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THE INNOVATION ISSUE

 Table of Contents | Features | Frontlines | Technology | Business

April 2009 Issue | Volume 35 Number 3 | Page 43
FEATURES

SIGNS OF INNOVATIVE LIFE IN THE PRACTICE OF LAW - BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT ROI FASTFORWARD

Like all law firms, Leonard, Street and Deinard, a 180-lawyer firm headquar­tered in Minneapolis, wanted its lawyers to produce significantly higher revenues per lawyer. However, unlike most other firms, it has been extraordinarily successful at figuring out how to do it. According to Jill Weber, the firm’s chief marketing officer, the firm’s Fast Forward program has yielded a $7.5 million increase in fee receipts over a two-year period, based on a $150,000 program investment. That’s a pretty terrific return on investment by anyone’s standards.

The elements that differentiate the Fast Forward program from other business development training and coaching initiatives include:

■ An integration of individual business plans, one-on-one coaching, large-group training classes and mentoring into a cohesive approach

■ Methods of establishing measurable benchmarks, including qualitative and quantitative measures, to evaluate participant success

■ Established investment parameters, outlining expectations for participants in terms of revenue generation and participation

■ Sales incentive awards, providing additional incentive for participants to achieve revenue goals

■ A brand identity packaged with the program to create a buzz within the firm and make participants feel part of a special initiative

Weber indicates that the firm emphasized personalization and a tailored approach in developing Fast Forward. One of the key factors was a decision not to launch this as a global initiative, but to select participants very carefully based on criteria that would include their current book of business, business development potential and interest in participating in a pilot program. The firm’s business development committee made its decisions and extended invitations to candidates through in-person meetings. Outside coaches were employed once individual development plans had been written to ensure that things actually got done.

Perhaps one of the most innovative portions of the program, at least from the law firm’s perspective, involves the rigor and focus throughout the program. Unlike many other programs seeking the same results, Fast Forward does not allow participants to “do as they please” in hopes that they will perform.

Due to its success, the program has been extended and become institutionalized throughout the firm to include associate lawyers in subsequent iterations.

Leonard Street produced these impressive results by imposing a new slant on a traditional problem–increasing revenue. It made the smart decision to limit the program initially (making “membership” ex­clusive), provided customized training and coaching to fit individual needs, rewarded achievements outside of the compensation system, and maintained a rigorous focus on results that cut through the “noise” of everyday law firm business. Only when the program was an established success did it roll out across the firm.

About the Author

Thomas S. Clay , is a principal of Altman Weil, Inc., with expertise in strategic planning, management, and mergers and acquisitions. He serves on the College of Law Practice Management’s Futures Committee and as a judge for its InnovAction Awards.

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