Start Your FREE Membership NOW
 Discover Proven Ways to Be a Better Law Office Manager
 Get Our Weekly eNewsletter, Law Office Manager Bulletin,
    and MUCH MORE
 Absolutely NO Risk or Obligation on Your Part -- It's FREE!

Upgrade to Premium Membership NOW for Just $90!
Get 3 Months of Full Premium Membership Access
Includes Our Monthly Newsletter, Office Toolbox, Policy Center, and Archives

How to set a plan for associate development that actually works

One area no firm can afford to ignore is associate business development.

The firm’s future depends on how well the younger attorneys are developed and cultivated.

This is the next generation of the firm. They have to learn how to generate business or the firm isn’t going to survive.

Here are four elements for an effective business development program for associates:

1 Specialize the plan

First, don’t set one development plan for everybody. Each plan has to address individual interests, preferences, strengths, and core abilities.

Few firms recognize that. They set out a standardized approach of, “This is the marketing plan. Here are your top five clients and here are the activities you need to complete.”

Yet all those new attorneys have come in with different marketing strengths. Some shine at public and social functions, while others get the best results meeting prospects and referral sources individually.

The plans have to be designed to take advantage of each attorney’s talents.

At the same time, the activities have to be productive. While an attorney may be adept at social media, for example, nobody is going to develop a practice using it exclusively. The plan has to recognize individual talents but also outline realistic ways to bring in business.

2 Provide resources and coaches

Second, give the associates support for setting up their plans.

Most don’t know where to start. They don’t even know what areas or people to target or how to get in front of those audiences.

The support can come from a partner, the firm’s marketing director, or from an outside consultant—but there needs to be someone who acts as plan assistant.

That person’s role is to help the associate identify the type of clients and work they enjoy and to use that information to identify which industry or client type the associate can target most successfully.

Along with that, the firm needs to provide coaching in the execution of the plan.

For example, any associate without speaking experience will need training. Similarly, most associates will need coaching in making cold calls and closing client engagements.

3 Don’t get greedy on the time

The third necessary element is time.

Associates usually have heavy billing requirements that leave them with little time for other projects. They can’t see their way clear to spending an appreciable amount of time on a plan, and for that reason, plans often don’t get off the ground.

To be doable, the activities have to be limited to what the attorney can psychologically deal with.

That means making adjustments to meet personal circumstances. An associate who is already billing a substantial number of hours can’t be expected to spend more than one or two hours a week on a development plan.

There should also be limits on the number of targets any one activity is expected to hit.

Optimally, an associate should concentrate on two or three rather than taking a scatter-shot approach and trying to make speeches at 40 different places.

Some firms cut down the time requirements significantly by providing a tremendous amount of development assistance. With articles, for example, a firm might hire contract attorneys to discuss topics with the attorneys and draw up first drafts, leaving the attorneys to direct the work and review the articles for accuracy.

4 Keep track of the outcomes

The last essential element is to measure the plan’s success and it is here that many firms fail because of the difficulty identifying the actual financial return.

That doesn’t mean tracking is impossible. Firms can track the number of times the associate has spoken to a group, been interviewed by the media, been quoted on a topic, been asked to speak at a conference, or even been invited to lunch by a referral source.

Success means the attorney is getting in front of people and is being recognized by the target audience as a credible source of information. And the proof of that is whether the attorney is billing more now than before the plan began.

How long will it take? In general, expect to see beginning results within the first year.

Related reading:

Measure your associates’ satisfaction to keep them on board

How to improve orientation for your new associates

Developing productive associates: Why the traditional annual review gets a FAIL!









Try Premium Membership