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  • December 01, 2021 9:19 AM | Eva Booth (Administrator)

    I’m not sure I know how to set up our sponsor exhibit booth anymore.  And don’t get me started about diminished skills at carrying on a fluid “small talk” conversation.  It’s so bad that yesterday, as I rehearsed my 30-second “elevator pitch” and stumbled over phrases that previously rolled off my tongue with hard-earned muscle memory, I timed myself at 56 seconds – umm, Houston, we definitely have a problem. 

    Heck, I’m so starved to get back to normalcy that I got a little tendinitis just from dragging my carryon luggage from my car up the driveway and into my parents’ house in Florida, where I just spent Thanksgiving. I’ve got all the signs and symptoms of a business developer who is woefully out-of-practice at personal engagement.  Zoom and GoToMeeting and the virtual conference platforms were cute for quick minute, but have you ever stuck around at the end of a virtual program?  You can practically hear every attendee click their mouses at the same time to “Leave the meeting.”  Engagement at any meaningful personal level was not happening.

    And I’ll admit it, I kind of gave up on it. I’m the guy who will sooner show off the best professional headshot I’ve ever taken in my life than turn on my live webcam.  I just don’t like the virtual meeting environment.  There is a certain energy that happens in a live room where people are talking to one another, and that energy just doesn’t exist (at least not in the same way) in a virtual meeting.  In interpersonal communications, that energy is more commonly referred to as “communications signals” – and without them, I’ve been like a fish out of water.

    But even as the Delta (and now Omicron variants of COVID) are rearing their ugly heads and threatening another winter surge, something remarkable has happened to snap me out of my doldrums.  The world has started to slowly open back up.  Not every corner, but a lot of them. Professional trade groups, industry groups, product and service expos – all the places guys like me congregate and scoop up new business leads – are starting to show signs of life again.

    Emboldened by this turn of fate, I decided maybe I could shake off even more rust and actually land speaker slot or a seat on a panel at one of my usual conference stops that just announced it was coming back…LIVE!  And wonder of wonders, I got picked.

    And panic set in. I’m about as far removed from polished at any of the business development skills I would need to exercise to pull this off.  After a few deep breaths, I reassured my subconscious that I’ve got this.  Yes, I’ve been a little rusty, but funny thing about time…you can use it to practice and rehearse and get better.  And the speaking gig itself?  Come on!  I was a teacher for 7 years and I’ve got an undergraduate degree in musical theatre performance.  I may not be signing at this conference, but as an actor/performer, the showmanship needed to dazzle an audience at a trade conference is in my blood.  And this conference will be the perfect opportunity for me to re-brand yourself as a subject matter expert, engage with some industry cohorts, and draw some attention to me and my firm, highlighting both as go-to resources for the topic of my program.

    Of course, none of that will matter if I don’t have  a plan to capitalize on this opportunity.  The Pre-COVID days of my firm barely batting an eyelash at conference and tradeshow expenses are long gone.  These days, there’s not only an expectation that I’m going to derive some credible, measurable ROI from this event, but I’m going to execute this event with a plan to do exactly that. In the old days, maybe the exposure for branding and profile awareness was enough, but in this economy, every penny spent needs to derive value -- and in today's results-driven environment, every dollar spent on that trade association conference is going to be measured against every dollar generated by new business cultivated from that conference. So, unless I plan to take some additional steps aimed at squeezing every ounce of return on my investment of time and my firm's financial investment in sending me (and probably sponsoring or advertising in the program), then I might as well not even bother speaking at all.

    Over the course of my 25+ year career, I’ve picked up a few tricks and tactics that I regularly rely on to help lay the groundwork for business development in advance of a speaking engagement – whether it’s at a big tradeshow or conference, or a seminar for the local Bar Association’s CLE Committee. And now, I’m sharing them with you.

    NOTE: It’s important to understand and stay cognizant of the fact that we are still VERY  MUCH in the throes of a pandemic.  Some experts may think we’re nearing the endemic stage, but at the sluggish pace we’re getting our herds immunized with vaccines, getting TOTALLY back to normal is nowhere near the horizon.  For that reason, I urge you to consider these large public gatherings carefully. If you know the crowds, the usual suspects at each one, make a value determination and do what’s best for your health and your family’s health.  No amount of business development success is worth potentially losing your life over. End. Of. Story.

    *shooting star* “The More You Know!”

    OK, enough of the “Very Special Blossom” PSA about COVID and back to the tactics and strategies I use to help set myself up for stronger lead generation and more qualified leads via my speaking engagements.

    1. Get the Attendee List In Advance

    If you're speaking, you may be able to request this from your conference contact. If you're also a sponsor, this should be a given benefit in your sponsorship contract, and if it's not, tell your marketing and BD team to renegotiate the sponsorship. I have haggled with sponsorship managers at trade associations to barter less significant "sponsor benefits" like swag in the conference bag or an advertisement in the program to get the attendee list in advance. In fact, I believe you can do without just about any other "sponsor benefit" if you can trade them all away to get the list.

    Why is this list so important? Besides being a goldmine of potential leads, it's also the first step of qualifying new business opportunities. You know everyone on that list is planning to be at the conference, so they should be on your radar as target clients for this conference.

    Great, so that means I should send a mass email to the list alerting them about my program at the conference? Yes and No. Certainly a blind message wouldn't hurt, but you really need to spend a few minutes segmenting the attendee list first and further qualify this list of leads:

    Take out anyone who's a competitor. No sense giving them any potential competitive advantage by telling them you're speaking.

    Segregate any non-competitor "service providers" on the list. I wouldn't necessarily blast to them either, but I would spend a little time investigating who they are. Some of them could be valuable referral sources.

    From the remaining list, identify those contacts who are the most likely to be decision makers. These are the people you MOST want in the room for your presentation. It's not that everyone else is negligible, but you should be aware of the demographics of the conference and who your real target clients are.  Time is money, and you don’t want to waste it pitching to the Office Assistant, rather than the Manager of Director.

    Your message to the list needs to be compelling. Give them a reason to come to your presentation. A REAL reason. Be creative, but don't oversell.

    Which message would you be more likely to respond to?

    EXAMPLE A: Hi Jim - just wanted to reach out and let you know that I'm presenting next Tuesday at the Conference. My topic will be "X, Y, and Z." I really think you'd get something out of it and hope to see you there!

    ...or...

    EXAMPLE B: Hi Jim - What would you say if I told you I have found a way for your company to save as much as $100,000 per year in compliance costs. I'll explain how and I'll share some other secrets to avoiding enforcement actions when I present "X, Y, and Z" at the Conference next Tuesday. If you're free, perhaps we can do a deeper diver over coffee, lunch, or dinner after the presentation. Here's my contact information...

     

    The first example offers nothing of compelling value, but the second example not only grabs my attention (who wouldn't want to save $100K per year), but it also describes some other learning outcomes -- what is your audience getting out of the presentation. Don't give away the farm, but a few details to whet the appetite can be a difference maker.

    The point, after all, is to help encourage attendees to come to your presentation so that you have an opportunity to brand yourself and your firm as subject matter experts worthy of their consideration.

    The second example also opens the door to follow-up, and demonstrates to your target audience that you're interested in helping them and you're willing to put in the time to get to know them and their business. This is how relationships that turn into lucrative business are born.

    2. Craft Your Materials Smartly and Carefully

    If there is one part of speaking engagement marketing that I've seen repeatedly abused or wasted, it's in the presentation materials. The professionals I've worked with either put too much into the materials, or not enough. Worse yet, some don't even care about leveraging the branding opportunity by effectively utilizing their firm's own presentation templates.

    How much content is enough? I once worked with an attorney who was presenting for 45 minutes and insisted on a presentation with 130 slides. That allows for roughly 20 seconds for every slide -- and you know every slide was packed from header to footer with legalese, citations, and paragraphs of excerpts from the statute. And of course, he didn't get through it all.

    I've always coached that a comfortable presentation pace is about 1-2 minutes per slide. This keeps the slides changing frequently enough that people don't glaze over, and it will help you streamline how much content you're prepared to share.

    But pace isn't the only tip to consider when building your materials...

    First of all, attorneys need to STOP quoting the statute verbatim (this is a problem ALL attorneys have who give presentations). Unless the audience is full of ABA members, it's not only unnecessary, it may actually damage the clarity of your message.

    Instead, give the audience the name and maybe the statute number, and if you must include an excerpt, only include specific phrases. The audience can look up the substance of the statute on their own, and if they can't, they'll pick up the phone and call you for help. But they'll have no reason to do either if you put the entire statute on a slide in your presentation.

    Second, limit your slide content to concepts and ideas. The substance should come from what you say about these concepts and ideas during the presentation. As the late, great composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim (may he rest in peace) once wrote, "let it come from you, then it will be true." You don't need to say everything on the slide, and if you do, people are going to be compelled to read it while you're speaking.  Why is that a problem, you ask? Because your audience should be paying attention to you when you're speaking, not reading along. Give yourself a chance to shine as a subject matter expert and hold a little back. Yes, there are times when an issue is important enough that you'll want to get specific in your materials, but the vast majority of the time, less is more.

    Lastly - and this one is important, because it lays the foundation for my last tip about maximizing business development leads - if you're going to build a handout based on your presentation, you don't need to include the kitchen sink. Save it for your follow-up.

    As an example, I used to work with a Construction Litigator in Chicago who is famous for his 50-State Survey of the Occurrence Issue, which is a substantive area of insurance law related to whether a construction defect effectively constitutes an "occurrence" under the commercial general liability (CGL) policies that typically govern construction projects. In his handout materials, he would include his presentation, his bio, some marketing materials about the practice, and a full copy of his 50-state survey - all told, it's at least an inch thick spiral bound booklet. Do you have room for something that bulky in your carryon? Yeah, me neither.

    One year, I asked him how often he hears from people who saw his presentation, and he admitted only a handful of people who had questions had reached out that year. So, I suggested a radical idea that required some serious back-and-forth before he would agree

    “DO NOT include the 50-state survey in the materials,” I told him.  Reference it in the presentation and talk about how awesome the survey is, but don't give it away. Instead, I encouraged him to offer to send the survey to anyone who was interested - free of charge. Sure enough, he brought back about 20 business cards the next time he did the presentation, and we used the delivery of the survey as the perfect business development follow-up to a prospect who essentially self-selected as a qualified lead. By the way, this litigator never argued with me again.

    And After the Presentation Is Over...

    Tell me if this sounds like you: You just finished your big presentation at the conference. Without missing a beat, you drop the slide remote from one hand while grabbing your shoulder bag with the other. You immediately head for the door because your stuff is waiting at the front desk and you booked that flight that's only an hour and a half after the end of your presentation. No time for long goodbyes. Or any, really.

    The problem with that scenario - and yes, it does happen - is that it completely ignores a valuable opportunity to network with your attendees after the presentation.

    I've presented at large conferences about a dozen or so times, and every single time, at least 2-3 people came up to me afterward to either express their gratitude for the presentation and the materials, or to ask follow-up questions.

    These are people who are seeking you out and you've completely ignored them. I don't care if you were the second coming of Ronald Reagan at the podium that day, if you don't make time for folks after the presentation, you're sending the signal that their individual reactions, feedback, and questions are meaningless to you.

    But let's assume, instead, you made the time to mingle and network. In fact, you referenced a white paper related to your topic, which you wrote and have offered to send to anyone who brings you a business card. Instead of 2-3 people, you're surrounded by a throng of 10-15 or 20. You collect the business cards, greet your fans, answer a few questions and head out. Back at the office, you've got your 20 business cards. What do you do next?

    [ side note: I feel like Sam McKenna right now…asking these rhetorical questions about business development strategy ]

    If you said "send them the white paper," you're only half right. The white paper was the excuse you needed to collect the cards. The real purpose for the outreach is to keep the conversation going and start developing the kind of business relationship that’s built on mutual trust and respect for subject matter expertise, and more importantly, that eventually leads to new business.

    So what goes into this follow-up communication? You can open with a cordial hello, thank them for coming to your presentation, talk about the white paper, reinforce why the white paper is useful, and maybe mention your next speaking engagement or include a link to your latest blog post on a similar or related topic. All of that is good marketing, and you probably already knew that. But here are a few suggestions, and one caution, that you may not have considered:

    Keep the conversation going by asking open ended questions in your communication. Try to learn more about the attendee, and their role in addressing the issue in question. These tidbits of information may come in a trickle, but they are all important points to know in order to begin building a relationship.

    If there was anything about your original interaction with the attendee that stands out - whether it was something they said, did, wore, etc., try to make reference to it in a meaningful way. This is another piece of the relationship building, because it helps demonstrate that you have a genuine interest in them.

    Never - and I mean NEVER - close by saying "if you have any questions, let me know." Instead, offer to schedule a follow-up phone call or meeting to specifically answer any questions they may have. They may not have any questions, but between the time you book the meeting and the meeting itself, you may have developed some additional content worth sharing, or there may be a breaking development in case law. Again, you're trying to keep the conversation going. If you leave it to them to reach out if they have any questions, more often than not, they're never going to reach out to you.

    There are times when a speaking engagement leads immediately to work, and that's money in the bank. I worked with an attorney in South Bend, Indiana - another Construction Litigator - who did a program for development projects. It was a soup-to-nuts half-day that included some content around labor & employment law, some construction litigation, and a financing piece. We were careful to fill the room with a good mix of existing clients and high-value new business targets. By the end of the afternoon, we signed up four new engagements, including two brand new clients.  Sometimes, lightning will strike.  And sometimes, you just get thunder.

    Don't kid yourself, though. In this instance, signing up four new matters was probably the result of more fluke than strategy. But with diligence, grit, and some technical know-how, anyone can turn a simple speaking engagement at your favorite trade association conference into an effective and (hopefully) lucrative pipeline for generating qualified business development leads.

      Jim Jarrell is the Director of Marketing & Business Development for the law firm of McCarthy Lebit Crystal & Liffman Co., LPA in Cleveland, OH and has enjoyed a career spanning more than two decades helping professional services firms, nearly half of it spent leading the strategic marketing and business development programs for several law firms. In all his work, Jim focuses on achieving goals and never assumes that “the way we’ve always done it” is necessarily the best way. Stints in leadership roles with two AmLaw 100 firms and managerial experience with a handful of smaller regional firms and boutiques have helped shape Jim’s national reputation as a leader in the field. As a LSSO-Certified Business Development Coach, Jim has developed the kind of tenacity and gravitas required to effectively steer attorneys at all levels and tenures in their careers, from junior associates to the senior-most rainmakers. In addition to his coaching skillset, Jim has developed and conducted formal training programs on a variety of other marketing, communications, and business development topics - many that have been accepted and approved for continuing legal education (CLE) credits – with topics that range from business development planning to cross-selling strategies, personal branding, social media best practices, and delivering the perfect elevator pitch. linkedin.com/in/jamesjarrell


  • November 22, 2021 1:38 PM | Jenifer Hamilton (Administrator)

    Ballard Spahr LLP seeks a dynamic and successful marketing and business development professional to join the Ballard Spahr team as a Proposal Specialist supporting the firm’s efforts to respond to request for proposals within the guidelines of firm strategy, business development, and client relationship management goals. 

    READ MORE

  • November 22, 2021 1:30 PM | Jenifer Hamilton (Administrator)

    The Client Development Manager is a leader who possesses a client-focused mentality, is highly service oriented, and has the ability to guide, direct and advise lawyers in a sophisticated marketing and business development environment.   READ MORE


  • November 17, 2021 3:40 PM | Jenifer Hamilton (Administrator)

    As part of a small, hands-on collaborative team, this position is responsible for project management and delivery of events and programs that highlight and reinforce the Ballard brand.  This position offers a hybrid work schedule and can be located in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, New York, New Jersey or Delaware.  

    READ MORE

  • November 12, 2021 11:05 AM | Jenifer Hamilton (Administrator)

    Boston, MA, November 10, 2021 - The Legal Sales and Service Organization (LSSO) and Hellerman Communications today announce the winners of the 2021 Sales & Service Awards, which recognizes sales, business development, and marketing professionals who spearheaded initiatives contributing to law firm revenue growth in 2020. This year’s winners include:

    Sales Team of the Year: Kean Miller LLP

    The team at Kean Miller creates a business development culture by using a multidisciplinary approach of business operations, a unique approach in our industry.  The Marketing and Business Development Team at Kean Miller LLP consists of Brian Klaslo (Director of Business Development), Nathan Smith (Texas Marketing and BD Manager), Shannon Barilleau (Marketing Manager), Kodi Wilson (Marketing Manager), and Zoe Venezia (Marketing Coordinator). 

    Steve Boutwell, Chief Operating Officer, is one of a handful of CMOs to cross over into operational leadership roles in a large law firm. Steve took on the COO role at 170-attorney Kean Miller four years ago after serving as CM&BDO for almost 15 years. Because of his background and experience in the legal industry, and in his firm, Kean Miller relies on Steve for a wide variety of forward-thinking initiatives, including the firm’s newly adopted strategic plan. He “rides shotgun” with his Managing Partner, providing tactical support for the Management Committee, Compensation Committee, Practice Group Leaders, and the firm’s Management Team, which includes a CFO, CIO, CHRO, GC, and Chief Facilities and Information Governance Officer. 

    Honorable Mention: Litchfield Cavo LLP

    An Honorable Mention is being awarded to Litchfield Cavo LLP. Under the direction of Donna Baker, Business Development, Marketing & Communications, marketing protocols were set in place, table nominations were completed, editorial style guides were developed, new hire biographies and photography were streamlined to match the new branding, language and tone were aligned and business grew. By partnering with one other attorney in a the newest of Litchfield Cavo's 22 offices, Donna pitched a new specialty practice area that began to take off--and then Covid-19 stopped us in our tracks, but only temporarily. From this one new practice line, multiple cross selling opportunities arise and will take shape once the pandemic eases and face-to-face interaction resumes. Our law firm's Marketing team is highly skilled and very responsive, making the process of business development easier for us as partners, and their work product, including RFP responses, is elegant in appearance and creative in content.

    Rising Star: Michael Helmicki, Client Development Executive, DLA Piper

    In addition to driving significant revenue and new multi-million-dollar client relationships to the Firm, Michael Helmicki (“Mick”) led the Firm’s strategy and execution for supporting clients and prospects with matters related to Federal Stimulus programs that were a central consideration for many businesses during COVID. Following a surge in requests for information and guidance on these programs, Mick quickly organized a cross-functional team of DLA attorneys to dissect an ever-changing landscape of rules and guidance to inform clients and prospects on federal stimulus programs. In several instances, these programs were a critical lifeline in supporting ongoing operations. In addition to driving effective communications, including client alerts, Mick organized and participated in a series of webinars to educate clients and prospects on key rules and regulations, including a webinar that registered 2,333 attendees, a Firm record. In addition to successfully driving 200%+ YoY growth in fee billed revenue in key accounts, Mick became the first billable Client Development Executive and actively worked with DLA attorneys on matters relating to Federal Stimulus Programs; drafted multiple client presentations and alerts, built an internal knowledge repository and supported partners/clients across multiple offices in the Firm. Mick stepped up and played a critical role in getting many clients through the COVID-19 pandemic. People remember how you treat them in a time of need and Mick played a critical role in solidifying the long-term relationships with many of the firms’ clients.

    Sales Executive of the Year: Brook Radford, Director of Marketing, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP

    While all others in the legal industry shifted to doing low-quality video with Zoom during the pandemic, Brook Radford, Director of Marketing at Katten, decided to take a different approach. Using a smartphone app (Remote Video Capture), Brook was able to shoot 4k quality video of her partners, remotely, while retaining the professional video production services of producer and director so the partners looked and sounded as good as they do on camera as they do in person. The first starter project was for a virtual trade show that had the firm’s Dallas managing partner giving an overview of their expanding capabilities of the Dallas office and firmwide presence in an industry sector. From that point forward, Brook and Katten’s partners leveraged remote video capture to produce high-quality video that properly reflected the stature of her law firm and the partners. With the pandemic keeping everyone working at home and International Women’s Day approaching, Brooke leveraged Remote Video Capture to the Women’s Leadership Forum to create a promotional video that featured a half-dozen women at her firm. The end result enabled Katten to produce a high-quality video montage that is reflective of Katten‘s leadership position in supporting women and their Firm’s professional brand. The video was highly successful and got review reviews from both internal and external stake holders. Here is a link to the video - https://vimeo.com/520360500

    Two Honorable Mentions are being awarded to Ashley Tenney, Practice Director, Dentons and Mark Levin, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at Marshall Gerstein & Borun.

    Honorable Mention (Large Firm): Ashley Tenney, Practice Director, Dentons

    As a Practice Director at Dentons, Ashley collaborates closely with firm leadership and business services peers to ensure success in practice operations and strategic initiatives, including staffing, budgeting, recruiting, lateral and client onboarding and integration, training and legal project management. Ashley partners with legal operations teams and utilize technology to promote efficiency in the day-to-day operations as well as leverage process improvement initiatives to the benefit of the Firm. She is responsible for the Corporate, Real Estate, Restructuring and Venture Technology practice groups. She is also the director of our COVID-19 Pandemic Client Special Situations Team, working with three co-chairs and more than two dozen partners to help guide clients through the evolving legal and business challenges. A motivated and innovative self-starter, she proactively works with lawyers and legal services professionals to develop and maintain relationships

     

    Honorable Mention (Small Firm): Mark Levin, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer,  Marshall Gerstein & Borun

    Mark has established himself as a marketing leader in the legal industry in both the legal and corporate arenas.  In the past three years at Marshall Gerstein — half of which has been during the pandemic — Mark has grown by 125% the number of requests for proposals from innovators seeking intellectual property advice. He also introduced enhanced client service technologies and helped the firm nurture existing client relationships. Under Mark’s guidance, the firm has extended its internal social justice commitments to a broader audience. Mark also serves as an LSSO Editorial Board Member.

    The following professionals served on the judge’s panel to select these award winners:

    David Bowerman, Deloitte
    Ron Gendron, Workday
    John Hellerman, Hellerman Communications
    Samantha McKenna, #samsales Consulting

    About Legal Sales and Service Organization (LSSO):

    LSSO delivers the education and resources that lawyers and those who work with them need to improve their sales and client service skills with exclusive research, and tools and information for members only. LSSO supplies the legal marketplace with innovative, groundbreaking events and resources, including the annual LSSO RainDance Global Sales Summit and LSSO's Coaching Certification Programs. Follow LSSO on Twitter and LinkedIn.

    About Hellerman Communications:

    Hellerman Communications is an award-winning corporate communications agency that specializes in positioning professionals to win business and navigate crises. With expertise in strategic marketing & content development, crisis & litigation communications, and social influencer & stakeholder relations, we help the world’s most elite professionals, and their firms build and protect their most lucrative relationships. Connect with Hellerman Communications by email or on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram.

     



  • November 10, 2021 4:31 PM | Jenifer Hamilton (Administrator)

    Fenwick is seeking a Communications Assistant that will be responsible for supporting numerous strategic projects and initiatives furthering our external and internal communication goals.  This position can be based in any of our U.S. offices.  READ MORE

  • November 05, 2021 11:17 AM | Jenifer Hamilton (Administrator)

    This position may be located in Paul Hastings' Los Angeless, Century City, Palo Alto or San Francisco office.  The Senior BDev Coordinator supports the business development and marketing initiatives, pitch and proposal efforts, and the development of client relationships and new business opportunities in the Entertainment & Media and Tech industries.  READ MORE


  • October 25, 2021 3:27 PM | Jenifer Hamilton (Administrator)

    As a Coordinator in the Practice Development area of the Business Development Department, you will be responsible for a variety of marketing and development activities, including proposal preparation, client presentations, marketing collateral maintenance, matters database maintenance, CRM maintenance, research, and communications.

    LEARN MORE
    You should be comfortable working in a team environment, with a keen eye for organization and detail. The ideal candidate will need to be able to think critically, analyze data effectively and convey complex information clearly.

    This position reports directly to the Restructuring and Real Estate Business Development Associate Director with oversight from the Business Development Director in Chicago.


  • October 25, 2021 3:23 PM | Jenifer Hamilton (Administrator)

    Kirkland & Ellis is seeking a dynamic, enthusiastic Business Development Specialist to support its new Salt Lake City office and to be a key driver of its growth and success.

    LEARN MORE

    Reporting to the West Coast Director of Business Development and working collaboratively with other regional and Firmwide business development professionals, the Business Development Specialist will provide comprehensive support across the entirety of the business development and marketing lifecycle, playing a key role in the execution of development strategies for all cross-practice areas with a particular focus on corporate, specifically private equity and M&A and commercial litigation.

    This is a highly visible attorney and occasional client-facing role, requiring an experienced legal business development generalist with an adaptable, entrepreneurial style and a proven business acumen.


  • October 12, 2021 6:41 PM | Jenifer Hamilton (Administrator)

    Someone asked me the other day: “What do you think is the hot new thing in law firms these days?” and I responded, “Strategic account teams—aka key client teams.” He looked puzzled and said, “isn’t that old, not new?”

    While I was taken aback, I thought about it and decided, yes, key client planning and the various initiatives surrounding that topic have been around for years now, and in fact 80% of the key client teams as we know them are ineffective. Sure, focusing on the client, going out and speaking with them has likely produced some small or incremental results. But until a firm’s strategic accounts become truly an integrated part of the firm’s strategy, they are nothing more than simply another initiative into which only a few partners have bought.

    The Big Four, Oracle, IBM, Xerox, Salesforce, and numerous other highly profitable organizations with focused strategic account leadership, would never imagine NOT having strategic accounts driving their revenue growth goals. In fact, in an industry where demand remains flat, it’s the only strategic initiative that is going to get a firm’s revenue into numbers that matter. Why does this work in every other industry and not so well in law firms then? A few reasons.

    First. the key relationship lawyer often lacks the competitive selling skills necessary to take the entire account to another revenue level. Only when he/she collaborates with the client, across the client, and across the firm, will opportunities for adding value and thus, growing share of wallet emerge. A lot of effort and energy goes into account planning and while brilliant lawyers they may be, strategic sales people they likely are not. What’s the solution? Hire strategic account sales people. We will see more of this from the firms who take the lead in this area. Team them up with partners and clients and the results will be amazing. Building relationships at the highest levels within the client organization is critical for strategic account success. This includes board members, and C-level executives. Which leads us to the second reason.

    Second. Expanding relationships gets tricky. Who gets the credit? Frankly it doesn’t matter if the revenues go up, so do all the compensation numbers. Yet, with comp being a primary recognition system at the majority of firms, people fight over origination to get the “credit” and thus the recognition. Hiring professional sales people will change the game a bit because they will be measured on their success which means they will have to take some credit for revenue in the door. What’s the solution: well, one is to create a contest of sorts. Frankly that’s why firms’ biggest clients with sales teams have sales contests. So people compete to drive revenue. Everyone can win if they reach their goals. And the second solution is figure out how to share credit. In fact, all clients should be firm clients and there should be no origination. Get people to focus on the right things and to collaborate and revenue will continue to go up.

    Third. Account management. It is not easy to manage peers/other lawyers at the firm. Related to First and Second above, keeping momentum going, and the lawyers on the team interested in regular meetings can be challenging. To maintain a forward-looking momentum, focus on the client’s goals and what are the related anticipated legal needs. Invite the client to at least two to three team meetings per year so it keeps information first-hand and fresh, and keeps the team and frankly, the leader, motivated. Having the client at team meetings is a very important aspect of helping the team to be successful.

    Last, over-communicate results. Letting other members of the firm know how successful the account/key client teams are performing is important. For one reason, funding the teams’ visits to clients and other team activities, will be critical going forward, and leadership will want to make sure there is support for these expenditures.

    Silvia Coulter is a Principal Consultant with LawVision and a founding board member of the Legal Sales and Service Organization. To learn more about Strategic Account Management, you may order a copy of SAM-Legal: Turning Key Clients Into Strategic Accounts. Silvia may be reached at scoulter@lawvision.com.


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