Thursday, November 6, 2014

Business Development Questions All Laterals Should Ask

Many of the questions laterals should ask of a prospective new firm are obvious and include concerns regarding compensation, client and practice fit and the firm's culture. But an important and often neglected area of discussion is how well the firm is organized for, and committed to, business development.

All firms say they are committed to business development. But on deeper inspection, many firms do not invest in and support it at the level necessary to compete successfully in today's intensely competitive legal marketplace. Understanding the degree to which a firm supports business development should be a key consideration in the lateral's decision to move to a new firm.

There are no hard and fast rules for the types and amounts of investment that should be made in law firm business development. But a discussion regarding the scope of activities, the resources available and how deeply business development is embedded in the culture of the firm will go a long way to revealing the likelihood the firm will remain competitive over the long run. Here are two main areas of inquiry to address, along with the questions you should ask your prospective employer.

1. Determine if the firm is well equipped for business development.

Budgets: You want to determine how the firm allocates dollars for individual and group business development initiatives. What is the approval process? How are decisions made for the amount of money available for budgets and individual initiatives? How are client-development investments evaluated?

Technology: Here the goal is to discover what kinds of research tools are available. Does the firm have a client relationship management, or CRM, system? Does the firm have client financial analysis software?

Planning: Find out how much planning is done in the firm. Does the firm have a strategic growth plan? A marketing plan? Practice group plans? Industry plans? Top client plans? Individual attorney plans? Is there a written integration plan for laterals? How often are these plans updated and how are the plans managed?

Support Staff: You need to know what kind of backup you'll have before you move. Does the firm have professional business development staff, as opposed to just marketing staff? Are they assigned to practice areas, industry groups or client teams? How involved are they in each attorney's practice plan?

Training: You want to know what types of business development training are offered and how often. Does the firm provide access to business development coaches? Does the firm maintain a library of business development literature and guides?

Public Relations: An important consideration is if the firm provides PR and media relations support. How is that service accessed? Is the support in-house or provided by outside experts? Does the firm primarily focus on local, regional or national media, or all three? Does the firm target its clients' industry trade publications as well as legal journals?

2. Find out if the firm is demonstrably committed to business development.

Communications: You want to know how well the firm communicates internally about business development opportunities, successes and failures as well as upcoming pursuits. Do meetings in the firm regularly feature updates on business development and marketing, new clients, new matters and practice group updates? And importantly, are the business development professionals in the firm participating in the major strategic decisions of the law firm?

Client Interviews: First, you want to determine if the firm conducts client interviews. Who conducts them? Are comments shared only with the relationship attorney or are those comments shared broadly in the firm? Does the firm conduct post-mortems on RFPs? How are those results shared?

Client Teams: You should ask if the firm has client service teams in place. How are the teams organized and how effective are they? Who selects which clients will have a team? Who determines the team members? Are there incentives or rewards for managing client service teams separate from origination or other compensation metrics?

Social Media: Evaluate the strength of the firm's social media presence. Does the firm have active blogs? How are those blogs promoted, maintained and supported? Does the firm encourage use of social media like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook? How many of the attorneys have LinkedIn profiles and how many are actively using LinkedIn and participating in groups?

Content Marketing: You should know if the firm encourages the development of thought leadership, not just client alerts or newsletters. Does the firm provide support for content creation including ghost writers or hours dedicated to associate research time? Does the firm use a content distribution service such as JD Supra? Does the firm distribute its materials through a variety of channels, in addition to its website, like through blogs or micro sites, through LinkedIn, by email and through content distributors?

There are several other areas to evaluate to better understand the firm's commitment to business development. Look at charity and community involvement, advertising and sponsorships, events and client entertainment.
Generally, the size of the firm will dictate the resources available. But size has little to do with the depth of the firm's commitment to business development. A deep, embedded commitment to supporting every attorney's practice is what laterals should be looking for in their new law firm platform.

This article originally ran in The Recorder on November 4, 2014  

Eric Dewey is managing principal of Group Dewey Consulting, focusing his practice on business development coaching and lateral acquisition support services. He writes the Lawyer Up! blog. He is based in Northern California and can be reached at or 502-693-4731.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Linked In Basics in Ten Easy Steps, Part 4

This is the fourth in a four part weekly series on using Linked In for business development.
8. Seek Out Business Development Opportunities:
LinkedIn tracks who has viewed your profile.  You can find this on your Profile page on the lower right hand side.  Review this regularly to look for possible referral sources, connection opportunities, or reasons to contact someone.  If you've recently met with or pitched someone, you'll often find them or a company representative show up as having viewed your profile.  Sometimes who viewed your profile is a precursor to the posting of an RFP. If you have no connections to the person viewing your profile, you may not be able to see all of their information without paying for LinkedIn's premium service.  There are several packages at various monthly price points that you might choose.  Once you've clicked through to find out who's viewed your profile, you can find upgraded costs by clicking the yellow "Upgrade" button. You can quit the service at any time so don’t worry about having to sign up for a whole year. Sign up on a month to month basis and see if it provides value and see whether or not you use the premium service on a regular basis.
9. Check your privacy settings.
Determine how you want to be found and viewed. Turn off activity broadcasts when you are in edit mode so you don’t bombard connections with every change you make to your profile. But don’t forget to turn it back on. Set who you want to see your activity feeds to everyone, your expanded network or just your first degree connections. Review what you want people to see when they view your profile. Make sure you include an e-mail address that your connections can access. Restrict who can see your connections to only your connections. Consider turning off the feature ‘viewers of your profile also viewed these other profiles’. The benefit of this feature is being able to see who you are being compared to. The downside is that it gives those viewing your profile other suggested profiles to view thereby increasing competition.
10. Distribute content through Linked In
I promote a writing style which makes content easier to re-purpose and distribute called ‘140, 1, 4.’ The content should be written in the form of a pyramid in which the essential information or some compelling proposition is stated in the first 140 characters. Then, write a complete overview about the topic in the first page being careful to address all the major points of your proposition within that one page. Then use the following four pages to elaborate on your point. This will give you a strong, ‘tweetable’ proposition to distribute through linked In, Twitter and other channels, a one page summary for the time constrained reader and a more in-depth analysis for those willing to read five pages of material. Be sure to embed white papers, client alerts, blog posts and publications in your profile.
Linked In will likely become the CRM system of choice for the global business community. Putting your best foot forward by having a thorough and well written profile is critical. And the sooner you get the basics done, the sooner you can begin to master its powerful features and utilize it for business development.
If you'd like help using Linked In for business development, contact Eric at You'll find that I am an eager resource and that it costs nothing to talk.