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Law Firm Marketing and Business Development

Sales Speak: Award Winners: What Can We Learn?

In every issue of Marketing the Law Firm, we read about best practices and new trends. However, not even that prepared us for this year's LSSO (Legal Sales and Service Organization Inc.) Legal Sales and Service Awards winners — specifically, the long-term success established in a short amount of time at two law firms.


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In every issue of Marketing the Law Firm, we read about best practices and new trends. However, not even that prepared us for this year’s LSSO (Legal Sales and Service Organization Inc.) Legal Sales and Service Awards winners — specifically, the long-term success established in a short amount of time at two law firms.

The Legal Sales and Service Awards recognize the cutting-edge work of individuals and/or teams in law firms who are playing critical roles in the ongoing financial health of their firms. Even the collection of nominations was an eye-opening look at the truly revolutionary activities and efforts going on inside the modern law firm. All finalists should be proud of their work. However, there had to be winners, and here they are.

Team Everest: The Peak Performers Summit

Last year, Benesch, a mid-size firm in Cleveland, launched a program known as Team Everest: The Peak Performers Summit. This was an in-person gathering of the top business-generating lawyers at the firm. It was an opportunity to gather all of them together in one place to focus on how to grow top-line revenue, enhance client service and create new offerings.

The first year was so successful that they conducted a second summit this year as well. The marketing and business development department was key in planning and facilitating the event, and was the driving force behind the execution of the resulting action steps. The firm has a long history of a strong practice management culture. Using this as a foundation, they assembled representatives from all practice groups to create truly an elite group who shared best practices and ideas that benefit clients in realistic ways, to be executed in a timely manner.

The benefits have been many, but the top three worth mentioning are:

  1. The program has been a powerful way to motivate attorneys to retain and/or earn their first spot in the group;
  2. It creates excitement about the future and collaboration on new services and processes that result in new business as well as better results for the clients; and
  3. There was immediate ROI.

Gaining management “buy-in” was no small feat for the marketing and business development department. Taking approximately 25% of the top lawyers out of their offices for multiple days (on which there would be no billing) and incurring great expense for travel was not an easy idea to sell to a law firm in a highly competitive environment. However, the success of the program speaks for itself, as noted above. The program is sure to continue for years into the future.

Congratulations to Benesch and its marketing and business development department for creating a program that cultivates an elite team that is greater in the sum of its parts.

From Law School to the Bottom Line

The second award, Legal Sales and Service Executive of the Year, was equally as impressive.

Iris Jones, from McNees, Wallace & Nurick, was the winner. Iris created a strategic collaboration program for summer associates. This program gave hands-on business development training to law students who ideally will join the firm at a later date. And when they do, they will already have had training and an introduction to some of the fundamentals of business development.

These skills include how to identify and target clients or prospects, using competitive and business intelligence tools, using relationship intelligence gathered via CRM, and how to analyze industry trends. The program was supported by extensive training and one-on-one coaching on teamwork, presentation skills and effective communications.

To support collaboration as well as healthy competition, the law students were assembled into teams, each team assigned a target. Then, on their own, the teams developed and presented strategies and recommendations for expanding and retaining current business, and finding new business for the firm.

The program had great results, including the firm-wide launch of a formal client team program involving the current firm lawyers. All the participating summer associates were offered and accepted positions at the firm. Many of the students noted that a key factor in accepting the firm’s employment offer was experiencing how committed the firm is to delivering excellent service and proactive solutions to clients as well as their fellow attorneys and staff.

This revolutionary program targeting the most junior firm attorneys has helped the firm to expand its target base, attract new clients, and transition the culture into one of “everyone should, and can, develop new business.” Follow the three steps to help move your firm’s sales and service culture forward.

Three Steps to a Successful Sales and Client Growth Culture Change

1. Have a Clear Strategy for Rolling Out Your Initiative

Although it seems obvious, firms must carefully plan each step in their new sales or service programs, including involving the attorneys into the planning process. In order for your firm’s attorneys to buy in to any change, they need to feel a part of its design, and understand clearly how they may benefit from it.

2. Test Your Process with Champions

As with all culture change, select and enlist your “champions” early. After you have developed the clear rollout strategy for your new program, the key is to involve leadership and rainmakers early, and solicit their input throughout the entire process. In addition, enlist a beta group to test, refine and retest the process before you unveil to the firm.

3. Focus on Progressive Success

No firm will celebrate total adoption and adherence to a new sales or service program during the early stages of its existence. Don’t worry, most attorneys will, but it takes time. As you roll out a new program, measure and reward the adoption of each part of the new process, one-step at a time.

Measuring adherence to your new culture and reinforcing progressive success is what will win sustained and eventual “buy in” from your entire firm.

***** Beth Cuzzone, Chief Growth Officer at Goulston & Storrs, is a member of the Marketing the Law Firm Board of Editors. Reach her at Darryl Cross, Chief Performance Officer at HighPer Teams, is a member of the LSSO Board of Editors and LMA International Board of Directors. He may be reached at

The views expressed in the article are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of their clients or other attorneys in their firm.

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