I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed on “The Inevitable Future of Law” by Jacky Wetzels of salesmoves, a legal marketing consulting firm based in Amsterdam. The resulting article covers the gamut of how law firms arrived at where they are today and the inevitable comparisons to global multidisciplinary firms and the Big 4 accounting firms. Dedicated sales departments and sales training are also discussed as becoming more important for law firms to compete in today’s rapidly changing legal industry.
Category Archives: Sales
Dentons surprised many this past week with the introduction of a free global referral network for law firms. I was interviewed for this article on Dentons’ latest move in the May 16, 2016 issue of Law Times. Here are some of my comments quoted in the article:
“You have freelancers on the net and now you have law firms available very quickly on the net through this type of network,” Cameron says. “It could speed up and make more available choices for clients. It could certainly disrupt the industry, giving access to more firms.”
Cameron says the new network could be particularly beneficial for smaller mid-level firms that could not afford to pay membership fees for a similar network. These smaller firms could potentially have access to a large global network, which will give them work they were not able to obtain before, Cameron says. It may also give the smaller firms a better chance to retain their own clients, as they would be able to refer them to a firm with higher levels of expertise in another country or specialty, he says.
“There are certainly more potential benefits for small mid-sized firms that may not have been involved in a network before because of the cost,” Cameron says.
While Cameron says the network has the potential to be a “game changer,” he has concerns about how Dentons will be able to vet what is expected to be a vast network of members for quality.
“You start to wonder how they can enforce the standards,” Cameron says. “Do you really know who you’re dealing with and how are they going to control that?”
Cameron also questions where the bar will be set to vet quality standards for such an extensive and vast network.”
Notwithstanding my concerns above, I think Dentons has made a very forward-thinking move here and I expect they will do well in this new venture. It will certainly disrupt the way that law firm referrals are handled in the future.
Mike O’Horo of RainmakerVT posted a great article, “Lead-generation is not the same as business-generation”. See here. The article notes how the whole process of marketing as most law firms do it is essentially worthless if you “don’t ask for the order” and make the sale. Most lawyers have great difficulty with this step, and miss out on a lot of very profitable business.
In most law firms, the number of real rainmakers is less than 10-20% of the total # of partners. Yet all equity partners are expected to bring in business of a minimum $ amount to support the growth and profitability of the firm. Rainmakers must be compensated to a level that keeps them happy, as they are a rarity in the practice of law. You must motivate and retain these rainmaker partners with appropriate compensation packages to ensure the future success and profitability of the firm. The rest of the partners must be satisfied with earning less if they can’t or won’t bring in the business.
You must reward your rainmakers with bonuses or higher units of compensation to keep them motivated and bringing in new business. You’re not just rewarding partners for hours billed, you’re rewarding partners for originating work, which needs to carry a bigger weighting at compensation time. This is where many small and midsize law firms’ compensation systems fall short in my experience. This is rewarding lawyers for increasing sales, and really no differs from paying bonuses to the best-performing car salesperson on the lot. The sooner law firms get this, the better off they’ll be. Since all partners will share in an increasing pie, individual partners can’t be worried a rainmaker is making more than them, when everyone benefits from what a rainmaker does.
Law firms must operate in a business-like fashion. For decades, law firms have operated with a partnership business model protected from the ravages of competition that other professions and businesses have had to endure. Changes must now be made quickly to become more business-like in your operations and reward partners for “asking for the order” before your competitors beat you to it and steal your rainmakers away from you.