Small and mid-sized firms must compete for new business on a constant basis to remain viable. Having policies that are favorable to the development of business generation skills places a law firm in a prime place for growth.
Most law firms have an internal way of categorizing attorney efforts within a client relationship. A typical client account may be organized around an Originating Attorney, Billing Attorney, and Working Attorney.
1.) The Originating Attorney in this grouping is the one responsible for developing the client relationship initially and is most commonly responsible for ensuring the client remains happy.
2.) A Billing Attorney may be inserted into the relationship if the Originating Attorney does not have enough time or skill sets to service the client directly.
3.) Working attorneys are essentially any attorney that works on client files.
The infographic below breaks down the key issue of origination credit among the three:
In working with law firms, we are often asked how much origination credit, if any, a Billing Attorney should receive for his or her role in a client account that he or she did not originate. When faced with these decisions, firms should consider factors that relate to office harmony, the Billing Attorney's role in the firm, whether the firm wants to incent business development at every attorney level, and the priorities of the firm.
It is also useful to consider these fundamentals:
- No amount of money will incent business development by itself;
- If an attorney does not want the accountability that accompanies client relationships, an incentive plan will not motivate him or her.
- If you are in a Billing Attorney role, remember having your own clients is really about self-determination and the rewards that flow from being an originator;
- Awarding billing timekeeper credit to attorneys who are not completely committed to the success of a client relationship will only mask weaknesses and distract the firm from promoting or recruiting a better person;
- Awarding billing credit to those that are deserving will spur growth and make the firm stronger; and
- Internal client sharing and new business development are separate concepts. It is recommended that firms draw a brighter line in this area.
Client relationships do not last forever, and attorneys that possess proven business development skills will be more successful in almost all cases.
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