New Case on the Realities of Business Development

New Product: Chasing Growth at Sasker Devereaux

EM: Business development is a critical component of any successful law practice, but poses challenges unique to each partner.  A new discussion-based case study, Chasing Growth at Sasker Devereaux, profiles law firm partners struggling with business development; through the case study format, each participant unearths personally relevant lessons. Lisa Rohrer, the executive director of the HLS Case Development Initiative, shares her thoughts on the latest CDI case:

LR: This case is the second time we’ve collaborated with Kevin Doolan, a guest faculty member in our Executive Education program, on practical challenges facing lawyers in law firms today.  The first case, Three Vignettes on Pricing of Professional Services, dealt with pricing and this latest collaboration is about business development. The case chronicles a managing partner as he debates how to encourage and support his partners in their business development efforts. We also “get into the heads” of two partners who are struggling with these issues. One of them is a very technically proficient and somewhat introverted partner who needs to rebuild his practice after losing several large clients but is not sure where to start. He ends up at a networking event where he feels extremely uncomfortable and leaves early, feeling sorry for himself. The second partner has attended a sales training course and absolutely crashes and burns when she attempts to apply what she learned to a real client prospect. The case also addresses the concept of cross-selling, why it can be so annoying to clients, and how it can be done effectively.

One lesson from the experience of the partners in the case is the importance of authenticity and finding approaches that work well with your personality. When we teach this case, we focus on a range of strategies and tactics that can be applied by different types of people in different situations. In many instances, the best “sales” tactics don’t feel like selling at all and the case enables a lively discussion about the different approaches. Kevin used the case in a recent Accelerated Leadership Program for law firm partners and I think the characters in the case really resonated with the participants. Sometimes in law firms, people are afraid to say that they really aren’t sure how to do something and so skills like business development are not adequately addressed. The case enables us to tap into the insecurities so many of us feel when faced with developing new business.  Using a story instead of a lecture, we can elicit the emotional aspect of their day-to-day experience, which creates a more memorable and impactful class session.

I’ve enjoyed working with Kevin because he comes at case writing from the perspective of a practicing lawyer and law firm leader from over 25 years at the law firm Eversheds in the UK. While the case itself is based on a fictional firm, it is certainly grounded in the reality that Kevin saw in his law firm days. The fictional case study is also fun as a writer because you have more freedom to be creative with the details and personalities of key characters. The challenge, then, is to not be so creative that the characters become unbelievable. We did a lot of tweaking of the case to strike the right balance so that the case is interesting to read yet grounded in the reality of law firm life. As always, we welcome the thoughts of readers and instructors about how our cases play out in the classroom, so please do send feedback.

To share your thoughts on “Chasing Growth at Sasker Devereaux” or any of our case studies or role plays, email or call 617-495-8689.

About Elizabeth Moroney

Case Studies Editorial Assistant
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