Practice Development Counsel

Phyllis weiss haserot
Phyllis weiss haserot

President & Founder

212 593-1549

Articles: Organizational Effectiveness Archives

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CLASH OF STYLES: Tensions Between Go-getters and Conservatives and Between Younger Professionals and Senior Partners with Established Bases

“The thing about going out and getting new business,“ says a partner in a large New York based firm, “is that when you bring it in, it's one of the greatest feelings you can have!” If everyone was so motivated, if every lawyer or professional felt that way, there would be no lacking for business and a smile on the face of every firm marketing manager.

Strangely enough, if such a utopia existed, there would still be potential for some sticky problems, the solutions for which require savvy marketing management and fostering of a teamwork culture. Having business go-getters in your firm is a real asset. But their energy must be channeled and monitored to assure it is used most effectively, efficiently and appropriately.

With every merger or acquisition, there is the potential for culture clash.

Just about every firm desires new blood with business. For example, a lawyer who joins the firm with already established clients in tow conjures up visions of dollar signs. Most of those lawyers know how to attract business, and usually they'll do just fine if they are provided with background information and partner and staff support. But, such attorneys previously had been selling a somewhat different product (most likely another firm with variations on your firm's expertise, personnel and scope of practice). The same is true in any other type of professional firm. You must be sure the pitch and the techniques he or she intends to use in marketing your firm reflect it accurately in fact and tone. Otherwise watch out!

The possible consequences are:

  • Angry partners
  • Business the firm doesn't want
  • Business the firm can't adequately or profitably handle
  • A tarnished or distorted reputation in the firm's traditional and desired markets
How can you channel the enthusiasm and skill of the go-getters to make sure they stay aligned with firm vision and strategy?


How do you persuade senior partners to support eager junior partners and senior associates in their business development efforts?

First everyone must be clear as to the profile of desirable clients for the firm and what the approval process for new clients and matters is. Often firms neglect to be specific enough or to communicate it to new arrivals or junior professionals and even new partners.

With that foundation – the information piece – it is time to look at incentives, and not only financial ones. In fact, financial incentives might only be minimally appropriate. Construct a recognition system that recognizes people for carrying out desired behaviors, such as teamwork and support for junior and less experienced business developers.

Work on creating a culture that encourages the go-getters to team with the younger people and show them how it's done. Give them credit for it. Don't fashion agreements with newly acquired "contract partners" that provide incentives for bringing in any kind of business regardless of whether it fits with the firm's profile or available personnel to provide great service. Bring the go-getters into the mainstream of firm activities and make them feel involved while spreading their enthusiasm and skills to the more conservative and less experienced professionals.

The marketing directors and professional development directors and staff have an important role to play in the clash of cultures by regularly reiterating the description of desired firm clients, being available to coach, matching up professionals for marketing, and monitoring new business development.

Please e-mail me your comments to start a dialogue at or “Contact Us” at

Thank you.


© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, Practice Development Counsel, 2003. All rights reserved.

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