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January 22, 2014

The most successful business development program we’ve seen: The case of Adams and Reese (Part 1 of 4)

Over the last eight years, we have helped lawyers increase new business throughout the US and around the world. But we are now in the middle of a business development coaching program for Adams and Reese in which the results are off the charts. This four-part case study explains why they were so successful.

The firm has over 300 lawyers in 17 offices throughout the southeast. In 2012, they implemented a new five-year strategic plan that was built around growth. According to Managing Partner Chuck Adams, “We saw a unique opportunity for regional firms like ours, and realized that to take advantage of it we would need to re-focus every lawyer on increasing client satisfaction and re-energize our business development initiatives.”

They conducted a national search for a consulting firm to help, and ultimately hired LegalBizDev to develop and deliver a customized coaching and training program.

Current plans call for at least 50 lawyers to complete coaching over the first two years of the program. This case study focuses on the 26 lawyers who have completed our nine-call coaching program so far.

The average Adams and Reese lawyer finished the program in about five months, although most legal business development takes much longer than that. We usually measure success by reporting “advances” – specific actions that move a new matter forward such as holding a meeting or getting an introduction to a decision maker. This group recorded a total of 1,669 advances, or more than 64 advances per lawyer, far above our averages with other clients.

More importantly, whenever we coach a group of lawyers, inevitably some new business comes in while we are working with them. When it does, we always ask, “Do you think this new business was related to the coaching?” If the lawyer says no, we move on. But if they say yes, we record the details in our monthly reports and make sure that everyone knows that the process is working. The most amazing thing about this group was that they reported a total of 68 new matters before the coaching even ended, or about 2.6 new matters per lawyer. The net value of this new business far exceeded the cost of the training program.

And as business continues to grow for these lawyers after the coaching, the return on investment continues to rise.

To cite just one example of how it worked, consider the case of Deb Oliver, a litigation partner based in Tampa who said her coach emphasized that the most important goal of the training was “accountability to yourself.”

“Client development is largely a game of numbers and of being in the right place at the right time. This just requires persistence,” said Oliver.

“You need to set interim benchmark goals that you can live up to,” she continued. “These can be current clients that you wish to grow, or new clients. My list of existing and potential clients was long, so I learned that the key was to use my contacts list religiously. I needed to schedule a series of calendar appointments to set times to remind these people that I exist.”

Oliver’s task was somewhat complicated by the fact that most of her clients and contacts are not in Tampa. “Sometimes for me, staying in touch involves looking six months out and scheduling trips out of town, just to get in front of people,” Oliver said. “I really had to carve out time and organize that time well. I learned how to develop tools to do this as efficiently as possible.”

Another important lesson Oliver took away was that business development “is very much about listening and understanding a client’s real objectives. Litigation clients can have many goals; you need to understand the particular goals of each individual to fulfill your duties.”

As a result of more actively initiating dialogs about client needs and satisfaction, Deb brought in several new matters which she attributed to the coaching.

In the remaining parts of this series, we’ll provide more details about how the coaching works and all the things that Adams and Reese did right to make this the most successful program we’ve seen to date.

This series was written by Jim Hassett and Jonathan Groner.

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