Gary Mitchell's Biz/Dev Coaching Blog
Going beyond business development and your ability to generate work, there are a couple of considerations you should think about if you’re looking to get on or speed up the ‘Partner Track’. The first consideration is to learn how to play well with others. Here I am referring to everyone with whom you come into contact on a daily basis; your assistant, paralegals, IT professionals, receptionists, firm management, marketing, library services, etc. Go out of your way to treat these people with the utmost respect and watch how in turn they will over perform and deliver for you. You will not become successful in your career without their support. So when they go out of their way for you, acknowledge their efforts. Take them out to lunch from time to time. Ask them how they would like to contribute. Find out how you can help them achieve their career goals by first understanding what they are. Treat them as you do your clients. In other words get to know them as much as possible.
Giving back to the firm
By this I am referring to what can you do outside your practice to provide value to your firm. Consider answering these questions as a place to start:
- What committees can you be on and contribute to?
- Are their opportunities for you to mentor a summer or articling student, or even an associate more junior then you?
- What can you do outside the walls of your firm in the community to better position your firm?
Follow this advice and you are more likely to become a partner at your firm.
Several years ago I predicted that at some point the larger firms in Canada would look to bring on full-time in-house business development coaches. It has recently come to my attention that it’s happening now. New positions are being created where coaches are working in-house with specific practice groups. Unlike other business development and marketing roles, these new positions are purely about coaching. They are there full-time to help the lawyers create a plan of action and then support them through implementation teaching them various skills along the way. If this isn’t a resounding statement in support of the value of coaching lawyers in business development, I don’t know what is.
I will be speaking at this very timely conference on October 23, in Toronto. Motivated by the rapidly evolving legal landscape, this program will provide a unique forum for senior legal industry stakeholders to come together and discuss developing trends, innovative concepts and related issues, domestically and globally, that will directly affect your profession.
What you’ll get:
Leave equipped with multiple perspectives from managing partners and general counsel who are successfully navigating this evolving legal landscape as they deliver insights into what is working for them, including:
- Practical guidance on implementing Alternative Business Structures
- Assessing and improving law firm fiscal management
- Insights from the Legal Innovators
- Understanding your role in the fight for access to justice
- Creating and maintaining a cross-generational team
- Expert advice on what the in-house client really wants
- Proven strategies to increase profitability using different billing guidelines
- Learn how to preserve your corporate legacy through succession planning
REAL-WORLD APPLICATION! Deep-dive into building a pricing framework from both a private practice and in house perspective, to achieve client satisfaction and derive value at our Pricing Workshop.
Reserve your space today by calling 1-877-927-7936 or by faxing your registration form to 1-877-927-1563 or online. Mention my name, Gary Mitchell and receive a $200 discount. See you in Toronto.
I am very pleased to chair Raindance: The Business Development Bootcamp for Lawyers, a webinar to air September 24th. Working closely with the conference organizers at The Commons Institute, we’ve put together a stellar group of presenters including legal practitioners and legal marketers who are leading innovation in today’s marketplace. From Law Clerk, Cris Lam who will share what she did to grow her network and bring in clients to her firm; to Bobbi-Ann Wallace, a fourth year M&A Lawyer who will share her approach to business development, and Kris Bonn, a Managing Partner will share how he continued to make rain, lead the firm, manage his people, engage his team in business development and grow his firm. We also have Jana Schilder, my Co-Founder at The Legal A Team, who will cover the value of media relations in growing your firm, and Susan Van Dyke of Van Dyke Marketing and Communications, who will cover off effectively using Social Media.
In addition to the amazing content we will cover, each participant of this webinar will receive a copy of my 2nd book, “Raindance 2: A Blueprint for Growing Your Practice, Small Firm addition”, and a one-hour coaching session with me to follow the conference. If you are looking to grow your practice or firm, this webinar cannot be missed. GO to http://thecommonsinstitute.com/rain.html and sign up today. Early-bird pricing is still in effect. I look forward to working with you to grow your firm.
I am very pleased to chair “Raindance: The Business Development Bootcamp for Lawyers” to air September 24th. This Bootcamp is especially geared towards solo practice and small to mid-size firms who are looking to grow. Working closely with the conference organizers at The Commons Institute, we’ve put together a stellar group of presenters including legal practitioners and legal marketers who are leading innovation in today’s marketplace. You will hear from a Law Clerk who will share what she did to grow her network and bring in clients to her firm; a 4th year M&A Lawyer who will share her approach to business development, and a Managing Partner will share how he continued to make rain, lead the firm, manage his people, engage his team in business development and grow his firm. We also have Jana Schilder, my Co-Founding Partner of Legal A Team, who will cover the value of media relations in growing your firm, and Susan Van Dyke of Vandyke marketing, who will cover off effectively using Social Media.
In addition to the amazing content we will cover, each participant of Raindance will receive a copy of my 2nd book, “Raindance 2: A Blueprint for Growing Your Practice”, and a one-hour coaching session with me to follow the conference. If you are looking to grow your practice or firm, this webinar cannot be missed. GO to The Commons Institute and sign up today. Early bird rates are still available. I look forward to working with you to grow your firm.
When I first started coaching lawyers, my professional colleagues said, “You’re going to do what with whom?” When you consider my target audience, you, lawyers, and your common personality traits and practice challenges, you are one tough audience and I thank you for being that way. I’ve always loved a challenge.You have forced me to become a better coach.
What follows are not criticisms, merely observations which I am sure most of you will agree with. For the most part lawyers hate the idea of sales. Some of you even resent the fact that in today’s legal market you have to sell and market yourself and your services. Many of you are introverted and hate networking. You are perfectionists which often prevents you from trying anything new for fear of failing. Being highly risk-averse adds to that fear. You procrastinate to a fault. You are highly intellectual and often over-think things. And to top that all off, it’s in your nature to be highly skeptical.
And then there are the challenges you face in your practice. You are under incredible pressure to produce, living your life and career in 6 minute increments. If it’s not the billable hour, then it’s your workload, and the constant struggle to find time for business development. Wow you are certainly one tough audience, wouldn’t you agree?
To effectively deal with these challenges, I’ve created a methodology for business development specifically for lawyers. It’s called TST™, Targeted, Strategic and Tactical. You must produce the best results in the least amount of time possible. The good news is that because you are so smart, you learn quickly. My next post will start to go into detail about how you can become more targeted in your approach.
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?
I have always been a strong advocate for developing your talent. As a coach I’ve seen first-hand the incredible return on investing in your people can bring, not only in revenues, but also in higher employee engagement and loyalty. The next thing to think about is how to compensate your people and stimulate even more growth for your firm.
Working with a small firm owner, together we created a firm-wide compensation package. It includes individual billing targets (yes this firm uses the billable hour). But when the lawyer or law clerk gets close to the target, the first bonus kicks in. Upon reaching the target, a second bonus is added. And finally, when they exceed the billing targets, one last bonus. That is a real incentive to meet and exceed the targets.
But now it gets interesting. The real money is in the business development each law clerk and associate engages in. Now the average file at this firm generates about 50-60k. So we set up the bonus structure as follows. From 0-50k each person brings in collected billings, they get a 5% bonus. From 50-100k, they get a 10% bonus. And 100k + they get a 15% bonus. This Managing Partner wanted to really incentivize, so if they bring in over 150k in revenue, they get 15% on the entire amount. That is going to generate growth.
We did discuss one potential outcome. That is if the law clerk, who was already bringing in business before this compensation model was put in place just focused on business development and dropped her billing targets but generated 1m in revenue, what then? Be careful what you wish for. You change her role. She becomes a rainmaker and you compensate her generously and go out and find another law clerk to fill her place. Pretty cool if that happens.
More than ever lawyers who want to thrive and not just survive in their careers should take steps to entrench themselves. And with all the doom and gloom in legal media today, I have one sure-fired way to do just that. Become really good at bringing in business. Whether you are solo-practice or at a large firm, being able to bring in clients will give you more power. And if you are at a larger firm, it will make yourself more valuable and protect you from the invariable lay offs we will see coming in the months and years to follow. If you do good work and can go out and find it, your job is much safer than if you only do good work. And this is only going to increase over time with more and more competition.
‘Do the math’ has become one of my favorite expressions. So more lawyers graduating from law school. Fewer clients in the market. Senior partners working later in their careers. Fewer jobs. Add all that up and the picture is pretty lousy. So to stand out yo must be doing things differently. The one thing you can do to stand out is to become known as a rain-maker.
You’ve likely heard the loosely translated definition of insanity, ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results’. Well I can certainly point to a lot of insanity in the legal industry right now. We are seeing an unprecedented disruption in the legal industry, and disruption is here to stay and in fact will only increase. Heenan was the first and there are likely others to follow. Lawyers at firms at all levels, shapes and sizes are experiencing more turbulence than we’ve ever seen before.
There are so many things wrong with the typical law firm business model. Starting with the billable hour, compensation models, lack of talent development, partners not pushing work down to associates, too many committees, not fully leveraging the skills and experience of your C-level professionals (you know, the ones who went to school to learn how to run a business), like you went to school to learn how to become a lawyer? Yes, I know I’m being a little harsh. But this is crazy. Your clients know it. Some of your junior lawyers know it. And your management knows it. This is not the time to wait to see what the other guys do. It’s time to do things differently and break out of the pack. If you don’t you’re not only foolish, you could be insane.