There's a good article on page 26 of the July ABA Journal about how associates can contribute to client development. "They are the secret weapon--they unlock the market for you," said Rick Davis, the chief marketing officer for 150-lawyer Hughes & Luce.
- First, associates tend to have a flexible, energetic attitude about learning legal marketing skills, Davis said.
- Second, associates usually have more contacts among lower-level corporate employees, who are crucial to the way the law firm approaches its marketing efforts, he said.
The firm uses the contacts -- called "coaches" -- to learn about the company's businesses. Then they create a "pursuit path" with a partner to approach the company for business development. This reflects exactly the advice that Michael Cummings and I have been giving in our regular Webinars about law firm marketing.
"When the company managers see that the firm already understands and cares about their business, Davis notes, they are much more inclined to seek the firm's help on legal matters. "Stop talking about yourself and ask questions of other people," said Mark Beese, the director of marketing at 350-lawyer Holland and Hart in Denver.
Don't sit back and wait for a partner to feed you work. Find a mentor and watch a senior attorney in action, developing business, said Peter M. Ellis, a senior associate in Piper Rudnick's Chicago office.
"People hire lawyers, as opposed to law firms," Ellis said. "People need to like you first. And they need to want to help you develop, especially as a junior lawyer."
And don't approach a prospective client with a script or a pitch. "You're destined to fail." Ellis said. Instead, meet the client with a short list of intelligent questions, showing that you've done some research about the company and its business issues. That will get the prospect talking about their business and legal needs; all the lawyer needs to do is listen and say, "We can help you with that."