Last month I attended a panel workshop called “Building Reporting: Marketing and Business Development Metrics” at the 2012 Marketing Partner Forum in Miami. Presenters were Steve Bell, Chief Client Development Officer, Womble Carlyle, Adam Severson, (then) Director of Business Development & Marketing at Faegre (and now Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer at Baker Donelson), Jim Stapleton, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at Littler (and panel moderator) and Silvia Hodges, Principal, Silvia Hodges LLC and Adjunct Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law.
I wanted to learn more about what Jim Stapleton had done at a previous law firm, so I interviewed him this week. Not every firm will embrace what Jim’s firm did, but I think it’s revealing in a way that could incite altered behaviors – and ultimately, altered outcomes. That’s why I’m sharing it here.
First, Stapleton’s firm took a nine-month look at thousands of data entries logged by partners in the time and billing system that were flagged as “business development.” He created a matrix where the X-axis was Business Development Hours and the Y-axis was Dollars–Originations that accrued as a result during the nine-month period of time. Then he plotted the partners in a scatter-dot matrix where each dot represented a partner’s activities.
Interestingly, Jim says, “If you looked at the graph – fifty hours v. 250 hours – you could credibly say that the amount of time a lawyer spends doesn’t correlate to revenue growth. For many lawyers, there wasn’t much difference in the size of their originations – regardless if they spent fifty hours or 250. Unfortunately, if they were inclined, lawyers could use that as an excuse not to invest more time.”
To discourage lawyers from using this as justification for not engaging in business development, the firm further dissected and divided the thousands of hours into five major categories of “time” and then attached a “value” to them. The value was based on the likelihood of resulting in new revenue.
- Time spent with current clients not doing legal work, but trying to understand their issues and help the client in new ways (not on the matters or areas for which they were originally hired).
- Chasing prospects – specific targeting of specific prospects, including RFPs and proposals.
- Trying to develop a referral base – lawyers, accountants, investment bankers, etc. Note that this included time spent by lawyers who developed a referral base inside the firm, as well.
- Passive marketing activities – writing articles, giving speeches, public relations, general networking, updating your website, etc.
- Marketing administration – internal firm management relating to marketing and BD, such as attending meetings.
I have ordered these five categories in their value order.
Stapleton’s firm then broke it down further into (a) direct targeting time v. (b) non-targeted time. They determined that the ideal amount of time spent by a lawyer directly pursuing individual clients, prospects and referral sources was 70-80%, with the balance devoted to building lawyers’ personal brands.
Stapleton’s analysis led the firm to two important conclusions.
- It stands to reason that if lawyers go out and do something, they will get higher revenue than if they do nothing. It sounds overly simple, but if all partners engaged in business development in one or more of the five areas, firm revenue will grow.
- Certain kinds of activities produce greater results. We all assume this, but that has never been enough of a prod for lawyers to actually focus only on the highest value activities. With proof in hand, Stapleton could coach individual lawyers in more meaningful ways. He said, “I met with them and took every feasible step to improve attorneys’ business development success. We had conversations around relationship management, client service, timeliness, communication skills, work quality, managing leads, developing a personal brand, and more. All the things that are included in the highest value categories.”
So, what was the success of analyzing the business development activities in these ways? Over four years, this AmLaw 200 firm experienced significant growth in its Revenue per Lawyer and its Profits Per Partner. And remember that this included the recession years of 2009-2010.
Given lawyers’ predilection for proof and precedent, this analysis should provide a jumping-off point for future conversations/coaching about business development and the results you hope to achieve.