A key component of my position as Director of Marketing and Business Development at a law firm, is to educate. As many new attorneys in private practice quickly realize, marketing and business development are generally not taught in law school and they must learn these skills in order to become successful attorneys in private practice. Therefore the marketing and business development department’s role as educator is key to a law firm’s success. Before getting overwhelmed by that last statement, here are a few pointers to help make your education program a success:
- You don’t have to do it all yourself. Depending on the size of our firm, you have a tremendous resource of educators at your fingertips – your attorneys. They can present on the business of law; inform about their practice, their clients and areas they are trying to develop; describe how they ask for business; and talk about how to find and use a board position to develop business, to name a few. (Always remember to thank the attorneys for their efforts.)
- Combine your efforts with other administrative departments. Team up with your IT Director to talk about the latest legal technology and how it can be used to make your practice group more efficient; or pair with someone from your accounting department to discuss what to do when you bring in a new matter from conflicts to getting paid.
- Make the program as accessible to your attorneys as possible. Technology has made the need to attend every meeting in person a thing of the distant past. When sending your meeting invite include a conference call number or, if available, set the program up as a Skype meeting. Record the event and make it available on your firm’s intranet. Take good notes and circulate to all of your attorneys. Hold the programs at different times and days to allow those with ongoing conflicts to attend.
- Ask your attorneys what they want to learn. Sometimes you can’t read minds, so the best thing to do is ask. Create a survey with a list of topics and ask your attorneys to rate them based on level of interest. Do the same with a list of presenters. Be sure to include an opportunity for them to provide their own suggested topics and speakers and also their preferred day and time.
- Bring in outside speakers – for free. Many vendors that you currently do business with will be willing to present as a way of showing their appreciation for your business. As a cautionary note be sure to do a good job of vetting. You should hear the presentation from the one who will be doing the presentation before the attorneys and the time frame and “no sales pitch” rule should be made clear ahead of time.
- Present on a topic you know a lot about. All of us have our niche areas within our field that we know best. It is likely because it is a topic of interest that engages us and makes us want to learn more about it. We read books; follow blogs; click on articles; attend seminars; listen to webinars and engage in discussions with our marketing colleagues on the topic. You know the topic. The best way to develop a good presentation on the topic is to write an article about. Then take the article, prepare a presentation outline, practice and present.
- Try different formats. A monthly meeting dedicated to educating your attorneys is important, but also remember law firms are ripe with opportunities for educational moments. Think outside of the box. Ask an attorney to take a group of associates to breakfast, lunch or out for a drink and discuss their practice with them. Hold an impromptu happy hour and ask the attorneys attending to give a five minute overview of an area they are trying to develop. At practice group meetings, invite an attorney from another group to attend and give a 15 minute talk on his or her group. Get on the associates’ meeting agenda. Get on the partners’ meeting agenda. Write a weekly BD Tip and circulate to the firm.
When you get frustrated by poor attendance at your next educational event, don’t throw in the towel. That is the time to take a step back and assess what you can do to get your educational message out to your attorneys. Their time is valuable and limited. It is your job to make sure you make the most of the moments when you have their attention.
Nicole E. Ames, Esquire is Director of Marketing and Business Development at PK Law, the tenth largest law firm in the Baltimore, Maryland area. The firm’s core practice areas are corporate and business services, estate planning and elder law, labor and employment and litigation. Her role as Director of Business Development is to partner with the attorneys in the firm to assist them in a variety of efforts aimed to grow their practice. Ms. Ames can be contacted at email@example.com.