Shock and Awe at LSSO: Sales Training Doesn't Work and Diversity Doesn't Matter

The word "surprised" isn't adequate to describe how I felt when I heard the statements at the LSSO (Legal Sales and Service Organization) Raindance Conference in Reston, VA.  Somehow "shock and awe," describing the sky on fire in Baghdad, fit better.

Simone_wu Diversity Doesn't Matter.  Three general counsel at the "General Counsels Unplugged: Everything You wanted to Know" session all agreed that ethnic, gender and racial makeup of law firms doesn't matter in deciding which firms their companies hire. 

The general counsel were:

  • Julie Alexa Strauss, VP and Corporate Counsel for Feld Entertainment, Inc., of Tysons Corner, VA. The company produces live family entertainment (Ringling Brothers Circus and Disney on Ice). They have 4 in-house lawyers.
  • Neal S. Winneg, GC of Upromise, Inc., an online college savings program.  It is a subsidiary of Sallie May, which has 26 lawyers in house.
  • Simone Wu, acting GC and VP at XO Communications, a Reston, VA, telecom services and broadband access company. It has 25 lawyers in-house. It spends $6 million on legal matters, from revenues of $1.5 billion. Astonishingly, Wu is Asian, and she agreed that diversity doesn't matter to her company when selecting a law firm.

Stunned attendees speculated that the companies involved were small, and not major national law firms where diversity definitely does matter. How else can you explain educated people saying stupid things in public? 

The next stunner came during the "Defining Business Development" session, where Sue Stock Allison of the Brand Research Company and Katherine Daisley, Marketing Manager for ALM Research, presented the findings of the new "Law Firm Business Development Survey."

SalestrainingThey surveyed 157 law firm marketing directors and CMOs from November 2005 to January 2006, who told them that sales training for the lawyers was the least effective factor contributing to the firm's revenue growth.

Patrick B. Sweeney of Sales Results Inc. in Arlington, VA, stood up at the front of the audience and said this could only be true if there is a lack of buy-in from top management.

I could also picture a room of bored partners, pretending to pay attention to an outside sales training consultant, and waiting to go back to billing hours.  Without followup and without requiring the partners to compose personal sales plans, of course the training would be ineffective.

Meanwhile, "cost cutting" somehow got on the list of as a growth factor. It made me realize that even though I was at a conference of sophisticated sales and business development professionals, there is a flat world out there populated by law firms that simply don't "get it."

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