One disturbing trend that we’ve all seen over the last several months is intake as many established, successful law firms has slowed substantially – the phones just aren’t ringing. Obviously, the current environment is incenting firms to do everything possible to be more efficient and save money. Whether due to the economy, tort reform (for PI firms), more intense competition, reliance on phone books and websites, or other factors, many of these firms end up downsizing.
In a South Florida Daily Business Review Managing Partners Survey taken in October, 25% of firms surveyed stated that revenue per partner was not meeting expectations. This percentage increased substantially when the question focused on revenue per attorney. There are many ways to interpret these results, but one thing that is obvious to me in speaking with these firms (and many others) is that many firms don’t have a strategy to improve the revenue performance of these “underachievers.” That is, if a partner or associate in the firm is labeled an under performer in regards to achieving their individual revenue goals, there isn’t a plan to help them improve their performance. Worse still, many of these firms don’t have strategies or programs to ensure that partners and associates are productive from the start – either you bring in revenue or you don’t. And right now, the slow economy and other factors are placing additional pressures to ensure that everyone is bringing in revenue.
Now, we all have to ultimately create value to receive a paycheck, but it’s interesting that very few firms help to ensure the success of their partners and associates from the get-go. Many firms don’t have regularly scheduled internal communications. Few have discernable brands, instead relying on their partners’ and associates’ individual books of business. “Sales Training” is non-existent, and firm marketing is sporadic. It’s no wonder that many attorneys fail in developing new business in these environments.
As business leaders, we all have to do what we have to do to keep our firms profitable, however, putting the tools in place to assist your partners and associates in their business development efforts will help your firm thrive in bad times as well as good, and enable you to weather the storm rather than downsize to reduce costs. The bottom line is that you need to take an active approach in ensuring that all your shareholders, partners, associates and all employees have the skills to successfully bring in new business. The current economy just highlights this fact.