Over the last several months, I’ve noticed more and more inquiries from lawyers wanting to focus on business development. Unlike some coaching topics (career path and work/life integration, most notably), law firms often provide some business development training in-house to midlevel and/or senior associates as well as partners. Many firms even provide coaching from external coaches or from in-house rainmakers. I’d noticed a trend, with more junior lawyers seeking early business development coaching and even lawyers at firms that offer such training and/or coaching seeking it on their own, willing to pay for private, one-on-one work. According to an article published in New York Lawyer (free registration required), this is a growing trend.
In suburban kitchens, coffee shops and back tables of restaurants across the city, law firm partners are quietly seeking the help of business development and marketing professionals on how to get out from under the shadow of that more senior partner and build their own book of business.
While it might not be as sinister as that description sounds, there is a palpable fear among some fairly high-level partners in the city’s largest firms about what their future holds. Now those partners are trying to take control of their own destiny.
In talking to a number of marketers, coaches and recruiters, there is a clear sense that in these economic times, having a portable book of business is increasingly important.
Firms are threatening de-equitizations, in-house marketing departments are facing budget cuts and partners are hoarding work more now than in the past five years, according to these industry analysts.
Given the current economy, it’s no surprise that lawyers are concerned about career potential, whether with the current firm or looking toward a new one. If you’re in a large or midsized firm and you aren’t receiving business development attention, perhaps now would be a good time to investigate what’s available to you, through your firm or otherwise.