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 Table of Contents | Features | Frontlines | Technology | Business

April 2009 Issue | Volume 35 Number 3 | Page 42


As one of the oldest and largest law firms in West Virginia, it would be tempting for Jackson Kelly to stand pat and continue to rely on the same approaches that have served the firm for over 186 years. Instead, Jackson Kelly decided to build a new business development culture within the firm by implementing a special training and coaching program for a group of its young lawyers. The program’s focus is on instilling a business development and relationship-building mind-set, along with the skills, tactics and support that individual lawyers need to execute and achieve results.

Key ingredients of the program target the little things that lead to mutually beneficial relationships, nurturing of referral relationships as well as trying to secure new clients, and recognition that any lawyer—even given different personalities, levels of experience, practice areas and the like—can become more effective at business development. Some specific ideas and practices have included the following:

■ Leveraging roles with community and nonprofit organizations to build new relationships

■ Shifting the focus away from direct-selling activities to cultivating relationships with potential referral sources

■ Finding creative ways to engage with new or existing clients to expand the range of the firm’s services with them

■ F ocusing on an activity-based ap­proach to business development and en­couraging individualized activities, versus a mandate that lawyers “get more business”

■ Instilling a recognition that providing an outstanding client experience and value to firm clients is integral to the business development and relationship process

For the first group of lawyers in the program, it seems relationship building and business development are becoming second nature and an integral, expected part of their weekly activities. And the beginnings of the culturalization of business development within Jackson Kelly are already clear, even with the lawyers that have not yet been a part of the training and coaching program. In evidence is a marked increase in the quantity and quality of the firm’s business development activities, including expanded time committed to implementing “wellness visits” for many of the firm’s existing clients. The firm also reports new business from unexpected sources. Critically, too, business development is becoming a top-of-mind focus of conversation among the lawyers.

The Jackson Kelly experience, which is empowering the firm’s lawyers to be more creative and proactive in pursuing new clients and relationships for the firm, can apply to any law firm and any lawyer. The overall theme of the program—stop selling and start helping—is relationship based. In addition, the majority of the skills and tactics being integrated target little steps for achieving high-impact results. It also highlights the fact that anyone can undertake business development activities and build effective and productive relationships if you tailor the activities to each lawyer’s unique skills, experience and personalities and incorporate a “just do it” mind-set into the firm’s culture and habits.

About the Author

Jeffrey L. Nischwitz is the author of Think Again! Innovative Approaches to the Business of Law ( ABA, 2007). He is a trainer and coach who provides customized and practical programs on achieving results for lawyers and law firms.