For firms that are only interested in associates cranking hours until they get burned out, this post is not for you. More likely it is for medium to smaller firms who really want to build their firm; and want it to survive with new rainmakers as partners age.

Two notable exceptions are Quinn Emanuel and Jones Day, according to Kevin McMurdo, with Wicker Park Group. He mentions in “’Switch’ on Business Development Skills With Associates,” that those firms tie associate compensation/bonuses to their involvement in business development. There may be other firms I’m not aware of.

According to McMurdo, some of those business development actions by associates might include:

  • attend brown bag training sessions;
  • meet with partners to learn how they attract/retain clients;
  • work with practice group leader to develop a niche in the coming year;
  • attend networking events/conferences;
  • complete a marketing plan; and
  • read Ross Fishman’s “The Ultimate Law Firm Associate’s Marketing Checklist,”(which I recently discussed here and here).

McMurdo sums up my point by quoting a partner, “Involving associates in business development is a great way to protect and retain good associates.”

This is the second of two posts on associate marketing early in their career.  As I mentioned last time, I’ve addressed the topic in 2014; and friend and colleague Ross Fishman of Fishman Marketing has recently completed his treatise entitled The Ultimate Law Firm Associate’s Marketing Checklist.

In this post, I’ll speak to some of Fishman’s marketing ideas for years two through five and beyond. [Again, a caveat:  in many BigLaw firms not only are young lawyers not encouraged to learn about marketing; but discouraged from doing so, because it would interfere with meeting billable hour requirements.]  So, my posts are for the rest of you attorneys.  Many of the activities covered you should continue throughout your career.  They are not just year-specific.

Second Year

  • Continue working on becoming a “great lawyer” (never stop this);
  • Add names to your mailing lists and increase connections on LinkedIn and Facebook (classmates, new contacts, clients and bar association lawyers you meet);
  • Focus on LinkedIn professional groups in your practice area; and
  • Read bar and trade publications/blogs to increase technical skills.

Third Year

  • Increase activity in bar and trade associations that could be the source of new work;
  • Become more proactive within your network;
  • Master one or more “elevator speeches” for different audiences;
  • Find a marketing mentor within or outside the firm;
  • Attend training opportunities by firm’s marketing and business development staff; and
  • Consistently update your bio and LinkedIn profile.

Fourth/Fifth Year and Beyond

  • Be more active and seek leadership positions in bar, civic and trade organizations (where permissible);
  • Latch on early to a young rainmaker within the firm;
  • Learn more about the business and industry of clients you do work for;
  • Keep an up-to-date list of your cases/transactions;
  • Look to write and speak on topics relating to your growing expertise (and look for other opportunities to re-use an article as a speech, and vice a versa);
  • Build up your network with other professionals who can refer clients;
  • Reduce bar activities (as a marketing tool), if other lawyers are not a source of referrals;
  • Seek assistance regularly for the firm’s marketing professionals; and
  • Visit your client contacts often (off-the-clock).

“Remember that providing highest-quality technical skills and extremely responsive client service (emphasis mine) are essential elements of your firm’s marketing to its existing clients,” according to Fishman.  I couldn’t agree more, and with many other things he says in his book.  You should get a copy, if your marketing department hasn’t purchased copies it yet.


P.S. No I do not receive a penny from the sale of the book, but maybe I ………… never mind.

I’m a big fan of The BTI Consulting Group and their The Mad Clientist blog. Recently, they had a post that discussed turning first year associates into bionic associates; and accordingly make them more productive. They lost me on this one, because the thrust of their message was to teach these associates essential skills such as better (1) listening, (2) writing, (3) anticipation of client needs, and (4) knowledge of clients’ business. I’m not sure why those skills turn associates into artificial (bionic) ones. I’d rather like to think that it would create more effective lawyers and future rainmakers.

Learning these attributes early on could produce great benefits for young lawyers (and their law firm) over the long haul.  However, BigLaw isn’t, in the least bit, interested in young associates learning anything except how to crank out hours. Lots of hours. The more the merrier (ah, I mean requirement).

The sad thing is that first year, and second year, and third year, etc. etc. associates are not encouraged to develop the skills to become better business generators for when (or in the more unlikely case) they become an equity partner. In fact, most junior partners I have encountered have absolutely no knowledge on how to develop business. (That’s why I get so many phone calls). It is not a requirement in many firms in order to be elevated to partner.  Their elevation is more likely the gratis of a mentor looking after a prodigy; and unlikely to have anything to do with their marketing skills.

Let’s look at these four “bionic” skills and how they can be better benefit all the lawyers in a firm; and provide success for the both the firm and individual lawyers over the long term:

  1. Listening. Listening to clients will make any lawyer a better service provider by fostering understanding of a client’s problem, concerns and goals; and the ability then to do a better job in meeting those client needs;
  2. Writing. Forget about law review or brief writing taught in law school. More and more clients are looking for less legalese and a clearer explanation, plainly written so they can better understand what hell is going on with their matter;
  3. Anticipate client needs. (This may actually be one of the skills that needs to come after the one below) Understand and anticipate the needs of client, rather than just generate more hours, and thus avoid more costly client problems in the future; and
  4. Research and understand the client’s business. A common complaint (I have heard over my 31 years in legal marketing) is that lawyers do not understand the client’s business (and apparently don’t give a darn), and the client resents having to (re-) educate them when a new matter comes up.  The more that lawyers understand a client’s business, the more likely they continue to get work from them, as well as referrals.

The only thing a truly bionic associate will produce IMHO is more hours, burn out, and less chance of being a successful and long term productive lawyer for the benefit of his/her clients.  How much more fruitful would it be to train a rainmaker in these skills instead.

Actually, everyone is a salesperson. Some undoubtedly are better at it than others, but every one of us learned to sell from the moment we left our mother’s womb. It may not have been polished, and the sales pitch was a bit noisy, but all parents would agree the selling was damn effective. As teenagers, albeit more on the whiny side, our selling still was effective to some extent in spite of our parents’ attempts to interject discipline into the process.

Then, we come to attorneys. Lawyers learn to be effective sales people as they develop their legal skills. WHOA, you say. Okay, before I lose the rest of you, I’ll explain. The fact is that lawyers sell every day to judges, opposing counsel, juries, and even clients. It’s just a different type of selling from that involved in generating business. And lawyers are a bit more uncomfortable doing the latter.

That brings me to the article “Willie Loman, Esq.: How Lawyers Became Salesmen” by Gina Passarella that first appeared in The Legal Intelligencer and this week on New York Lawyer. It explains how law firms are moving more from pure marketing to selling (oops, I mean “business development”), and quoted extensively from my colleague Jim Hassett over at LegalBizDev, who has more than 20 years experience in sales training, and from current and former CMO’s in the Philadelphia market.

The gist of the piece emphasizes the need for lawyers, generally, to become much more effective in terms of business development selling. Some key points include:

  • Don’t train everyone, since every lawyer won’t be good at it;
  • Those, who are really good at it, should be allowed to focus more on it, and not have to worry about meeting billable hour goals (see my post “Rainmakers Don’t Get Fired");
  • Train those who are willing and able to be effective salespeople, and are able to convey the firm’s value proposition to clients and prospects;
  • Emphasize the need for meaningful action plans that include more lawyer face-time with clients, referral sources and prospects; and
  • Demonstrate the firm’s capability regarding greater efficiency by way of legal project management.

We were all born a salesperson, but training can help improve lawyer selling skills in the business development arena.

Now is a good time to consider gearing up your business development efforts. One way to do that is to hire a coach. And a post over on Jamie Field – Enlightened Rainmaking mentions six reasons for doing so:

  1. Even superstars have coaches, certainly all pro golfers do, as well as CEOs and other top producers (as I have mentioned before);
  2. good coaches provide valuable feedback and help keep you on the right track;
  3. coaches help strategize and develop action plans for you;
  4. keep you on target by ensuring focus and avoiding distractions;
  5. hold you accountable, (or what I like to refer to as friendly nagging);
  6. be both a cheerleader and booster, as needed.

Actually, there is a seventh reason for hiring a coach:

         7. I could use a few more good clients (oops, sorry about that).

There are many good coaches out there, and the most critical factors to take into consider in hiring a coach include:

  • what is their experience in dealing with lawyers,
  • do they understand your area (s) of practice,
  • what do the references say about their services, and
  • most importantly, is the chemistry right between you.

Some lawyers prefer that their coach meet with them in person, while others find that coaching sessions by telephone work just fine. Each lawyer should determine what would work best for them.

The important thing is that a coach can help you focus, plan and provide valuable support in your business development efforts. Give it some thought.