By Deborah B. Farone
While conducting research for the book “Best Practices in Law Firm Marketing and Business Development” (PLI 2019), I saw there were a number of steps that the country’s leading rainmakers were taking to generate business. The book is based on more than 60 interviews with leading law firm leaders and marketers, general counsel and innovators in the profession.
Some of these steps may be worth suggesting to lawyers in your own firm:
- Thinking of marketing as muscle. Jeff Klein, a partner at Weil Gotshal and the head of their employment litigation practice group, stresses to younger lawyers that the ability to develop business and work well with clients takes an enormous amount of practice. Klein lets lawyers know that they are not going to learn how to feel comfortable in marketing, unless they get out from behind their desk on a very regular basis to meet with people. He draws the analogy to exercise and explains to other lawyers that it is the effort and the repetition that develops comfort with the skill and marketing agility.
- Having a system. While a customer relationship management (CRM) system and follow-up calls from the business development department are very valuable, most rainmakers have some sort of a system they’ve set up for themselves. For example, Henry Nassau, chief executive officer at Dechert and a great leader and rainmaker, has a regularly scheduled breakfast meeting with the legal and administrative team involved in his key clients. During the meeting, they discuss the current state of matters. Everyone in attendance needs to participate, as he wants everyone to understand they are essential to the team. He also wants to ensure the whole team knows what is happening with the clients’ matters, so if any client has a question of anyone on the team, each member will have basic knowledge of the facts.
- Adopting the right mindset. David Bernstein, the chair of Debevoise & Plimpton’s intellectual property group, says that when he is working with clients, he is always thinking about the value that he and his team are bringing, rather than simply the day-to-day work. That mindset, of focusing on adding something to the equation that that the client doesn’t already have and providing real value, is a key in developing symbiotic relationships.
- Keeping it simple. The leader of a firm with which I have worked uses one of my favorite simple systems. He keeps a list on his desk. The list has the names of 10 key clients with which he is working, and 10-15 warm prospects with whom he hopes to work. He looks at the list several times a week and asks himself, “What have I done to really help them this week?”
- Being exceptionally thoughtful. A litigation partner who I know pays very close attention to the life events of his clients. If the client has a child in college, the lawyer extends himself by asking the client if he can help the child find a summer job, and not necessarily one at the firm. While lawyers often help their client’s children this way, this partner does it before being asked. And if a client or their spouse has a new baby, he gathers a selection of children’s books that he recalls reading to his own children and has them sent in a basket with a hand-written note to the new parents.
These are just a few examples that may be able to help lawyers generate business. LMA members can receive a discount on the book, “Best Practices in Law Firm Business Development and Marketing,” by visiting www.pli.edu/bestpracticeslma. Bulk discount orders can be made at 800-260-4754.
Deborah Farone has served as CMO at two of the world's most successful law firms, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. At both firms, she built and led their marketing communications and business development departments. Deborah’s practice at Farone Advisors involves helping firms achieve their marketing goals through strategic and practice planning, new business training and marketing consulting. Deborah is a past president of LMA’s New York Chapter and was honored with LMA New York’s Legacy Award. Her website is www.deborahfarone.com. She can be found on Twitter at @deborahfarone, or LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/deborahfarone/.