Every year at the Lawyer Development Institute, NALP (The Association of Legal Career Professionals) takes one important industry trend or development and dedicates an entire day of discussion to it. At this year’s event, which took place on Tuesday October 2nd in New York, the topic of the day’s sessions was collaboration, specifically that between the marketing/business development and professional development departments.
With the overarching theme of providing the best possible service to the client, the marketing and professional development departments at firms are working together to develop their attorneys. Traditionally, marketing departments have been responsible for giving attorneys the tools they needed to find more clients and develop business, i.e. become rainmakers. The professional development staff was then responsible for providing skills-based tools and training so lawyers could become better at things like taking depositions and arguing motions. By getting together more regularly, whether via scheduled meetings or impromptu water cooler conversations, marketing and professional development staffs are now also working together to develop more client-centered lawyers at every level of the firm.
Through in-depth evaluations done by marketing–many times via in-person conversations with firm clients—the professional development staff can build customized programs based on what a specific client’s needs are. Building business and performing better at trial/deposition are skills not being overlooked but now programming is also being developed in more client-centered and relationship building skills like project management, budgeting and client communications.
In order for a firm to keep its current client’s business and gain future business, there must be a strong connection between the entire trial team and the client. Gone are the days where the relationship began and ended with one partner at the firm working with the client’s GC and each passed information down to their respective teams. Now the client wants to know everyone working on their matters (billing them hours). This makes it important for lawyers, from junior associate on up, to learn these client-oriented skills. Many firms are now listing these skills on their core competency matrix which speaks to how important this initiative is becoming.
Expect to see more collaboration between the marketing and professional development departments at law firms in the future, especially by firms who had representatives at this event. Some call them “soft” skills, some say “business” skills or “lawyering” skills. Whatever they are called, lawyers will likely be spending more and more time on them as they look to build more client-centered teams. To read more about this year’s Lawyer Development Institute click here.