Veteran law firm marketer and consultant Sally Schmidt has come out with a new book on business development for lawyers. Years ago Sally wrote the definitive book on lawyer marketing. I'll review the book on this blog in the future. In the meantime:
Client Satisfaction with Law Firms Plummets Just 30.7% of clients recommend their primary law firm Drives client spending to new law firms 53.7% of clients oust their primary law firm
Boston, March 3, 2006: The BTI Consulting Group’s fifth annual survey of corporate counsel reveals an unprecedented drop in client satisfaction with law firms. Just 30.7% of large and Fortune 1000 companies recommend their primary law firms. These deep dips in client satisfaction, reports BTI, promise to drive dollars into the hands a new set of law firms, unsettling the status quo.
“Large clients are making broad-sweeping changes in how they hire and work with their law firms,” comments Michael B. Rynowecer, BTI’s President, “These changes will translate into opportunity for a select group of well-positioned law firms.”
BTI’s study analyzes how law firms can position themselves to benefit from these critical changes in a brand new report, How Clients Hire, Fire and Spend: Landing the World’s Best Clients. BTI found an astonishing 53.7% of clients ousted their primary law firms in the past 18 months. More than 50% of clients also reported they plan to try at least one new law firm for substantive matters in 2006.
BTI conducted more than 200 independent, individual interviews with corporate counsel at Fortune 1000 companies and large organizations each year for the past five years."
It would be interesting to see how many lawyers ranked their firms as having excellent client service.
"We don't want to just pay them a lot of money," he said.
Although most of the megafirms in recent years have invested in hiring associate-development teams to help coordinate programs and address work-life issues, development director positions are new for many midsize regional firms. Law firm leaders and career professionals say that the jobs are becoming increasingly important as business for most law firms of all sizes remains strong and the pool of law school graduates stays stagnant.
Attrition problems, though on a smaller scale than those at giant firms, have prompted midsize law firms to hire development directors. But these firms also are bringing in career professionals because of another pressure from the market.
"Midsized firms don't want to lose associates who want the training they feel like they'd be getting" at bigger firms, said Marina Sirras, president of Marina Sirras & Associates, a legal recruiter in New York. One of the factors associates use to gauge the strength of a firm is whether it has someone dedicated to helping them climb the ladder to partner."
The article concludes with the aspirations of a major southwest law firm:
"Phoenix-based Lewis and Roca is seeking its first professional-development director. The person whom the 200-attorney firm hires will work mainly with associates and nonequity partners, said managing partner Kenneth Van Winkle.
The decision to create the job was part of the firm's move two years ago to convert to a two-tier partnership structure, which included nonequity partners. The agreement among firm leaders to reconfigure the partnership structure included some "horse trading," Van Winkle said, in which he made the commitment that the firm would hire a development director to assist associates and nonequity partners in becoming full partners.
Lewis and Roca had in place a development strategy, he said, but without someone to handle it full time, it was not getting implemented. Partners would volunteer to do the job, but they would set aside the tasks in favor of client business.
"It's all sitting there waiting," he said. "We've provided the bones; we want someone who can put meat on the bones."
Whoever fills the job will be busy. Responsibilities include handling matters of mentoring, retention, training, career planning and counseling, succession planning, diversity initiatives and many more. The person will answer to Van Winkle, which he said is critical to the credibility and accountability of the position. "
Can retention initiatives such as these succeed without strong leadership at the top AND at the practice group/regional office level? What do you think? Read the article here.
Marketing staffs are growing in major law firms. Only a few years ago the ratio of lawyers to marketing staff ranged from 35:1 to 50:1. Today it is closer to 24:1. Firms are not hiring more PR or advertising folks. They are investing in business development professionals who help lawyers be more effective in attracting clients, building networks, establishing relationships, and professional sales. I wrote a brief article on structuring a marketing/business development team on Larry Bodine's LawMarketingPortal. I'd appreciate your comments on article.
Law Firm Inc Magazine published an article on the state of leadership development training in law firms last month. In "Reluctant Leaders", (free registration required), reporter Arthur Jones interviews several law firm managers and trainers on the nature of and acceptance of leadership development among law firms. Programs range from a day and a half to two weeks. Firms, Jones reports, still haven't figured out how to compensate leaders outside of the billable hour/production model. Skilled lawyer-leaders are in high demand within law firms, as well as in law departments.
Motivation to be a leader is critical:
"Hildebrandt consultant Larry Richard, who is a Ph.D. psychologist and a J.D. [see "The Full Program," below], focuses on lawyer/leader development for Dechert, a 17-office international law firm. He works on "skills to make lawyers more effective managing partners and practice group heads," he says. Richard says the first thing he looks for are lawyers who really want to lead. "Research tells us that people who genuinely want to be leaders make the best leaders," he says.
Next, says Richard, the would-be top managers must learn the "leader behaviors" that make them effective. And that means "attending a leadership boot camp, a didactic program that teaches partners the fundamentals of what makes leaders effective in a law firm," Richard says. "The key quality is motivation."
It has been 10 years since Tom Peters wrote an article in Fast Company called, "Brand You", but the principles of personal branding (read: reputation) remain the same. Lawyers especially rely on their reputation as a niche specialist for referrals and new business. Read the article here.
One way to measure your brand is to see how you are perceived on the internet. This article has several tips on building your on-line presence and an on-line assessment of your on-line brand. What's your Google IQ?
"The 6-hour program looks at conflict and the process of conflict resolution through the lens of neuroscience. What does the brain do when it is in a conflict? What does neuroscience have to tell us about how to facilitate conflict resolution? What lessons does the brain have for preventing future conflict?"
What does neuroscience have to do with lawyers? A lot of energy is spent on discussing what we think without considering how we can think better. Recent discoveries on how we think, and how our brains work, can help lawyers in the courtroom as well as leading their firms. Add Brains on Purpose to your RSS feed. Their 6-hour class will be in Denver in the Fall.