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In a Down Market, Lawyers Must Think Like MBAs

By Kevin Fayle on May 20, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019
In this new post-downturn reality of a highly competitive, shrinking legal market, many lawyers have begun to branch out from the traditional methods of running a firm and are exploring strategies widely utilized in the business world to attract new clients, keep the ones they have, and manage their firms more efficiently.

The Wall Street Journal details the steps some firms and attorneys are taking to learn more about business methods and development in a pair of articles today.
The first article discusses how firms and solos are looking to marketing firms and consultants for help in training their lawyers in business development techniques.  While this is nothing new, the number of firms looking for marketing help suggests that the legal industry as a whole is beginning to shift to an understanding that the new economic realities require a shift away from the old way of doing things.

One interesting trend noted by the author is the move towards individual training.  Rather than rely on legal marketing departments and large-scale brand building, firms have begun to instruct individual attorneys in the arcane art of attracting and retaining clients.

The article cites a survey of 120 marketing directors at large law firms which found that 70 percent of them plan to provide more instruction in marketing to their attorneys.

The idea that lawyers should have some client skills is not new, but the focus on strategic networking and image building show just how important business development has become in a year that's already shaping up to be just as dismal as 2008.

FindLaw, by the way, offers a wide range of marketing resources and services for law firms and attorneys.  Go to to learn more.

In addition to marketing, firms are beginning to notice that operating their organizations efficiently can be a major cost-saver.  Many firms have begun sending partners or up-and-coming attorneys to mini-MBA programs to learn how to run their increasingly complex operations. 

These programs teach lawyers, usually in about three or four days, the basics of organizational behavior, finance, accounting, risk analysis and strategic planning.  This has the potential to either move lawyers into management positions at firms or help them better manage their businesses - as well as help them to understand their clients' businesses.

Which, in times like these, is almost as important as knowing the law.

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