John Quinn, name partner at AmLaw 100 business litigation firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, made news recently with the simple contention that marketing is every lawyer’s job.
A couple of weeks ago, legal blog Above the Law got ahold of an internal Quinn Emanuel email that was sent firm-wide on a new prerequisite for firm associate and counsel bonuses: completion of a marketing project. The email noted that the project might “take the form of contributing to an article, a pitch, doing some background research on a potential case or client, or industry research.”
The email went on to say that time spent on the project is not included in the 100-hour non-billable allowance towards bonuses, but that it is “just something we are asking everyone to do as part of their contribution to the growth of the firm’s practice.” It stated that firm associates and counsel would be asked to identify their marketing projects in December in order for the firm to determine if they were eligible for a bonus.
While Above the Law called the idea a good one, it labeled the implementation of it “seriously flawed.”
But wait, there’s more.
Above the Law then followed up with an interview with John Quinn about the initiative and I found many of his insights spot-on. Especially this one:
Associates and counsel are a huge untapped resource. They have law school classmates who, after three to four years, have moved in-house and — guess what? — are participating in decisions about whom to retain. We’d like our lawyers to be comfortable knowing how to take advantage of these opportunities — really, how to create opportunities. If we are successful, this could be transformative.
When asked whether marketing is better left to marketing professionals, Quinn said that the premise that some people are marketers and others are not is wrong:
Whether they know it or not, all lawyers are marketers, making impressions for good or ill in the business and legal community. A very few are naturally good, some get good by working at it, some are oblivious, and some are just bad. We should find a way for all to be contributors. It’s important for the firm to succeed, but it’s also important for the associate to succeed. It’s very empowering to know how new work comes in and what succeeds and what doesn’t.
Quinn said the reason for tying marketing to bonus eligibility was to get 100% participation. He noted that the firm asks lawyers to participate in trial and deposition training without getting paid extra for it, and that marketing is just as important.
Bloomberg picked up this story and interviewed Quinn for its Big Law Business column. And while there are some in the legal community who might not get it, Quinn clearly does. He is preparing his firm to prevail in an increasingly competitive marketplace where legal knowledge and competence is a parity product. It is no longer enough to “out-lawyer” the competition, you have to out-market them to grow your firm.
As Quinn told Bloomberg, “The idea that (marketing is) somebody else’s job? No. It’s everybody’s job.”
And as I would tell John Quinn: “When you’re right, you’re right.”
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