Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Law Firm Associate Business Development
Eleven years ago when I went to work for a big firm marketing department there were still many attorneys who were hoping that the whole idea of lawyers "selling" their services would go away. Not where I worked, but those at other firms lawyers were sickened by the idea of their profession doing anything that resembled the elements of a business. The preferred to look at the law as a calling that was above the things that plagued normal companies.
But the realities of running a law firm are that it is a business. Too many firms pretended that the elements of accounting, staffing, marketing, and yes... SALES did not impact their success. Boom, firms failed... and many struggle.
Today most lawyers realize that their firm is a business. Yet some still try to pretend they need not do the necessary things to promote their practices. They hope that doing good work will be enough to make the phone ring.
No lawyer would advise their business client to: "Fire all your sales and marketing people (since they make a lot of money, and do not have JD's). Next, get all your senior executives to do the sales when they have free time, if they feel like it, and regardless of if they have any experience". That would be silly counsel... and yet many lawyers operate their own firms in exactly this manner.
A legal marketing executive recently told me that the associates in their firm skip out on the optional business development classes they offer. Additionally when partners mandate attendance they all show up with bad attitudes. If you are an associate in a law firm and your firm is looking to help educate you on the necessary skills to build a practice you should enthusiastically embrace the learning. There are few firms willing to invest in teaching this stuff, and without it you are doomed in the long run.
Remember, business development skills and the relationships you build are portable. This gives you power in the future. No ability to develop business and your future is at the whim of others.
If you are the eye roller who skips out on training or has a bad attitude for the mandatory classes.... you are an idiot. Get over yourself or go tell the managing partner that you should be fired at once for not understanding the realities of business. What partner wants to employ an associate who does not learn to cultivate client relationships? (Answer... one who wants your future to be at their whim!). Business does not happen without sales. The business of a law firm is no different.
Look at the landscape of the last decade. Thousands of associates and partners have been laid-off from large and small firms. Some careers have never recovered. Others are bitter as hell and blame others for their being pushed out. But the real "Rainmakers" still had jobs. Even if their firms collapsed they were scooped up quickly by other firms who recognize the value in those who can develop new clients in addition to practicing law. Doing good work is not enough. Lots of people can do good work.
Law schools do not teach this, and few firms reward young associates for their community involvement... thus many assume it does not matter. Oh, they eventually find out it is important, when they are passed over for making partner after ten years. Ouch.
Have A Great Day.