Monday, July 28, 2008

The Era of the Sales Attorney Begins

If there was any doubt as to the importance of business development in all firms large and small, this development should dispel it. San Diego based construction law firm, Scholefield Associates, P.C. recently hired their first ‘sales attorney’, and possibly created the legal industry’s first associate position who’s only job is to bring in new clients. This is the first step in implementing their controversial business development strategy unveiled earlier this spring.

When the concept of a ‘sales attorney’ position was announced by Scholefield this past March, there were as many detractors pointing out the flaws as there were supporters applauding their bold move. This novel approach to law firm business development received press nationally and internationally with commentary and job candidates coming from as far away as Australia.

The firm hired Johnny Manriquez to fill this role. Mr. Manriquez, a California attorney, has years of firsthand experience in business development, sales, and client relationship building in the educational services arena.

“Johnny is a perfect fit for this position and our firm culture” says lead attorney Pam Scholefield. “Since this is an all new position for any law firm, there were no obvious role models or even a known talent pool to choose from.”

Ironically, the approach that Scholefield is taking toward growing the firm’s business is based on successful business development models borrowed heavily from Ms. Scholefield’s past career as a sales engineer with General Electric.

“A law firm is a business first, and we must never forget this if we want to be successful.” Scholefield remarks. “There are no ivory towers here.”

The success of the position, claims Scholefield, is the credibility of the person doing the selling. And she believes a law firm needs to be represented by lawyers. Even though Mr. Manriquez expects to spend very little time engaging in legal jousting, he has an impressive legal background. Not only is he well versed in business negotiations, he is an experienced patent attorney. Mr. Manriquez received his law degree from California Western School of Law in 2001 and is admitted to practice in California, District of Columbia, and before the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Is this the shape of things to come for all law firms?

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