LinkedIn: A Lawyer’s New Best Friend

Linkedin LawyersWhile there are plenty of books written about social media, I’ve found that most attorneys have little time to invest in such trivial pursuits. I’m sure you’ve rolled your eyes a few times when perusing Facebook or Twitter and reading some of the material on those sites. Many of these negative opinions stem from reality, whereas others come from a disappointing lack of knowledge as to the sites’ benefits.

In order to effectively utilize social media, it’s important to recognize what you want social media to do for you. Are you looking to grow originations, develop a cult-like following, or brand yourself to get speaking engagements? By answering this question first, you can focus on investing your time in the most effective social media forums.

There are literally hundreds of social media channels to choose from. Being selective and focused on the right one will help you get results more quickly. For most attorneys, developing your brand in the business community is most important. In addition, you’re most likely to get results from a social media channel that allows you to be proactive in developing new contacts and ultimately new business. In my experience, the best and fastest way to get results using social media is through LinkedIn.

Over the past 10 years, LinkedIn has become the number one resource for helping brand and generate new business for service-based professionals. In many ways it’s better than Google because it’s a business networking platform rather than a general search platform. The ability to search and target people and organizations is unlimited.

LinkedIn is a fantastic brand-building tool that allows you to literally post your resume online. LinkedIn also helps you leverage your best contacts to make inside connections. Done properly, this can create a massive universe of followers, possible connections, and, most importantly, a cast of personal advocates willing to make quality introductions on your behalf.

Imagine being able to look at your client’s list of friends, vendors and associates prior to asking for a referral. You can search through LinkedIn’s 50 million users to find the best inside connections for you.

While there are hundreds of different tools on LinkedIn, I want to give you the top three keys to effectively using LinkedIn. As with anything that’s worthwhile, it’s imperative that you try to have an open mind and invest a few hours exploring the site to see where the value is for you.

The first key to effectively using LinkedIn is to create a complete profile that best represents your expertise and experience in your field of practice. The second key is to develop your LinkedIn universe by adding the right contacts. The third key is to leverage those contacts and turn them into quality introductions. These three keys should initially take only a few hours to implement, and then as little as an hour a week to start producing results.

The First Key: Writing a LinkedIn Profile That Represents You Beautifully

In order to be effective on LinkedIn, you must have a professionally written and completed profile. Think of your LinkedIn page as your online resume and personal website. If the information online is incorrect, incomplete or poorly written, it might stop someone from reaching out to you.

Imagine you’re looking online for a remodeler for your home. The first site that comes up on Google looks fantastic. You click through to see some of the remodeling work the company has done, and the site says, “Sorry, cannot open this page.” So you try another one. The same message comes up. If you’re like me, you’re done at that point. You just move on to the next search result. This is exactly what happens on LinkedIn without a skillfully written and finished profile.

Here are three tips to ensure your LinkedIn profile makes you look your best to potential clients and strategic partners:

Tip #1: Use a recent professional photograph on your LinkedIn page.

Most people are visual and want to see whom they’re going to be speaking with. As important as content is on a website, you’ve never seen an exceptional one without images to back it up. Use the photo from your website if it’s good, or get a headshot taken right away. It’s not hard to do and it can make all the difference when someone is checking out your profile. This may seem obvious, but don’t post a cutesy picture with your kids, pet, or Halloween costume.

Tip #2: Have a professionally written background/summary.

Since your LinkedIn profile will be someone’s first impression of you, failure to capture the reader’s attention can move the reader quickly away. Personally, I like to see a summary written in the third person. It has the appearance of someone else boasting about your successes and best qualities without seeming egotistical.

If possible, keep your profile to three solid paragraphs. I enjoy reading profiles that read a little like a story. The first paragraph pulls you in. The second gets you familiar with the character. The third wraps things up and motivates you to take action. It might make sense to look up some other attorneys in your practice area to see what they’ve written. This will help you identify the best profile style for you.

Tip #3: Develop a strong list of skills that best represents your expertise.

If you take a few minutes and search some of your colleagues and competitors, you can quickly begin to formulate such a list. For example, an estate planning attorney would want to have the words “wills,” “trusts” and “estate planning” listed among his or her skills, thus enabling people searching for an estate planner to more easily find the attorney.

Once your skills are posted, people in your network will then have the ability to endorse you. Essentially, when you have a skill that someone agrees with, they’ll endorse you for that skill. While this might seem like “fluff,” it’s an important factor that people use to determine who are experts and who are not. For example, if you had to choose between two referred doctors, one who has hundreds of positive endorsements on LinkedIn and one who has none, which would you choose? While this might seem insignificant, in the competitive legal environment everything counts.

Read Part 2 here: LinkedIn for Lawyers – Strengthening Your Circle by Establishing the Very Best Connections Part 2

Read Part 3 here: Effectively Using LinkedIn for Lawyers: Going Beyond Connecting and Turning LinkedIn Relationships into Better Introductions Part 3

Copyright @ 2016 Sales Results, Inc.

Client Site Visits: Checklist for Success

client site visitsStudies reveal that clients, more than ever, want and expect great service from their outside counsel. On top of that, clients value lawyers who know and understand their business, as well their people and their policies. Clients also want lawyers who are trusted advisors and counselors.

Lawyers and law firms that take the time ask “How are we doing?” and take a proactive interest in helping clients achieve their goals and objectives add tremendous value to the relationship and build trust and loyalty with the client. Being a competent legal technician is simply not enough anymore in today’s competitive market place for legal services.

And what is the best way to achieve this type of relationship with clients? Go visit them. In fact, I recommend that partners visit their top four clients each year. Show you care. Ask smart questions. Listen, learn and respond appropriately.

Below is our Client Site Visit checklist, which offers practical guidance to lawyers who are interested in enhancing their relationships with top clients.

Before Your Visit

  1. Be very clear on your purpose for the Client Site Visit. Determine your objectives, which might include:
    1. Thanking the client for past business

    2. Enhancing your relationship with the client

    3. Meeting individuals with whom you work for the first time

    4. Learning more about the client’s business and industry

    5. Determining ways the Firm can improve service

    6. Resolving perceived problem areas

    7. Learning about opportunities for new business

    8. Learning about other firms the client uses

  2. Determine with whom you want to meet and spend time. Consider internal politics, both within the Firm and at your client’s company. Think about others who should be included beyond the person(s) with whom you work most closely.
  3. Determine where, when and for how long you want to meet. We recommend the client’s place of business, but you may want to consider a golf course, restaurant or private club.
  4. Ask for the meeting through a short letter or telephone call. Call our office if you would like an example.
  5. Do your homework:
    1. Three-year billing and client/matter history

    2. Research the client through Lexis/Nexis, Dun & Bradstreet, client’s web site, Martindale-Hubbell, etc.

    3. Discuss your visit with other attorneys who have worked with the client

  6. Develop a list of specific questions you want to ask.

At Your Meeting

  1. Arrive early and dress appropriately.
  2. Start off the meeting with 5-10 minutes of introductory “small talk.” Show interest in your client and consider topics like hometown, law school, family, hobbies, etc. If you are meeting in the client’s office, notice your surroundings…family photos, artwork, etc. to help you with topics of conversation. Bottom line…establish a friendly rapport before you dive into your list of questions.
  3. When the time is right, begin asking your pre-determined questions. Listen carefully. Let the client do the talking. Take copious notes.
  4. Let the client set the pace and tone of the meeting. Be sensitive to non-verbal cues.
  5. Remember that you are there to learn about the client, show interest in his/her objectives and how the Firm can improve service and add value to the relationship.
  6. Keep in mind that you are not there to “sell” legal services or talk about the Firm. That will happen naturally during the course of the meeting and your follow up plan.
  7. Do not overstay your welcome. Be aware of any obvious signals that it’s time for you to leave.
  8. At the conclusion of your meeting, thank the client for his/her time and assure him/her that you will respond to any issues raised during your conversation.

After Your Visit

Follow up is absolutely essential!! If you don’t plan to follow up, don’t bother visiting the client in the first place.

  1. Send a brief “thank you” note the day after your meeting.
  2. Calendar a specific day to follow up with a telephone call, another meeting or whatever you agreed to do at your Site Visit.
  3. Make sure all appropriate individuals at your client’s company are on all appropriate mailing lists for law alerts, seminar invitations, etc.
  4. Develop a client-specific action plan based on what you learned at the meeting. This might involve a formal proposal for services, a follow up visit at a later time or a pro-active program to further enhance the Firm’s relationship with the client.
  5. Find other ways to keep in touch with the client. Sending an article of interest or an occasional e-mail are good ways to stay “on the radar screen.” Hand-written notes are very effective and take little time.
  6. Strive to become more than a legal technician in the eyes of your client. Work to become a counselor or trusted advisor to your clients.
ARTICLE BY John Remsen, Jr
Copyright 2016 The Remsen Group

Retaining Millennials at Law Firms Requires Change

Millennials law firmManaging attorney departures at a law firm can be a daunting task, especially if a departing attorney has a book of business and takes clients along when leaving the firm. Although it can be difficult for the firm, a practice area and, often, the attorneys who remain, it has been a fairly rare occurrence in the past, particularly for equity partners.

That rarity is changing at an increasing rate as baby boomers have phased out of the workforce, leaving millennials to become the largest percentage of the U.S. employee pool. In fact, millenials are expected to make up 75 percent of our nation’s workers by 2030. They bring a different attitude regarding their careers and longevity with a particular company than we have become accustomed to, especially in a law firm culture.

As most business professionals are aware, it takes much more money to hire and train a new employee than to simply retain astute professionals. And, with millennials’ perceptions of how office life should be, law firms will need to pay much more attention to those ideals in order to keep excellent talent, which is imperative for a successful firm.

Millennial Expectations

So, what do millennials expect in the way of work life? This is a frequently discussed topic in the media, at companies and within law firms throughout the world. I’ve read several good articles on the subject lately and will share from one in particular written by Jeff Fromm for Forbes magazine.

Fromm, who consults on the “Millennial Generation” or “Gen Y,” often speaks about the attributes these employees want from their companies, and it’s not all about salary and benefits.

Although there is no precisely defined birth date range for this segment of the population, it is often described as people reaching young adulthood around the year 2000. These individuals were raised with technology and gadgets at a time when developing a child’s self esteem and individuality was a predominant theme in educational and behavioral methodologies.

Other attributes discussed include:

    1. Millenials want to be a part of  “the process.” They have strong entrepreneurial tendencies and desire growth. If they do not feel they are growing at a company or firm, they are much more likely to move to another than their older peers.
    2. Millenials prefer to be coached and mentored instead of “bossed” or just told what to do. Interestingly, this does not mean that they want to work independently with little supervision; it’s quite the opposite. They actually prefer more interaction and feedback than the typical baby boomer.

Conforming to the Millennial Way of Life

So, what does this mean for law firms and particularly law firm management, practice area leaders and the like? It means an almost 180-degree change in the way associates have been managed in the past.

Millennial attorneys will want to be part of the process from the beginning. They are not content to receive a directive such as, “Research a particular point of law and prepare an annotated brief on the subject.” Instead, they want to know about the case, why the research is important for the case and how it will be used to benefit the case.

Likewise, instead of just receiving a red-lined document back with few instructions regarding how to improve the work, millennials will prefer to discuss how the work product was perceived, why changes were made and how the changes make the information better in relation to the case. They want to learn and grow from the process; i.e., from performing their work.

These types of processes will, indeed, make for a better learning experience for associates, enhance their skills and grow more capable team members. However, this approach will also take more time and patience on the leader’s behalf. Just a “do as I say” directive, without an explanation of why to do it, doesn’t sit well with a millennial. Over time, such treatment will erode the associate’s desire to stay at the firm.

Millennial Mentoring

Remember, these younger attorneys need to feel included and that they are growing and making a difference to be motivated and engaged. Just receiving a good paycheck and the chance at equity ownership isn’t a long-term motivator for them. That really is a cultural change in how many, if not most, young associates used to be trained to be the future leaders of a law firm.

Also, consider that dramatic change in a firm’s processes can’t happen all at once, or else the culture will implode. Instead of instituting entirely new training and evaluation programs, try adding in or updating your firm’s processes. As a start, adding a strong associate mentoring program with real checks and balances will go a long way toward including associates in the process. And know that opening up the lines of communications top-down and bottom-up at any organization also will result in better operations and more-satisfied employees. If good communication isn’t standard at your firm, offer training across the board.

The impact the changing workforce has had on law firms isn’t just beginning … it is happening and must be addressed now to avoid major business operational issues for law firms. Take note of this growing trend and make the necessary changes to ensure your firm has the best talent today and in the future.

ARTICLE BY Sue Remley of Jaffe
© Copyright 2008-2016, Jaffe Associates

12 Tips for Getting the Most Business Out of Speaking Events

speaking eventsSpeaking provides credibility and visibility, both of which are very helpful in terms of acquiring new clients. Yet, despite the significant time and effort that it takes to prepare presentations, many attorneys find that speaking events are not producing as much business as they had hoped. The following tips are intended to help lawyers identify areas to fine-tune their approach, in order to produce better results going forward.

  1. Find the Best Audience – Speaking to a wide range of groups just to get experience can be a very good idea. However, once an attorney becomes more comfortable and skilled at communicating to groups and managing the dynamics of a room, it is important to start actively seeking the ideal audience. This may take some trial and error. The best organizations for reaching a particular niche may not be as obvious as one might think. If you are not getting the business you want, this is the first place to look.
  2. Choose a Critically Important Topic – Even if you are speaking to an ideal audience, you may not be addressing an issue that would inspire them to hire you. They may attend simply because they are curious about the subject and want to be prepared for the future, rather than because they view the issue as a serious concern on which they are willing to spend money. It may take some experimentation in order to identify topics that hit the sweet spot, both resonating with the audience, and showcasing your passion and expertise.
  3. Choose an Enticing Title – A well-crafted title increases attendance and enthusiasm for the topic dramatically. On one hand, this could be seen as superficial; but on the other hand, if a speaker goes out of her way to choose an amusing or compelling title, it is reasonable to assume that she made similar effort with the entire presentation.
  4. Make Sure the Description Accurately Represents the Content of the Presentation – There are two major ways this can go awry.  First, sometimes an event organizer will write the program description for you.  If you do not control the way the program is being advertised, it is very likely that the “wrong” people will attend or that they will come with expectations that are at odds with what you actually provide. This can lead to a confused or disappointed audience and a lot of frustration for the speaker. The second common way this happens is when the speaker writes a program description before designing the presentation. While content may evolve through the preparation process, it is important to keep the program in alignment with the description.
  5. Come Across as Personable – While an attorney’s experience and expertise are important, clients are a lot more interested in doing business with those whom they like. Public speaking does not come naturally to everyone, and even people who are usually genuine and charming may not come across as their usual likeable selves, due to nervousness, a believe that they “should” act a certain way in front of a group, etc. Some of this comes with practice, but getting feedback and simply putting greater attention on connecting with the audience can be immensely helpful.
  6. Put Aside the Perfectionism – There are a lot of variables at play when speaking to a group, and circumstance will not always go as planned.  If you are at a conference, the previous breakout session can run late, cutting into your perfectly timed presentation. The audience may turn out to have a dramatically different level of knowledge about the subject than you expected. There could be an unusually difficult audience member who won’t shut up about his own agenda. You could fall suddenly ill and have intense nausea or a hoarse voice. The list of unexpected challenges is long. Flexibility is your friend.
  7. Make Sure Your Biographical Descriptions are Consistent – If your biographical descriptions say different things about your expertise, you may be inadvertently undermining your credibility. Audience members frequently research speakers on the Internet and through social media to determine whether or not to attend a presentation, or to evaluate a speaker’s level of expertise. Thus, it is important that your law firm biography, speaker’s biography, and LinkedIn and other social media profiles all send a consistent message.
  8. Tell Them the Types of Law You Practice – Based on your presentation topic, audiences often make inaccurate assumptions about the scope of work that you do. If you offer a presentation about regulation of the electric grid, they may not realize that you also work on other types of energy or regulatory issues. Simply telling them at some point in your presentation, or using a range or examples, helps people recognize opportunities for working with you.
  9. Have a Structure for Gathering Contact Information – Asking for business cards from those who wish to receive client alerts, or offering to send out slides or other supplementary materials related to your topic is a great way to gather contact information from audience members. It is important to know the policies and procedures for the particular host organization, as some provide materials to participants electronically, others will offer the speaker a list of attendees, etc. Once you know the particulars, you can make a plan for how to request contact information from participants in way that is both inviting and appropriate.
  10. Follow up – The people who attend your program are leads, and turning them into clients generally requires follow-up. While some people who attend your presentation may immediately express interest in hiring you, most will not be shopping for an attorney right away. However, that could easily change down the line, and you want to still be in contact when it does. Therefore, it is important to have a good system in place for following up and staying in touch.
  11. Offer Insights as Well as Information – Lawyers are great at providing information on developments in the law and other technical details, but often do not offer the type of insights and generalizations that audiences find most valuable. Such comments may require caveats, but this is where your expertise becomes most evident. In a world where it’s not that hard to look up regulations, it is the context and broader implications for which clients are paying you.
  12. Make Content as Engaging as Possible – It is not always obvious how to liven up a presentation on a dry legal topic. However, one of the best ways is to use stories. Every case has a story behind it, and although the exact details may not be relevant to your audience, simply fleshing out the situation, and explaining a little bit about the characters, groups or context helps people to process and later recall the information. Don’t be scared to err on the side of being a little too interesting. If the audience can’t stay awake, they are a lot less likely to remember, let alone hire you.

Even highly effective and experienced speakers will likely be able to identify areas for improvement.  Becoming truly great at anything, from football to parenting to business development, requires constant practice, evaluation and adjustment.  The key is to just choose one or two areas to focus on at time.  Progress in any of these areas is likely to increase the number or quality of your prospects.

© 2008-2016 Anna Rappaport. All Rights Reserved

The Evolving Role of Today's Law Firm Leaders

The National Law Review is in attendance at the 23rd Managing Partner Forum today in Atlanta, Georgia. NLR Managing Director Jennifer Schaller is moderating a collaborative panel discussing investing in clients. Check out the below article by founder of the Managing Partner Forum, John Remsen.

We all know that the legal profession has changed dramatically over the past two decades, resulting in a new set of challenges that yesterday’s firm leaders never had to confront. There’s an oversupply of lawyers. More demanding and less loyal clients. More demanding and less loyal partners and associates. Staggering advances in technology. Tort reform in many jurisdictions. Skyrocketing operating expenses. Mergers and acquisitions and unprecedented competition. Certainly these and other trends have created tremendous pressures for law firm leaders—who must change the way they operate if their firms are to remain viable in the long run.

Yet most aren’t keeping pace. In the midst of all the change, far too many firms haven’t changed much at all. They run essentially the same way they did 20 years ago—like loose confederations of solo practitioners sharing office space.

Why? According to nationally known lawyer-psychologist Dr. Larry Richard and his groundbreaking research on the subject, most lawyers hate change. They also love autonomy and resist rules and structure. They have little patience and want immediate results. They don’t like risk and shun the unknown. So for many firms, it’s easier just to leave things alone.

On the other hand, some firms “get it.” These firms are fundamentally changing the way they do business, with streamlined governance, standardized systems and procedures, strategic plans, and marketing and business development programs. They enforce minimum performance standards for partners and associates. Many are also divesting themselves of low-profit clients and practice groups. They are deequating underperforming shareholders and asking disruptive lawyers—even those with big books of business—to leave. These firms are emerging as the front-runners in the market because their top levels of leadership have the moxie and vision to make change happen.

The Firm Leader as Change Agent

In today’s most successful law firms, the role of managing partner has evolved significantly, from that of a “caretaker” trying not to rock the boat to that of a dynamic consensus builder and change agent. Today the managing partner is the CEO of a multimillion-dollar entity in a rapidly changing industry and needs to exercise critical leadership skills to set the example for leaders at all other levels of the firm and thus ensure the organization’s success.

Of course, knowing that you need to set the course to success and actually doing it can be difficult, given the press of countless to-dos firm leaders tackle every day. Consider this: Last year TheRemsenGroup surveyed more than 170 managing partners from firms ranging in size from 10 to 2,200 lawyers. Of those firms, 60 percent had more than 50 lawyers. When they were asked what their most important contributions were in their roles as managing partner, building consensus among shareholders and initiating change topped the list of responses. In contrast, when asked where they spent most of their time, day-to-day administration ate up way too much of it.

We also asked if these managing partners had a job description: 74 percent did not. In addition, 76 percent did not have a clearly defined exit strategy.

What can we take from this? Too many leaders at the top levels of law firms are winging it.

Steps to More Effective Leadership

A successful firm leader must be a visionary, a communicator, a negotiator, a coach, a disciplinarian, a cheerleader and a psychologist all wrapped up in one person. Needless to say, it’s not an easy job, especially when you add management responsibilities to the mix.

There are, however, steps that the top levels of firm leadership can take to enhance their effectiveness and improve the performance of their organizations. Here, in a nutshell, is the guidebook.

  • Codify the Top Leader’s Job

Every managing partner should have a well-defined job description. It should set forth the primary responsibilities of the position, the amount of time required, and how the partner will be compensated for his or her nonbillable contributions. Also, it should account for the fact that a managing partner’s time should be spent mostly in the areas of planning, communication and consensus building. Day-to-day administration functions should be delegated to a capable administrator.

  • Appoint Strong Group Leaders

A firm needs strong leadership at all levels. Unfortunately, departments and practice groups are too often led by the most senior lawyer or the lawyer with the biggest book of business when, in fact, that may not be the right person for the job. Passion, commitment and leadership skills are required for these important roles. To help ensure the right people are put in the right positions, department heads, practice group chairs and branch office managing partners need job descriptions, just like the managing partner does.

  • Develop a Firmwide Strategic Plan

The evidence is clear. Firms that have plans outperform those that do not. Planning helps to bring everybody onto the same page, sharing the same vision for the future. Firm leaders have to embrace and encourage the planning process and the plan’s implementation at the firm, practice group and individual lawyer levels.

  • Build a Firm-First Culture

Leaders should always encourage and reward a “firm-first” mind-set and attitude among all the firm’s members. There are a variety of ways to do this, including through compensation mechanisms, but even simple steps can prove very effective. For example, insist on the term “our” clients instead of “mine” and “yours.” Leaders must do everything possible to promote trust, teamwork and fairness within the firm.

  • Lead by Example

Managing partners and practice group leaders cannot be hypocrites. They must “walk the talk” by being first in submitting their individual marketing plans, getting their time records in, mentoring younger colleagues, returning client phone calls and otherwise setting the standard for everyone in the firm.

  • Invest in the Future

According to LexisNexis’s 2007 Juris Law Firm Economic Survey, the top performing and most profitable law firms spend more per person than underperforming firms do. They are investing in the future. The lesson: Resist the temptation to enhance profitably through cost cutting. That’s a short-term fix. Profitable firms look at long-term impacts.

  • Groom Successor Leaders

The best leaders are wise enough to identify and mentor a successor for their roles. They give that person important, high-profile assignments so that the firm’s people gain trust and confidence in the successor’s leadership skills well before the torch is actually passed. In addition, managing partners in particular should have a well-defined exit strategy that is communicated to all shareholders.

  • Be Passionate

They sure don’t teach much about leadership in law schools. But that’s not an excuse for failing to strive to be the best firm leader you can be. There are many intricacies involved in steering a firm toward top performance in times of change. To learn more about them, you should attend leadership conferences and ask your firm for training. Read books and articles. Learn from other managing partners and practice group chairs. It’s important for leaders to demonstrate that they’re devoted to excellence. -After all, if the leader isn’t committed, there aren’t likely to be many followers—and the firm will stagnate as a result. Those firms with strong, passionate and committed leaders, on the other hand, will emerge as the most successful law firms of the future.

Copyright 2016 The Remsen Group

The Evolving Role of Today’s Law Firm Leaders

The National Law Review is in attendance at the 23rd Managing Partner Forum today in Atlanta, Georgia. NLR Managing Director Jennifer Schaller is moderating a collaborative panel discussing investing in clients. Check out the below article by founder of the Managing Partner Forum, John Remsen.

We all know that the legal profession has changed dramatically over the past two decades, resulting in a new set of challenges that yesterday’s firm leaders never had to confront. There’s an oversupply of lawyers. More demanding and less loyal clients. More demanding and less loyal partners and associates. Staggering advances in technology. Tort reform in many jurisdictions. Skyrocketing operating expenses. Mergers and acquisitions and unprecedented competition. Certainly these and other trends have created tremendous pressures for law firm leaders—who must change the way they operate if their firms are to remain viable in the long run.

Yet most aren’t keeping pace. In the midst of all the change, far too many firms haven’t changed much at all. They run essentially the same way they did 20 years ago—like loose confederations of solo practitioners sharing office space.

Why? According to nationally known lawyer-psychologist Dr. Larry Richard and his groundbreaking research on the subject, most lawyers hate change. They also love autonomy and resist rules and structure. They have little patience and want immediate results. They don’t like risk and shun the unknown. So for many firms, it’s easier just to leave things alone.

On the other hand, some firms “get it.” These firms are fundamentally changing the way they do business, with streamlined governance, standardized systems and procedures, strategic plans, and marketing and business development programs. They enforce minimum performance standards for partners and associates. Many are also divesting themselves of low-profit clients and practice groups. They are deequating underperforming shareholders and asking disruptive lawyers—even those with big books of business—to leave. These firms are emerging as the front-runners in the market because their top levels of leadership have the moxie and vision to make change happen.

The Firm Leader as Change Agent

In today’s most successful law firms, the role of managing partner has evolved significantly, from that of a “caretaker” trying not to rock the boat to that of a dynamic consensus builder and change agent. Today the managing partner is the CEO of a multimillion-dollar entity in a rapidly changing industry and needs to exercise critical leadership skills to set the example for leaders at all other levels of the firm and thus ensure the organization’s success.

Of course, knowing that you need to set the course to success and actually doing it can be difficult, given the press of countless to-dos firm leaders tackle every day. Consider this: Last year TheRemsenGroup surveyed more than 170 managing partners from firms ranging in size from 10 to 2,200 lawyers. Of those firms, 60 percent had more than 50 lawyers. When they were asked what their most important contributions were in their roles as managing partner, building consensus among shareholders and initiating change topped the list of responses. In contrast, when asked where they spent most of their time, day-to-day administration ate up way too much of it.

We also asked if these managing partners had a job description: 74 percent did not. In addition, 76 percent did not have a clearly defined exit strategy.

What can we take from this? Too many leaders at the top levels of law firms are winging it.

Steps to More Effective Leadership

A successful firm leader must be a visionary, a communicator, a negotiator, a coach, a disciplinarian, a cheerleader and a psychologist all wrapped up in one person. Needless to say, it’s not an easy job, especially when you add management responsibilities to the mix.

There are, however, steps that the top levels of firm leadership can take to enhance their effectiveness and improve the performance of their organizations. Here, in a nutshell, is the guidebook.

  • Codify the Top Leader’s Job

Every managing partner should have a well-defined job description. It should set forth the primary responsibilities of the position, the amount of time required, and how the partner will be compensated for his or her nonbillable contributions. Also, it should account for the fact that a managing partner’s time should be spent mostly in the areas of planning, communication and consensus building. Day-to-day administration functions should be delegated to a capable administrator.

  • Appoint Strong Group Leaders

A firm needs strong leadership at all levels. Unfortunately, departments and practice groups are too often led by the most senior lawyer or the lawyer with the biggest book of business when, in fact, that may not be the right person for the job. Passion, commitment and leadership skills are required for these important roles. To help ensure the right people are put in the right positions, department heads, practice group chairs and branch office managing partners need job descriptions, just like the managing partner does.

  • Develop a Firmwide Strategic Plan

The evidence is clear. Firms that have plans outperform those that do not. Planning helps to bring everybody onto the same page, sharing the same vision for the future. Firm leaders have to embrace and encourage the planning process and the plan’s implementation at the firm, practice group and individual lawyer levels.

  • Build a Firm-First Culture

Leaders should always encourage and reward a “firm-first” mind-set and attitude among all the firm’s members. There are a variety of ways to do this, including through compensation mechanisms, but even simple steps can prove very effective. For example, insist on the term “our” clients instead of “mine” and “yours.” Leaders must do everything possible to promote trust, teamwork and fairness within the firm.

  • Lead by Example

Managing partners and practice group leaders cannot be hypocrites. They must “walk the talk” by being first in submitting their individual marketing plans, getting their time records in, mentoring younger colleagues, returning client phone calls and otherwise setting the standard for everyone in the firm.

  • Invest in the Future

According to LexisNexis’s 2007 Juris Law Firm Economic Survey, the top performing and most profitable law firms spend more per person than underperforming firms do. They are investing in the future. The lesson: Resist the temptation to enhance profitably through cost cutting. That’s a short-term fix. Profitable firms look at long-term impacts.

  • Groom Successor Leaders

The best leaders are wise enough to identify and mentor a successor for their roles. They give that person important, high-profile assignments so that the firm’s people gain trust and confidence in the successor’s leadership skills well before the torch is actually passed. In addition, managing partners in particular should have a well-defined exit strategy that is communicated to all shareholders.

  • Be Passionate

They sure don’t teach much about leadership in law schools. But that’s not an excuse for failing to strive to be the best firm leader you can be. There are many intricacies involved in steering a firm toward top performance in times of change. To learn more about them, you should attend leadership conferences and ask your firm for training. Read books and articles. Learn from other managing partners and practice group chairs. It’s important for leaders to demonstrate that they’re devoted to excellence. -After all, if the leader isn’t committed, there aren’t likely to be many followers—and the firm will stagnate as a result. Those firms with strong, passionate and committed leaders, on the other hand, will emerge as the most successful law firms of the future.

Copyright 2016 The Remsen Group

Building a Business Development Mindset in Law Firm Associates, Junior and Income Partners

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Firms continually struggle to transition associates and junior partners from the “learning to be a great attorney mindset” to being great attorneys who also actively contribute to the firm’s bottom line.  In a fragile and shrinking legal market, business development at all levels and in all practice areas starts earlier and is being monitored more closely. Common stumbling blocks at the outset of building a business development mindset include where attorneys should start and how firms should help attorneys tailor their plans to both their different practices and diverse personalities. Once those business development plans are in place, firms are further challenged by how they can monitor and measure the effectiveness of their plans and how they must balance competing requests for funding for Business Development activities.

I had the opportunity to interview three law firm leaders in diverse practice groups about developing and monitoring attorneys’ business development plans.  Jason P. Grunfeld, the Head of Business Development and a partner in the firm’s Financial Services group at Kleinberg, Kaplan, Wolff & Cohen, P.C.;   Louis Britt, the Regional Managing Partner for FordHarrison‘s Memphis, Nashville and Dallas offices and a Partner in the firm’s Employment Litigation group; and Samir Gandhi, co-practice leader of Sidley Austin’s New York Corporate Group, took the time to answer some questions about effective business development strategies.  Thank you to for Messrs. Britt, Gandhi, and Grunfeld for sharing their experiences.

Jennifer:  What are some practical tips for helping even the most junior associates build a business development mindset?

Jason:  I tell associates to ask themselves some big questions:

  • What part of my work/profession excites me?
  • What is my network (professional, social, school), and how can I keep actively intouch with them?
  • What are my priorities and where do I want to be in 2, 5, or 10 years?

Then I encourage them to draft a plan for developing their: skills; expertise; visibility within the profession and to potential clients; and expand their network (both internally and externally). To keep up the momentum, I ask them to pick two items they can complete within the next month. One goal might be to reconnect with a potential or current client by sending them an email to touch base. Another could be to research an organization they would like to become more involved in. Still another could be to think about a potential article topic in their area of practice.

I also remind them to look for everyday opportunities to connect with new contacts and reestablish old ones.  This kind of networking is essential no matter what stage of your career you are in. It’s not just about connecting with potential clients, it also gets you in front of referral sources, mentors/advocates, and ultimately a great support system.

Louis:  At FordHarrison, we encourage associates from the very beginning to build a business development mindset.  This starts with building good habits and getting out to meet people.  We insist that associates take part in an organization, whether it’s a bar association, an industry association, philanthropic, or civic-oriented.  We want them to work toward becoming a leader in that organization, which can start with committee involvement and build from there.  We want them to write for publications, participate in speaking opportunities, and get used to occasionally having lunch outside the office.  They can start with former classmates, but also take the opportunity to buy a client lunch whenever they have the opportunity in working with them.

Building good habits is akin to regular exercise.  No one can run a marathon without putting in lots of shorter runs on a daily basis.  Lastly, it’s always good when partners can take associates along on a business development activity, whether it’s as simple as a lunch or as big as a pitch meeting.  People learn best from examples, and this is a great way to take a little of the mystery and nervousness out of business development for associates.

Samir:  Use simple, easy to accomplish tasks.  Most junior associates/partners who are new to practice development get intimidated by the concepts of “business plans” or marketing strategies.  Create goals that are effective yet not overwhelming, like doing one client alert per month or three practice development phone calls per week.  These are less intimidating and more likely to be done and each sets a goal that is practice development-focused.

Jennifer:  How can business development plans be tailored to meet different types of practices, different personality types?

Jason:  For most lawyers, the two primary obstacles to business development are fear and lack of time. The fear comes when lawyers are asked to step outside of their comfort zones and engage in new activities. Lack of time causes lawyers to push business development to the back burner, never giving it the chance to mature into a habit.

As far as personalities go, we also know that lawyers score high on skepticism (they question everything), autonomy (they don’t like being managed), and urgency (they want immediate results). None of this is great for developing business.  At Kleinberg Kaplan we try to overcome these obstacles by helping our lawyers develop marketing plans and tactics that fit their practices and unique personalities.

Tactics such as writing articles and participating in webinars to demonstrate thought leadership are helpful for lawyers whose personalities are more introverted.  Speaking to groups and attending networking functions are suggested for lawyers who are more comfortable with being extroverted. Some also find success with small group interaction at settings such as restaurants, cultural events, or sporting events. Other tactics can include making lawyers available for interviews to comment on key issues related to their area of practice. It’s all about the comfort zone for the individual lawyer… there is no “one size fits all.” Lawyers whose business development efforts are consistent with the needs of their practice, as well as their personality, values, and interpersonal characteristics are more likely to perform better.

Samir:  Difficult to answer as it really depends on the practice, but I tell people to really listen to what their clients or prospective clients want.  Lawyers tend to do things that are formulaic rather than bespoke.  Listen to what your clients’ needs are and your business plan can revolve around that need.

Jennifer:  Once business development activities have taken place, how do you monitor follow up and follow through?

Jason:  One aspect of our coaching program is the development of systems to organize, motivate and direct our lawyers’ business development activities in the shortest amount of time. We are helping our lawyers to build their own specific list of prospects that they would like to transform into clients – and a system that tracks exactly where they are in the process and the next steps that need to be taken.  This analytical approach provides organization, prompts action, tracks conversations, and helps us to analyze networks. The process begins with a chart that includes the name of the target organization; the potential contact within the organization; general description/information about the organization, history and notes about the contact; next steps to be taken; and deadlines to be met.

An important part of the process is identifying the various stages of the relationship:

  1. target identified,

  2. when the initial communication is made,

  3. what steps are taken to build the relationship,

  4. when the meeting is held to assess legal needs,

  5. what steps are taken to build trust (follow-up, sending articles, sharing information, etc),

  6. when the agreement is made to hire, and

  7. when the file is opened.

Samir:  At Sidley we try to gauge follow up through surveys and results inquiries (e.g., how did the RFP go?).   As a practice group head, I try to make sure I remind lawyers on my team to continually follow up and keep your promises to do so.

Jennifer:  How do you balance competing requests for funds / priorities for business development activities?

Louis: As attorneys are seeking approval for funds outside of routine client lunches or dinners, we ask them what business purpose is served and what follow-up is planned.  Another thing we do at our firm is give a greater priority when a lawyer looks to involve others in his or her office.  We want to avoid the use of funds for “pet projects,” so to avoid this, we will often insist that certain activities involve more attorneys within the office, and require a plan for follow-up.

Samir:  Carefully.  Based on a combination of need and effective use of funds.  We are a large firm and there are a lot of competing teams looking for funds.  We try to make sure teams use best practices to be efficient so that we aren’t unable to fund someone who is deserving because we were inefficient with funds.

Copyright ©2016 National Law Forum, LLC

[1] I recently had the opportunity to hear Louis Britt III, Samir A. Gandhi, and Jason P. Grunfeld speak at Thomson Reuters 23rd Annual Marketing Partner Forum held last month in Orlando.  I’d also like to extend a big thank you to Cindy Larson, the Publisher of SuperLawyers Magazine who moderated the “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been? Investing in Junior & Income Partners for Business Development” panel whose members included Messrs. Britt, Gandhi, and Grunfeld.  Click here: for a full recap of this panel discussion by Cindy.