Too many law firms discourage lawyer marketing, especially to existing clients, as a result of their compensation system. The reason is often because some firms reward attorneys with origination credit in perpetuity for landing a client. Other lawyers may end of doing the work, and over time, the originating attorney may have little or no contact with the client. However, the latter continues to receive compensation based on having brought in the original work.
This discourages lawyers that work on those clients’ matters from trying to bring in additional work from those clients (although I must admit that I don’t understand that reasoning ,since more work benefits them as well, yet I’ve experienced this behavior first hand). More importantly, such a system is self-defeating for the law firm as a whole, since existing clients are the best source of new business.
Tom Collins has an excellent post on the subject at morepartnerincome.com. He suggests, and I completely agree, that compensation for developing business in law firms should follow the model of “sales commissions in the business world.” His suggestions include:
- Making rewards for business development temporary,
- Keeping politics out of the process (good luck on that one),
- Eliminating origination credit for new business that results “naturally from established relationships, referrals and branded sales,”
- Treating origination credit as a “bonus,” and
- Limiting it to period of 12 to 24 months.
Tom’s post doesn’t stop there, and is well worth a read. Take a look.