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Why Lawyers Stink at Business Development and What Law Firms Are Doing about It

Law Journal Newsletters

Even the Perry Masons of the real world generally have weak sales skills on par with those of Willy Loman, the tragic and central figure of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. This unfortunate fact leaves many law firms scratching their heads and wondering: Why is it that those who are best skilled at advocating for others are ill-equipped at advocating for their own skills and what to do about it?


Cole Silver was a solo practitioner turned general counsel to several high growth companies and is currently Blank Rome’s Chief Client Officer. “As someone who had his own law firm, I learned very early on that without clients, you have no business,” says Silver. “There are very few lawyers who have what it takes to be a super rainmaker because you have to be very resilient, persistent and be able to articulate a compelling value proposition consistently. Most lawyers stop going after a prospect after two attempts. But think about how effective you’d be at rainmaking if you didn’t stop providing value to prospects until they tell you to drop dead? Few lawyers are willing to do that.”


Silver predicts that “the law firm of the future is going to bring in people who are going to work very closely with the lawyers in an account management arrangement to help those lawyers do client acquisition and retention together as a team and manage the accounts in an expanding and collaborative manner. Remember, even once the sale is made you have to take care of the client. That to me is the future of sales.” According to Silver, “many firms still operate like they did 20-30 years ago. If they adopt a more business mindset and disciplines with the help of non-lawyers, they will thrive instead of struggle. And lastly, client-centricity is the key. More than 50% of a firm’s revenue comes from existing clients. It’s all about the client.”

Silver adds that to be most impactful as a law firm salesperson, “the key is who you partner with. If the lawyer has complete buy-in and does what you say, you will prevail. But if not, your job is really going to be difficult.” Yet, “if you really excel at providing memorable client service, you will get over all of the obstacles that we discussed. Clients want to be treated in a certain way and will pay for it; and if they don’t get it, they will walk. Notwithstanding a ‘bet-the company’ case, exceptional client service today is the only true differentiator in today’s market.”

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“Why Lawyers Stink at Business Development and What Law Firms Are Doing about It,” by Valerie Pennacchio was published in the December 2020 issue of Law Journal Newsletters