable system and pipeline for the long term. Certainly, various approaches abound, but in my professional opinion, it is critical for every firm to use all resources wisely to fuel maximum growth in the immediate and long term.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Get New Business in the Door

With WIP (work in process) down anywhere from approximately 10% to 30% in most law firms since last year, now is the time to ensure that all partners are doing everything possible to fuel RIP (relationships in process). Too many lawyers who have hundreds of mainly social relationships are not sure how to convert them into business relationships; do not make every appropriate effort to expand and solidify existing relationships; and/or do not have an efficient method, routine, process or system for doing so. The knowledge, skill and art of client development are not just challenges for new partners. Seasoned experienced partners also get great benefits from attending and participating in a proven business development training and coaching program that focuses on tailored system and process of generating a consistent pipeline of new business.

As many firms re-direct their marketing investments toward emphasizing the one-to-one "sales" process, they are also restructuring and re-focusing their in-house marketing/business development departments to best support these efforts. However, it may no longer be enough to rely solely on internal marketing support. The best internal marketers understand their own limits, but not all external business development trainers, coaches, consultants are equally qualified to help. Some get better, more substantive results than others. That's why "Mastering the 'Sales' Process for Lawyers©" is the program of choice to offer proven outside assistance that augments marketing's contribution to the bottom line. For example, recently, one AmLaw 100 firm sent out a detailed, written RFP to over 15 possible business development trainers/coaches for a group of partners interested in becoming better rainmakers. The firm used an intensive, blind review and selection process to compare trainer/coaches on the basis of experience, credibility, approach, deliverables, features, reporting, benefits, fit, fees, past results and references and then narrowed it down to three finalists. After more due diligence analysis of the finalists, the firm selected our training and coaching program entitled "Mastering the 'Sales' Process for Lawyers©." This program was launched recently, earning excellent evaluations and measurable early results with more to come. To see references, please visit: What Clients Say About Us.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Marketing Departments Are Being Re-Structured

In the past 6 months, many Am Law 100 and 200 firms are carefully re-examining the performance, deliverables and results from their existing marketing departments. That is why there have been so many layoffs of CMOs and other marketing staffers (many unreported). If the current department is not a net revenue producer (at least marginally), it's been cut, re-vamped or may be soon. The days of big budget-big spend on big ticket, non contact marketing items are largely over because most firms need to limit spending in this economy in order to keep PPP up. Firms have also realized that many traditional marketing investments do not really help bring new business in the door. Certainly there is a need to reinforce the brand with key non contact, marketing tools like cutting edge websites and select speaking and writing. But because the vast majority of business is generated one-to-one or in small groups between lawyers and client/prospects - some firms are re-vamping their departments more toward the British model, where every expenditure and effort is driven mainly by the old-school, "gentlemanly" question of "what value does this add directly to my existing or prospective client relationship(s)?" and "what mechanisms/technology/tracking/reporting do we as a firm need to put in place to help increase the results from our greatest areas of investment?", then building the marketing/client services department around the answers to those questions.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

An Upswing is Inevitable

The market for outside legal services has never been more competitive. Firms across the country are issuing capital calls, delaying partner payouts, experiencing splintering, spinoffs, longer collection cycles and some are imploding. Simultaneously, multitudes of firms and lawyers are vying for the same stream of litigation, corporate, intellectual property, regulatory and other legal work that Fortune 1000 companies send to outside firms. However due to the troubled economy, that work is under intense pressure from many angles and it is harder and less profitable to win and maintain. The same is true for the legal work of many businesses and entities that are not in the Fortune 1000. Despite the recession and economic difficulty today, firm leaders know that an upswing is inevitable. Some firms are beginning to invest in making sure that the firm and its lawyers win a share of existing, future and developing work. How are they investing? Here are some recent "best practices."

I. If it's not working, stop doing it or do it much more strategically/selectively - Too many lawyers and firms over-rely on investing their available marketing/business development time and budget on first generation, traditional marketing tools such as advertising, seminars, newsletters, attending conferences, announcements, websites, etc. Starting in 2009, one firm now requires a greater commitment and effort from any lawyer or group that wants to produce a seminar after finding that, in most cases, just writing and presenting a paper does not yield enough measureable new business to justify the time and money invested. So the firm now requires preparatory meetings to analyze and study the seminar audience; considering alternate delivery vehicles; and a follow-up plan to actually meet privately (either by phone or in person) with each attendee. This approach has resulted in an improved return on investment. Another example involves firms that are trying to win bankruptcy related creditors and debtors work. Many firms make less than memorable pitches to creditors committees and as a result, do not win the work. How to successfully identify, approach, pitch and win that work is a science and art form that our company helps lawyers and firms with regularly.

II. If it's proven to work, start doing it and/or do more of it -
A) Natural born, active, true rainmakers in any firm constitute on average only 5-7% of partners/shareholders. In this economy, the revenue those rainmakers are bringing in the door is no longer enough to support existing headcount (hence layoffs). Importantly, up to 80% of partners in any single firm are sincerely interested in becoming better rainmakers and are willing to commit to a credible and proven training and coaching program. In this economy, enhancing every partner's performance and results in terms of new business brought in the door makes a difference to the bottom line. According to Bill Scarbrough, Chief Operating Officer of Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge (a firm where we recently launched our "Mastering the Sales Process for Lawyers©" training and coaching program), "We knew many of our lawyers could contribute further to our bottom line. The key was putting a strong group of them together and then hiring Julie, because her program is rock-solid and delivers outstanding results at many levels."
B) Most lawyers now realize that approximately 98% of new business comes in the door after either a one-to-one or small group meeting/conversation with a client or prospect. Given that reality, firms are re-directing time and money toward helping all lawyers enrich their personal contacts by improving method, approach, content, tone and especially follow-up. For example, one lawyer with whom we work recently created a new way to convert her mainly social relationships into business relationships, using our Money Bookª method and has already brought new business into her firm as a result.
C) Some firms have strong internal training, coaching and support internally. Others have tried bringing in outside training/coaching programs that they were less than satisfied with (not all programs or trainers/coaches are created equal). If you want to consider a proven, credible, results-generating option tailored for your firm or group, click here: What Clients Say About Us . Bottom line - the "sales" process is a science that is predictable, linear and systematic. But it is also an art form which requires a personalized, intentional, disciplined approach and commitment for each individual practitioner and/or group.

III. New Resources - To help increase the number of rainmakers in your firm and/or the amount of revenue lawyers generate this year and beyond, you may also want to consider the following resources:

A) 3 NEW WEBINARS ON DEMAND - now available for purchase from Business Development Inc.'s website. Click here for details.

  • How Companies Are Changing the Way They Use & Buy Outside Counsel©

  • Top Coaching Skills to Help Lawyers Develop Business© - a train the trainer/coach program

  • Getting Business in a Down Economy - Keys to the "Sales" Process for Litigators©

B) UPCOMING OPEN ENROLLMENT SESSION - Mastering the "Sales" Process for Lawyers©. Click here for details.

To be held later this year in NYC and/or Detroit. Space is limited. If you would like more information or to be put on the pre-registration list, please contact Julie Savarino.

C) UPCOMING WEBINARS - Alternative Billing: What's Working and How To's©, Date and time TBD

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Coaching IS the new branding!

Back in the boom years, firms rushed to establish a brand and invested heavily in advertising to promote it. Now, with overall marketing budgets tightening approximately 5 to 30% in most firms, the remaining available budget is being re-directed at many firms. Since advertising has a much longer payoff than does direct client development efforts, many firms are increasing the percentage of their overall marketing budgets allocated to client development. Some firms have abolished their advertising budgets altogether and re-allocated those funds to support and enhance attorneys direct client development efforts. For example, many firms are commissioning custom client development training and coaching "pilot" programs for interested partners, designed to help take their rainmaking skills and abilities to the next level. Other firms are retaining "coach the coach" programs, where outside experts train internal marketing and business development staff to become better at coaching their lawyers in the area of successful client development. Doing everything possible to support and enhance the one-to-one, direct client development process, procedure and results are key in this flat economy.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Law Firms in State of Denial?

With the boom days now a distant memory, firm growth will take concerted effort on many fronts, so dismissing the need to efficiently develop business will no longer work to fuel future profitability. Lawyers, accountants and professional service providers of all types need to embrace a stronger service mentality. Maintaining a "titans of the universe" attitude, demeanor and posture will not help in this economy. Excellent survival tips appeared in a recent interview with Ralph Savarese on Click here to read:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Do Law Firms Need a Marketing Function?

In this current economy, some firms are eliminating their marketing departments altogether. This may be a short term way to save expenses, but is it smart in the long run? There is a critical need for all firms to develop business in order to survive. But if the marketing department is largely a cost-center and not able to contribute to revenue generation then there may be a problem. Is the marketing function in many firms broken? Often, one problem is expectations - most lawyers expect ALL marketing people to be business developers, when in fact developing business is a separate and distinct discipline, procedure and art form. The majority of marketing tasks require different capabilities, skills and focus. If a firm is laying off its marketing staff, it is important to ask: is the marketing function in the firm really broken? And/or are the owners of our firm expecting something other than what has been/is being delivered? There is no better time than now to re-assess.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Developing Business Efficiently is a Necessity in Today’s Economy©

It's a good time to re-assess, re-direct and/or even upgrade your firm’s investments in business and client development. Given the abrupt, negative change in the economic climate, now is the time to re-visit your 2009-10 client development action plans at the firm, regional, practice/industry group, office and/or individual attorney levels and make changes that will pay off in the near term and after 2010. Below are some time-proven ways to help generate profitable work beginning today:

Provide quality, effective business development support to your firm's key rainmakers - For many reasons, too many law firms provide little or no business development support/assistance to their top rainmakers. Often, major rainmakers are very individualistic and do not want or need any help in developing new business. However, that is not the case for all major rainmakers (who constitute only approximately 5-7% of the equity partners in any single firm). As a group, they are savvy and most have the firm's best interests at heart in wanting to continue profitable growth. Now is the time to check in with all the major rainmakers in your firm - especially those who have used internal marketing/business development support in the past, are interested in developing more work for the firm and are able to be team players. Directing additional, credible and useful support and investments behind their efforts - like making a top notch business development coach for lawyers available to them - can pay off fast.

Conduct a formal audit/review of the current marketing and business development efforts, infrastructure and team - Either internally or with the assistance of qualified, outside consultants, carefully review your plans, people, processes, procedures, deliverables and results. Too many firm budgets are spent disproportionately on traditional, non-contact marketing tools such as newsletters, media exposure, seminars, blogs, and/or websites to develop business - when statistics show that approximately 95% of all new business is generated in-person, one-to-one or in very small groups. Traditional, non-contact marketing tools like the above simply take too long to generate actual new business are expensive and their results are hard to measure. The more effective way is to use a direct approach and proven, experienced assistance as needed.

Use the best possible business/client development training and coaching for your practice groups, offices and lawyers who are “mist makers” - For many firms, a lot of valuable time has been wasted over the years attending less than great business and client development training courses and coaching programs. Common mistakes include: offering programs that are only "talking head" presentations with no individual follow-up; other programs require mandatory attendance regardless of whether or not attendees are interested in becoming better rainmakers/service providers; the worst are programs where the content is either superficial, misdirected and/or not useful for lawyers. These common mistakes result in reducing the credibility of ALL business development training and coaching, when good programs are available. Not all outside trainers/consultants are truly credible nor have programs that are useful, valuable and/or actually work for lawyers. As one law firm CMO said recently "There are really only a handful of great outside consultants/trainers for law firms. There are hundreds who claim competence but do not deliver."

Consider outsourcing key, revenue-driving functions like business/client development coaching - Too often, internal law firm marketers are expected to "do it all" - soup to nuts – both marketing and business development, which results in their time being spent "a little on a lot" and dilutes results. The fact is that marketing, business development, training and coaching are each separate and distinct disciplines. The difference between marketing and business development is a lot like the difference between being a general practitioner versus an intellectual property litigator - those are two very different practices and require vastly differing (yet related) bodies of knowledge and capability. Sure, general practitioners can say they can handle IP litigation, but do they have the specialized knowledge and ability needed? The same contrast applies to years of experience - an IP litigator with 5 years experience likely does not have all the capabilities of one with 25 years experience. Many talented CMOs know this and use skilled and experienced outside resources to augment their efforts and capabilities to help contribute to bottom line growth.

To read more on this subject, visit, Complimentary Resources, Trend Reports.