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With some regularity, the legal media reports on how law firms and lawyers are responding to the competitive aspects of the "new normal." Lawyers have awakened to the harsh reality that, if they don't have clients, they're in danger -- not merely of missing out on the brass partnership ring, but of keeping their jobs, period. 

Such stories always feature two forms of lawyer anxiety:

Setting aside the obvious and readily available solution that I wrote about a year ago ("Want business development training? Buy it for yourself."), what are firms' attitudes today about these two points? I decided to find out.

For the second, I've been on the phone with law firm leaders. As part of those discussions I've asked what firms are doing to prepare their next generation of rainmakers. To my surprise, some firms have stated flatly that they "don't use outside consultants or trainers."

Um, do they realize that lawyers are consultants whose expertise happens to be in law? These leaders are fortunate that US businesses don't share that view, or private-practice lawyers would be extinct.  

Moving past the irony of the position, let's look at its practical shortcomings.

Consultants exist to supply the huge array of knowledge and skills that are beyond the capabilities of even the largest organizations. The Global 500, each with tens of thousands of employees, makes heavy use of consultants because they know they cannot house every capability that they'll need. It's neither possible nor desirable because

  • many skills are needed only episodically, and for a short time;
  • esoteric skills must be constantly refreshed. Unless you do it every day, there's no way you could stay current; and
  • consultants bring a broader perspective, informed by their experiences with many organizations.

Lawyers make this same argument every day to companies with legal departments containing hundreds of lawyers. Yet, when it comes to business development -- OK, enough with the euphemisms -- when it comes to marketing and sales, they abandon this reasoning.

OK, why?

"Our partners and internal staff do all the BD training."

Granted, all companies must decide the "make or buy?" question for any solution, and it's natural to prefer to make it, i.e., create the internal capability. However, when the "make" option means expecting to fulfill a critical training mission solely using partners and BD staff, it faces two insurmountable obstacles:

  • Qualification and commitment. Making rain does not qualify you to train others. Just because someone has brought in business doesn't mean a) they know how to do it, b) they can train someone else how to do it, or c) they have the time to train people consistently or sustainably. That rules out most partners. It's simply a bad idea to have partners conduct BD training.

  • Bandwidth. No matter how skilled they are, your BD staff will never have enough time to meet the growing training and coaching demand from lawyers anxious about their futures.

The result is exactly what the legal media reports: Lawyers aren't getting the help they know they need.  

Mike O'Horo

RainmakerVT is the most innovative, effective, convenient and affordable business development training you can get. And you don’t have to commit to a long, drawn-out training program. RainmakerVT is just-in-time training. That means that In 15-30-minute chunks, available from any computer or tablet 24/7, each course teaches you a concrete, practical skill you can apply right now, to the immediate challenge in front of you. Buy only what you need, only when you need it.

Take a look at our course list, and then read what lawyers like you said about RainmakerVT in user-feedback interviews.

By the way:

In a report released by LexisNexis and Am Law Daily affiliate ALM Legal Intelligence, 'Thinking Like Your Client: Strategic Planning in Law Firms,' nine out of 10 leaders of AmLaw 200–size firms said their firms have partners at risk of being de-equitized or 'put on performance plans.' As one firm leader responding to that survey said ominously: 'Our attorneys need to be become client development experts rather than expense-cutting experts.'"