Large law firm partnership models are changing

Large law firm partnership models are changing.

American Lawyer article reports that BakerHostetler (along with several others, including DLA Piper and Akin Gump) has shifted to an “all-equity” partnership model, leaving behind a two-tier partnership system. This doesn’t mean that all partners have full equity membership, however: it simply means that all partners have some equity, though a “significant number of partners are both firms . . . . still receive more than half their compensation in the form of fixed pay.

While the article (and a law firm consultant) recognizes that the shift gives all partners a stake in the firm that may eliminate an employee mentality among nonequity partners, this is the paragraph I found most interesting:

[Roger] Meltzer [co-chair of DLA Piper] also noted that DLA Piper raised more capital from the shift, with all partners required to make some contributions. “It creates more of an equity cushion,” said Meltzer, ho declined to specify how much capital was raised. 

Read more here. 

It’s no surprise that large firms continue to evaluate and tweak partnership models, but I’m not sure I’d be dancing just yet if I were a nonequity partner just granted a stake in the firm.

Not getting answers to your biz dev emails?

Email can be a good way to reach out to new contacts (people you’ve met briefly or with whom you’d like to connect via LinkedIn, for example) or to reconnect with longer-time contacts, but you may get frustrated by slow or no responses. 

It’s tempting to make email contacts meaty, to give all the detail we feel necessary to justify the contact and to elicit a response, but often the result is a big block of text that the respondent delays reading or answering.

If you’ve run into this problem, check out this solution (which I’ve illustrated in this email)

Although you may be unable to limit every email to five sentences or less (especially client communications), taking this challenge will prompt you to be brief, which makes your emails easier to digest and answer.

Why not give it a try with your emails this week?

How much should you market?

There’s one question I’m asked over and over: How much time should I spend marketing? Depending on the situation, I may respond in terms of how many hours a week a lawyer should spend marketing at various stages of practice, in terms of the minimum amount of time a lawyer should invest in marketing where there isn’t enough time to keep a full schedule, or in terms of what current results indicate about future activity. All of those measures are valuable, but there’s really a deeper question that most lawyers forget to ask….

What activities count as marketing? There’s active marketing (finding opportunities to speak to potential clients or referral sources, for example) and passive marketing (such as writing a blog post or article and waiting for it to garner suitable attention to lead to an inquiry from a prospective client). You probably know the broad buckets of activities within each of those categories…

But there’s a better answer.

Next time you wonder whether you’re marketing enough, think about how you’re approaching the people you encounter and whether you need to market better, not just more.

It isn’t what you said, it’s how you said it.

I confess: I’m one of the thousands and thousands of people who are thrilled that Netflix is finally streaming Friends. The early seasons were especially clever, taking all kinds of language out of context for comedic effect. (Stick with me, I do have a business development point here!) In one episode, Chandler accuses Joey of becoming too feminine thanks to the influence of his new female roommate, which makes Joey pout. Chandler asks what he said wrong, and Joey answers, “It isn’t what you said, it’s how you said it. (And thousands groaned, having heard exactly that charge somewhere along the line from a significant other.)

Somewhere through life experience, we’ve all learned the lesson that language can make a neutral concept unpleasant or aggressive. As a middle school teacher put it, “Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don’t say it mean.” Language has power, so we know to choose words carefully to avoid tainting a message with unintended connotations.

How often do you pay attention to the language you use to describe business development?

Over the weekend, I led a workshop for a small group of lawyers who’ve been tapped as high-potential leaders within their firm. I started the workshop, as I often do, by asking what feels uncomfortable about business development, and one answer guided a large part of our conversation:

I don’t like having to sell myself.

That comment kicked off a conversation that can’t be replicated in a short article, but…


  • Do you feel like you have to “sell yourself” to build your practice? How does that feel? Does it change your perspective on your task to think of it as selling your services, helping someone to find a solution to a problem, securing new work, or in some other words?
  • How do you feel about networking? How do you feel about meeting new people, making new connections, or talking with people about things that interest you?
  • Do you enjoy following up with a new contact? What about keeping conversation going or checking in?
  • What comes up when you think about having a sales conversation? Is it different if you think about offering to help solve a problem, asking for the business, or suggesting next steps?

Language is generative, and the words you choose carry a certain power or energy. Choose your words so that you don’t get stuck in a particular way of thinking. Substituting selling your services for selling yourself won’t magically transform your business development activity or results, but I guarantee you’ll approach the job differently if you can make that shift. (And if that’s a change you need to make, read the book Selling the Invisible, starting with my review.)

Make a new year’s decision.

Happy New Year’s Eve!

If you haven’t already done so, I invite you to make a decision (not a resolution) about how you will engage in and with business development activity going forward. Your consistent commitment makes the difference between a decision and a garden-variety resolution (which, statistically speaking, has a 25% chance of being broken within the first week and only a 46% chance of being maintained for more than six months).














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