There is no business development class in law school. And law firms minimally invest in these skills for associates. Partners are generally guarding their own clients tenaciously. With little training, new partners are then expected to court big business. Cutting edge law firms are recognizing that this old model is not working.
The paradigm is shifting as more boutique and big law firms are making a remarkably good business decision. Leave the business development to the salesmen. Bucking tradition, they are restructuring. Attorneys shouldn’t have to do it all. Lawyers are good at their trade, not courting clients. And it is financially to the benefit of the firm to save those partners billable rates by allowing the experts at handshaking to do just that.
These Client Development and Business Development roles require a certain finesse, or as O’Melveny puts it, “executive gravitas and polish". They are skilled at presentations, marketing and pitching and closing business. Their industry knowledge (and contacts) also can create new opportunities, such as Latham seeks in an Entertainment Media and Sports Business Development Lead.
This change means new business identifies more with the firm, as opposed to the partner handling the case. And could lead to more client loyalty to the firm and less to the assigned partner.
One thing is for sure, for a firm – whether boutique or big law - to succeed in these fast-changing times, it requires flexibility and adaptation. New business models for law firms are necessary for the 21st Century, and hiring business development experts will help law firms increase their bottom line.