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Client Development Training: For Mid-Sized Firms More Important Now Than Ever

Posted in Client Development, Client Development Coaching

I recently read: The Collapse of Big Law: A Cautionary Tale for Big Med. The recession and what has followed since it was “over,” has changed US law firms forever. Here is one quote from the article:

Part of the explanation is simply economic. Since the severe recession of 2008, the number of clients willing to pay top dollar for high-priced legal service has declined precipitously. Many of the nation’s largest law firms—those employing over 1,000 attorneys, often referred to as “Big Law”—have been forced to reduce their staffs.

Work that routinely went to “Big Law” firms is now going to small and mid-sized firms with lower rates and alternative fee arrangements. Those firms need lawyers trained and coached on attracting, retaining and expanding relationships with business clients.

Is your firm ready for its new opportunity?

When did the recession end?

When did the recession end?  I found this Economist article: When did it end? I especially found interesting this quote in the first paragraph:

Industrial production has continued to grow in early 2010 as, in all likelihood, has output. By the end of the current quarter the American economy may have returned to its pre-recession peak in real GDP.

That article preceded: The Summer of Recovery in 2010. I think that was the summer when all those “shovel ready” construction projects were being constructed.

What is happening to law firms now?

The law firm recession clearly has not ended. You can read about it every day. In early March, the Boston Globe published: Corporate clients shift priorities for law firms. The article makes clear that law firms are “competing” for work they used to take for granted and that smaller firms are now attracting more of that work.

During the same week in early March, The Herald Sun, a Durham, NC newspaper published: Morningstar Law Group uses new business model about a group of lawyers who broke away from large law firms to start their own with lower overhead, lower hourly rates and a more flexible work environment.

Why is client development training more important now than it was in the booming economy? In the last few years, I have seen two distinct types of law firms. The first type is getting stronger, by hiring, training and motivating lawyers better than their competitors. It is an overused term, but those firms getting stronger are more “client focused.”

The second type looks desperate. They are hard selling like never before. Clients do not want to hire lawyers or law firms that are “needy” or “greedy’ and the hard sell conveys one or the other, or both. As noted in many articles over the last year, referenced in my posts. those firms are cutting training, laying off lawyers, not to be more valuable to clients, but rather to maintain their own profitability.

Why more training now? In addition to the obvious multiple return on investment, giving your lawyers client development training builds morale and helps keep their head in the game at a time when many lawyers are in a funk.

Client Development Training

What kind of training can you do? A few years ago, I began to take yoga classes. I was fascinated because it was the one thing I did each week that completely cleared my mind. I was totally focused on what the yoga instructor was having the class do. Over time I learned the poses and I figured I could do them on my own at home. Wrong! I could not focus the way I could in a class. I needed the yoga instructor standing over me and making sure I was doing what she was teaching.

What does my yoga class have to do with client development training, you ask? Your firm’s client development training will be more effective if done in groups and it will be more focused if you make it interactive by creating tasks. Some I have done include:

  1. Preparing a business plan with goals (Recently a group I coach paired with a colleague and went over each other’s business plan and offered suggestions)
  2. Creative article and blog writing with feedback from the group.
  3. Presentations with feedback from the group.
  4. Mock networking events (One firm where I coached had a private party in the local business club. The partners in the firm, and some of their spouses, role played clients and spouses. They really got into their roles and the event was both great fun and a great learning experience)
  5. Creating a list of sources of new client opportunities.
  6. Creating a list of client development activities that can be done each and every day.
  7. Mock presentations with video and feedback from the group
  8. Mock client pitches with feedback from the group.
  9. Mock one-on-one meeting with a new potential client.
  10. Creating a client service plan.

Client Development Webcasts

If you are a lawyer in a small or mid-midsized firm and your firm does not have a client development training program, I may be able to help you. As you may know, this year I am conducting monthly client development Webcasts. In March our topic will be Client Development 2014: The Old Tools, The New Tools and How to Use Both. Contact Joyce jflo@cordellparvin.com to sign up for this month’s Webcast or for the 12 month series.