Law Firms as Businesses, Growing Up

Who Will Do The Serious Selling?

Notes from Day 2 of LSSO’s Raindance Conference (see also Day 1): In “Who Will Do The Serious Selling?” Mike O’Horo (whose company Sales Results Inc. trains and coaches lawyers and firm management) said that firms currently have “sales activity” but they do not have a “sales function.” Further, legal services is the only big business that currently relies on part-time, volunteer selling that they “hope” will be sufficient.

The current herd response to the rise of the “S” word is to see that about 20 of the big firms have hired business development officers… and firms are asking, should we hire a BDO too? This, says O’Horo, is the wrong question to ask. “Imposing a sales structure on an organization that’s not ready for it is doomed for failure.”

The Evolution of a Sales Culture

Institutionalizing the sales concept is an evolution, and he laid out a 5-stage process:

1. Getting Started – Raising awareness and sales education
2. Growing – Increase number and performance of lawyers selling
3. Managing – Build in consistency, scalability, organization
4. Integrating – Eliminate silos, seamless sharing of information
5. Optimizing – Sales/marketing attitude is infused, part of DNA

As law firms move toward that reality of evolving into a sales culture, the question becomes who will do the serious selling? Do you grow lawyers into sales people (make), or bring in sales professionals from the outside (buy)? He sees a hybrid solution of “make and buy” similar to what has evolved in the tech industry that last 20 years — “a sales team with a sales pro managing the sales decision process and a technical expert providing the content legitimacy…. Lawyers will be able to leverage their contacts and relationships more fully without bearing an unwanted sales performance burden.”

See more information and articles on Sales Results, Inc. web site.

The Leadership Factor

At the Leadership panel, Roberta Montafia notes that in the changing landscape, leadership is mission critical. Not just lawyer leadership, but business leadership from the top down. Firms are struggling with it, still operating in silos. Firms are bringing in leaders with real business experience to lead change.

Allison Friend is chief human resources officer (a fairly new position for a law firm) at Goodwin Procter (500 attorneys) who was brought in to provide change leadership. (Friend has both legal and business experience as former Goodwin attorney and HR director at Liberty Mutual.) The firm had realigned itself into 2 focus areas — litigation and business law — but had not communicated the change to all staff. The boxes had been reorganized, but nothing was done to support it. The firm was externally focused but not internally aligned, said Friend, “We weren’t aligned to do what we were saying externally… all staff must be aligned, not just attorneys.” She needed to communicate the change to all internally, and empower leaders internally. Choosing the right leaders is important, she said. Firms generally choose a senior partner or top business generator, but nothing changes. Must choose right areas to give power to leaders. Practice areas must do external look and internal look and develop a business plan to give leaders control. Ultimately, says Friend, “What differentiates your firm? You’re all offering the same service. What differentiates you is your people and how they deliver service.” Her job is to better connect the departments into one — both internally and externally… to be strategic rather than reactive.

John Murphy, IT director with Goulston & Storrs, who also has both legal and business experience, echoed the theme that law firms are big business and need professionals with corporate experience in sales, IT, HR, marketing and support staff… and all have to work together in teams and measure results.

A Few Pearls…

O’Horo: “Even if you interact with your market for 1/2 hour a week, in a focused way, you’re ahead of your competition! Just make outgoing calls… even if you’re not good at it and you’ll be ahead.”

William J. Flannery, of WJF Institute: “All client contact creates economic value — it’s either negative value or positive value, but client contact always creates economic value.”

O’Horo: “There are lots of people running law firms who have never had a job.”

Denis Snow of Snow Associates on customer service: “Intolerable service exists because intolerable service is tolerated.”

Snow: “Learn to view your business through the lens of the customer [like Disney]”… then, “Get rid of your ‘smoking Cinderellas.'”

John Martin of Chadwick Martin Bailey: (paraphrased) “Measure simple. The fault of Baldridge was that companies got buried in measuring processes that don’t count. They couldn’t look ahead. Measure only what delivers value.”

The Philosophy of Rainmaking: ABA Women Rainmakers

A panel of women attorneys assembled by ABA Women Rainmakers shared some tips on what attorneys can do to increase their rainmaking by creating relationships through boards, organziations, and non-law related contacts… that it doesn’t have to feel like sales, but at some point they need to “ask”… even if it’s a “please let me help you do…”

Joan Stoddard, in-house counsel for Partners Healthcare System, revealed the best way to get through to her is a personal phone call about a specific need… and that marketing and sales information needs to be targeted and specific. Also, “read and respond to the RFP.” Many attorneys do not. She considers those who respond in a specific way.

Dovetailing with that was the suggestion by Leigh-Ann Patterson of Nixon Peabody, that having a niche is an effective way to make rain. Declare yourself and expert, and then become an expert. Speak, write and recycle what you’ve written. Her own efforts have made her known as the HIPAA lawyer. This technique is an effective form of personal branding and differentiation.

See related interview with Heather Jefferson, ABA Women Rainmakers, by Legal Insight.

Morning sessions

See Larry Bodine’s weblog for coverage of morning sessions: Building Client Relationships Through Six Sigma presented by Tom McCarty, Motorola University; and Building Your Sales Force presented by William J. Flannery of WJF Institute.

Share this post…Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someone
Posted in Law Firm Marketing