The Important Task Practice Group Leaders Fail to Manage

JD Supra Perspectives

Managing a group of lawyers is no easy task. When I was a chief marketing officer, I would describe my job to friends as not unlike herding cats. But, not the domestic kind of cats, lions. And not herding lions in just any kind of field, my job felt like I was herding lions in a minefield.

As a practice group leader, you have a myriad of lion-herding responsibilities to manage.

These include managing the receivables of the group; training and CLE; time and billing entry timeliness; attorney recruiting and retention; budget management and expense control; marketing program and client development initiatives; the individual and group business planning processes; and a host of other tasks not the least of which resolving the myriad of inevitable conflicts and disputes that arise anytime lions gather in groups.

No other job of a practice group leader does more to solve the many challenges of running a practice group...

But there is one task that you should prioritize above all others. That task is the management of the group’s outreach. No other job of a practice group leader does more to solve the many challenges of running a practice group than does a steady flow of new work from new clients.

While we’d like to think that the entrepreneurial law firm model incentivizes every lawyer to develop business, we know that’s not true. Typically, only a small minority of lawyers are actively and consistently trying to attract new clients. While there is value in some of the other practice group marketing strategies, such as speaking, writing, and events, none of these tactics produces the near-term, traceable results that regular, consistent, and coordinated outreach produces.

What does it mean to actively manage the group’s outreach?

It starts with the arduous task of making sure every lawyer in the group knows whom they know and has current contact information for them. (Having done this process for numerous lawyers, it never ceases to amaze me - or my coaching clients - the number of professionals that they don’t have named in their contact lists.)

It means each of them has gone through the task of having organized and prioritized their contacts and understand how each contact can contribute to the value of their network.

It means that they each know how to effectively plan, research, and strategize their calls and do it in advance of each call.

It means learning the subtle questioning skills to unseat a competitor, the relationship-building skills to encourage referrals, and the value delivery skills that build powerful networks of connections.

And, most importantly, it means each lawyer has clear expectations on the volume of calls they will make, are committed to doing it, and is tracking and sharing the information gleaned from those calls.

This volume of outreach generates more pitch opportunities more quickly and more referrals more reliably...

As a rule, I don’t count calls or visits made to active clients — those will be made regardless. The point of this outreach program is to coordinate and expand the reach of the group, creating regular touchpoints with non-active clients of the firm and encourage more collaboration while capturing the intelligence of the marketplace.

This volume of outreach generates more pitch opportunities more quickly and more referrals more reliably. And it has the added benefit of gathering better market and competitive intelligence than all of the other marketing tactics combined. It truly is the silver bullet for practice group growth.


Eric Dewey provides practice development coaching and training to business law firms, practice groups, and individual lawyers. If you would like more information on how to manage the outreach of your practice group, please contact Eric at

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