April 16, 2014

Research update: New staff positions in pricing value and LPM, Part 2 of 2

Using existing staff to perform these functions

Some firms have adopted a different approach, preferring to utilize the skills of people already on their staff to run project management and pricing:

Pricing has become a big part of our portfolio, but it’s done by an MBA who has been here for a long time, who studies pricing and speaks about it.

For some time, we’ve had a group within the firm that we refer to as our practice economics group. They have been tasked with serving as a resource to practices, client teams, relationship lawyers, and the like, to help with the kind of analysis that is important at the front end, figuring out how to respond to an RFP or to price a project. But as time has gone on, the services that the group provides have expanded to include various types of knowledge management and process management efforts as well. They can help design reporting systems, feedback loops, and the like, so that a team can stay current with real time data as the project proceeds, to know how they’re doing against a budget or a bid. We think that capacity has been extraordinarily valuable to us. More than 20% of our revenues at this point come from alternative fee arrangements, including some very large fixed fee engagements. Our comfort in moving more significantly into that arena, particularly taking on some of the engagements where clients have used fixed fees in conjunction with a very strong push to reduce costs, has been very much influenced by having not just the up-front analytical ability, but a team that can work with the client and engagement team to help successfully manage those types of projects.

We hired a new CFO within the past few years, with a focus on identifying someone who could really help us do this kind of stuff. So we haven’t really created a new position but we’ve begun to focus on that type of analysis.

Recognizing the need to do more in this area

Eighty-six percent of the firms that commented on this issue reported that they plan to do more in this area. The exact details vary from firm to firm:

We are thinking about making the process more formal, centralized around a pricing director. A lot of law firms, ours included, have administrators embedded in larger practices. But we need to recognize that if you have, say, a $200 million corporate practice by revenue, you should probably have someone acting like a CFO for a $200 million subsidiary of a $600 million enterprise. Therefore, you want someone who can help drive pricing, process efficiency, technology, and balance sheet management – the sorts of things that a CFO would do in a subsidiary in corporate America. I think that role needs to be morphed out of the general administrative function. The issue is that the skill sets are very different, and that leads to difficulty, because you’ve got long-tenured administrative staffs who have been very helpful over the years but who don’t necessarily have the skill set needed today. So then it can become a question of whether you add incremental cost to the enterprise to fill these new roles.

We haven’t added any new internal staff positions. What we’ve done in all of those areas is to have existing people engage as best they can on a catch-as-catch-can basis. The problem is time management and just getting it all done otherwise, but it is what it is.

I don’t think we’re where we want to be, because we’ve got to hire somebody. As much as I try to do it, I’m just too busy.

Clearly, this trend is growing and evolving quickly, especially in relation to pricing.

 

April 09, 2014

Research update: New staff positions in pricing value and LPM, Part 1 of 2

This two-part post previews results from my book Client Value and Law Firm Profitability, which will be published this summer.  All quotes are from managing partners, chairs, and other senior decision makers at AmLaw 200 firms.  Each participated in 30-minute in-depth interviews and spoke freely based on the understanding that they could review their quotes before publication, but they would not be quoted by name.

 

As law firms compete aggressively with their peers by offering more value to clients, many are establishing new staff positions to oversee pricing, legal project management, and other aspects of the “new normal.”  A few weeks ago, we reviewed the book Law Firm Pricing: Strategies, Roles, and Responsibilities about the rise in pricing directors.  In our research, we asked more generally about new staff positions in several related areas and found:

 

Do you have new internal staff positions in pricing, value, legal project management, and/or related areas?
Hired new people Used existing people No one devoted to these functions
49% 28% 23%

 

Hiring new staff members to meet new needs

Many firms reported it was a very successful move for them to hire people with the right business backgrounds and to empower them to use their skills to help the firm make crucial decisions on pricing and on efficiency. Consider this testimony from the managing partners of two AmLaw 100 firms:

I think what’s had the greatest positive effect is our business managers. They can much more impartially sit down and analyze profitability. They build up a database of what it costs us to do things, and they’re just invaluable. They work with enough lawyers, they’re able to focus on the numbers and their minds work differently. I think we’ve been very effective at actually developing tools to help people price things. It’s a pretty basic tool, but the lawyers say it is very sophisticated and very helpful. I see it as Finance 101, but I’m glad the lawyers like it. So I think what’s had the greatest effect is the non-lawyers who really are focusing on the business side of the equation and what it costs to do things; pushing back, and helping lawyers have a little bit of backbone. They can now show them a model and say, No, that’s too low, you’re going to lose your shirt.

I think that the role we’re asking our client value director to play, which is part consigliore, part expert, part preacher, is going to have a very positive impact, not just on the project management, but on the pricing side, including a better understanding among the partners about what agreeing to certain conditions means. I think we’ve made a lot of progress on this because we’ve had to, but we still have a long way to go.

Senior managers from three other AmLaw 200 firms added this:

On the pricing side, it’s been one of our great successes. We have three people working on pricing. Two of them are analysts who initially were hired just to be analysts, but we’ve now developed them to the point where they communicate directly with clients. They’ve become fairly sophisticated in understanding not just the pure data side, but also recognizing the differences among clients and how they view our relationship. And that triggers what price arrangements they are or are not willing to offer. As the firm’s CEO, I spend five or ten percent of my time on pricing issues, either working directly with clients or dealing with our lawyers in trying to think about how we should price something. It’s worked out well for us.

We now have a pricing director, and he and I really split the work. He’s incredibly effective with my partners and very good. It’s an interesting job that we both have, trying to facilitate partners’ entrepreneurial instincts and helping them to get business, while guiding them in the transition into this new world of pricing. But we’re also the police for bad deals. He’s fantastic. He has a staff, and we do this function of reviewing every non-standard pricing matter, checking the assumptions, checking the projected profitability. And that’s a critical part of having a strong value-based billing program, especially as clients are expecting, really demanding, alternative fee structures.

We’ve added three positions in the last two years related to pricing and value. The person who heads our group has experience doing program and project management in the software industry, but also has a finance background. So we’re starting to get into the project management side. I think it has been successful, because three years ago we had a lot of difficulty in winning fixed fee and other alternative fee cases, and now we’re getting more of them. We never really did that before.

Part 2 will appear next week and will include quotes from senior management at firms that are assigning new responsibilities in this area to existing staff rather than hiring new people.

 

April 02, 2014

Tip of the month: Become a better listener by asking probing questions

You can improve business development results by becoming a better listener.  The easiest way is to use simple probes to keep people talking such as “Tell me more about…,” “Could you elaborate on…” or “Give me an example of…”  Many lawyers may react the way I did when I first read about using questions like this:  Why should I say “tell me more” when I already got the point?  But probing questions will make you a more active listener and this will lead to more new business.

 

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a short and simple tip to help lawyers increase efficiency, provide greater value to their clients and/or develop new business. For more examples of probing questions, see page 160 of my Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide, which is now available in both paperback and Kindle editions.

 

March 26, 2014

Preview of a Loeb & Loeb budget template from our May workshop

At Ark’s Legal Project Management Showcase & Workshop in Chicago on May 22, David Schaefer, Deputy Chair at Loeb & Loeb, will describe several tools his firm utilizes to make it easier for lawyers to provide clients with more accurate and reliable budgets, including the sample template below that the firm has customized for a sell-side M&A transaction. They have created similar customizable templates for other matters, including a variety of corporate, finance and real estate transactions, and commercial, IP and class action litigation. In addition to helping establish and manage the budget, the templates create a consistent approach to gathering data for historical comparison of matters. Mr. Schaefer will also discuss innovative procedures Loeb & Loeb has developed to improve the efficiency of lawyers’ budgeting time by providing staff support and combining the power of ENGAGE with the simplicity of Excel.

Panelists from four additional firms that are national leaders in the movement to provide more value through legal project management will also describe the tools, templates, and approaches that are being used at their firms:

Sari M. Alamuddin, Partner, Morgan Lewis
Vincent Cordo, Global Director of Client Value, Reed Smith
Stuart J T Dodds, Director of Global Pricing and Legal Project Management, Baker & McKenzie
Donald R. Ware, Partner, Foley Hoag

For more details, see the Ark Group’s web page or contact Ark’s Peter Franken at pfranken@ark-group.com or call (312) 212-1301.  A 15% “early bird” discount is available if you register by April 4. 

 

Budget template for sell-side M&A transaction

 

F71   Pre-Acquisition

 

F71-01 

Pre-Acquisition

 

 

Assemble Team

 

 

Retain and negotiate engagement agreements for consultants and experts

 

 

Structure transaction and analyze tax issues

 

 

Prepare organizational chart

 

F72   Term Sheet/Letter of Intent

 

F72-01 

Term Sheet/Letter of Intent

 

 

Term Sheet/Letter of Intent

 

F73   Due Diligence

 

F73-01 

Due Diligence

 

 

Draft and negotiate confidentiality agreements

 

 

Review organizational documents

 

 

Review material agreements and correspondence

 

 

Review intellectual property documentation

 

 

Review consent requirements

 

 

Review industry specific statutes, regulations and applicable law

 

 

Review corporate statutes and applicable law

 

F75   Purchase Agreement

 

F75-01 

Purchase Agreement

 

 

Review and negotiate Purchase Agreement

 

F78   Ancillary Agreements (as applicable)

 

F78-01 

Ancillary Agreements (as applicable)

 

 

Review Employment Agreements

 

 

Review Noncompetition Agreements

 

 

Review Escrow Agreement

 

 

Review Bill of Sale and Assignment and Assumption Agreement

 

 

Review Assignments of Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents

 

 

Review Promissory Note(s)

 

 

Draft and review Opinion of Counsel to Seller

 

 

Review Opinion of Counsel to Buyer

 

 

Draft Indemnification Contribution Agreement

 

 

Other Agreements

 

F79   Disclosure Schedules

 

F79-01 

Disclosure Schedules

 

 

Disclosure Schedules

 

F80   Consents and Notices (as applicable)

 

F80-01 

Consents and Notices (as applicable)

 

 

Third party consents

 

 

Government regulatory consent

 

 

Board consent

 

 

Shareholder consent

 

 

Notice of Appraisal Rights

 

F81   Filings (as applicable)

 

F81-01 

Filings (as applicable)

 

 

SEC

 

 

State/Blue Sky Filings

 

 

Special Regulatory Filings

 

 

Antitrust filings and notifications

 

 

Press Release

 

 

Qualification to business

 

 

Articles/Certificate of Merger

 

F82   Closing

 

F82-01 

Closing of Transaction

 

 

Closing of Transaction

 

F83   Post Closing

 

F83-01 

Post Closing

 

 

Post Closing



 

March 19, 2014

Research update: Contract attorneys and outsourcing, Part 2 of 2

In Part 1 of this series we focused on successful uses of contract attorneys and outsourcing, but not all experiments in this area have ended happily.

Some failures

Some participants reported that their experiments in the area had been failures:

Although we haven’t given up on them, we’ve not been successful in using lower cost associates, contract associates, or alternative track associates that give us a lower cost. There was a time when we thought that existing associates might like it if we took the demands of being on the partnership track off them, gave them a lower salary, and charged a lower rate for their work. The reason it hasn’t succeeded probably has a lot to do with people thinking they’re in the realm of second-class citizenship. Now we have more of a focus on hiring people who have the expectation of not being on the partnership track. But I think we labored under the misimpression for a couple of years that it was something that may be attractive to our existing associates.

We had a two-year experiment with the use of contract lawyers in India to lower costs. It failed.

As a result of our client interviews, we heard a lot of clients complain about our competitors who use contract lawyers. Probably the most common complaint is that they are not well managed or well supervised and that the quality of the work is extremely poor. So while the price may be low, so is the value.

Some still on the fence          

We haven’t committed to it big-time yet. I think we’re open to contract attorneys. We know what the ethical standards are. For example, say we want to use somebody from India. We’ve studied what our ethical obligations are, and we know we’re going to meet those ethical obligations. Are we at the point yet where we’re ready to do a lot? No, not yet. But we are seriously considering coming up with a new category of attorney who is not on partnership track, who would be considered a contract attorney. We’re talking about hiring some younger kids and maybe bringing them in for three years as sort of an apprenticeship program, paying them less, billing them out at less, and letting the winners rise to the top.

We have some lower cost offices where it might make sense to do some of our commodity price work more efficiently and build a little warehouse of attorneys who can kind of churn through the high volume stuff, but we haven’t done anything like that yet.

Clearly, the idea of lowering costs through contract attorneys and outsourcing is here to stay. Although contract attorneys and outsourcing account for just a small percentage of annual law firm work, they can have important implications for a firm’s flexibility and bottom line. Like other tactics described in this chapter, this can lead to greater efficiency, client satisfaction, and profitability.

However, everything has costs and risks, and outsourcing work raises a number of new management challenges. On August 3, 2011, the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled “Objection! Lawsuit Slams Temp Lawyers.” It reported on a case in which:

J-M Manufacturing alleges that McDermott Will & Emery failed to adequately supervise contract attorneys who inadvertently produced privileged documents to the government… While this may be the first eDiscovery malpractice lawsuit specifically dealing with the lack of supervision of contract lawyers, it surely won’t be the last.

As of this writing, that case has not been resolved, but it has focused attention on the need to manage contract attorneys and outsourcers to assure high quality.  (For more on the topic, see our 2 blog posts on Managing Outsourcing and eDiscovery.)

March 12, 2014

Research update: Contract attorneys and outsourcing, Part 1 of 2

This two part post previews results from my book Client Value and Law Firm Profitability, which will be published this summer.  All quotes are from managing partners, chairs, and other senior decision makers at AmLaw 200 firms.  Each participated in 30-minute in-depth interviews and spoke freely based on the understanding that they could review their quotes before publication, but they would not be quoted by name.

One tactic that many law firms are experimenting with to lower cost is simply to pay less to get the work done. This can be accomplished by directly hiring lower-cost contract attorneys or by outsourcing this function to a growing number of legal process outsourcing firms such as Axiom, Pangea3, and Novus Law.

There is considerable evidence that this trend is growing. In their 2014 Client Advisory, Hildebrandt Consulting and Citi Private Bank reported that in the 10 years from 2002 to 2012, the percentage of “temporary/other” lawyers in large firms grew from 2.4% to 6.1% (p. 7).  The report also noted that “In the Law Firm Leaders Survey, 82% of respondents answered that they are using temporary or contract lawyers. Additionally, 70% responded that they are using permanent, lower cost, non-partner track lawyers” (p. 6)

In our sample, 97% of the firms who discussed this issue had used contract attorneys who were paid as little as $30 per hour, and 59% had experimented with outsourcing, which can be even cheaper. About one-third of the firms are planning to increase the work done this way (31% for contract attorneys and 36% for outsourcing).

Some successes

These experiments have taken a variety of forms, some more successful than others. Here are a few of the examples mentioned by our participants:

Our staff lawyer and e-discovery business has been very successful for us, and very, very profitable.

We’ve had a discovery center alternative staffing model for a number of years. It used to be just for litigation. Now we probably have over 300 clients that run through there. It’s used for everything from government investigations to contract reviews, real estate projects, and M&A due diligence. One of these days, we’ll probably open a second center somewhere else, because we’re at capacity.

We have a contract counsel manager in our firm. We have both direct hire and indirect hire contract counsel. For indirect hire contract counsel, we have relationships with various staffing firms, for large due diligence document review and e-discovery type projects. But we also have our direct hire contract counsel program, where we hire principally alums: people who have dropped out of the regular work force to raise a family or for health or other reasons, but want to do some work. They’re fine lawyers. We developed what we call our “law firm in a box.” We can drop an office into their home. It has a voice over internet phone with a black box computer attached to the back of it. All they have to do is plug the keyboard, terminal, mouse, and printer into the phone, plug the phone into a high speed internet connection outlet in their home, hit a button, and they are a firm office. They can work from home with full functionality.

We have implemented what we call staff attorneys. We are crawling before we walk. We have probably hired eight staff attorneys over the last two years. We really want it to succeed, and so we’ve been careful. Ironically, we’re probably more careful in hiring those people than we are with our full-time associates. But I think we’ve had a good success, and relatively good acceptance among the partners of the concept, such that we will continue to roll it out over time.

We were recently involved in a large project where there were probably 40 to 50 contract attorneys. They were paid $30 an hour. But it is a challenge to align these lawyers’ expectations with reality. Not everybody is going to be on a partnership track, even if they’ve done extraordinarily well in law school, and even if they do very, very well in the law firm. Our goal will be to assure people that they have a future, set expectations, define their career path, and deliver on it. All of these goals will need to make sense inside each firm’s model. Figuring out the correct model for your firm will help in delivering value to clients, but it will be one of the toughest challenges the industry is going to face going forward.

We have non-partnership track associates who have a flexible schedule. They are employees, but they bill at a lower cost. Economically, this is incredibly sensible and works well. But one of the challenges of having non-partnership positions of people who are paid at a lower salary and having them housed in the same place as people who are making high salaries, is that you have some retention issues and morale problems.

You have to manage it properly. As with all tools, it’s not right for every job. But we do use them in areas where the work is more repetitive, and in the areas where I’m sure everybody uses contract lawyers – for outsourcing, for discovery review, electronic discovery, management, all that sort of thing.

Next week, in Part 2 of this post, we will quote some senior managers who have been less enthusiastic about this approach.

 

March 05, 2014

Tip of the month: Plan regular progress reports for every important matter

Start by asking top clients how often they would like to review the status of their matters, and whether they prefer email reports, phone calls or in person meetings.  If practical, offer the matter reviews for free and repeatedly emphasize that you are doing this to assure client satisfaction at your own expense. 

 

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a short and simple tip to help lawyers increase efficiency, provide greater value to their clients and/or develop new business. For more ideas to increase satisfaction, see my books the Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide and the Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide.

February 26, 2014

Book review: Law Firm Pricing

In the current competitive environment, many law firms are struggling with three key questions:

  1. Pricing: How do I bid high enough to make an acceptable profit, but low enough to get new work? 
  2. AFAs: When are non-hourly alternative fees best?
  3. Managing: After I set a price, whether AFA or hourly, how do I manage the work to make a profit?

Based on the data we are currently analyzing in our study of Client Value and Law Firm Profitability, most firms are making a lot more progress on the first two questions than on the third.

The new book Law Firm Pricing: Strategies, Roles, and Responsibilities provides a guide to this progress.  It was written by two of the leading pioneers in this new field – Toby Brown of Akin Gump and Vincent Cordo of Reed Smith – and provides an excellent overview of the current state of this rapidly evolving area.  (Full disclosure:  Vince has been a LegalBizDev client for the last few years.)

This book should be required reading not just for pricing directors and their staffs but also for managing partners, executive committee members, and pretty much anyone who wants to understand how large law firms are changing the way they price both hourly and AFA work.

In 2012, we wrote an article for Bloomberg Law Reports entitled “The Rise of the Pricing Director.” At that time, despite extensive networking we were able to find only a handful of people who held the title of pricing director in a law firm, or performed that function. Law firms generally move a little more slowly than glaciers, but the growth in pricing directors in the two years since has been meteoric.  There is now even a blog site that tracks the names of senior managers at large firms with the word “pricing” in their title.  The total stands over 70 as this is written, and may be higher by the time you read this. 

With 20/20 hindsight, it is easy to see the reason for the rapid growth of the “pricing director” title and function. The well-documented changes in the legal profession over the last few years have placed intense pressure on profits. It is therefore not surprising that a new host of high-level executives has emerged to help law firms set their prices in a way that will help them to maintain and grow profitability.

This book is quite well written, with a notable absence of legal and business jargon. Brown and Cordo discuss, clearly and thoughtfully, the responsibilities of the pricing director; the director’s multiple roles, both internal and client-facing; the crucial importance of pricing strategy to long-term profitability; the need for data-based solutions in all contexts; and the frequent resistance of law firm partners to many of these developments.

The authors are especially incisive in their analysis of the behavioral incentives and factors that affect law firms, which are after all made up of human beings:

Lawyers live in a reputation world, and [financial] monitoring exposes that reputation to risk. Once lawyers realize that others in their firm can see their financial performance on matters, their behavior often changes. In one example, a lawyer was losing money on the first phase of a fixed fee arrangement. Once a monitoring program was put in place, performance on the second phase dramatically changed – leading to a reasonably profitable result. (p. 39)

They are also extremely thoughtful about the role of technology in today’s law firm and about its limitations:

The core systems of a law firm – the client database, document database, financial database, and people database – all stand alone. Getting data from one to another is very difficult. Therefore, understanding which clients are buying specific types of services, the staff resources committed to resolving the legal challenges, as well as the profitability of the effort, is a significant challenge. (p. 50)

This wouldn’t be much of a review if we didn’t find something to criticize, and there are a number of places where we wished the discussion went deeper.  For example, Chapter 3 – Pricing and Profitability – begins with a two page introduction to how profits are defined differently by different firms, a topic that we think requires far more detail, including the implications of different definitions of realization (which many lawyers confuse with profit) versus cost accounting and other models.  Lawyers will never agree on how to become more profitable if they don’t first agree what the word means.

Another problem can be seen in the book’s discussion of “four drivers of profitability”:  rates, realization, productivity and leverage.  Leverage is defined “as the percentage of partner time worked per matter or per client” (p. 18).  The authors go on to argue that:  “The basic economic concept of leverage is that the more workers work, the more owners (partners) benefit. Workers generate the profits that pay partners. Therefore, the more work is pushed down to them, the better leverage you have and the more profit is generated (p. 19).”

That is certainly how firms thought about profit under the “old normal” pyramid model, but the world has changed.  For example, in a fixed price environment, efficiency is king, and leverage can lead to higher costs and more unbilled time.  Suppose a $1,000 per hour senior partner can solve a problem in one hour, but a $300 per hour associate will require ten hours to come to the same answer.  If the firm is paid the same fee regardless of who does the work, it is obvious that solving the problem at the unleveraged partner “cost” of $1,000 is more profitable than at the leveraged associate cost of $3,000.  (Of course, billable rates are really not a cost, but let’s keep it simple.) 

In a post I wrote in 2009 entitled the “Law Firm of the Future,” I quoted Fred Bartlit, founder of Bartlit & Beck, as noting that to maximize leverage “some big firms traditionally hire over 100 new associates per year, and that most leave within a few years.  This means a significant portion of the firm’s workforce is inexperienced.  ‘Who cares? Their inefficiency is billable,’ he said.  ‘In the future, the ideal firm will be underleveraged with about 50 partners and three associates in training.’”  Thus, in Bartlit’s view of the future, leverage is not a driver of profit, it is a driver of loss.

But enough quibbling.  Discussions like this can get very complicated very fast, and it may be years before law firms reach a consensus.  So this criticism of the profitability chapter says more about the state of the art of pricing than it does about the book.  I am hoping that in a few years Toby and Vince will write a second edition with the expanded explanations we are waiting for.   

In the meantime, the practical experience of these two industry leaders places them in the forefront of critical changes in the legal industry, and they have written an extraordinarily valuable book.

As they summed it up: “From the authors’ experiences, the pricing director role has been very challenging, but quite rewarding. It exists at the vanguard of change for an industry in desperate need of it. . . . The last word on legal pricing is that it is a roller coaster ride and nobody is sure yet exactly how it will end.” (p. 2)

 

This post was written by Jim Hassett and Jonathan Groner.

February 19, 2014

The most successful business development program we’ve seen: The case of Adams and Reese (Part 4 of 4)

To fully understand the success of the Adams and Reese coaching program, there is one more factor that cannot be ignored: the firm’s ability to deliver the kinds of legal services that clients are looking for these days.

An extremely important ingredient in sales success is having a product that people want to buy. You’ve probably heard the cliché that a great sales person could “sell ice to Eskimos.” But when the Gallup Organization reviewed 40 years of research on sales (in the book Discover Your Sales Strengths), they found evidence that “a good salesperson can sell anything” is a myth. No matter how talented the sales person may be, or how well they are coached, they will not get rich selling Betamax recorders or 3.5-inch computer disks.

These days, what most legal clients want to buy is value, They want the same high quality legal services they have been getting for years, but they also now expect firms to be creative, transparent, efficient, and cost-effective. As a regional firm with more than 300 lawyers but significantly lower overhead than name brand firms based in cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, Adams and Reese is in a very good position to offer the kind of value that many clients are looking for.

A few months ago, the Wall Street Journal blog posted an article with the headline “Smaller Law Firms Grab Big Slice of Corporate Legal Work… Midsize Firms Nearly Double Share of Big-Ticket Litigation.

The data behind the headline is described in a Harvard Business Review HBR Blog Network post which was co-authored by Firoz Dattu, the founder of AdvanceLaw, “an organization helping its general counsel clients identify top lawyers at firms vetted for quality, innovation, efficiency, and client service.”

AdvanceLaw clients include companies like Google, Deutsche Bank, NIKE, Nestle, Starwood Hotels, 3M, Mastercard, eBay and McDonald’s, all of whom are looking to lower costs and increase efficiency.

At this time, only 10 law firms in the United States have been vetted to belong to this value providing network. Adams and Reese is at the top of the list on the AdvanceLaw web page. (All right, it’s in alphabetical order, but still…)

So you could say that another reason for the success of this particular coaching program was that as a growing regional firm, Adams and Reese was well positioned to provide the high value services that clients are demanding these days. (Not all firms are so lucky, which is one reason legal project management has become so popular as a way to increase efficiency.)

At the end of the day, developing new business ultimately comes down to understanding what clients want, and giving them just a little more. Derek Anchondo, an Adams and Reese special counsel who does transactional work for oil and gas clients in the Houston office, agreed. As a former in-house counsel himself, he often sees things from the client perspective. Business development coaching helped him sharpen this perspective and frame it in a way that gained the trust of prospective clients.

“When you go into a client meeting, you need to be totally prepared to hear the client’s point of view,” Anchondo said. “Just listen. Don’t go in with a forceful sales pitch right away, just let them talk. You can learn so much by listening.”

Anchondo learned that sales progress is possible only after learning the prospective client’s needs. Then – and only then – can he decide which members of his firm might best meet those needs

“We wanted to build work from one particular client, and we realized that our challenge stemmed from their existing relationship with a different law firm,” Anchondo said. “My coach and I brainstormed ideas. We had four or five meetings, and I familiarized them with our fees and services available in the Houston office. Now they are thinking of expanding their work with us to include tax and OSHA work. It took that many meetings to swing the pendulum, but the approach worked.”

No matter how you do it, business development simply takes time. Many law firms have strategic plans that call for growth, but Adams and Reese is one of the few we have seen that is investing the time and money needed to achieve their goal. The investment has already paid for itself and is continuing to produce ever higher returns.

Adams and Reese plans to continue business development coaching with appropriate lawyers in the firm.

This series was written by Jim Hassett and Jonathan Groner.

February 18, 2014

Announcing a new Kindle version of our Legal Business Development Guide

Amazon is now selling a new Kindle version of my Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide.  This book lies at the heart of the highly successful Adams and Reese program I’ve described in the last few posts, and is used in all of our business development coaching and training programs.  See our web page for sample chapters, reviews, and ordering information for the printed book, including volume discounts up to 50% on orders of multiple copies.