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Should Law Firms Hire Sales People?

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on February 03, 2016 2:57 PM

Want to make it rain? Hire a rainmaker. And no, we're not talking about a superstar lawyer able to bring on clients with millions of dollars in billings.

We're talking about a sales person. Could one be good for your firm?

From No Advertising to Full On Sales Teams

Lawyers are often skeptical of marketing. For almost 70 years, lawyer advertising was simply banned, under the belief that it cheapened the profession. Solicitation was simply unprofessional, as were "all of the methods of shop keepers." According to the Cannons of Professional Ethics, circa 1922, "the most worthy and effective advertisement possible is the establishment of a well merited reputation for professional capacity and fidelity to trust."

Perhaps it was for the best -- not because marketing cheapens the profession, but because most lawyers don't have a single sales bone in their body. Except for the occasional self-promoter and celebrity attorney, many lawyers are too busy doing actual legal work to dedicate significant time to sales.

Hence the rise of the law firm sales person. Many firms have brought on non-lawyer sales and business development teams to help generate new clients, from large firms like Baker & McKenzie, to smaller outfits.

What Are You Marketing?

Before you run out and hire a non-lawyer sales person, though, think first about just what you're selling. When it comes to sales, firms generally take two distinct approaches. One is based on reputation. It's the kind of business development method that's dominated the legal market for at least the past century. Your reputation is what you're selling: your smarts, your connections, your success, and your place in the community.

On the other hand, there are sales that treat the law as a product. Don't worry, we're not talking about LegalZoom-style DIY legal services. As Robert Algeri points out on LinkedIn, product-based sales require firms to think about their legal services as "product offerings" and to "develop a value proposition so clear that it could be sold by practically any half-decent salesperson."

To do this, many firms take a niche approach. They zero in on and master a specific part of the law and legal market. That expertise is the product. Others focus on messaging and branding, selling a distinct firm identity and, perhaps, even a unique methodology.

Once you've done that, you can leave the rest of the work to the professionals -- not lawyers, salespeople.

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