Legal Business Development - Providing Real Value to Clients

Posted by Douglas Sorocco at May 8, 2005 11:36 AM

The Strategic Legal Technology Blog has an interesting post highlighting a comment from a reader on the issue of business development (BD) within a large law firm.  The quote below is from the reader:

I spent a number of years in-house with a large financial institution. The focus on market analysis there was huge, analyzing customer segments, determining customer profitability, setting profitability targets, defining strategies for dealing with customers who didn’t meet those targets, etc.

One thing that continues to amaze me about my large law firm (and I suspect that it is not a lot different elsewhere) is the seeming disregard for all sorts of basic business development approaches. It’s as if the lawyers say, “Well, BD means either (1) take the client to a sports event, (2) host an internal CLE event, or (3) speak at some conference, and there is nothing else that I could possibly do to develop business.

They don’t start with the basic cross-selling of their own capabilities to their colleagues, they don’t focus on providing real value to their clients (because a lot of it would involve the investment of non-billable time that the firm doesn’t recognize, even if it pays off exponentially later), and they don’t analyze what they do right (and what the they do wrong!) to determine what things to emphasize (or ditch). And yet these are all intelligent people.

It continues to mystify me (although I believe that the emphasis on the billable hour works to discourage any such activities).

That darn billable hour again – it just keeps coming up as a deterrent to providing innovative and inquisitive legal services to clients.  You could insert the “embedded patent attorney” (EPA) concept into that quote quite nicely and the same conclusions would apply.  In most firms there is no incentive from a billable perspective or from a firm management perspective to become “embedded” in the client’s business.

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a Chief Embeddedness Officer (hmmm… CEO) around.

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