Megan, a partner at a small firm, was upset.
“I worked really hard to become a lawyer, and now they are telling me I need to be a saleswoman. I am insulted!”
Barry chimed in, “I’m sick and tired of partner meetings where the management team beats the solicitors over the head with like a sledgehammer asking what new business prospects we have and how many hours we have billed. They need to make up their mind.”
“I can’t go out and get new clients and bill at the same time. Something has got to give.”
The Old Rubber Band Approach
Lawyer’s behaviors, like all humans, are like a rubber band. You stretch the rubber band pulling it from both ends to extend the length, stretching… pulling but when you let it go, it snaps right back into its original shape. The tactics many law firms use for increasing business are like that. It is only temporary like a stretched-out rubber band. Something changes but the changes never last.
Law firms are spending thousands of dollars on programs and consultants, but since they are not salespeople themselves, it is difficult to identify the most cost-effective and lasting solution. They will try anything that sounds good.
For example, a law firm will bring in an expensive consultant to whip their unprofitable solicitors into shape. They tell themselves, “It is time to make those lawyers go out and sell, bring in business and more clients.”
Somehow the new clients don’t come. It never works.
3 Powerful Changes That Are Needed
Here are three approaches law firms have tried with limited success if any. Next, we will show a powerful change that can make all of the difference.
What does not work: Have weekly or monthly partner meetings to berate or humiliate lawyers who did not bring in any business.
Why it does not work: Lawyers were trained to be lawyers. To expect them to become salesmen or saleswomen miraculously is not realistic.
A Powerful Change
Management has to set a powerful example. Anyone who knows about sales knows that it is a process. Major corporations with expert sales teams spend much time, effort, and ongoing training to teach their sales team how to sell. There needs to be ongoing training and instruction.
What does not work: Bring in an expensive consultant to assess the problems, interview lawyers, and then take the recommendations to the firm and then management picks and chooses the easiest ideas and refuses to make a firm-wide effort to have business development be a continual teamwork protocol for the firm.
Why it doesn’t work: Business development is philosophy. For a firm to regularly bring in more clients, they must change their entire mindset and approach if they are committed to making their firm profitable and competitive. Many law firms are haphazard about their methods and commitment to growing profits. Partners with fat books of business do not set an example. Many of these partners do not encourage or support younger lawyers and entirely exclude themselves from the BD conversation.
A Powerful Change
Business Development is not a once per month, year, quarter, or one-time conversation. There needs to be daily if not weekly ongoing programs of accountability and directions. Scripts, proposals, practice sessions make the law firm a business development machine that increases the firm’s profits.
What does not work: To hire staff for business development who are qualified but lawyers pick and choose what they will and won’t do. In many firms, partners, for the most part, are noncompliant and feel these people waste their precious time.
Why it does not work: Many lawyers do not comprehend that the future of their law practice and the firm is contingent upon their generating new business. With clients insisting on lowering their legal fees, alternative fee structures, along with more competition in the legal profession, business development is no longer just a good idea. BD is now a necessity.
Lawyers want to become powerful businessmen and businesswomen who practice law. The psychology of sales, marketing, and closing deals must be taught and embraced.
Fun with BD
Both Megan and Barry began to enjoy their business development and see the fruits of success. By not using the rubber band approach, which is temporary they found it exciting to incorporate BD in their daily law practice.