Best Practice: Law firm client development: Obtaining additional work from existing clients
Asked and Answered
By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
Q. I am the chair of our three person management committee. Our firm, now entering second generation, is a 17 attorney firm in Kansas City, Missouri. We represent businesses and other institutional clients. We have several of our founding partners in their 70s and as they phase back and slow down we are discovering that the younger generation of partners have not developed client development skills. What should we be doing to get more business? We are not sure we even know how?
A. Research conducted over the years by numerous research organizations has shown that on average it costs five times as much (dollars/time investment) to get new clients than it does to get more business from existing clients. It just makes good business sense to leverage existing relationships.
Institutional clients are reducing the number of law firms that they use. According to BTI Consulting Group, corporations in the Fortune 1000 list are using 20% fewer core law firms than they did a year earlier. As a result fewer firms will be getting work from these companies and they will likely be the firms that successfully cross-sell their practices.
Recommendation From a Fortune 500 Client
Recently I was doing a telephone interview with the general counsel of a Fortune 500 company for our law firm client and I asked him if there was an opportunity for the law firm to get additional work in a practice area in which the company had no experience with the law firm previously and if an opportunity existed what the firm needed to do to earn the business. Here is his response
"Obviously we currently have other law firms handling that work. However, we have been evaluating those relationships and may be making some changes. There is room for other law firms to earn our business in the practice areas that you have discussed with me."
"I am aware that the law firm does other work other than what we have been using them for - but I am not sure exactly what those areas are."
"In order to begin to forge a relationship into these other service areas:"
- I need to know specifically what they do.
- I need to know who does it.
- I need to know how well the person( s) do it.
- I need to have a well established relationship with the person - trust, respect, like the individual, etc.
- I suggest that we start by having the partner in the firm that I have a relationship with begin educating me on the firm's other practice areas and begin introducing me to the other players in the law firm.
We hire lawyers - not law firms.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC, (www.olmsteadassoc.com) is a past chair and member of the ISBA Standing Committee on Law Office Management and Economics. For more information on law office management please direct questions to the ISBA listserver, which John and other committee members review, or view archived copies of The Bottom Line Newsletters. Contact John at email@example.com.