The ILN is extremely fortunate to have not only a lot of talented lawyers, but a number of other talented professionals as well. Included in that group are the hardworking marketing professionals at our member firms across the world. This year, I wanted to highlight some of their expertise in a series of guest posts here on Zen. Our first one comes from Director of Marketing with the ILN’s Illinois member, Arnstein & Lehr, Robin Iori. In today’s post, Robin is addressing the topic of business development training for associates, and this is a timely one for many law firms in the market. One of the hottest trends that came out of the submissions from this year’s crop of Your Honor Awards was an increased focus on young lawyers, and that bears out with what I’ve seen and heard in my daily engagement with firms as well. So as Robin says, when it comes to business development training for your associates, it’s never too soon to start.
Introducing the concept of business development to eager, young associates in a law firm can produce a variety of responses. One response is the “deer-in-the-headlights” eyes that ask with trepidation, “I have to do this already?” Then, there’s the furrowed brow look that may be saying, “Did I miss an email about this?” Or, there’s the response that involves nodding the head in agreement during the meeting and sheer panic once the meeting ends.
It’s not as if the topic of business development is new to the legal community today. Law schools still are not giving the subject as much attention as they could, but at least young lawyers know that ultimately they will come face to face with the concept if they join a law firm.
In a recent business development training exercise, eight litigation associates met once a week for three weeks to set some goals for their individual business development efforts and then identified tactics to help them achieve their goals to work toward over the next 12 months. First, even before the goal-setting, the associates were asked to identify their personal assets (relationships, memberships, social media presence), their market (internal and external clients), their resources (marketing department and firm mentors) and finally, what brings them satisfaction or what scares them.
This introductory exercise was meant for the young lawyers to do some introspection, as well as to avoid the blank slate dilemma that can come with creating a plan. Certain resources, such as the marketing department, were similar for all eight participants since they were in the same firm. But there was a lack of knowledge for at least three of the eight concerning the breadth of services they could receive from marketing. That meant more communications should be coming from marketing to this younger group of lawyers, it would appear.
Once there was some information to work with from their lists, the lawyers’ goal-setting process began. In a process like this, goals need to be realistic, measureable, within one’s control, consistent with practice and firm strategy and time-determined. They also need to be based on a lawyer’s skill set. Among the ideas put forth were to become the “go-to” person in the firm for a specific area within a practice group; to leverage existing experience with a client to get more work from that client; and to develop a skill set for external opportunities that appear to be growing in importance in the legal community. These goals are not that much different than partner goals for such a plan.
As for tactics, the available options are also what partners may consider for the most part. They would include joining an organization or a bar association, speaking or writing for external groups, leveraging social media (checking LinkedIn daily and contributing content to it, for example), or staying in touch with law school classmates, especially those who have gone in-house.
Finally, it’s important to remember that this exercise is just an exercise – a practice to hone one’s skills the way a workout helps to hone one’s body. It can be revised during the year, of course, but most of all, it needs to be top-of-mind. Just as going to the gym twice a year won’t do much for your body, neither will working on your tactics once a quarter. No guts, no glory – no pain, no gain, as they say. It takes time to develop one’s career and it takes discipline to focus on where one wants to go. With a solid beginning – thinking about how to develop business even before one needs to – there is a better chance at success in bringing in the work which is the ultimate goal for everyone at the law firm.