Nearly twenty years ago, in my early days as a legal marketer, I argued that the law firm should reward the lawyers both for the effort, as well as for the results in developing business (the “M” word was not used back then). Since we as lawyers were trained to reject failure, I realized that this new (to most partners) requirement to develop clients and bring in more work, wasn’t going to work if only success was rewarded. Further, I would advise lawyers that unlike the law, it was okay to fail at marketing because:

  • They were new at it,
  • No one is 100% successful at landing every prospect, and
  • It can take time and effort to develop the necessary trust required to get hired.

Yet, I recognized the merit of the arguments as to why a firm should only reward “results” vs. “effort.” Some lawyers simply aren’t comfortable or capable of closing the deal, while others can be quite clever in finding ways to get rewarded for putting forth effort that was unlikely to obtain results.

It isn’t that I feel vindicated for my early position, by reason of a post on motivating your lawyers by Tom Collins of, but it does reinforce my belief that there is good reason to reward the attempt, if it had merit to begin with. Tom refers to the July/August "sales" issue of the Harvard Business Review reporting on a conversation with French psychologist and anthropologist G. Clotaire Rapaille. In doing so, he states that “(a)ccording to Rapaille, it is not the attorneys’ sales successes that drive them, but the value placed on the struggle.”

Tom’s point:

“…reward pursuit, not just the ‘kills’ of hunt…. You can motivate existing rainmakers and encourage others to become rainmakers by creating a culture where it is not a failure to come home empty-handed if you hunted well.” (emphasis his)

Thanks Tom.