Marketing Partner Forum 2019 Preview: Is It Time for a Sales Force Presence within Law Firms?

Topics: Business Development & Marketing Blog Posts, Client Relations, Law Firm Profitability, Law Firms, Legal Executive Events, Marketing Partner Forum, Thomson Reuters

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DANA POINT, Calif. — The myriad changes, pressures, and advancements that continue to alter the legal industry makes necessary a proactive, strategic approach from law firms in order to best adapt to this change and remain on a successful, sustainable path.

Of course, it’s not always easy to determine which client pressures or technological advancements are lasting and need to be addressed, and which are more fleeting. Not surprisingly, the upcoming 26th Annual Law Firm Marketing Partner Forum, to be held January 23 to 25 at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, Calif., will be taking up this question.

The Forum’s theme, Approaching Inflection: Recalibrating Strategy in the New Client Era, focuses squarely on the need for law firms to analyze their positions in a number of contexts, such as their relationships with their clients, their marketing strategy, their business development opportunities, and their own lawyers. Indeed, using roundtable discussions, networking opportunities, hands-on workshops, and insightful panels featuring industry experts, the Forum will allow attendees to examine their firms’ strategies on a number of topics, from their approach to pricing, diversity, regulation, hiring and handling outside counsel guidelines.

For example, in one Forum session entitled, Time and Tide: Examining the Maturing Sales Team Presence in Law Firms, moderator and Forum Co-Chair Silvia Coulter, Principal at LawVision Group, will lead a panel on the value that integrating a sales force within your law firm could bring. Panelists include: Erin Dimry, Chief Business Development Officer at DLA Piper LLP (US); Greg Fleischmann, Chief Marketing Officer at Lowenstein Sandler; Hans Haglund, director of sales for a global top 10 law firm; Stephanie Hinrichs, Director of Client Service at Womble Bond Dickinson (U.S.); and Miles McGoun, Practice Group Lead in Client Development at Intapp.

While long considered heretical, the inclusion of a professional sales team within a law firm’s business development and client outreach efforts can pay enormous benefits, Coulter says. “Those law firms that have invested in a seasoned sales professional or team of professionals have seen remarkable gains in new client development and the overall ability of their partners to generate business,” she adds.

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Forum Co-Chair Silvia Coulter, Principal at LawVision Group

The panel will examine several of the important considerations law firms must address before even bringing sales professionals on board, such as building support within the firm for the sales role, Coulter explains. “This is a critical task for firm leaders, and perhaps the most challenging part of the process.”

What’s required, Coulter explains, is that firm management diligently talk up the potential business case for including a sales role to promote business development and encourage quality client relationships. Indeed, in some cases, law firms that have seen success with this strategy have allowed their sales professionals to become an integral part of the teams pitching business — leading those teams, preparing attorneys for client meetings, challenging the involved attorneys on issues that are common to clients, and helping to actually drive deals to closure.

In fact, the daily work of these sales professionals is pretty similar, it turns out, to the work done by the law firm’s top rainmaking lawyers, Coulter observes. “And a firm’s sales professional often can play a valuable intermediary role between the firm and the client, which means the client benefits too.”

The Forum panel will discuss all these factors and others, including how to find the best sales professional for your firm, and how to establish goes and quantify success for your sales professional’s efforts.

Of course, sales and sales pros aren’t the only concern on the minds of law firm leaders these days, nor is it the only strategy that they may need to re-calibrate in today’s environment that the Forum addresses.

In a panel titled, Stranger Things: Regulation, Risk & the Uncertain Corporate Landscape, we will examine the changing regulatory landscape for legal organizations and offer candid insight to understanding the national headwinds influencing today’s business climate. Panelists for this event include: Cheryl Graden, Senior VP, Group Head of Legal and Business Affairs & Corporate Secretary at TMX Group; Naveen Parmar, Director of Government Relations at Nationwide Insurance; Meredith Ritchie, VP, General Counsel & Chief Ethics Officer at Alliant Credit Union; Peter Robertson, General Counsel for The Pebble Partnership; and Audrey Rubin, VP & Chief Operating Officer in the Law and Compliance Department of Aon Corp. The panel will be moderated by Jennifer Schaller, Managing Director & Co-Founder of the National Law Review.

Finally, we’re very excited to feature a keynote talk, titled The Edge of Chaos, from Dr. Dambisa Moyo, one of the world’s preeminent economists and best-selling authors, who will discuss her latest research on the global economy, the impact of regulation, and expanding economic inequality.

As the theme of the upcoming Marketing Partner Forum attests, the systemic changes roiling the legal industry are not going away. Therefore, it’s important for law firm leaders to forge an innovative, strategic approach and guide their firms through these changes toward a sustainable and profitable future.