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 BigLaw and MidLaw CMOs and BDOs face a classic resource allocation problem: The number of lawyers in your firms who now want (or soon will want) biz dev training or coaching far exceeds the number you can actually help. Worse, in the face of that growing demand imbalance, 80% of your training is wasted on lawyers who will never even attempt to apply it in the marketplace, giving you zero chance for a return.

Some years ago, at the Raindance conference in Boston, Bob Reffner (then Marketing Partner of his law firm, now VP Legal at FirstEnergy) offered some unvarnished straight talk to the law firm marketers in attendance:

“You labor under un-winnable circumstances.  You operate an internal service bureau subject to infinite service demand, but have very finite resources with which to satisfy it.  Virtually any partner in the firm can walk in your door and request help.  Your firm will never increase your resources enough to keep pace.  Unless you come up with a way to contain or limit demand, you’ll continue to scramble to keep the plates spinning.”

Let’s say that, over time, your department was sized and funded to support the number of partners who consistently used it. Now, with everybody suddenly anxious about where their next client will come from, internal demand for training and support has doubled or tripled, but Marketing/BD department resources haven’t. As the song says, something’s gotta give.

Since hiring more trainers and coaches probably won’t happen soon enough to matter, your only real option is to curtail demand. You’re not in position to tell the lawyers, “Sorry, you’re not important enough to make the cut.” Even if your firm’s Executive Committee backed the idea, you’d still need a way to do this without charges of favoritism or cronyism.

At some point, most of the partnership will have awakened from complacency, as have associates (who in 2009-2010 saw graphic proof that they couldn’t afford to wait to start generating business). You have certain partners with the juice to command support, many others who expect it, and a growing army of lawyers will request it. So, how does a firm and department keep all the “command,” “expect” and “request” plates spinning?

You can’t.

You have to have a way to stratify the lawyer population into some kind of hierarchy that aligns training/support demand with the firm’s available supply. Most firms try to assess “potential” as a way to decide to whom they’ll allocate finite training.  Good luck with that.

For 20 years, I tested virtually every profiling product to come on the market that promised predictive capability about who will use sales training and produce results. I’m chagrined to report that I failed completely. That’s right, I went 0-for-20 years. Nothing worked. I could never identify any predictive correlation between externally recognizable characteristics and subsequent field performance. It remains a crap shoot, saved only by the fortunate economic impact of the Pareto Principle, i.e., the random 20% of those trained who actually produced, yielded returns that were multiples of the training investment.  Unfortunately, that’s an 80% waste rate.

Mike

There's a way to extend your finite training budget meaningfully: Don't waste it on a program that requires the lawyers to commit to the huge time commitment and gratification-deferral for the equivalent of a BD degree. Instead, give them only the training they need to succeed at the business development activity they're going to undertake imminently.

RainmakerVT's just-in-time training eliminates waste and risk, and reduces unit cost. Here are some examples:

Take a look at the RainmakerVT course list. You'll recognize how you can give lawyers what they really want: help with what they're about to do instead of abstract training that they can't see any concrete application for right now.

As a friend put it, "I don't want to become fluent in French; I just want to impress my date Friday night by ordering smoothly from the menu at the French restaurant."

Only what you need; only when you need it.