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  • December 15, 2022 12:00 PM | Michele Bisceglie (Administrator)

    Author: David G. Kamien, CEO & Founder, Mind-Alliance & SSSME Founding Board Member*

    BD is a team sport. But for many law firms, the complexity of BD, marketing, and competitive intelligence (CI) efforts, combined with the division of labor between teams, leads to communication and coordination issues. It has become more difficult to coordinate the responses of different parts of the firm to business and legal environment developments. And the results can be damaging: slow and poor responses cause firms to miss out on winnable revenue growth opportunities.

    Clearly, better integration, coordination, and synchronization of teams across the firm’s various departments and groups are critical. It’s time for firms to harmonize cross-team business processes to spot cross-selling and new client opportunities earlier, win a higher percentage of requests for proposals, and conduct more intelligent BD targeting and annual planning.

    BD and marketing leaders from several leading law firms are now committed to synchronizing the BD, marketing, research, and practice groups as well as the industry teams they support. Their goal is to better orchestrate several processes, including:

    • Annual/quarterly BD planning
    • Strategic account marketing
    • Current awareness monitoring
    • Competitive intelligence profiling
    • Client alert writing
    • Spotting BD opportunities
    • Responding to RFPs

    In 2023, some of these leaders will launch a cross-functional BD Coordination Working Group to orchestrate processes, harmonize data definitions, and integrate systems to make BD a well-orchestrated, socio-technical system.

    The Group will start by studying the current state of BD-related processes, and analyzing issues relating to data, information sharing, collaboration, knowledge management, and learning. The leaders will examine how work and information need to flow better to achieve results more efficiently. They will catalog who monitors which regulatory change events, and who produces client alerts and BD opportunity alerts for partners. They will assess whether partners have shared situation awareness and understanding of external events and internal client-related activities. And they will study how and when CI reports, target lists, and profiles are produced, as well as whether business intelligence dashboards, CI profiles, and automated alerts are helpful.

    In addition, they will add a core innovation — documented plays in a shared playbook — to their current capability set. The playbook will govern the response of each cross-functional team to events and specify the communication and information handoffs between groups to synchronize efforts. These plays will ensure that all those involved understand how their roles, goals, tasks, decisions, and information needs are interrelated.

    Graphic summaries such as information sharing plans, program evaluation review technique (PERT) diagrams, and Gantt charts can help integrate each team’s plans and procedures. Teams will gain a deeper understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities, and managers will be able to connect the dots across functions and improve coordination to impact overall results positively.

    At the same time, new employees will quickly become productive rather than spend several months understanding the organization’s information sharing wiring diagram only to take the knowledge with them when they leave.

    Helping marketing, BD and research teams interact in an event-driven way will lead to faster and better decisions and far more efficient production of valuable knowledge. Firms that continue to coordinate work via email will be at a competitive disadvantage in 2023.

    Mind-Alliance is well-positioned to help law firms synchronize and coordinate BD processes. For 17 years, we’ve used our patented system to map out the flow of information between organizations. Our method models the tasks of members and the information they need to receive and send, identifies issues, and recommends improvements. Several leading law firms are leveraging our MindPeer platform to compile client-profile CI reports in seconds with data from internal and external sources. It’s going to be a great 2023 for some smart BD leaders!

    Download this post as a file

    Members: Log in for Mind-Alliance's recent whitepaper MindPeer: Power Business Development Results with Collaborative Intelligence Software under Industry Resources

    *LSSO is privileged to have access to – and be supported by – numerous legal sales and service subject matter experts (SSSMEs). As a benefit to our members and the legal community at large, we have invited several of these industry-leading professionals to band together as a SSSME Board, which will regularly offer relevant and timely news, trends, strategies, and thought leadership on best practices as well as practical examples of what works…and what doesn’t.

  • December 15, 2022 12:00 PM | Michele Bisceglie (Administrator)

    Author: Ian Stewart, Vice President of Sales, Nexl & SSSME Founding Board Member*

    Sales strategy works and revenue follows

    Revenue growth may be fortuitous, but it’s far more consistent, predictable, and efficient if strategy takes the lead. As we wind down 2022, which is another way of saying wind up 2023, the firms who will lead in coming years on client experience, client feedback, employee retention, and especially on revenue growth will prioritize sales strategy now.

    It makes intuitive sense – the single biggest lever that firms can pull today to impact revenue is enabling a sales strategy. Many firms have done well on top line growth through boom times, but competitive pressures are increasing, and the prospect of economic turmoil necessitates innovation. Yesterday’s growth drivers won’t propel tomorrow’s revenue expansion.

    Still not convinced? Read on.

    Why you should consider implementing a sales strategy for 2023

    Law firms today face incredible pressures from consolidation, technological advancement, and economic forces that are all part of a new post-pandemic reality. In advising many of the best firms in the world, we consistently hear the following: books of business are more portable than ever, general counsel turnover and partner retirement present significant challenge to revenue growth and retention, the market for talent is still wildly tight and the expectations for recession are high. Moreover, employee burn out is prevalent.

    I’m not suggesting that sales strategy can solve any of these. But I am proposing that sales strategy can help.

    Sales strategy directs and focuses actions to defined goals. A well-planned sales strategy that includes measurable objectives (targets) and, in an ideal world, a codified sales process (think Miller Heiman or Sandler), qualification methodology (think BANT or MEDDICC), and the people and platform (Revenue Operations or CRM) to support it moves revenue generation and revenue forecasting from random chance to a predictable, repeatable, scalable process – from disorder to order. In other words, it’s a map for the road ahead. Notably, it’s a map that is proven to yield success. When sales strategy is in place, time is spent proactively executing on a defined plan rather than continuously repeating the same actions, meetings, and conversations ad nauseum.

    To that end, think back to your childhood. For those of us who have come of age watching Looney Tunes, we’re familiar with the often recycled ‘looping map’ gag, in which Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny traverse a map with swirling loops and crisscrossing paths as they inefficiently move from one point to another. In the same way that even a broken clock is right twice a day, our cartoon friends do eventually make it to their destination. But wouldn’t it have been more efficient to navigate a straight line? Unfortunately, for those of us who have spent time working without a clearly defined strategy, this may feel familiarly painful and elicit cries of frustration as opposed to belly-aching laughter. To put it another way, strategy is the course you’ll chart and operating without one has high opportunity costs and a cascade of subpar or adverse outcomes. By implementing a sales strategy, firms can gain a competitive advantage, focus on what matters most, institutionalize relationships, and maximize productivity among those participating in business development (BD) and sales efforts.

    How are firms implementing sales strategy today?

    At the most forward-thinking firms, they’re focusing on Revenue Operations and are reimaging the growth structure of the firm from the ground up through that lens. They’re aligning BD and Marketing under a single leader, some of whom are even referencing the word ‘sales’ outright in their title. They’re hiring sales executives, sales coaches, account managers…and aligning all of them into true account teams. They’re prioritizing an open, transparent culture and investing in technology and people to support these efforts. One major international firm we work with is even restructuring the firm’s revenue generating functions under a Chief Revenue Officer more akin to a technology company. None of this would have been imaginable at a law firm 25 years ago. While this is exciting, it represents only a small fraction of forward-thinking firms who are at the vanguard of a new era. What about the majority? And where to start when the firm hasn’t prioritized this before? Most firms aren’t implementing codified sales process and qualification methodologies (yet!), but they are recognizing some need to shift more resources to BD for 2023. BD leaders are picking a few things they can focus on to impact revenue.

    Where to start

    Firms are investing in technology (platform), people, and process in recognition of the shifting landscape. But not uniformly and only in ways that match their position on the sales maturity curve. Many firms face internal resistance and/or resource constraints. I sat with the Head of BD at one of the largest firms in the world recently and asked them what their dream state for the firm is. They responded that they want to see trained account managers and account executives embedded within industry-focused groups to maximize opportunities through deep industry acumen and sales expertise. Then immediately retorted that the firm is simply not there! So instead, they’re starting with something they can do now. They’re focusing on creating measurable growth objectives for their 10 top clients and creating a process in which their lawyers (seller-doers) and BD/Marketing teams can align in mini account teams at regular intervals with shared visibility and transparency to maximize cross-sell potential. Cue the applause!

    Many firms are starting smaller with a recognition that they can focus well and execute on a few key objectives. Some clients of ours are working with us to create and execute on objectives (targets) around sector/industry expansion, cross-selling, key client programs, and – with a bit of longer vision – on succession planning and institutionalizing relationships. All of these allow for better client experience and revenue growth, and these straightforward objectives and plans lead to less burnout and frustration for those involved.

    While I—a self-professed Sales Evangelist—hope that every firm will eventually entrench a highly trained sales function within industry-focused groups and deploy a sales process, I recognize that isn’t likely to occur industrywide overnight. There’s no need to boil the ocean for most firms. Start with the client objectives for next year and then build your three Ps (people, process, and platform) over time to support them.

    How to scale overtime

    You likely can’t hire, build, or buy your way into a perfect state overnight. But you can take steps to incrementally make progress.

    Example: One of our clients—a leading globally recognized IP firm focused on the telecom, life-sciences, and oil/gas industries—pioneered a new approach to client and account management. The firm began working with us to gain basic relationship insights and manage a pipeline without the need for manual data entry. Over time, they gradually grew their internal sales motion and scaled the use of our proprietary platform to support a new, targeted commercial team (people). This ‘client satisfaction’ (C-SAT) team is tasked with managing and supporting client and referral relationships as well as driving growth strategies through the firm (process). It has become a critical business function, allowing the firm to grow significantly in the last few years while obtaining key accolades and client success. They didn’t start by boiling the ocean. They started with an objective and intentionally scaled the platform, people, and process around it.

    Another example I can offer is closer to home. When I joined Nexl 15 months ago as the first institutional sales leader, I was tasked with helping move our organization from founder-led growth to a scalable sales organization operating on six continents. As a modern technology organization experiencing rapid growth and transformation, we needed to push on all three 3Ps simultaneously.

    • Platform: We were fortunate that we could be our own customers and leverage our proprietary no-data-entry CRM and Revenue Operations Platform as the basis for collaboration, growth, and knowledge within our organization to achieve the same benefits we deliver our law firm clients.
    • Process: We started by creating annual strategic objectives, regional targets, and business plans in the objective tracking section of our platform. We use SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals, OKR (Objectives and Key Results) frameworks, and pipeline targets ($) to establish our focus for the year and align our teams. We then measure the progress over time, leverage the reporting and opportunity tracking functionality, and assign tasks within the platform accordingly to ensure we collaborate, follow through, and outperform while operating as ‘one firm.’
    • People: We’ve used this structure to hire globally in a competitive landscape to the tune of tripling our team size and to embed our platform with 100+ new law firm clients. (We added new law firm clients and employees on six continents in under 12 months.) The tight labor market in 2022 meant we needed to be incredibly focused and aligned across teams, time zones, and offices as we only wanted to attract and hire top-tier talent. Once hired, we needed to have the right systems in place to ensure success and we were able to refer to the strategic objectives and targets to hold ourselves accountable. New hires had the same clear picture of what our goals were on Day One as our most tenured employees, enabling us to collaborate effectively with purpose and speed.

    Key takeaways

    Just start. Start wherever you are. But start with your clients in mind. Create objectives and targets for next year with them in mind. Make your targets measurable and realistic. Implement the 3 Ps to support them. Scale overtime. Perfection is often the obstacle of progress. And don’t forget to have fun!

    Download Nexl's recent whitepaper Revenue Operations for Law Firms: Why Some Law Firms Realize Their Potential (And Some Don't)

    *LSSO is privileged to have access to – and be supported by – numerous legal sales and service subject matter experts (SSSMEs). As a benefit to our members and the legal community at large, we have invited several of these industry-leading professionals to band together as a SSSME Board, which will regularly offer relevant and timely news, trends, strategies, and thought leadership on best practices as well as practical examples of what works…and what doesn’t.

  • November 17, 2022 12:00 PM | Michele Bisceglie (Administrator)

    Authors: LSSO Editorial Board Member Dave Whiteside​, Director, Client Growth & Success, CLIENTSFirst Consulting with Guest Contributor Chris Fritsch, CRM Success Consultant and Founder, CLIENTSFirst Consulting

    Over the more than 15 years we have spent working together with hundreds of top law firms on marketing technology selection and success, we have seen a number of changes, developments, and trends in the industry. This experience as trusted advisors has allowed us to understand, early on, some of the primary challenges firms frequently face. And while we don't have a proverbial crystal ball, sometimes this experience can help us to predict what may be on the horizon.

    Within the broader legal industry, we frequently find that many smaller and mid-size firms are facing unique issues of their own. And while dealing with many of the same challenges as their larger counterparts, they are being forced to do so with more constrained budgets as well as limited staffing and resources. As a result, we thought it might be helpful to share some of the issues and uncertainties that smaller and mid-size firms have been facing–and the ones they are likely to face in 2023–along with some information, ideas, and best practices to help navigate them.

    1. The Way We Work Is Changing…So Outsourcing Is Increasing

    During the Great Resignation, many people changed jobs, and many are still working from home or with a hybrid schedule. Dealing with the ‘revolving door’ on staffing makes it difficult to hire, train, and manage teams. Plus, trying to supervise staff who are working hybrid or at home adds a special set of issues. Firms are also struggling to fill positions and find quality workers. When they do, the compensation and benefits expectations are higher than ever. And it seems unlikely that these changes are going away anytime soon.

    For small- and mid-sized firms, in the future, the already-tight market for marketing technology, data quality, and business development roles may tighten further, while competition with larger firms for top talent may intensify. Additionally, trying to focusing on too many non-core capabilities and roles with limited resources can take focus from other more strategic priorities.

    For more than a decade, larger firms have been leveraging outsourcing to help them fill gaps in their talent pool. In recent years, more firms than ever have turned to outsourcing as a cost-effective and time-efficient hiring solution that allows them the flexibility to source the right resources when they need them at reasonable rates.

    Indeed, we see more clients reaching out to us for outsourced support for roles such as CRM management, eMarketing support, and data stewarding, and that trend continues to escalate.

    Smaller firms can also consider tapping into these resources, which can also minimize the need for constant supervision and allow them the flexibility to purchase only the number of hours they need rather than hiring full-time staff. Delegating some of these tasks to outside experts who can do them more time-efficiently and cost-efficiently can help smaller firm get the talent they need while freeing up the marketing and business development teams to support the lawyers.

    2. Digital-First Will Continue…So the Right Technology Will Be Critical

    Because in-person networking and business development have been slow to return to pre-pandemic levels and more people now enjoy the convenience of consuming content and learning through webinars and podcasts, law firms have had to adjust to a digital-first marketing strategy, another trend that that is likely to continue.

    As a result, having the right technology will be critical to compete for business. This is why firms without essential MarTech infrastructure have been looking to acquire CRM and related, and integrated, systems. It’s also why we are seeing a significant rise in firms replacing their older CRM and other systems and acquiring new integrated marketing platforms.

    Some of these firms are moving to the cloud to reduce the overhead and maintenance associated with on-premise software. Others want more sophisticated business development tools like pipelines, dashboards, and integrated eMarketing software to support and track marketing and business development efforts. (If you need help selecting the right CRM, check out our guide: Steps to select the right CRM for your law firm.)

    It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all technology for law firms. Some of the systems designed for larger law firms may fall flat or fail in a smaller or mid-size firm due to the level of required resources. Still others are often outside the reach of many smaller due to the high costs of software and professional services required for implementation and integrations.

    As a result, smaller and mid-size firms should adopt technology designed to meet their unique needs, requirements…and budgets. The ideal platform should be easy to use; minimize attorney training, time, and effort; require reduced resources; and improve and enhance data quality. (If you need help with system selection, don't do it alone. Reach out to colleagues, providers or experienced subject matter experts for assistance.)

    3. Big, Bad Data Deluge…So Data Quality Will Be Essential

    More and more data is pouring in from every firm system, and keeping up with it can seem next to impossible. In fact, even before the pandemic, the amount of available information was exponentially increasing–and respected researchers were saying that up to 30% of this data degraded each year without regular maintenance and ongoing dedicated resources. Due to the changes caused by the pandemic, that number is likely pushing 50% as people continue to work from home and change companies, roles, and locations. As a result, most CRM and eMarketing systems are filled with incorrect, incomplete, dated, and duplicated records.

    It doesn’t matter how sophisticated your staff or technology, if you have bad data, you will have challenges communicating with your key constituencies. Your lawyers may spend a lot of time writing and speaking and doing webinars and podcasts, but if their marketing messages are not targeted to the broadest audience, that (billable) time will be wasted. Additionally, if your event invitations don’t reach the right recipients, attendance can suffer and getting real return on investment (ROI) can be challenging.

    This means it’s as important to invest in your data quality as it is to invest in software and staff. But smaller and mid-size firms may not have the headcount or budget to deal with the data deluge. Fortunately, they now have other options, such as outsourcing, to get the help they need. The good news is that small to mid-sized firms that do invest in data quality will have an advantage over larger–or really any size–firms that do not and will have a strategic advantage in the current and future competitive legal market.

    4. A Recession May Be on the Horizon…So Planning Ahead Will Be Vital

    Is a recession coming? Is it already here? Messages are mixed. Many big tech companies are having mass layoffs in an effort to finally focus on profitability over rapid growth. One benefit for law firms may be that there could be an increasing pool of qualified candidates to tap into. However, it could also be an early warning sign for layoffs in our industry.

    So, how can marketing and business development departments in smaller and mid-size firms prepare for a potential recession? They should start by making strategic hiring decisions for essential positions that directly support the attorneys’ marketing and business development efforts and consider outsourcing for other functional non-core areas, if needed. This can reduce staffing costs while providing added flexibility and allowing right-sizing their staff.

    5. One More Trend: Smarter Small and Mid-size Firms Will Reach Out for Help

    While the future may seem uncertain as so many trends are converging at once, addressing the impact of these trends provides an opportunity for firms of all sizes to be more strategic, efficient, and effective in a competitive market. Fortunately, smaller and mid-size firms don't have to navigate these issues alone. They have the benefit of a supportive industry where they can reach out to colleagues, providers or experienced subject matter experts for assistance. And if they move quickly to pivot and prepare, they may find that they can gain a real completive advantage.

  • October 05, 2022 7:50 PM | Michele Bisceglie (Administrator)

    Author: Steve Bell, an Affiliate Consultant with LawVision, as a follow up to September's The Dollars are in the Details.


    Throughout (this series), as well as in the list below, we have described key elements of a SAM-Legal strategy. No doubt, an engaged team leader can conjure ideas in addition to the categories we mention below. From this list, each SAM-Legal team leader will develop a plan that is highly tailored and specific to her or his SAM-Legal client.

    Here is a list of expenditures commonly encountered in SAM-Legal programs.

    • Research — Can the preliminary and continuing research necessary to mount a SAM-Legal initiative be accommodated by in-house support teams who presumably already have access to tools such as research resources, data compilation, and client industry-specific publications (digital and hard copy)? If not, who will conduct these activities and acquire these resources? The firm’s information resources and/or business development professionals will know how to acquire and budget for these research tools.
    • Training — As we discussed in an earlier section, lawyers and other professionals at law firms don’t necessarily arrive “out of the box” with the proper credentials and training to lead and participate in SAM-Legal initiatives. Firms should anticipate the costs associated with acquiring the necessary lead-off and continuing training requirements for each SAM-Legal team. What will be the source of this training and what will its cost be?
    • Travel to the client — No SAM-Legal effort should be undertaken absent consultation and collaboration with the client. Although much communication with clients will occur over the telephone or virtually, a face-to-face meeting with the client(s) is the most effective, and much preferred. How many team members will attend? How much will the kickoff client visit cost? For this category, consider type of transportation, lodging, and meals (or other entertainment). Later in the development of the SAM-Legal team strategy, as we have suggested, it may be appropriate for team members, perhaps the entire core team, to spend time on-site with the client(s) — another category requiring potentially sizeable budget.
    • Team-planning travel — As we have suggested, it is critical that at least the core client team get together in person at the kickoff, and annually or more thereafter, to research and prepare for the years-long campaign ahead. As with client-related travel, the costs related to gatherings of teams of five or more lawyers and support professionals may be material if they are located in different jurisdictions. In addition to expenses for ground transportation, airfare or train fare, lodging, and firm meals, consider a team-building exercise that might involve an off-campus event such as an industry colloquium, a major sports or entertainment event, or a firm retreat. If your law firm is anything like the ones we have encountered, a team gathering will be capped off with celebration at the hotel restaurant and bar. Remember to include that expenditure in the budget, as well.
    • Consultants — It certainly is possible for a SAM-Legal team to conduct its business totally in-house, particularly if the law firm is well-endowed with the necessary support professionals who can design, lead, and facilitate team meetings; conduct business and competitive research and analysis; apply team-motivational techniques; provide strategic, leadership, sales, and account management training; advise on approach and follow-up strategies; craft proposals and pitches; create annual reports for the team; provide industry insights; and more. If a firm does not have requisite support resources to handle these potential needs, consider which consultants best fit the need, and build into the budget the necessary consultant fees.
    • Time is money — So far, we have spoken about out-of-pocket costs, but anyone who has worked at a law firm knows that time is money. In parallel with all of the out-of-pocket calculations described above, consider the time commitment and the concomitant cost of the hours that will be required to implement the program. Start with the number of hours available. Perhaps the SAM-Legal team leader will be able to devote the lion’s share of her or his hours to launching and operating the program. That may not be the same for all team members. Early in the planning and preparation stage, it’s important to make a candid assessment of the available client development hours for all the lawyers and professional staff who will be involved. Can the envisioned program be accomplished in the available time? If not, can firm leadership make available the additional hours that will be required, and if not, how will the SAM-Legal program be adapted or right-sized to accommodate the hours that are available?
    • And what about client travel to the law firm? If that is to occur, who will pick up the tab? If the law firm opts to pay for client travel, what is the estimated cost?

      Finally, in the Travel to Client category, we strongly recommend at least an annual service review. The client is important to the future of the firm; therefore, client service reviews should include in-person participation of senior firm leadership, up to and including the firm chair.

      For all of these travel projections, a firm’s travel department or travel provider can help to estimate and shape many of these costs. The point here is that the recommended amount of travel, on at least three occasions during the year, is a material out-of-pocket budget consideration that must be estimated and built into the SAM-Legal budget plan.

    • Just as funding for SAM-Legal is important, the amount of time that can be contributed is an extraordinarily important consideration, particularly given the fact that lawyer time is part of the profit calculation of any firm, and also that the use of client development hours is a precious commodity at performance-evaluation and compensation-adjustment season. Each team member’s investment of time had better be worth it to the firm, firm leadership, and each team member.

      The time and effort required to prepare accurate and reasonable revenue and out-of-pocket budgets for a SAM-Legal exercise will go to waste if the investment is not actually expended wisely. Don’t go through the trouble of preparing a budget unless the plan is to follow it rigorously and use it fully. Spending money can be difficult for those who are footing the bill. However, there also is great prescience in the old saw: “It takes money to make money.” If you budget it, spend it, and spend it wisely with an eye always on creating results that benefit the firm and the client.


    Today’s installment—the last in this series of edited excerpts from SAM-Legal: Turning Key Clients into Strategic Accounts / A Guide to Law Firm Strategic Account Management (© 2021 LawVision, Inc.) by Steven M. Bell & Silvia L. Coulter—defines what is meant by the tested truism: It takes money to make money.

  • September 14, 2022 1:53 PM | Michele Bisceglie (Administrator)

    Contributed by Friend of LSSO Steve Bell, an Affiliate Consultant with LawVision, as a follow up to August's At the Expense of Marketing & Sales: Building a Better Budget.

    While the budget itself (anticipated revenue, anticipated expenses, and anticipated Return on Investment) is critically important, so is the timing. Law firms operate on strict annual calendars. After weeks, and sometimes months, of preparation, the budget — once approved by the owners — is fairly set in stone. Just try, eight months into the budget year, to acquire funds for an unplanned sponsorship, client entertainment, or marketing campaign. It’s not impossible, just more difficult than it needs to be if proper planning and preparation are well thought through at the outset, in parallel with the firm’s overall budget. This is such an important consideration, in fact, that the launch of Strategic Account Management (SAM)-Legal initiatives would be best served, if at all possible, synchronized with the firm’s overall budget cycle.

    Note that in this budget discussion, we are not talking about the expenditures that can be billed to the client and which are necessary to deliver outstanding client service. We’re referring to the primarily non-chargeable expenditures that the firm will invest to grow future revenue and profit.

    One important consideration for SAM-Legal teams is to consider the sources of budget for the initiative. Start with the nature and extent of this investment funding. Under optimum conditions, the firm will establish a centralized budget for each SAM-Legal team. Absent the establishment of such discrete budgets, depending on the firm, the sources can vary widely.

    Some firms provide each lawyer a set annual amount to undertake client development, of which SAM-Legal activities would be a subset. In such instances, the lawyers participating in the SAM-Legal initiative must be willing to invest some of their allocations to specific SAM-Legal clients. Naturally, these lawyers will want to know, in advance, how much of their allocations will be required, and they will want to balance that investment against their other non-SAM-Legal client development aspirations for the year.

    Other firms centralize client development budgets in the hands of practice group, sector, office, or regional leaders. These leaders must accomplish the problematic task of balancing existing approved funding with requests that are many multiples of the amount available. For a multidisciplinary, multisector, or multi-geographical SAM-Legal team, the team leader may be “bargaining” with several budget overseers. All the more reason for SAM-Legal team members to have an extraordinary understanding of the anticipated costs and return.

    Still other firms centralize the budgets that will fuel a SAM-Legal initiative at the functional-department level – marketing, business development, Information Services, Information Technology, and so forth. In such instances, the SAM-Legal team leader will need to explain, justify, and negotiate with staff department leaders (and the partners to whom the staff leaders report) to include and advocate for sufficient financial resources in the functional budgets.

    Fortunately, those who will be responsible for SAM-Legal initiatives, more than likely, are veterans at their firm and are aware of the intricacies of the logistics required to generate budget. Still, as SAM-Legal probably is a new strategic initiative, at least at most firms, it may take a bit more work than does year-over-year budget acquisition efforts. Leaders just need to be prepared for the amount of work and detail that will be required.

    We recommend that the budget process begin with an estimate of the return that will be generated by each of three levels of return on investment: low, moderate, and aggressive. It is, of course, not possible to accurately predict future revenue, but research has shown that SAM-Legal teams in other industries, and now some early feedback from legal, have found that in the course of a diligently applied, multi-year, disciplined strategic account strategy, first year returns will be material but modest, perhaps 5 percent (but can be more). As the effort builds year over year, incremental annual returns of 10 percent or more can reasonably be anticipated.

    Given the starting benchmark, calculate what a 5 percent and then a 10 percent increase will generate in terms of outside revenue and profit. We have found that law firm financial departments are expert at inputting hypotheses and then creating and modeling reasonable, achievable revenue and profit expectations along these lines. Over time, firms report upwards of 20% year-over-year growth on these strategic clients. With this potential return in hand, start the exercise of determining “budget” to get there.

    Next Installment: So, what is a SAM-Legal initiative going to cost?


    Adapted with permission from SAM-Legal: Turning Key Clients into Strategic Accounts / A Guide to Law Firm Strategic Account Management (© 2021 LawVision, Inc.) by Steven M. Bell & Silvia L. Coulter.

  • August 23, 2022 4:02 PM | Michele Bisceglie (Administrator)

    Contributed by Friend of LSSO Steve Bell, Affiliate Consultant, LawVision

    The most common six-word phrase in use at law firms?

    “What charge code do I use?”

    Perhaps we exaggerate to make a point. But if you’ve led a department or practice group at a law firm, you’ve heard these words often and know the topic under discussion is…budget. In particular, the expense budget.

    It’s pretty obvious why expense budgets are so important at law firms. Expenses are subtracted from revenue to determine profit, and profit is the money distributed to partners (aka their income). 

    Considered in this light, expenses can get very personal very quickly! No wonder firms are so good at monitoring them. They can measure in six-minute increments how lawyers spend their time and how much it costs the firm—in compensation, benefits, and overhead—to do so. Law firms can measure to the penny how much it costs to provide a client photocopies, minutes of phone time, access to research databases, postage, and more. They can also measure with great precision the cost of marketing collateral, website development, advertising, attendance at industry conferences, client entertainment, and all the other wherewithal that comprises firm sales and marketing.

    Here’s the rub: Law firm revenue is pretty elastic, not all that predictable, and not really controllable. So, at any point in the year, but particularly in the final quarter, if it appears to the firm’s financial professionals that the organization’s revenue-minus-expenses algorithm will not deliver the profit partners are expecting…it’s cost-cutting season. The closer to year-end, the more frenzied the cutting.

    If revenue is the objective, marketing and business development are the last areas that any business should make cuts. Unfortunately, law firms are no different than all the other businesses in the world that routinely ignore this proven business maxim. When law firm budget-going gets tough, marketers and the marketing budget are too often first to be cut.

    Having decades of experience as CMOs and CMBDOs responsible for managing law firm budgets, my colleagues and I have seen the aftermath of such shortsightedness and now—battle tested—arm our clients with an array of strategies and decisioning prompts that enable law firm sales and marketing leaders to make budget preparation and management more businesslike, which in turn produces spending plans that are more defensible and resistant to cuts. Read on for some key insights to ensure the resources you need to help grow the firm don’t end up on the budget cutting room floor.

    Why the Marketing Budget is Targeted
    In our experience, law firm marketing budgets are a hodge-podge. Professional marketers and sales directors, of course, incorporate sensible proposed expenditures, including graphic design, marketing communications, earned and paid media, digital media, industry (and other) sponsorships, and more. Beyond costs that are clearly marketing-oriented, other demands on the client development budget—many non-strategic, extraordinarily expensive, and only tangentially related to the marketing plan—come into play, including but not limited to attendance by one (or a few) lawyers and clients at exclusive sports or entertainment events; client meals; holiday gifts; lawyer accolades and awards from spurious organizations; and sponsorships or donations to nonprofit organizations purportedly demanded by clients.

    Naturally, lawyers propose and defend these expenses as indispensable to their business development efforts or as “mandatory to keep the client’s business.” But even if that’s (remotely) true, beyond these expenditures are still other questionable costs that end up charged against marketing and sales, items that really should be allocated to the budgets of other departments such as technology, library and research, or professional development.

    The Problem with Precedents
    My colleagues and I believe there is a lot of truth in the saying that “law firms don’t want to be first; they want to be the first to be second.” By training and by inclination, lawyers cling to precedent where matters are concerned, and this is just as true when it comes to marketing and sales budgeting. Two data points are the most critical. The first of these is industry benchmarks, wherein consultants to the legal profession survey firms to determine how much each invests in sales and marketing and then shares that information with the field. Among the notable examples is the annual PwC Law Firm Survey, which requests details from hundreds of firms and produces reports on a variety of topics such as average law firm client development expenditure as a percentage of revenue. A byproduct is that many firms gauge their own expenditures based on what other firms are spending. (There is something fundamentally misguided about executing one’s own business vision based on the needs and habits of another organization, especially without understanding the reasoning behind them. But that is exactly what many law firms do.)

    The second data point of precedent law firms tend to lean on is ‘last year’s marketing budget.’ Firms often forecast spending not on what is needed to implement the strategy and plan ahead, but rather on what was invested last year…plus a small mark up. All this while asking the firm’s marketing and sales leaders to engineer imaginative and pioneering initiatives to grow the business.

    The Right Precedents to Set
    In the best of all possible worlds, firms would focus more intently not on precedent and history, but rather on business strategies and plans that include the precise resources necessary to achieve them. But we live in the world of reality, and widespread experience in the legal industry has reinforced this idea as a near pipedream.

    So, as you build your marketing and sales budget this fall, here are some critical components to keep mind.

    • Firm strategy. If your firm has a clear, well-defined strategy, base the proposed budget on that and insist those who review the budget clearly understand the correlation. If the firm doesn’t have a defined strategy, make it your business to establish one. Law firms suffer from a need to be all things to all people. And each of these ‘all things’ requires investment from the marketing and sales budget. This is why an articulate—and articulated—strategy is so important. It has to inform not just what the law firm will be, but that which it will not be. Without a defined strategy, there is little chance of concentrating investments in items and activities that are on-target, and little hope of fending off the inevitable expensive side-journeys that lawyers can devise.
    • Data. Proof is in the numbers. Do everything you can to base proposed budgets not on intuition, but on proof of anticipated ‘return on investment’ (ROI) and, if at all possible, on past performance. At a minimum, marketing budget-preparers must commit to, at the end of each budget cycle, providing fact-based results—good or bad—for specific budget items.
    • Collaboration. Most items in the marketing and sales budget can be multipurposed.  That is, they can serve not only marketing and sales, but also other aspects of the firm’s business, such as professional development, CLE, client service, and more. While the marketing and sales budget must first and primarily support the firm’s growth needs, it is important and much appreciated when it can add value elsewhere.
     As one AmLaw firm leader asks, “How many ways can you spend that one dollar?”
  • July 18, 2022 9:00 AM | Michele Bisceglie (Administrator)

    By Adam Severson, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer, Baker Donelson; Editorial Board Member, LSSO; and Fellow, College of Law Practice Management

    Midlife curious is not a crisis. It’s a healthy self-reflection and calibration of what’s important to you...

    You wake up every morning and you already feel behind. So many emails, a drum beat of upcoming meetings (for today, the rest of the week and seemingly forever), and your feeds are filled with statistics about the great resignation and millennials making hundreds of thousands of dollars selling NFTs or slinging the latest cryptocurrency.

    The cumulative effect of the pandemic, working remotely, being given a ray of hope of some normalcy only to have it stripped away, with compounding expectations can only make someone experience “midlife curiosity.”

    Being a leader in a well-respected, large law firm is fast paced, intellectually interesting and provides myriad complex problems to solve daily. I love it! I have to bring my “A game” every day, as lawyers are trained to issue spot even the most well-founded business principles and ideas. Mentoring and leading a team of talented, and similarly driven, professionals to be the best version of themselves while you’re not so sure you’re rocking along at 100% leads to wonder and doubt. The end of the calendar year 2021 left me “midlife curious.”

    Midlife curious is not a crisis. It’s a healthy self-reflection and calibration of what’s important to you, your family, and your firm. Are you feeling similarly?

    Here are steps I took to help me answer the age-old question of “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

    Take a break

    You can’t possibly achieve any sort of meaningful self-reflection working 50-70 hours a week. You need to take a break, and that doesn’t mean shutting your computer down at 3:00 pm on Friday.

    ...longer than a day, but shorter than multiple weeks.

    I’d recommend that it’s longer than a day, but shorter than multiple weeks. I can only imagine the death spiral of a less-than-helpful inner dialogue an elongated break could create. In the off chance, given the COVID world we live in, this break can occur in a different set of surroundings than the usual day-to-day, all the better.

    My break was cold, literally cold, as my family spent the holidays in Minnesota followed by a few snow days to start the year in Nashville.

    Ask yourself: what’s important?

    What drives you? Your family: time with them or providing for them? I’d imagine it’s both. Planning an amazing vacation or new ________ (insert fancy gizmo, car, etc.) that allows you to reward yourself? Being intellectually stimulated, competing for new business and talent in a competitive marketplace, and winning? Yes, yes, yes!!

    ...evaluate what kind of balance you might be able to achieve with some give and take

    Sitting in Zoom meetings that could have been an email, explaining a common business principle like ROI (return on investment) and being met with resistance, and missing your kid’s basketball game so you can plow through some more emails to actually get a good night’s sleep?

    No, no and no! Write down your considerations, force rank them, and then evaluate what kind of balance you might be able to achieve with some give and take, additional boundaries, and proactive communication.

    Scan the marketplace

    Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve spoken in some form or fashion (Zoom, text, actual phone calls, emails and in-person chats) to nearly 100 law firm leaders from AMLAW 200 firms and industry consultants. I won’t speak for them, but if I’m a gambling man (and I am!), virtually all of them are reading this and saying "That’s me! I’m 'midlife curious' too!"

    ...sharing is caring

    Talk with your industry colleagues, share your experiences with them…really share them.

    Not “I’m so busy” talk, but rather: "This was awesome when this happened," "I’m really proud of _________ (insert team member)," and "I’m really having a hard time with ________ (insert your challenge/issue)."

    I truly believe that sharing is caring! This exercise will prove cathartic. You’ll also learn quickly that the war for talent is alive and well and the dearth of leadership is real. It may also render your grass to be a delightful shade of green!

    Do scenario planning

    What if I did ________? My go-tos lately have been an Uber driver (if you’ve tried to get one lately, you know you’d be filling a need!) and working at Costco. Upon true reflection, those aren’t a good fit, but wouldn’t be so bad for a week.

    Are you trading one set of stresses and challenges for another?

    What if I changed firms? Would it be more lucrative financially? Would it lead to more stress or just different stress? Would I enjoy the people I work with? I mean those people you want to spend time with them outside of the office, you belly laugh with, you swell with pride when they buy a house or have a baby, and you work your ass off to make sure the higher-ups know their value too!

    Are you trading one set of stresses and challenges for another? Is the disruption worth it? Only you can truly know that in your heart.

    Evaluate the data and identify trends

    I work with data every day. I review that data, identify trends, make recommendations, and craft a path forward. I get paid to do this. Why wouldn’t I use those skills on my most important asset: me.

    There are character-building days. (Note: This term, “character-building days,” is owed to my deceased father, who taught me early on that difficult circumstances result in personal growth. One of so many life lessons. Love you, Dad!)

    Taking a strategic pause to assess isn't cheating or wrong. It’s healthy...

    Hard work is rewarding. Goals are good. Achieving those goals is even better. It provides a sense of accomplishment that phoning it in or quitting can never top. Money is important, but it’s not the most important thing. Know your value. I knew, and have been reminded, that I prefer experiences over things.

    Taking a strategic pause to assess isn't cheating or wrong. It’s healthy, helps you calibrate your values and gives you surer footing as you take that next step, wherever it takes you. I just completed 10 years in the C-suite at one of the best firms in the world. Thankfully, my midlife curiosity has subsided and I’m looking at the next hill to climb. But I do that with clarity of vision and a better sense of self. I actually wrote this article for me, but maybe it’s helpful to you.

    This article has been updated from its original release ( April 1, 2022).

  • June 23, 2022 1:27 PM | Michele Bisceglie (Administrator)

    By Steve Bell, Senior Consultant, LawVision

    In this final segment of our article, Sales Trends in this COVID Moment, we explore some important contemporary law firm sales topics that do not fall neatly into earlier installments of his article – cataloguing techniques that sales professionals have deployed in the pandemic, suggesting the need for law firms to develop and implement sales process, and providing commentary on each of the steps in a sample law-firm sales process.  We start with a long-overdue possibility:  the development of law-firm products.


    In the 1990s, one of the top global accounting firms was asked by a client with operations on several continents to see what could be done to reduce its global tax burden.  Some of the firm’s top tax-planning partners devised a complex new structure that involved multiple transactions over several years and sequential private letter rulings from tax authorities such as the Internal Revenue Service.  When complete, the effort annually produced scores of millions of dollars of reduction to the global tax liability.  The technique became known in accounting and legal circles as “the sandwich” or “the black box,” and it represents one of the first professional services products of the contemporary era. 

    The engagement required an enormous investment of time on the part of the tax accountants who devised and implemented the plan.  Had the firm stopped there, the effort’s profit would have been acceptable.  However, because of enlightened management, the firm set out to identify other clients with similar fact patterns and, because the intellectual investment already had been made, appointments with potential clients were virtually automatic, and subsequent engagements were spectacularly profitable. 

    At another Top 10 accounting firm, the tax accountants observed that litigators in several states were achieving success in establishing that intangible assets (such as engineering drawings) were not taxable as business personal property and that they should be removed from the personal property tax rolls.  Further, the litigators pushed for court decisions that engineering drawings meant more than just the paper and ink on which they were printed (or the software on which they were stored).  Engineering drawings, the courts ruled, also included the cost of the engineering work itself – a very substantial part of the cost of large manufacturing and utility plants. 

    The Top 10 accounting firm firms soon created a cottage industry in reviewing personal property tax rolls for intangibles, removing them, and generating substantial savings for the clients.  The firm’s sales force found that this “intangibles tax product” easily opened doors for the tax partners and, later, for litigators who would be called upon to defend the accounting firm’s findings.  Another brilliant professional services product.

    At Womble, the law firm that I served for nearly 20 years, the leader of the Capital Markets group told me that his team handled the documentation for every significant loan and debt offering of a global money-center bank and had created an anonymized data base that could be searched and sorted by industry, geography, terms and conditions, and interest rates. 

    When I called companies that research had showed were in need of new or renewed revolving credit lines, getting an appointment was automatic, because clients craved this proprietary market knowledge.  Yet another successful professional services product. 

    The topic of law firm products was first discussed as early as the turn of the century, but they have been slow to adopt the practice.  Still, this would seem to be fertile ground for law firms and clients.  Legal Tech companies have products.  Alternative Legal Service Providers have products.  So do accounting and consulting firms.  Why don’t law firms? The answer is not clear, but those who linger in a law firm’s canteen long enough, will, with certainty, hear about some lawyer’s brilliant solution, which, with a little thought and effort, could be packaged and pitched to other companies with similar facts and circumstances.  For enlightened firms, this is potentially productive and highly profitable new territory.  And it is an arena in which the firms’ marketing and sales assets can shine!

    Those who have analyzed professional services products have come to a 4-P definition of the exercise. 

    The more that legal services can resemble tangible services, the easier it is to market and sell them as a  product, which, like a consumer product has discernable characteristics.  It involves proven IP and workplans that can be replicated with each engagement.  It can be delivered in a predictable fashion with predictable outcomes.  It has features and benefits.  It can be priced in advance – something infinitely more definitive than “for services rendered” or for “billable hours expended.”  It can be promoted; it’s to describe and talk about.  Marketing and PR staffs easily convert it to advertising, news releases, feature stories, marketing collateral, and presentations.  And sales teams can use it with remarkable efficiency to open doors.  With respect to positioning, products are almost by definition differentiated -- better, faster, cheaper, more-effective, etc.  And the best products of all have an attribute that we can observe in the sandwich, the intangibles tax product, and the credit line data base product:  it is unique.  Nobody else has it. 

    Frictionless Commerce

    Today’s law firms face a fierce competitor that most in the law firm business may not consider a competitor:  Amazon.  No, it doesn’t offer legal services (at least yet), but it does offer nearly completely frictionless commerce.  A buyer searches for a product, is automatically provided comparable products, selects one, and buys it with one click of a button.  Then, the buyer is instantly provided a list of complementary products that others who purchased the item also have bought. 

    Few buyers of legal services would characterize acquiring services from law firms as anything remotely close frictionless.  In fact, sometimes buyers must work hard to buy what they want.  Law firms have far to go to harvest the abundant potential of Artificial Intelligence and Marketing Automation systems, Client Relationship Management Systems, social media, and other sales-process components that Amazon and other great sellers have mastered. 

    Even as law-firm marketers work on these processes, much improvement can be handled at the individual-lawyer level.  How easy is it for a client or potential client to find and contact a lawyer?  Are a lawyer’s phone numbers and e-mail address accurate?  Is the lawyer’s web bio and social media content up to date?  How is the inquiry-response time – minutes, or hours, or days?

    Like it or not, every business including law firms is compared by buyers with Amazon.  The closer that law firms can come to operating like Amazon, the better and more effective their sales processes will be and the more revenue they will produce.      

    Societal Awareness as a sales issue

    Buyers of legal services, especially General Counsel, are highly sensitized as never before to societal issues.  Once the sole mantra of buyers was “Value, Value, Value.”  Now, it is “DEI, ESG, and  Value Add”  Today’s prominent law firms have not just arrived at the table when it comes to diversity and inclusion and social justice.  They have assembled and undertaken remarkable pro bono programs aimed at societal improvements, and they work hard to improve their diversity and inclusion performance.  The suggestion here, then, is not that firms should launch new promotional campaigns about their DEI and social justice programs, but rather that they carefully consider how they communicate their efforts in the context of their business development programs.  It’s important not to come off as though they just discovered societal inequities. Also, it is important to recognize that not every buyer has the same perspective on these issues.  So, even as firms continue to do the right things, it’s important that they also be incredibly attuned to the opinions and interests of the individual buyers whom they are seeking to attract and serve.

    The horizon

    We sometimes are asked to scan the horizon for what will unfold for sales in the years ahead.  The answer is as unclear as is the answer to the question of when the pandemic will truly end.  We hear about the Metaverse.  Will lawyers send their avatars into a client’s office or a courtroom?  Who knows?  Seems kind of far-fetched, but then again, so did the concept of e-mail when in 1982 a retiring US Postmaster in Bloomfield, Indiana, first suggested it to me, a young cub reporter. 

    How about blockchain and what it will mean to law firm sales?  Another mystery that will unfold over time.

    Here’s another:  the connected world.  Visionaries are speculating that with so many people working at home now and likely to stay there at least a good part of the time in the future, the connected home – TVs, refrigerators, security systems, thermostats, garage door openers and all the rest – will have a role in business and in sales.  Maybe.  Undoubtedly for law firms, who routinely are a step or two behind the rest of the commercial world, that will be quite a ways into the future, and it all will be worked out by young geniuses just out of school and currently entering the law firm sales and marketing field. 

    So, here is a summary of what needs to be known about sales in “these challenging times.”  It’s not about tools, it’s about implementation.  There are no magic wands, so it probably is better to simply concentrate on developing process and the other items in the chart below. 

    Oh, by the way, have you ever heard of the doorknob close?  Salespeople actually use it.  The sales meeting seems to be over, and the sales professional gets up and heads for the door.  Then, remarkably, she remembers another sales point to bring up.  For those who remember, Peter Falk as Inspector Colombo was a master of the doorknob close.  We relate this story because we have a doorknob close for you today.  Despite all the concepts we have laid out in this article, it comes down to something that is immutable and timeless:  The need for human caring about the people who provide and those who consume legal services. 

    This concept is best summed up by Rudy Gaines, once a sales director at Womble, a business professional, non-lawyer luminary in the International Trademark Association, a highly effective salesperson, and a superb human being.  He’s one of the Brain Trust members described in Part 1 of this article.  Here’s what Rudy has to say, and the doorknob close on which we close. Of sales in this moment, Rudy says: “More caring, less selling.  As the pandemic unfolded, I was open about my own fears and anxiety regarding COVID, which I think allowed my clients to open up about theirs. It’s ironic that when you share weakness, relationships get stronger.”

  • May 13, 2022 9:12 AM | Eva Booth (Administrator)

    By Steve Bell

    In our first installment, we explained that that most law firms are exploring  a common set of COVID-era sales innovations.   In our second installment, we suggested that because all firms are deploying the same techniques and technologies, the difference-maker may be the skill with which sales process is generated and implement is the big difference-make, and we provided guidance about how to develop a sales process, looking at a sample process’s first three steps:  Understand the firm, develop targets, and conduct research.

    In this installment, we describe the five other steps in our sample sales process.

    Open the door

    Of all the sales-process steps, opening the door for the first time with a buyer at a prospective client is the most difficult for lawyers to achieve.  Some – but not all – great sales professionals relish the task of cold-calling (or the 2022 digital equivalent) and are not fazed by all the “no thanks” responses they receive.  But most human beings, including some of the most successful sales professionals we know, must summon courage and resolution to handle this task.  Quadruple that for lawyers.  For some of them it is nearly impossible, and it is one of the reasons that it is so critical do everything possible to hang onto clients once they are on board. 

    Opening doors is made easier and more natural if it is undertaken in increments, such as gaining an introduction from a mutual acquaintance, finding events where targeted buyers gather, and offering valuable knowledge and insights in opening salvos such as, “We learned that one of your key competitors…..” or “Other companies in you industry are finding that…..” 

    In 2022 also, big parts of door-opening can be handled by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, which can efficiently approach clients, lead them on a buying journey, and thereby generate highly qualified leads at a very mature stage, when getting the meeting is virtually automatic. 

    In the next and final installment of this Sales Trends in the COVID Moment, we’ll suggest an especially powerful method for opening doors – law-firm products.

    Follow Up

    An unfortunate number of lawyers are not persistent enough in following up once the door is open.  On some happy occasions, after only one or a few interactions, buyers will identify opportunities to engage.  In most cases, though, it takes many more “touches” than that.  The number of interactions cannot be predicted in advance, and it may take ten, 20, 50 or more. Recognize that in this follow-up segment of the sales process, the buyer is evaluating the client-service capability of the seller.  Is the seller adding value at each step?  Is the seller demonstrating persistence, patience, and resilience?  Many lawyers “drop out” of the competition by engaging in only one, two or three follow-ups before dropping the pursuit.  Our advice is to stay the course, no matter how many follow-ups are required to earn new business.  In addition, the time- and emotion-consuming nature of follow-up is yet another good reason to select targets with extraordinary discipline and care.  Lawyers and law firms should make sure that they are pursuing targets worth the substantial effort that may be required!

    Get the first assignment

    Persistence in the follow-up phase of the sales process will, almost without fail, lead to opportunities.  Often, buyers signal that they are in buying mode with a question such as “Does your firm do….?” or a statement such as “I’ve got an issue I’ve been thinking about.” Of course, it would be great if the opportunity identified by the buyer is in the wheelhouse of the lawyer who has invested time and effort in the pursuit. Many times, though, the need may be in another area of practice.  We urge lawyers to recognize opportunities for the whole firm and to collaborate with others to land new business, even if it will generate hours for another lawyer.  The activity of the buyer making a purchase and formalizing the relationship often “trains” them to identify more opportunities – including assignments for the lawyer who led the build-out of the relationship.

    Deliver World-Class Service

    Every law firm claims client-service excellence.  With all the effort expended to advance this far through the sales pipeline, anything less would represent an enormous waste of time and resources.  It is unfortunate but true that some new clients are not served with the excellence expected because the first engagement – a starter engagement – is not sizeable.  And, unfortunately, many clients do not share with law firms the same definition of client-service excellence.  Before work commences, law firms need to understand the client’s perspective on great service and engagement success.  And they need to check in frequently with clients – through end-of-engagement and/or annual client-satisfaction meetings -- to gauge whether or not the client perceives that it is receiving the world-class service (from its perspective) that can be the foundation for the final component of our sales process – building out the relationship. 

    Expand the Account

    At the beginning of this section, we identified the desired state as being a mutually satisfying, expanding, highly profitable relationship.  The delivery of world-class service is part of the pathway to this objective.  Another part is understanding the client, helping it avoid problems entirely, and – when they arise -- skillfully and cost-effectively addressing them.  Another big element of expanding accounts with clients is the successful application of key-account or strategic account management techniques.  These skills are not taught at law school.  Law firms that are serious about achieving the pinnacle of success with the sales process will consider adding professional sales and sales-management resources to client teams. 

    Three of the steps in this process are especially good matches for sales professionals (and not especially good matches for lawyers or other professionals).  Salespeople are great at getting the meeting, following up, and expanding the relationships (i.e. managing strategic accounts); lawyers generally are not.  That’s why we often recommend teams comprised of sales professionals and service professionals who can implement every step of the process in order and in a timely way to achieve a solid yes or no from the prospective client.  When we say expand the relationship, we are talking about a more profound program than most firms’ key client programs.  Our book, “SAM-Legal: Turning Key Clients into Strategic Accounts,” calls for law firms to expand and intensify their key-account game to levels that the Big 4 accounting firms and major consulting firms have achieved.  The book describes how lawyers and business professionals can work together to create and operate successful strategic account programs. 

  • April 25, 2022 11:39 PM | Eva Booth (Administrator)

    By Steve Bell

    In the previous installment, we examined how innovative professional services sales professionals have addressed the new reality posed by COVID-19.  We concluded that although salespeople and lawyers have implemented new twists, primarily, these are variations on existing techniques and technologies.  It seems that all continue to compete with a common set of tools, which leads to the question:  How then do they differentiate and get ahead?

    The difference-maker may not be the tools in the toolkit, but rather the manner in which the tools are applied, which is to say, the skill in designing and operating an integrated sales process, something still relatively new in the world of law firms.

    While creating a sales process sounds like a big chore, it really is not that complex, involving simply the creation of case studies of how key engagements were won, and then reverse-engineering the steps that led to those wins.

    Here’s an example.  Say a firm considers the mutually satisfying, expanding, highly profitable relationship with its top client. How did the firm acquire such a client?  By landing the first assignment and delivering world-class service at the right price and in the right style so that additional opportunities from the same client emerged.  How did the firm get to the point that it could do this?  It followed up with the company when it was but a prospective client until the relationship matured and an opportunity to serve surfaced.  How did it get to the position where it could follow up?  It opened the door and got the first meeting. How did it get the first meeting?  It targeted the company and used research to identify topics that would interest and intrigue the primary buyer.  When the buyer’s interest was aroused, she requested outreach from the law firm, although the firm itself had simultaneously asked for a meeting.  How did the firm know whom to target?  It understood its own strengths and weaknesses and analyzed at which companies – including its now top client -- those strengths and capabilities were the best fit.

    When this simple analysis of how the sales win came about is complete, it’s easy to turn the steps around, yielding a proven, efficient, replicable sales process.  Using the above example, here is the resulting sales process:

    • Understand the firm, its strengths, weaknesses, capabilities, reputation and differentiators; Understand oneself
    • Develop targets based on this understanding
    • Research
    • Follow up
    • Open the door
    • Land the first assignment 
    • Deliver world-class service
    • Expand the relationship 

    Understand self

    Of course, every lawyer knows his or her own professional persona – education, job history, area of practice, additional skills and certifications, cases won or transactions closed, and so forth.  Most lawyers, however, know very little about the professional skills, experience, and achievements of the other individuals in their firms.  This lack of knowledge can result in a missed sale when a client mentions an area of need outside the pursuer’s expertise and he or she does not have a reasonably ready answer about what others in the firm can do and provide. 

    And how about non-technical strengths?  As a certified Gallup Strengths Coach, I have helped scores of lawyers understand their personal attributes – areas of strength and areas of weakness.  As part of such personal-understanding exercises, it’s also valuable to contemplate the personal strengths and weaknesses of clients and prospective clients.  Such an understand of self and client helps home in on the best way to communicate with and relate to clients and prospective clients. 

    The Gallup Organization codified all of this in its Strengths Finder, in which it identified 34 attributes that all humans possess.   When using the top 5 or 10 strengths, people find the work easy, efficient, and refreshing.  They probably can tap into the other 29 or 24 attributes when necessary, but doing so may not be easy, enjoyable or energizing.  In such instances, the pursuer may want to find ways to engineer around their weaknesses by teaming with others who have complementary strengths.  We include this suggestion, because the first step in our process is “know ourselves.”  This means knowing not only our firms in a technical sense, but also our personal strengths and the strengths of those around us.   

    Now, let’s walk through two other early critical components of an effective sales process.


    Candidly, most law firm target lists consist of aggregations of business cards gathered at the hors d’oeuvre table at business meetings, or lists of people that the lawyers know.  However, considering the amount of time and resources that will be invested in a formal sales process, it’s important to recognize that more discipline than that is necessary to prepare a truly aligned target list.  Here’s a list of sample targeting criteria.

    Great Target Lists

    • Individuals
    • Large, complex issues we can address
    • Understand big-law-firm economics
    • Know us and like us
    • Not locked into another firm
    • Right geography
    • Resemble clients we already serve well
    • Fun to serve    

    Law firms certainly will choose their own attributes of good targets, but no matter which criteria are selected, it is most helpful to list them in advance so all can focus on the right targets and avoid those that are not in alignment with stated goals.

    In addition, it’s important to have the right number of targets.  Most lawyers have far too few targets, or far too many.  In the first category are lawyers who say they have two or three targets – not nearly enough to take up even an hour per week of client development time.  Other lawyers have dozens or hundreds of targets.  That’s far too many, and it generates sales paralysis; no human being can launch and maintain relationships with that large a list.

    Here’s a way to think about the appropriate number of targets.  If a lawyer has one hour of client development time per week, she or he should have 24 targets.  This number is derived by the number of 15-minute segments in an hour (4); 15 minutes is plenty of time to forward a target an interesting article, send a birthday card, point out what the target’s competitor is doing, or undertake some other relationship-advancing activity. Some of the most-experienced professional services sales consultants contend that a prospective client must be “touched” at least once every six weeks if that target is to keep the seller near the top of mind.  That’s where the number six in targeting calculator comes from.  Multiply six by four (the number of targets that can be touched in an hour in one week), and the result is 24 targets.  For those who have two client development hours per week, 48 targets are needed, and so on.

    Target Calculator

    Weekly Client Development Hours



    = Proper Number of Targets

    Those who are just starting won’t get to the proper number of targets instantly, but, but rather over a year or more. 

    Here’s another way to calculate the right number of number of targets starting with the number of engagements needed.  If a lawyer needs one new engagement, and he or she, on average, wins work from one in 10 prospective clients with whom meetings are set, and the lawyer can schedule a meeting with a prospective client once out of every 10 tries, then she or he needs 100 targets -- 10 meetings leads to one new engagement.     

    Target Calculator

    Number of Engagements Needed

             x Proposal Success Rate

              x Meeting Acquisition Rate

    = Proper Number of Targets

     Of course, many will have better results than that.  Say the need is one new engagement, that the get-a-meeting success ratio is 1:6, and the new-clients-from-meetings ratio rate is 1:4, 24 targets are needed.

    Everyone has his or her own experience rating.  Some appear to get a meeting every they ask. Some seem to win every opportunity they attempt.  Some don’t come anywhere close to these numbers.  But it’s only numbers, not a value judgment.  We advise lawyers to start where they are and to improve what they can improve to achieve their optimum experience ratings.  But always, we remind them, make sure to undertake sufficient numbers of targets to create the results needed.


    Public company information, such as SEC 10-K reports, reveal much about a company for those who know how to read and interpret this information.  Handing unfiltered 10-Ks to lawyers, however, may not be productive, because very few lawyers are trained to understand the application of public company reports to business development.  Still, it’s incredibly important to have this information.  We often recommend engaging an outside service to perform this function, or to make sure that professionals inside the firm know how to do it well on behalf of the lawyers.  This analysis capability addresses three of the needs that lawyers want most from their lawyers.  The first is understand the business.  Second, understand the business.  Third, understand the business.

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