Gary Mitchell's Biz/Dev Coaching Blog
There are many ways to engage your people. One of my clients had an office meeting with all lawyers, law clerks, assistants, basically everyone in the office. They held a brainstorming session with discussions on everything from how to make the work flow easier, to better serving clients. As the leader or Managing Partner of your firm, you don’t have to have all the answers. When you engage your team members like this lawyer did, your people will come up with all kinds of ideas and solutions. And when you do this, you are empowering them to be a part of the solutions, not just dictating what they should do. Their loyalty increases. Their productivity increases. Their general well-being increases all leading to a more seamless and cohesive team.
I just talked about giving your people the opportunity and tools in order to succeed. Now let’s talk about how you reward them for their efforts. Depending on your billing model, I offer up two compensation models which are already proven to light the flame in staff and lawyers.
Working with a personal injury firm and understanding the flow of work and the time it takes to reap the rewards and the work is not billed by the hour, The Managing Partner and I came up with this.
- For every successful case that goes to completion, whoever brought in the file, referral or direct contact will receive a percentage of the settlement. I will leave what percent up to you to determine.
- Due to the nature of personal injury work and how it often takes 2-3 years to get to a settlement, the Managing Partner thought it would be good to give them an immediate reward. So for every client that they took on, there would be a one-time lump sum bonus given to the staff member who generated the client.
- And in order to support cohesiveness and a team approach, this firm will regularly reward all staff when the firm reaches and exceeds its growth targets with a profit sharing program.
Billable Hour Model
When your firm bills by the hour and you set targets for your people to reach, there is an opportunity to create a three-pronged compensation model. The first is for hitting targets. The second is for business development. And the third prong, is to support the team approach.
- The first part of this model is rewarding your people when they get close to hitting their billable targets, when they reach them and when they exceed them. This should be customized for each person. You certainly can’t expect a junior law clerk to bill the same amount of hours as a more senior associate. So set up aggressive yet attainable targets for each of your people. Come up with a % when they get close, another % when they reach their targets, and a final (generous) % when they exceed their targets by a certain amount.
- Based on the average revenue of each of your clients or files, your business development bonus structure could look something like this. Up to 50k in collections, they receive a 5% bonus. From 51-149k, an additional 10% bonus on that amount. And for anything over 150k, a 15% bonus on the entire collection. This is a very powerful incentive.
- Thirdly, you want to support a cohesive and team approach. Figure out what benchmarks you want your firm to achieve. Build in additional bonuses for when this happens. This doesn’t have to be strictly monetary. It could be a team outing or a spa day. But be sure to reward your team as a team.
Don’t feel you have to pick one or the other. I have another client who opted for a hybrid of several different models. The important thing here is to know your people and what will motivate them and reward them best.
The first step in growing your firm is to engage your entire team, or as many of your staff and lawyers in business development. Engaging your team starts with identifying who on your team, lawyers, law clerks, paralegals, even assistants and receptionists do you think would be open to earning more income while at the same time enjoy being part of growing your firm? If your firm is like most small firms, you have them.
Approach them one-on-one with your idea. Ask them if they would be interested in taking their career to the next level? Get them a copy of this book, it is after-all designed for the individual legal professional to work through on their own or in teams. Or, go one step further and hire a coach to work with them. Point out the opportunities this will mean to them, expanding responsibilities, personal and professional growth, not to mention more income.
Don’t be surprised when some of them jump at the chance. By giving them this opportunity to expand and grow in their career, you are sending a very powerful message to them, that they are appreciated, you have confidence in them, and that you would like to see them succeed beyond what they themselves could have imagined. This builds loyalty and commitment to the firm like nothing else. Don’t be surprised to see that in addition to referrals starting to come in you notice them being more engaged in their work, docketing more, and generally becoming a more valuable resource to your firm.
Not everyone you approach will want to do this, and that’s ok. But do the math; Five or more Rainmakers vs. just you? And this is how you can begin to create a culture of business development and growth, one person at a time. Eventually you can grow your firm based on everyone being engaged in business development. More on that will follow under recruitment.
In a lot of small to mid-sized firms, your best strategy might be to start with your law clerks first. Lawyers are still very sheepish about business development. Help your law clerks succeed, and this might just shame some of your lawyers to get in on the action.
Over the last couple of years I’ve had the pleasure of working with various small firm leaders. At first I worked with them on their own business development and fine tuning some of the good work they were already doing. But working with these highly skilled professionals, there comes a time when there isn’t anything else they could do to grow their firm on an individual level.
So, do the math. One rainmaker or several? Everyone on your front line, that is to say who has direct client contact can develop business for you. This all began about two years ago when one firm leader in Ontario had the foresight to hire me to work with his first-year associate and one of his law clerks. It was my first time working with a law clerk. Admittedly when we began, she didn’t really even know what business development was. By the end of the year she had built up an extensive network and had attracted referrals to the tune of 300% ROI for my coaching. Since then I’ve gone on to work with several more small firm leaders and we are doing the same thing. Getting everyone on the front line engaged in business development. As a child I didn’t used to do well at math. But this is pretty simple math. One rainmaker or several?