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Industry trends reveal one conspicuous absence: sales. How can a business function that's beyond mission-critical for every lawyer's clients not be important enough even to be included in the law business conversation?

The February issue of "Wisconsin Lawyer" featured consultant Bob Denney's "What's Hot, What's Not: National and Global Practice Trends 2013," in which he projects relative increase or decrease in demand for various practice specialties.

He includes a sidebar, "Financial and Firm Management Trends 2013." Topics featured include:

  • Billable Rates
  • Backlash on Charges
  • Partner Compensation
  • Non-equity Partnership
  • Lateral Partners
  • Integrating Laterals
  • Shrinking Partner Offices
  • Mandatory Retirement
  • Associate Hiring
  • Associate Starting Salaries
  • Staff and Contract Attorneys
  • Gender Gap
  • Pricing Directors
  • Non-lawyer Managers
  • Capital
  • Back-office Cost Cutting
  • Law Firm Bankruptcies
  • Shrinking Market

Pretty comprehensive, right? What's conspicuously missing? "Sales." Duh.

In article after article about legal industry trends and strategic concerns, including the seismic shift from a longtime seller's market to a permanent buyer's market, the range of solutions embraced seems limited to:

  • Cost-cutting
  • Lateral hiring
  • Discounting

Really? Is that how law firms' clients respond to competitive pressures? What about revenue-generation?

I realize that, throughout the 25-year bull market for legal service, marketing and sales were understandably an afterthought. If, without any meaningful sales activity, enough business shows up each year to fuel incredible growth and wealth-building, good for you.

That game's been over for five years now. A part-time, volunteer, untrained group of "saleslawyers" conducting random, episodic sales activity isn't going to cut it in a competitive industry. It's time to get serious about developing a sales force to assure a reliable revenue stream.

There are only two ways for law firms to create this sales force:

  • Train their lawyers to do the selling, and hold them accountable for production
  • Hire sales professionals to team up with lawyers, as the technology industry teams sales pros and tech wizards

What do you think? How should firms create a reliable sales force? Please comment below.

Whichever scheme they favor, it's time for firms to get serious about sales.

Mike O'Horo

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