5 Ways to Drive Efficient Planning When Working With Lawyers
By Monica Kriegel
November 09, 2022 | 4-minute read
Client Services Project Management Content Type Article
There’s no doubt that 2023 planning is weighing heavily on all of our minds. While budget is often a gating factor, there are a number of no-cost opportunities to drive efficiencies in planning that also make the sometimes arduous process “make sense” for lawyers. Their engagement in the process, of course, is critical to success.
My colleague Sue Sassmann, senior business development manager – lead at Armstrong Teasdale, has dedicated more than 20 years of her career to the legal field and knows the planning cycle well. I recently sat down with her to discuss a few of the most helpful things we’ve learned in leading our firm’s marketing and business development efforts through the planning process.
It goes without saying that what works for one firm will not work for all firms, but hopefully these tips will assist you in preparing and thinking differently about how to approach the process.
1. Say It. Believe It. Achieve It. As someone in the business of “selling” stories, I’ve learned that people will put 10 times the effort into something they truly believe in. If you have an idea, write it down. The more you see it and say it, the more you’ll believe it. The more you believe it, the more you’ll be compelled to achieve it. By creating a detailed business development and marketing plan template, we have successfully partnered with firm lawyers in building and achieving specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) goals. Having associated timelines and actions is invaluable, and if you can achieve just one win, you’ll likely have the lawyers’ attention.
“The key to the plan is not letting it get stale,” said Sassmann. “Ensure it’s a living and breathing document and continue to build on each success.”
2. Identify and Apply Strengths. Some people dread networking and business development. Maybe they don’t have that innate ability to woo people. Working closely with our talent development department, we ensure that lawyers complete a strengths assessment to identify those core opportunities for advancement and those in which they might need to improve. Simply identifying these characteristics through a CliftonStrengths assessment or the like can be eye opening. Incorporating strengths into goal setting, as well as the day-to-day, can create opportunities for lawyers to be more thoughtful with their plans and overall development.
3. Be Resourceful. Think creatively about the tools at your disposal and bring the right people to the table to help you make the most of those tools. Our department includes an incredibly skilled marketing technology manager with the technical expertise to customize data sets and reporting within our customer relationship management (CRM) tool to suit the needs of each functional area. As you think about adding value, identify opportunities for other professionals on your team — perhaps a legal librarian, business intelligence professional or marketer — to connect the dots and make the most of each action item.
4. Don’t be Afraid to Carbon Copy (CC). Early in my career, I was told that CC’ing someone on an email was the most dangerous thing I could do. But honestly, I’ve only seen benefits in the context of planning and tracking performance.
“This is one of the easiest steps you and your firm’s lawyers can take to drive real forward motion,” Sassmann says. “Asking our lawyers to CC or BCC me as it relates to new opportunities or developments has significantly improved the line of communication and enabled us to earn more business and better report on how our efforts are impacting the bottom line.”
5. Get Personal. Skip the small talk and focus on “big talk.” I don’t mean bragging or boasting, I mean hitting the “big” topics and asking questions that will easily help you uncover what motivates someone. A professional development seminar I attended a couple of years ago referred to this as conducting an “inner-view.” It involves asking three questions — one factual, one causative and one value-based. For example:
- Factual: Where did you go to school and what did you major in?
- Causative: What made you pursue this profession?
- Value-based: Looking back at your career, what is a high point or point of pride?
Doing this can not only help you understand what will light a fire under someone, but also build community and create connections, identify diverse perspectives, and maybe even build a profile story that would garner media interest — further filling the pipeline with business development opportunities.