Mpls Law Firms Tap Non-Lawyer Sales Professionals
Law firms have always relied on well-connected partners to serve as rainmakers to bring in business. But more and more firms are hiring new business pros from non-attorney ranks to build their books of business.
âItâs very much like starting a company,â says Robert Gibson, director of business development at Fredrikson & Byron, a full-service firm that is among the largest in the state. âYou do a 360 review and you look at opportunities and challenges and capabilities, and then you put together a strategic plan. Itâs not about cold-calling. Itâs about networks. Itâs about establishing a brand.â
Gibson, who was in investment banking and wealth management before coming to Fredrikson, points to the firmâs private equity group. Not long ago it was a blip. But lately itâs been pulling in work from well-heeled East Coast equity funds such as Lindsay Goldberg and Audax, for which it did 35 transactions for last year.
Gibson figures he knows why.
âHigh-quality practice of law, of course, but also the relationships weâve built. It takes time, but itâs the best way to grow business.â
Itâs the same songbook John Crouch has brought to Bowman and Brooke, a midsize Minneapolis firm that specializes in product liability defense. Like Gibson, he comes from a metrics background, with 15 years at Ernst & Young.
Crouch has been on the job for a year, and his mantra from day one has been to persuade members of practice areas to act as teams and integrate them into clientsâ legal departments. He seeks to build out specialties that provide added value and invest in relationships and, again, treat each practice area as its own business.
âThe thinking is this: The legal departments of our clients are being asked by their CEOs to become more deeply connected with the business units. Theyâre expected to have forecasts, budgets, costs, forecast exposure, risks, that kind of thing. So how can we help them?
âThere are a lot of law firms who think, âWeâre the gods at doing this, we donât need to change. We just need to talk louder in the megaphone,â â Crouch continues. âThat just doesnât work anymore.â