Sharpening Business Development Skills with Academy Training

| |

Overview


As we enter Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Stephanie McCann shares thoughts on how law firms can support diverse lawyers, along with her biggest business development takeaways from our award-winning Client Engagement Academy.

In Depth


As we enter Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Stephanie McCann shares thoughts on how law firms can support diverse lawyers, along with her biggest business development takeaways from our award-winning Client Engagement Academy.

McDermott Comms: Share a brief overview of your practice.

Stephanie McCann: As a corporate finance partner, I represent private equity groups, commercial lending institutions and major public and private companies in connection with the structuring, negotiation and documentation of secured and unsecured financing transactions, including senior, mezzanine and subordinated debt transactions, acquisition financings, loan workouts and restructurings.

MC: When do you recommend your colleagues in any practice group approach you with client opportunities to cross-sell?

SM: I recommend they approach me any time, any place. Just as there are no stupid questions, there is never a bad time to cross-sell. In fact, lawyers in general still are far too timid when it comes to proposing new ways to pitch prospective clients or to harness the cross-selling potential of their partners.

MC: What are your impressions of what law firms could be doing to move the needle forward for diverse lawyers?

SM: This feels like a bit of a broken record, but we have to focus on diverse candidates not only as law school students and law firm associates. We need to focus on the pipeline as early as college and high school, making sure a great diverse crop of students look to law school in the first place. And once they get here, we need to mentor and teach them properly so they can find success as income and capital partners. Too many good people leave too early or don’t get the proper training in the more subtle arts of leadership, client relations and new client development.

MC: You participated in our Client Engagement Academy and had great success incorporating the key takeaways into your new business strategies. Can you tell us about that?

SM: For me, one of the biggest takeaways has been the practical use of Salesforce. Before the Academy, I viewed it as a tool for others rather than myself, so that’s been a big change in my mindset. Now I go to Salesforce any time I meet a prospective client, and that helps me quickly understand which people at the Firm have already engaged with the prospect, and at what levels. It’s a great tool for harnessing internal resources and using them more effectively.

MC: Any specific examples of the way you’ve used Salesforce and the lessons from the Academy?

SM: Right off the bat, Salesforce has proven to be incredibly useful. It’s great to have such a quick and easy database of existing client contacts throughout the Firm. What used to take hours of phone calls and emails now take seconds.

For instance, I have a close contact within a major financial services company, and I recently wanted to approach that person about working together. With just a few keystrokes, I found every Firm lawyer with contacts there, every pitch we’ve previously made and the limited prior legal work we have done for that company.

With all this information at my disposal, I quickly set up a phone call with our client service team. We agreed on an effective pitch using the holistic approach taught in our Academy, articulating our understanding of the company’s business pressures and demonstrating the personal relationships and trust we build with clients. In the end, we successfully secured an in-person meeting at the company. The COVID-19 pandemic put a minor wrench in these plans, but we’re hopeful of getting some major work in the door, once we can all actually leave our houses again.

MC: Are there any other teachings from the Academy that have helped you become more efficient with developing new business?

SM: I now focus on and evaluate the same concepts of business value, personal value and trust value to organize my contacts in a disciplined way.

Before the Academy, I would just go down my email contact list and randomly reach out to folks. Now I prioritize the contacts based on the value concepts and hone my pitches using the targeted techniques taught at the Academy.

As a result, I have been able to focus much more on clients and potential clients that are going to translate into actual business and bring dollars in the door. I do feel like it has added to my and the Firm’s bottom line when it comes to generating new work and revenue. As such, the time I spend on client development is much more directed and more profitable.

MC: What are your goals for your clients and practice in 2020?

SM: The goal for 2020 is far different these days than it was just a month ago. The primary objective now is to help our clients keep their heads above water as they navigate this tricky, unprecedented environment. They need to understand the specific ways COVID-19 affects their businesses, they need to access sufficient lines of credit to remain solvent, and they need a sound business plan moving forward in the months ahead with no real historical template to follow. These are truly uncharted waters, but the companies that emerge from this will be all the stronger on the other side.

MC: What do you think is unique about McDermott?

SM: Law firms are kind of like little nation states. Some are on top of the world. Some are stagnating, bloated or declining. But McDermott is definitely on the rise. I feel that each day from the people I work with, the new colleagues we hire and the work that we do. I truly believe that McDermott 10 years from now will be a force to be reckoned with.

MC: What is your proudest career accomplishment to date?

SM: Every day is a new day to me. One thing that keeps me going, especially in difficult times like these, is optimism. I try to believe my finest accomplishments are right around the corner.