Should Law Firms Require All Attorneys To Become Marketers?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/Freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/Freedigitalphotos.net

Last week, Above the Law, published a post entitled:  “Top Law Firm Withholding Bonuses Unless Associates Do a ‘Marketing Project’”. 

The post explained that Quinn Emmanuel, one of the top law firms in the United States, sent an email to all of its attorneys stating that it is going to require its associates to complete a ‘marketing project’ prior to being able to receive their year-end bonuses.

The author, Joe Patrice, took the stance that:

“Encouraging young lawyers to participate in the growth of the business is good. Forcing every associate to take time out of their busy schedules to do PR work (which is, you know, not their actual job) on threat of robbing them of their bonus is not.”

I couldn’t agree more with him on that above quote with one small exception – the “PR work”, as he calls it, IS part of their actual job.  Not only because Quinn Emmanuel is now mandating that it is (and if you are not happy, you are free to leave), but because it is a part of every attorney’s job if you want to keep working.

No longer can attorneys wait to be fed cases from their colleagues.  Since 2008, the attorneys who have kept their positions are the ones who had the ability to bring in new business.  And, each time there are layoffs, the ones who can bring in clients are the ones who stay.  The finder, minder, grinder mentality must be put to a horrible death.  As I wrote, the attorney who can be all three – finder, minder and grinder – is the one that will become indispensable to the firm.

You can teach every attorney to bring in new business. Although every attorney may not bring in multi-million dollar cases on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, consider how it would affect the bottom line if each attorney, who isn’t doing so currently, can be taught to bring in at least one new case per year.

And while Mr. Patrice is correct in saying:

“What Quinn’s going to get instead are a bunch of half-assed projects from people who have no business doing marketing.”

I contend that the only reason they have no business doing marketing is that they are not being taught to market their services effectively.

The problem with the idea that Quinn Emmanuel has is that they want “one project” – which, according to an email obtained by Above the Law, can include tasks like:

“a case or client specific pitches, newsletter articles, updates to primers, general practice group updates, presentations to that are unrelated to a client pitch.”

However “one project” does not a Rainmaker make.  Rainmaking is a consistent set of sales and marketing activities that an attorney must do on a constant basis. Business development is a mindset that one must cultivate.  Rainmaking is about creating relationships with others, not just about projects.  And this requires that attorneys understand the necessary steps and tactics to create visibility, relationships and trust on a continual and unceasing basis which will help them build a book of business.

Nor do I agree with the idea that bonuses at Quinn Emmanuel (which are given each year using an inventory of criteria) are going to be withheld if they do not complete the “project”.   Marketing and business development should not be about punishing attorneys if they don’t do it, but rewarding them if they do, and do so effectively – not just for completing a “project” (which should be part of their business development routines anyway).

By the way, Above the Law also posted an interview with Quinn Emmanuel’s Managing Partner, John B. Quinn, who defended this new program.  And I agree with him that “marketing is important.

I applaud Quinn Emmanuel for wanting all of their attorneys to get involved in business development, but I am apprehensive about their method of implementation.

So, to answer the question should all law firms require attorneys to become marketers – in my opinion, absolutely!  But they have to be taught the right way to do so.

Help me spread the word!

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  1. […] recently wrote a blog post asking whether every law firm should require their attorneys to become marketers and Rainmakers.  This was based on a new mandate by one of the largest law firms in the United States, Quinn […]

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