“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
POGO, April 20, 1970
Walt Kelly, Creator and Author
Market forces pale in comparison to attorneys as the biggest obstacle to growth at law firms. Law firm marketing leaders believe no-growth markets and ever more demanding clients have less impact than attorney resistance.
25.2% of CMOs and law firm marketing leaders name their lawyers as holding their firm back during more than 150 far-reaching interviews BTI conducted with them. This is up from 18.6% in 2014. We are in the 9th year of no growth. The pressure to develop business grows as the market becomes tougher. The attorneys who resist are fighting an increasingly uphill battle and it is the firm’s responsibility to provide the tools and training to overcome the resistance.
Much of the resistance comes from attorneys having limited to no business development experience. They are concerned about how to initiate the process, questions they might be asked, and not knowing how the process is likely to unfold if they do reach out to clients. In addition, the resisters don’t realize delivering superior client service is a potent form of business development.
The only proven tactic to remove the attorneys as obstacles to growth is to train them. We recommend training in 3 tiers:
Tier 1 – Advanced Business Development Skills for only the high-potential business developers. This training focuses on the art and science of developing large chunks of business and developing new clients.
Tier 2 – Core Business Development for the attorneys who show an inclination or interest in business development. This training introduces the tools and practicalities of developing business—including mock client meetings for conducting initial meetings and how to follow up.
Tier 3 – Client Service Training teaches all client-facing partners the skills and provides the tools to deliver superior client service—with the understanding superior client service is a potent form of business development. There are few partners who would not benefit from this training.
Your use of staggering the training by skill and inclination enables you to drive success with the attorneys most likely to be successful. It also changes the culture of the firm as the leadership illustrates how they invest in business development. Finally, the tiered approach to business development training creates incentive to become good enough to reach the most advanced training—creating a clear path to rainmaker and creating more rainmakers in the process.
The Silver Lining
We are the enemy and we are the solution. Every law firm has the power to change and overcome the obstacles in their way. And no one understands the problem better than the firms themselves. Now, every law firm can overcome these obstacles.