This is the first in a series of posts exploring how law firms can set themselves up for success when making the decision to grow through merger, firm acquisition, or lateral hire.
When law firms merge, or when a firm is working to integrate new lateral hires, it can be tempting for leaders to cling to unexamined beliefs about how a newly formed group works together. These myths are often at the heart of mergers that fail to live up to expectations:
Myth: Clients will be interested in expanding their existing relationship with the firm when new practice areas speak to them about their technical expertise.
Truth: The only way clients will buy additional services from the firm is if the new practice areas provide a clear and compelling value proposition based not just on the technical expertise but also the ways these new relationships will help them achieve their goals.
Myth: Cross-selling happens when lawyers who have no prior relationship are encouraged to share contacts and client relationships.
Truth: Cross-selling can’t happen until the firm creates the circumstances for cross-collaboration. Ask lawyers who already like and respect each other to share interests, thought leadership, and association affinity. Once they begin to build these connections, they will begin to make introductions across their networks.
Myth: Building a spreadsheet integrating contact information and setting deadlines for making introductions are the best ways to motivate attorneys and hold them accountable for cross-selling.
Truth: Attorneys need help identifying shared target markets and support with creating a roadmap for how to market across practice groups. This is collaborative work that happens in the context of relationships.
Myth: If they set up pitch meetings, attorneys will make sales based on their expertise.
Truth: Attorneys need an authentic reason to initiate a conversation with the client. The relationship attorney needs to look for these “ins”: invitations to help the client solve a problem, introductions to people who can help solve it, and information that will help the client do its work in more efficient and satisfying ways. Only then is it the right time to pitch.
Myth: Cross-selling will work fine on the honor system. The firm can work out credit and compensation issues later.
Truth: In order to encourage trust, generosity, and the sharing of ideas and clients, firms must set ground rules in advance of the cross-selling initiative. Teams should be intentional about addressing credit, so everyone is on the same page about who will get credit and how they will be compensated for selling new business. This will create conditions for ongoing initiatives over the long term.
Read the next blog in our Growth Mindset series “Mastering the Mindset: Create a Shared Vision to Collaborate for Growth.”