More law firms take on cross-selling

law firm marketing, business developmentFrom the Wisconsin Law Journal:

When it comes to attracting new clients, a standout partner can be an asset to a firm.

But while one lawyer may be able to boost his or her own bottom line, a number of firms are adopting a team approach to help expand business, especially in a down economy.

The concept of cross-selling, or having attorneys from different practice areas connect each other with clients, is an emerging trend for mid-size firms.

Milwaukee-based Davis & Kuelthau SC has gradually incorporated the concept as a way to coordinate business between its five Wisconsin locations.

Marketing director Michelle M. Friedman said that it takes “toddler steps” to implement a successful cross-selling plan.

Business development training sessions for attorneys and modifications in firm compensation models to reward collaboration are two avenues that Friedman has seen work.

For example, said Friedman, instead of an attorney being compensated solely on the business he or she individually brings in, subjective factors such as partner collaboration and non-billable efforts to generate business can be used to “incentivize” cross-selling.

What’s key to success, she said, is letting attorneys “who are really good business developers lead the way to help collaborate among practice groups. [Then] there is a trickle-down effect to other attorneys.”

Reluctant veterans?

But getting a veteran attorney with a strong book of business to subscribe to the idea of cross-selling can be easier said than done, noted marketing consultant Larry Bodine.

While the recession may provide additional incentive to work together to build business for a firm, some lawyers are reluctant to risk losing clients and billable hours.

“The key thing law firms have to remember is a client is not a partner’s personal book of business,” Bodine said. “Clients are an asset for the firm to exploit, so there is no excuse for a partner to hoard clients. It’s just hurting the firm.”

How do you identify clients who might be good candidates for cross-selling? Bodine said the traditional point of entry is through the corporate practice, because attorneys who do transactional work or corporate filings are often in the best position to know what else is going on at a company.

“Then you ask those corporate lawyers, ‘what else does this client need?’ Red hot areas like bankruptcy or government regulation might lend themselves to additional opportunities.”

Bodine said that in his experience, the more partners that work with a client the better the chance the client will have a long-term relationship with the firm.

law firm marketing, business developmentMichael Best & Friedrich LLP has had success cross-selling through their corporate practice, said marketing manager Jennifer R. Rupkey. Opportunities for intellectual property and real estate work have emerged as a result of relationships with corporate clients.

“We look at it from the client’s perspective in terms of what types of services might they be looking for, as opposed to the mindset of, let’s go sell this client,” she said.

In house counsel avoid hiring firms if it’s clear the lawyers don’t like each other or haven’t worked together. You don’t want attorneys from the firm introducing themselves to their own co-workers when they enter the room for the pitch. 

It may seem like basic advice, but larger firms shouldn’t forget the attorneys in their other offices, said Friedman. She’s heard of instances where work was referred to other firms because the lawyer didn’t know someone internal was available.

 “If you don’t know enough about the partners at another office, set up a presentation to say, ‘here’s what we do, how can we help,’” Friedman said. 
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Julie A. Fleming - December 1, 2009 2:52 PM

While cross-selling is great for the firm and can help build the company's community, I think the important thing to consider is the client's welfare. Rather than recommending your client take their additional needs to a lawyer because that lawyer also works for your firm, recommend they take their needs to that lawyer because the lawyer is hardworking and high quality.

Hopefully your firm only hires quality lawyers, but still you should meet with these other lawyers and get an idea of how they work before recommending them. A recommendation that goes well will result in the client returning to you the next time she could use your help; a recommendation that goes badly will result in the client never using your firm again--which isn't good for you or the firm.

If you want lawyers in your firm to recommend other lawyers, the best way to encourage this is to have regular events at which they can socialize and get to know their fellow lawyers at the firm. They'll be much more comfortable recommending their clients to someone they know.

Disability Insurance - December 2, 2009 1:22 PM

This makes perfect sense, its a wonder why more firms haven't been doing this already.

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