Post by Douglas McPherson |
Managing the progress of a team is difficult enough when you have 'head of department' or 'partner' on your business card and both of those positions carry a recognised position of authority and an acknowledged set of skills and experience.
When you are in a non-legal/non-fee earning position, managing progress can be nigh on impossible. The only trouble is, as someone who has found themselves in one of these non-legal, non-fee earning positions – perhaps a marketing or business development professional for argument sake – your role is pivotal to the commercial progression of your practice. So what can you do to increase the engagement of the fee earners you work with?
The answer lies in knowing your fee earners, not as a group, but as individuals. More specifically, the answer lies in knowing what drives your fee earners because once you understand their drivers, you'll know how best to manage them; and if you can manage them, the chances are that you'll be able to manage progress more effectively.
Let's start at the beginning. Surely if you are tasked with helping a single team to realise a single objective, you only need a single management style, right? Wrong! The key problem/issue/challenge with managing individuals is that they are individuals. They are all wired up differently, they have different reasons for doing things and they do different things in very, very different ways.
They also don't like to be challenged, especially in front of colleagues and by people they feel don't understand the nuances of their profession.
However, this shouldn't be a threat. For a marketing or business development director, it is very much an opportunity. If you take the time to speak to people in ones and twos (but only in twos if solicitor one is totally comfortable with solicitor two), you will find out much more about what has been done and what hasn't been done and the reasons why. It also allows you to deal with things there and then and offer advice and best practice the fee earners in question can use – all behind a closed door and without embarrassment so that they are primed to report progress – and only progress – the next time their team meets.
Similarly, these closed conversations also give you the opportunity to find out which activities each fee earner is most confidant/comfortable with.
There is a default in the legal profession that business development is networking and therefore only those comfortable with networking can participate in business development. Wrong again! The successful implementation of a CRM plan also requires writers who can deliver practical and relevant content, speakers who can deliver training and facilitate workshops and researchers who can uncover relevant insight to fuel your content and seminar programme.
And networking isn't a one-size-fits-all either. You need to know who can do the social stuff (e.g. a beer after work, a curry night, a football match, hosting a shoot) and who'll do the formal stuff (sitting in on board meetings, office visits, one-on-one reviews of the client's current legal position).
But how do you persuade a fee earner taking that advice is in their best interest? That is when knowing the individual and each individual's drivers comes in to play. For this, we use a very simple model - AAA (avarice, ambition, appreciation).
Who wants to bring in more work, increase their fee levels and – by extension – their earnings?
Who wants to build their clients' fee levels to hit the next rung on the promotion ladder?
Who just like a pat on the back?
Who responds to more than one and in what ratio?
Once you know what your fee earners respond to and once they know you can provide the guidance and support to facilitate (and report) their future successes, persuading them to do what's required immediately becomes a far easier task.