Gary Mitchell's Biz/Dev Coaching Blog
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.
If your firm is like the small firms I’ve worked with, you have a cohesive and happy team. If you follow the advice I’ve shared with you, it will only improve that culture of team and success; which is why you must be relentless when bringing on new talent.
First thing is you must ensure anyone coming on board will be open to business development. Moving forward that should be a part of the staff and lawyer profile you are looking for. This is one way you can ensure your firm will continue to grow.
Another thing to keep in mind is ‘fit’. One of my clients has his law clerks and associates do the initial interview. This gives them the opportunity to see if this person is someone that they would like to work with. After you’ve done such a good job creating a cohesive place to work, the last thing you want to do is upset the apple cart by bringing in a dud.
I can tell you one thing, if you have created a culture where people love to come to work, it won’t be as hard as you think to get more great people. There are a lot of unhappy and unengaged people in the legal industry that would jump at the chance to work for someone they respect, be a part of a team, be a part of growing your firm. And when you are selecting lawyers ask yourself if this is someone you think could become a partner one day? Which leads nicely into the next section.
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.
I worked with a senior law clerk of a small firm in Toronto for one year. When we began our work together she didn’t even know what business development was? Before we finished our work together, she had already begun to grow her network extensively, was published and had started to bring in referrals to the firm. By the time we finished she had already brought in enough new work to pay for the coaching program three times over. And that is just the beginning.
A first year associate who had also gone through the coaching program at the same firm, in her second year of practice, it consisted of 75% of her own clients. So this goes to prove, it’s never too early to get your people engaged, and business development shouldn’t be relegated to lawyers only.
Imagine what’s possible if you engage more of your staff and junior lawyers in business development?
This month I a dedicating my blog to those of you who have decided to grow beyond a solo practice and build a small firm and those of you who already have a small firm that you want to grow. There’s a huge leap from running your own solo-practice to growing and leading a small firm. So first let me congratulate you on your entrepreneurial drive.
Up until now you’ve likely been the only or at least main Rainmaker. So once you yourself have gone through the approaches and exercises outlined in this book, the next step is to get the rest of your team, anyone that is client facing and interacting with your clients, engaged in business development. And from experience, it’s not as difficult as it may sound. This could include all lawyers and staff. After-all, if Business Development is about building relationships, and it is, each member of your team has a different network and the ability to build relationships and attract referrals to your firm. In case you are sceptical…
As leaders of small firms, it’s really important that you engage, inspire and motivate your people to be the best they can be. Although you are very busy balancing between rain-making, lawyering, and managing your people the more one-to-one time you can have with your people the better. Don’t treat everyone the same, they’re not. Find out what truly motivates each individual on your team. Find out how they would like to contribute to the growth of your firm. Find out what motivates them. There are a lot of negative opinions surrounding the ‘millennial generation’. This is the next generation of talent walking through your door. Not as much attention has been paid to the very positive attributes of these new young lawyers. They like to be a part of a team. So leverage that characteristic to your benefit. Working in teams has not been the way of the past, but it definitely is the way of the future for law firms truly dedicated to offering the very best in service.
The other thing you can do is to help with their own professional development. When you’ve learned a new system that helps you save time, share it with your team. The amount of time that you will collectively save adds to everyone’s productivity. Strive to have systems for everything to make it as easy as possible for duplication and consistency.
For the last couple of years there has been a lot of talk in the media about disruption in the legal market. I think it’s about time. I will keep this post short and offer you two very insightful references on disruption in the legal market.
The first link is to a six page article in the Globe and Mail
The second link is to a one day conference at Harvard Law School about disruption in the legal market.
These links will both provide you with valuable insights into how the industry is changing.
I was talking to a firm leader last week about an issue he was facing. As we talked it became apparent that he didn’t trust his staff. A big red flag. He is doing as much marketing for his firm as possible and there are certainly no shortage of leads coming in the door. But the conversion rate is terrible. This speaks to the people and their attitude. You can do all the great marketing you want, but if you don’t have the right people on your team, most of it will be a waste of time and money.
In case you haven’t read “Good to Great”, by Jim Collins, I suggest you do. It is one of my main take-a-ways from the book. He puts it like, “get the right people on the bus before you decide where to go, the right people will go anywhere with you.” As law firms have long grappled with going through a planning process and then once into implementation get stalled. It’s because they don’t have the right people. When you do have the right people, there won’t be any pushing or pulling. Your people will want to be a part of this new direction. They will even be excited about it. If you are growing your firm, I highly advise before you up your marketing efforts, to make sure you’ve got the right people on your team. It will save you an immense amount of stress further down the road.
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.